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Student Guest Blogger: Greenwood Graduate

The following is a guest blog post from one of our very own Greenwood Grizzlies, Marit. I was recently visiting Marit’s classroom and observed some truly moving graduation speeches. While reading her words below might not be exactly the same as the heartfelt delivery she provided, it does offer a glimpse into the student learning experience at our school.  Marit’s words also speak volumes about the impact of caring teachers, family, and friends.

“Greenwood Graduate”

Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger

Hi my name is Marit, and I got assigned to write an Elementary Graduation Speech that I presented to my class. My class wrote the speeches to reflect on our Elementary experiences, which I thought was very special since we are moving onto Middle School.  My principal, Mr. Gustafson, listened to our speeches in front of our parents and really enjoyed them. He asked me if I’d share my speech on his blog.  I hope you enjoy reading my Graduation Speech as well! Congrats to everyone graduating this spring around the world!

“Don’t be sad it’s over… Be happy it happened.”

This is one quote that really applies to leaving Greenwood or Elementary School in general! Greenwood has been a great school for me, but I’ve only been here for a few years. I really think it’s sad to leave Greenwood because it has been a blast being here. I am going to tell you all about my great years as an Elementary student. I can’t believe that I am already going to be a middle school student.  Most people are nervous but I’m very excited.

Teachers are so important they shape my life by teaching me everything I know and making me a better person. If I didn’t have teachers I wouldn’t know anything near how much I know now.

Some teachers that really were an important part of my life are Mr.Vrudny and Miss Zeman. Mr.Vrudny has really influenced me.  He was an awesome teacher but when he taught he always made it so fun!  Mr.Vrudny was always so nice to the whole class I think he was such an amazing teacher! Miss.Zeman has helped me have a fun, amazing fifth grade experience.  She is super funny and always makes me laugh! Miss Zeman always helped me learn if I didn’t understand she would help me so I understood!  I will be very sad leaving Greenwood and all the great years I had.

Today I want to recognize so many people, but most importantly my family.  My parents are always there for me and can help me with anything!  My parents always have helped me whether its a fight, a hard subject, or basketball! I love my parents so much.  Another person I would like to recognize is my nanny, Joelle.  She always will be there for me and be one of my role models!  I also want to thank all of my good friends for always having my back and being true and loyal friends. One friend that I really want to recognize is Sophie even though she doesn’t go to Greenwood she is still my best friend and I know that we have a strong friendship.

I could talk for hours about basketball but all I really need to say is basketball has shaped my life in many ways and taught me how to be a great team leader!

Elementary School was plain-out a great time in my life and I can’t wait for middle school. I feel prepared for middle school because I am becoming more independent and I am very excited to meet lots of new friends and be in a bigger school. I will miss Greenwood but I have had so many great memories here in Greenwood Elementary!

Traditional Yearbooks Meet the Digital Age

Click the yearbook page to see an example of the AR content you will find!

Click the yearbook page above to see an example of the AR content you will find!

Walking the hallways at Greenwood Elementary I often say, “It’s an amazing time to be a student.” Meaningful opportunities to connect and create using new mediums abound. Students can use digital tools to take their learning to new levels. This year they can do the same with their yearbooks!

Our yearbooks are loaded with Augmented Reality (AR) pictures, videos, and snippets of school concert footage. (If you’re unfamiliar with AR, it’s very similar to the yellow first-down lines that are displayed on television during NFL games; the supplemental digital content adds to the viewing experience!)

Students that ordered yearbooks will receive them this week. In addition to the traditional fun of exchanging autographs, kids can experience some supplemental digital content by following the directions below.


1. Download the Aurasma App on an iPad or SmartPhone.

2. Follow the “Greenwood Elementary” channel in the Aurasma App. (This step is important.)

3. Aim your iPad or SmartPhone’s Aurasma viewfinder at the yearbook to begin hunting for the bonus photos and videos.


There are 30+ Augmented Reality photos/videos embedded in your child’s yearbook. Some of the AR photo links  may be sensitive to ink smudging, so avoid excessive scribbling to preserve the functionality of embedded videos.

Yearbook ScavengAR Hunt:

  • Can you find the Principal’s video greeting on page 1?
  • Find the 5th grade musical, Annie, and you’ll get footage from the show via the Aurasma app.
  • Locate our Head Custodian, Jesse Husby, and watch the picture of him in -45 degree windchill transform. Brrrr!!
  • Search for Police Chief Mike Goldstein to hear a special message to our students about DARE.
  • Find our Character Trait posters to see student-created character education videos. (Special thanks to Mr. Uselding!)
  • Look for the surprise engagement photo with one of our teachers.
  • Check-out the Home Base & Bright Start preschool video highlights.
  • If you search long enough you’ll even find hidden Field Trip footage from a winter trip some students took.
  • Each 5th grade classroom has a virtual tour linked to their class so our “graduates” will always remember their elementary years!
  • Every grade-level has at least one AR surprise to find on their grade-level yearbook page…good luck!


Special thanks to our PTA yearbook chairperson, Kari, for the countless hours she invested into the yearbook this year.  Kari and her team compiled some really great pictures that will help us all remember what a fantastic year this was. She was extremely collaborative and worked to make it possible to add AR surprise content to the yearbook. (If you lose this blog post she included directions for downloading the Aurasma App to the fist page of our yearbook.) A big thanks to Kari and the entire PTA team…we are so thankful for your support!

Connected Summer Learning via Social Media

What do you get when you combine summer learning with Augmented Reality and the positive power of Social Media?! The answer is pure awesomeness…and students EVERYWHERE are welcome to join the fun.

We’re providing kids a unique way to stay connected this summer.  The poster below contains a very special Augmented Reality (AR) message.  Follow the steps on the bottom of the poster to see the drawing come alive, and to view a summer learning video from Greenwood Elementary School’s principal, Mr. Gustafson.  If you are in a pinch for time and don’t want to print the poster to experience the AR message, just click the image and a YouTube video will play. (It’s not quite the same experience…but you’ll get the important info.)Summer Learning PDF

Connected Learning PDF

After students view the surprise augmented reality (AR) video they can begin creating their projects.  Projects can use any art supplies that parents approve of, but should highlight positive character traits like caring and citizenship.  Posters might include pictures of service-learning projects, cool graphics, or important quotes. So…bust out your markers, glue, and glitter and start creating!  After your child’s Character Poster is completed you can share it using our school’s hashtag.  Students love the chance to share their work with an authentic audience!

Take a photo of your child’s poster and Tweet it to me @GustafsonBrad then add #GWgreats to the message. This project is a fun way for kids to connect to a common project and make a difference over the summer.  We’re so proud of all our students do…and we can’t wait to see the creative work that is shared.

If You Work in a School…

If you work in a school…you matter. Don’t think for a second that you don’t. (When a principal uses a double negative in a sentence you know he means business.)  If you work in a school you touch hearts and minds every day.  If you work in a school you make a difference.

Seeing how our staff works together on a daily basis…often quietly and behind the scenes…is one of many humbling privileges I have.  As principal, I feel an obligation to share some of these stories; primarily because I’m also a dad and I would want to know.  I would want to know about the people and stories that were being woven in my own children’s minds.  I would want to know the “whos” and “whats” of their day.

Perhaps at dinnertime tonight you can ask your child a different question.  Instead of asking, “What did you learn today?”  Try asking, “Can you tell me about Darryl?”

Our beloved custodian, Darryl, is part of the “Greenwood Story.”  He’s a quiet hero that’s always been willing to drop anything and serve.  Darryl was given a wonderful opportunity to serve in a new position in our district and we are so happy for him.  He will be missed dearly in our school, but his story and impact will go on because he did more than come to work each day; he impacted our building culture.  Darryl’s spirit and sacrificial approach to work will be carried like a torch by other quiet heroes in our building.

If you have a chance to watch the video above you’ll likely see a wonderful and humble man doing a “final lap” around our school and giving out friendly high fives to others.  I hope you’ll also see the difference he made in our staff and students’ lives.  Check out the 2:08 minute mark on the video and watch how excited one of our students is to connect with Darryl.

If you work in a school you matter…don’t think for a second that you don’t!

Principal for a Day

This past week was full of learning and special memories. We captured a few memories in the “Principal for a Day” video above.  Highlights from the special day included:

Sam MineCraft Final Pic

Recognizing several students for special accomplishments including our Carnival MineCraft design winner, Sam.  He entered the creation above into the school logo category and designed a massive grizzly bear and balloon.  For anyone that’s ever used MineCraft, you know that the creation took lots of time and planning!

Buss Aldrin

Accepting a very special book donation from one of our students. Zach shared a book about space that was written and autographed by Buzz Aldrin!  The book will be available in our Media Center for others to check out.

Ginny Selfie

Attending the 1st grade music program. The concert was the last 1st grade concert that Mrs. Gardner will lead.  After many years of dedicated service, Mrs. Gardner is retiring. Thank you for the memories and fostering a life-long love of music in our students.  (I had the privilege of taking a “Selfie” with Mrs. Gardner right before the show…she’s always such a great sport, and she shared that it was the first “Selfie” photo that she’d been in.

GWgreats pic

Thank you to everyone that shared some of their memories and meaningful moments as part of our Greenwood Greats Teacher Appreciation Week.  Be sure to check-out the huge banner with our community’s stories posted in the main entryway.  Don’t forget to follow our school’s hashtag #GWgreats to see some additional messages from our students.



For the Kids

GWgreats pic

School branding is a hot topic in education and for good reason; our students are counting on us to be crystal clear about who we are serving and what matters most. School leaders must advocate for kids with every decision that’s made. This includes decisions about a school’s “brand.”

When it comes to your school’s brand, do not make people guess! Share the stories of the amazing students and staff in your school.

It’s important to understand what I mean when I use the term school branding. A school’s brand is synonymous with its ethos and culture. It’s more than a mascot or motto. The brand is comprised of the student learning experience, stellar staff, parent partnerships, and community support. A school’s brand is also a promise. The brand promise is what we openly aspire to be, and with this promise comes a unique level of transparency and accountability.

A school’s brand is comprised of the total experience of stakeholders; it represents the very ethos of a school including past traditions and future direction.

As principal and lead learner at Greenwood Elementary I have the privilege of seeing some of the most talented students and staff in action every single day. I’ve done a lot of listening, observing, and reflecting the past four years at our school. I’m extremely excited by our district’s vision and equally excited by the direction our school is heading. The image above represents what I think our brand is all about. Let me explain…

  • Great Students: Our school’s brand is all about kids; they come first. Period. Spend some time in our classrooms and hallways and you’ll see what I mean. We take the responsibility of partnering with families to raise great kids very seriously. We invest in their capacity to think critically, celebrate their effort, nurture their hearts, and help them learn from mistakes that are made along the way. We understand that to be successful in the future our students are relying on us to foster 21st century skills. They’re depending on our foresight and support as they learn how to create, communicate, and innovate in a digitally connected age. We love our students enough to adapt ourselves as learners so we’re better equipped to serve them!
  • Great Staff: Research has shown a very strong link between teacher quality and student achievement. Research also demonstrates that the relationships teachers form with students serve as critical underpinnings to learning. In layman’s terms, teachers matter and they matter a lot. Greenwood’s staff understands the awesome responsibility associated with being a teacher. On a personal level, I consider teaching one of the highest callings…only surpassed by the important work that moms do.  We are blessed to have great teachers at our school and they help deliver on our brand’s promise. We also want to attract the very best employees to work with our children. A school’s brand not only represents its staff, but also communicates its values to prospective employees. This spring I’ve had the opportunity to interview dozens of job applicants. I’ve found that some of the most impressive candidates know exactly what they want in a school and district. They are paying attention to the brand.
  • Great Stories: Stories are an integral part of our culture. Stories teach us lessons, celebrate accomplishments, and pass along the values we hold dear. It’s no different in schools. The amazing things our students are doing should be shared. We truly have some awesome kids in our school and district. Our students and staff work too hard for us to ignore their stories or let somebody else tell them. A school’s brand must include the voices of the “difference makers” in the classroom that are making the magic happen each and every day. We are blessed to have an exemplary staff, amazing group of parents, and PTA that give generously of their time, talents, resources, and love for kids. They are helping us write the best story ever…our students’ story!

I absolutely love the willingness of students, staff, and our community to innovate and engage in possibility-thinking. We’re trying to connect in some new ways including the use of social media as a learning and communication tool. We’re putting students in the center of their own learning and it’s a paradigm shift. A 21st century pedagogy will look, feel, and sound differently than what we’ve come to believe education is. Our staff is immersing themselves in true “learning work” including integration of iPads as tools to enhance student learning, Project Based Learning, Flipped Instruction, Genius Hour, Math Workshop, and more. Together we’re amplifying our students’ voices and connecting kids with an authentic audience for their learning.

If you ask why a school would consider branding I would share one heartfelt answer, “For the kids.”



Amplify Student Voice through Digital Project-Based Learning


Use the hashtag #GWinnovation to connect on Twitter.

Use the hashtag #GWinnovation on Twitter to connect with other classrooms involved.

I often tell people that being a principal is one of the most inspiring jobs in the world.  I get to visit classrooms each day and see phenomenal teachers helping their students do extraordinary things.  Some of the work our students are doing is mind-blowing…the creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, leadership, and global awareness being fostered is the epitome of what it means to prepare students for their future.  There are days when I literally do “fist-pumps” as I leave classrooms filled with excitement!

The past few months we’ve had a group of students collaborating on an innovative concept.  Their goal is to connect with other students and classrooms across the country and world through a shared “Project Based Learning” experience.  Their Innovation Station blog will serve as a global hub for these Project-Based Challenges.

Over the course of the planning and preparation our students were the drivers of the work.  They had a seat at the table as meetings were held to develop the concept, create permissions/forms, and launch the first video challenge.  There were meetings when I was giddy seeing our kids literally guide the conversation and direction of the project as their teacher, principal, and district technology leadership listened.  LOVE it!

We hope you’ll consider participating.  Each challenge will be presented in a digital format (video, podcast, etc.) that students create.  We’re inviting you to check-out their initial “Milk Carton Challenge” and can’t wait to see the creativity in YOUR students!  The submission deadline for the first challenge is May 23rd.  Connect with us on Twitter using the #GWinnovation hashtag.  All aboard!!

For Lincoln

This past December, our school community was shaken by the tragic loss of a precious little boy.  Born at just 24 weeks, Lincoln Allen Damask entered the world to loving parents; one of whom is on staff at Greenwood as a kindergarten teacher.  Lincoln’s parents are thankful for the love and care from the Greenwood family, and they gave me permission to share this update. 

Star Reg Final

Affectionately nicknamed “Lil Lad” by his parents, Lincoln passed away the same day he was born, but not before being showered with love by his proud mom and dad.  In an overwhelming show of support, our school community donated funds that we used to purchase a memorial star from the International Registry as well as some mementos for his parents.

The star is named “Lincoln Allen Damask: Our Lil Lad.”  The name is permanently filed in The Registry’s vault in Switzerland and recorded in a book which will be registered in the copyright office of the United States.  We know that Lincoln’s gentle light will shine on wherever Lisa and Greg may be.

Hercules Constellation

Lincoln’s star is found in the footprint of the Hercules constellation.  The Greek Warrior can be seen kneeling in the sky by those in the northern latitudes during the spring months.  Hercules first becomes visible in the east in April, and works his way high across the night sky through October.

When the Hercules constellation is seen, Lincoln’s star will always be close by.  We thought this was very fitting for a precious baby boy that needed to fight just to be with his family on earth for the short time he was here.  Now his memorial is among the stars that connect to create a great warrior.

Lincoln’s tiny footprint (measuring almost 1.5 inches) is being custom-printed onto sterling silver dog tags for his dad, Greg, who is serving our country in the Air National Guard.  The other tag will include an image of the Hercules constellation with Lincoln’s birthstone marking his star on the front.  Lincoln’s mom, Lisa, is being given a silver charm necklace and keychain made with their son’s initials, star coordinates, and birthstone.  Framed prints containing Lincoln’s star registry information are being given to the family as well.

Thank you for supporting Lisa and Greg.  We pray their son’s gentle light be a reminder to us all to continue to fight for what is good and right in the world.

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