Friday, August 28, 2020

What Has Being Back in School Been Like?

 There are so many things to celebrate on August 28th.  A little more than five months ago, we left our beautiful school thinking we would just have an extended spring break.  We didn't know that all summer long we would be wondering if we would even be able to open the doors of school and welcome back the students.

Since March, not a week went by where school staff wasn't planning for August 13th.  Even the week of school starting, there were many questions and wonders how this was all going to go.  I have never been part of such an emotional start to the school year.

Fast forward to today.  There is so much JOY about having put in twelve days of school.  Maybe that doesn't seem very impressive.  But when most people were telling us that we wouldn't even start the school year in person, that we would have to start remotely, twelve seems like a huge victory.

What has school been like?  It's been AMAZING!  Seeing the students bounce into school has been a blessing.  You can see the sparkle in their eyes and hear the excitement in their voices.  The kids are making the best of the situation.  The masks which have been a tough topic around, hasn't been a problem.  

Kids are LEARNING, from their teachers IN PERSON!  They need this SO much.  A lot is lost when students and teachers have to converse through a screen.  Students are sharing stories of adventures they have had or places they have visited.  They are engaged in lessons, remembering their math facts, and working really hard.  They understand that school is a great place and the best place for them to learn.  

There are some changes, but we have adjusted to them.  Our Falcon Families that we started last year has been put on hold for a while.  There aren't as many secondary students roaming around the elementary or helping students for now.  

Teachers are so glad to have students back in the building.  There was a hole in their hearts when the students left in March.  It's fun to see the students smile, wave, and cheerfully greet their their teachers from the year before.  

It feels like the school that was filled with shades of gray now have the colors of the rainbow pouring through it.  There is life again.

So when people ask, how has school been going?  I respond immediately with, "amazing!"  I don't know how to describe it any other way.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Welcome to the 2020-2021 School Year!

Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year at Freeman Elementary where our focus will be:


Daring Greatly

“If he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”                     

                                                           -Theodore Roosevelt 



We are excited to add two new teachers to the elementary this year.  Mrs. Delaney Roberts will be teaching 1st grade.  Mrs. Roberts and her husband, Mitchell, live in Tecumseh.  They have two young children.  Mrs. Roberts has spent the last 4 years teaching Pre-School. 


Ms. Dana Fisher will be teaching special education.  She recently moved to Lincoln from Fremont where she taught special education at Fremont Middle School.  Ms. Fisher will be getting married in the near future!  


There are a lot of emotions revolving around this school year.  Due to the pandemic taking place, we were forced to leave the building in the middle of March.  Since it has been a longer time away from the building than usual, it may feel strange to return.  The staff at Freeman are very much looking forward to seeing the children bounce through the door, eager to begin a new school year with a fresh start!  We understand that you may have worries or concerns about how everything is going to work out.  We are asking for your partnership as we learn to navigate new territory with social distancing and other precautions put in place in order to keep our school community safe.  It will take all of us working together to have a successful school year.  


There haven’t been too many changes to the building this year.  However, the elementary was able to put up 2 adjustable basketball hoops thanks to the PTO.  We are very grateful for the generous gift for our playground.  It will be so nice to have a smaller hoop for the younger kids. 


Also new this year will be a parent communication that comes to you digitally in the form of a newsletter called SMORE, from the elementary.  It will also be posted on social media.  This will be sent out a few times a month.  It’s always important to make sure the office has your updated contact information so you don’t miss important messages or announcements.  


Elementary Open House will be limited to Kindergarten students and their parents as well as any new family to the Freeman School district. We are asking that you follow this time schedule that is based on the first letter of your last name:


Open House, August 11, 2020
  • 5:30pm-6:00 Last name: A - I

  • 6:00pm-6:30 Last name: J - Q

  • 6:30pm-7:00 Last name: R - Z


During Open House, you will be able to enter the front doors of the elementary school on the east side and go to your homeroom classroom to meet your teacher.  Students may bring in their school supplies.  Please bring any forms or lunch money that needs to be turned into the office. There will be Freeman staff available to direct you to your classrooms or answer any questions about school that you might have.  


The first day of school will be Thursday, August 13th.  There is a 1:00PM early dismissal.  Friday, August 14th will be a regular school day.  Please note that school begins at 8:10am for all PK-12 students.  


Pre-School begins on August 17th.  Mrs. Alberts, will be doing a virtual open house for students and their families.  She will be contacting PK families with specific information. 


Students in 5th and 6th grade will remain in their proper grade levels to start the school year.  We are working hard not to mix classes as much and limit movement where we can.  There is hope that as the school year progresses, we may be able to go back to rotating the 5th and 6th grade students to 4 classrooms.  This will be re-evaluated throughout the year.  


Thank you for choosing Freeman Public Schools this year.  We are so looking forward to another outstanding year of learning and growing with your child as we continue to learn The Falcon Way in the safest school environment we can provide.  Please let us know if there is anything that we can do to serve you better!




Kindest Regards,


   Mrs. Erin Sieh

   Elementary Principal


Monday, January 6, 2020

Teachers Deserve It Too!


A few years ago, our staff read a book called Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney.  It talked a lot about why we do the things that we do, because kids deserve our very best day in and day out.  There were many good take away's from it and I think that the staff took something from it as well.

Over the Christmas break, I wanted to work on a little project for the teachers.  The entire time I have been here, the area designated as the "teachers lounge" was not very nice.  The walls were 2 different shades of cream/white, mismatched furniture dating back to the 1960's, a variety of random items that didn't appear to move from August to May.  It was a room I avoided most of the time.  There were a few brave souls that would eat lunch in the room and go grab an afternoon soda, but it just didn't have a good vibe.  So I asked our PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and the superintendent if I could take this on as a surprise for the teachers when they came back from break.  With their blessing, I got to work devising a plan that was rather simple, but hopefully would make a dramatic difference.  Bless the heart of our maintenance man, Rodger because he worked like mad to help out.  He was even working away on the morning of Christmas Eve.  With his help, we were able to replace all the light bulbs and put in new tile flooring and carpet.  Between those changes and fresh paint on the wall, the room was already drastically different!

As break went on and more pieces fell into place, including the arrival of some new furniture, my stomach bounced with excitement.  I couldn't wait for the teachers to see the transformation.  I just hoped that it would be a place that all the Freeman staff would enjoy and feel like they wanted to spend some time in.  Teachers work hard and they too deserve a place to call their own and escape to from time to time.  Imagine the place where you work and if there wasn't a space you could just walk into for 5 minutes and breathe, or go grab a fresh cup of coffee? 

This room wouldn't have been possible without the help of the PTO, Rodger and Rex, the Havelka's, and my husband who helped me paint.  I think it turned out pretty great!



A freshly painted shelf with coffee and some paper products for food.  Around the room are some fun pieces of artwork as well!



New cozy space to relax, work on a puzzle, catch up with colleagues or breathe!  New carpet too!



Saturday, November 23, 2019

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year.  It comes at a time when I am needing a little more downtime and a few extra days at home to recharge and get organized.  I also LOVE pie.  The turkey is good as leftover sandwiches, but the pie is really my favorite.  There are so many, but I could just spend the day being thankful and eating pie!

What I don't like about Thanksgiving, is that it seems to be the most overlooked holiday.  Each year Christmas arrives sooner and sooner giving the feeling that we go from Halloween to Christmas, jack-o-lanterns to trees!  All of the holidays seem to be so commercialized that it has seems to have lost it's value.

As we get ready to celebrate a season of Thanksgiving, let's remember that every day we should offer thanks.  On the hardest days, there are still reasons to be thankful.  I truly feel like education is the best place to be and I am so thankful that every day I get to be immersed in it.  I love to learn, I love to see children's eyes light up when they finally "get it," I love to provide opportunities for others to grow, and I love the environment that schools provide every day.

In a world that is so busy to get on to the next thing or the next holiday, let's take some time this week to pause and give thanks.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Activities for Our Kids


Kids are so busy these days.  School can sometimes feel like an extra-curricular activity instead of a priority.  By the end of the week, kids are really dragging at school and you can tell that they haven't gotten enough sleep.  They may also be spending so much time after school and in the evenings on activities that they aren't practicing math facts and reading.  In order to excel, students need to practice outside of the school day to. 

Don't get me wrong, having activities is great for kids.  Exposing them to a variety of activities or crafts is good for development.  However, there can be a point when kids have too much going on.  This report came across my desk recently and I think it is worth the time to read.  In a world where everything is instant and we are go, go, go, it's important that we also take time for ourselves and rest.  It's ok for kids to be bored, or have a weekend with "nothing" to do!

This report is produced from the National Association of Elementary School Principals and is intended to be shared with parents.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Nebraska Reading Bill

Recently the state of Nebraska passed the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act (Section 79-2601-79-2607).  This bill along with the Nebraska READS initiative are designed to give students every opportunity to gain proficiency in early literacy skills that will enable later access to comprehension and analysis of complex text. You can check out this website for more information.  https://www.education.ne.gov/nebraskareads/

Nebraska is not alone in this endeavor.  Majority of the states have recognized the need to bring renewed focus to early intervention and struggling readers.  The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act and Nebraska READS initiative emphasize the need for pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade student to have access to high-quality instruction, and for struggling readers to receive targeted, individualized support.

What exactly does this reading bill mean?  


  • Three times a year (fall, winter, spring) schools will give an approved assessment from the state of Nebraska to determine where students fall in the category of reading.  
  • If students fall below the reading threshold for that term, they need to be placed on an Individual Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) until that student's score is above the threshold at the next testing time.
  • Schools must report these results to parents and include a written plan for what interventions will be used to help boost a student's reading.
  • This reading bill is for students in grades kindergarten through third grade.   
  • Communication with your child's teacher is key to success in their academics.  Make sure you are following up and understanding what your child's scores mean.  Ask questions!
What are reading interventions?

  • Reading interventions means a variety of things.  Teachers provide additional opportunities to learn or acquire reading skills beyond the regular reading instruction that is given each day.  This might come from small groups in class, one on one time, or through Title I services.


What happens if a student is below the threshold numbers at the end of 3rd grade?

  • All students at Freeman are monitored 3 times a year and their test scores are recorded.  That data is used to analyze how a student is doing and what additional interventions or things that need to be done to help that student continue to improve in reading.  Students in 3rd grade will not be retained if they perform below the reading threshold.  
What can parents do to help their child boost their reading skills?

  • The best thing that parents can do to help their child become a better reader is to READ!  Set aside 15-20 minutes every night to read to or with your child(ren).  
  • Immerse them in different forms of literature.  Make it a regular practice to go to the library or bookstore.  
  • After you have read a story or chapter in a book, ask them questions about the reading.  Make predictions about what might happen next.  
  • Make sure books are accessible.  Your child will be more likely to pick up a book and read if they are out in the open and easy to find.
  • Choose books of interest to your child to read.  Have them help pick them out, even if they are above their reading level.
  • Talk about letters and sounds.  Help your child learn the names of letters and sounds that they make.
  • Sing rhyming songs, read rhyming books.  this helps them learn new sounds in words.
  • Reading doesn't end when the school year ends or there is an extended vacation.  Continue to read when school is on break or over the summer.  



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Freeman Strong

My top 5:  arranger, learner, input, individualization, relator

About a month ago, we had planned on having a Freeman Strengths Day for all students and staff in grades PK-12.  However, Mother Nature had different plans and brought one her many winter snow storms this winter.  There was so much time and planning that went into planning this day that it all seemed disappointing.  Luckily, we were able to move it to February 19th with the same speakers that we originally booked.  As Mother Nature reared her head again, it looked like this week's event might not happen either.  The weather held off for 1 day so we could squeak it in!

If you are not familiar with what strengths are, I am hoping this post will fill you in and encourage you to look at little deeper into how it can impact your life.  I will admit that it has taken me a little while to get on board and see how it can be a benefit in my life and my work life.  But now that I am into it and learning, it has made a difference in how I see others and understand how they work.

A huge shout out goes to Mr. Tony Jensen.  He is our Ag teacher and FFA sponsor.  He has really embraced the strengths and put a lot of effort into growing it at Freeman.  Perhaps you have heard of Gallup, which is based in Omaha, by the way: https://www.gallup.com

"We're a global analytics and advice firm that helps leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems."


One of the many services that they offer is giving the Clifton Strengths Finder.  If you go to their website, you can take the assessment right now and find out what your top 5 strengths are.  In fact, you can find out what your top 34 are.  The philosophy behind learning about your top 5 is to use your strengths to better understand how you naturally work and develop your greatest talents.  It also helps you recognize that in others and instead of focusing on what people are weak or not good at, you focus on what they are good at or their strengths.  Think of how much stronger the work force would be if that was the focus instead of the other way around?

Mr. Jensen has created a Strengths group that meets monthly to talk about using their strengths and spotting strengths around them in others.  This can help you better understand how to work with others.  This has been helpful in working with children in school.  The school has been working for 2 years to get everyone in the building to take the Strengths Finder assessment to identify their top 5.  All the teachers now have completed it in addition to all students grades 5-12.  For the younger students, we are talking about what strengths are and how you can use them productively.  As they get older, hopefully they will better understand them and then take the assessment themselves.

Out of this group, came the idea of creating a Strengths Day that included ALL the teachers and students doing similar activities embracing their strengths and working together on tasks.  There were some donations and grant money that helped provide t-shirts for everyone in the building with a logo that was designed by a student at school.

The team created a schedule of rotations broken up by grades K-4 and 5-12.  Students were placed in groups with students in multiple grade levels.  We began and ended the day with an assembly and had several speakers including DeMoine Adams, former Husker football player.  There were science STEM activities to launch marshmallows and hold metal washers, activities to design locker signs or capes with your top strengths, refreshments and games, and the reading of How Full Is Your Bucket? 

The day was powerful.  It was pretty amazing to see so many students and staff learning about their strengths and how they can be empowered by them.  I know that it made an impact because my two girls didn't stop talking about it at the dinner table last night.  They were all kinds of chatty about the strengths that they have and how they can use them and why they possess them.

In a world where we tend to focus on the negative and the "this isn't good enough" it was refreshing to feel uplifted and see 450+ people doing good in the world.  This was definitely a day to celebrate and be proud of.  I can't wait to see what we will do next!

If you are wanting to learn more about Strengths Day, go to Twitter and search #freemanfalcons or #freemanstrengths