‘An Evening in Paris’ Huge Hit For Elementary Students

An Evening in Paris

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Even three days later, students, their families and staff members were buzzing about how much fun they had at Denair Elementary School’s first-ever dance event. Featuring “An Evening in Paris” theme, the May 1 event attracted more than 400 people to the school’s gym for three hours of Gaelic-inspired gaiety.

Many of the young boys donned nice shirts and ties, and the girls wore pretty pastel dresses. Their parents and older siblings also wore attire that would have been fashionable on the Champs de Elysees or at a restaurant overlooking the Seine River.

The gym was festively decorated with colored lights and small tables with miniature Eiffel Towers, transforming it into a faux Parisian nightclub.

The theme was chosen by the parents’ clubs that spearheaded and organized the dance, said Principal Sara Michelena.

“It was super cute and totally age appropriate,” she said, giving special thanks to parents Mary Prine, Kalee Lopes and Troy and Debbie Edwards for their hard work in making the night come to life.

Michelena estimated that two-thirds of the 300 families whose children attend the elementary school and adjacent Denair Academic Avenues participated in the party.

There was plenty of pizza and soft drinks, but the highlight clearly was the professional DJ and the dancing. He taught everyone how to line dance, the cha-cha slide and the chicken dance. And when he played “My Girl” by the Temptations, fathers danced with their daughters and mothers with their sons. Continue reading “‘An Evening in Paris’ Huge Hit For Elementary Students” »

DECA Petition Approved By DUSD Board


Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Denair Unified School District trustees enthusiastically approved a plan Thursday night to create a new elementary charter school for next year that would combine Spanish instruction for all students with rigorous core subjects and exposure to fine arts.

One of the unique features of the Denair Elementary Charter Academy, or DECA, would be a dual immersion English/Spanish class for kindergarteners. The class would follow the 90% Spanish and 10% English dual immersion model, said Principal Sara Michelena. The goal is to have a 50/50 mix of English and Spanish speakers. The intent, she said, is to add a dual immersion class at successive grade levels each year as the first group of kindergartners gets older.

Response has been strong, Michelena said. Already, 36 kindergarteners have signed up for the immersion program.

“We are creating our very own, very unique program,” said Superintendent Aaron Rosander. “We will be the pre-eminent leader of this kind of education in our region.”

DECA would replace the current charter program, known as Denair Academic Avenues. Denair Elementary School, which shares the same campus today, will technically remain in existence, though district officials expect most of the students to enroll in the DECA program. Students in the same grade level will be in the same class for the core programs, but DECA students will have access to more electives.

“Because this is such a powerful program, we think the choice is easy,” Rosander said.

Trustee Sandi Dirkse said the early community reaction to the new charter has been tremendous.

“The energy and buzz around town is very positive,” she said. “I’m hearing from parents who are very excited.” Continue reading “DECA Petition Approved By DUSD Board” »

D2A Blue Dogs Displayed at Local Veterinary Office

D2A Coyote Cub

Submitted by Denair Academic Avenues

Second graders at Denair Academic Avenues learned about the artist George Rodrigue and his famous Blue Dog works. Their teacher, Nancy Tanner, guided them in drawing their own Blue Dog outline, which was then followed by their own creative colors and designs. The resulting oil pastel drawings were an explosion of whimsical color and pattern!

Dr. Rob Santos, D.V.M. at Monte Vista Small Animal Veterinary Hospital was gracious enough to hang the “guest artists'” work in his lobby, surrounding his own original painting by Rodrigue. Stop by and see “Blue Dog’s Friends” at MVSAH. You won’t be disappointed!

A Class Act! 10 Questions for Coree Fitzgerald

Coree Fitzgerald

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Name: Coree Fitzgerald                                   

School: Denair Academic Avenues

Subject taught: Kindergarten

Experience and education: I have taught at Denair schools for 11 years. I grew up in Denair and attended schools here from kindergarten through 12th grade. I went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. I earned my teaching credential through California State University, Stanislaus, and went on to complete my master’s in education there as well.

Why most inspires you about teaching? I love that as a kindergarten teacher I get to be the students’ first experience with education in the school setting. I love to see when my students are excited about what they are learning and eager to keep trying when things seem difficult. My main inspiration is that the kids will have a love of learning and the confidence they will need during their next years in school.

What are your biggest challenges as a teacher? My biggest challenges as a teacher are to bring a group of students who are often on vastly diverse paths and reach them all, taking into account that there are 20-30 individuals in a class each year and tailoring our program and curriculum to meet all of their needs.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? I enjoy using technology in the classroom to show students a different way to see things other than just through stories or speaking with them. In some ways we can bring in real-life experiences for those students that are not familiar with a topic. Continue reading “A Class Act! 10 Questions for Coree Fitzgerald” »

DUSD Officials and Teachers Thrilled With Plans for DECA


Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Denair schools trustees and the public will have their first chance Thursday night to publicly review plans for a revamped elementary charter school.

The proposal calls for Denair Elementary School and the adjacent Denair Academic Avenues to form a new school known as Denair Elementary Charter Academy, or DECA, for the 2015-16 school year.  Together, the two campuses now have about 500 kindergarten through fifth-grade students from Denair and surrounding areas.

DECA’s mission, according to the proposed new charter, “is to provide students with an engaging, nurturing, equitable learning environment that promotes the development of skills necessary for the 21st century.”

The curriculum will be rich with core subjects such as language arts, math, science, social science and physical education. Electives will include world/foreign languages, drama, music, art, dance and computer instruction.

Already, DECA’s dual immersion English/Spanish class for kindergartens is proving to be popular, with 26 students signed up and five on a waiting list, said Principal Sara Michelena. A second class could be added if there at least 40 students.

The class will follow the 90% Spanish and 10% English dual immersion model, Michelena said. The goal is to have a 50/50 mix of English and Spanish speakers. The intent, she said, is to add a dual immersion class at successive grade levels each year as the first group of kindergartners gets older.

All other DECA students also will have regular Spanish instruction, Michelena said. In addition, the new charter school will have two 30-station computer labs to teach tech skills and will continue to focus on arts enrichment for all students. Even at the elementary level, there will be an emphasis on building a college-going culture among children. Continue reading “DUSD Officials and Teachers Thrilled With Plans for DECA” »