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Spotlight: Lisa Hobbs (Ms Lisa) – Library and Technology

Spotlight: Lisa Hobbs (Ms Lisa) – Library and Technology

lisahobbsSpotlight: Lisa Hobbs (Ms Lisa) – Library and Technology

This time we spotlight our wonderful library and technology teacher, Lisa Hobbs. The Library and Technology instruction is one of the many programs that are 100% funded by the Crocker Highlands PTA.  Please support Annual Giving to keep these programs running.

Q: How many hours do you work and where do you spend your hours(what classrooms)?
Ms Lisa: I work 32 hours per week. I see all students once a week in the library and also in their classrooms for computers.
Q:  What is your background in this role (education/experience/number of years):
Ms Lisa:  I have a BS in communication from the University of Utah and an MA in communication from UNC Chapel Hill. Following graduate school, I worked as a management consultant on software implementation projects for Anderson Consulting and Deloitte Consulting. I took a few years off when I had kids and then got an MLIS from San Jose State. I’ve been working at Crocker for 9 years.
Q:  Please give an overview of what you do in your role for both Library and Computers and how it differs by grade.  What are you covering now or plan to cover by end of year?
Ms Lisa:
In library, a big part of my job is to make reading fun and interesting so I read tons of books and share them with classes, individual kids, and teachers. I work to get the kids talking to each other about what they’re reading, too. My recommendations are pretty good, but theirs are really powerful in a different way. Most of us, whether we like reading or not, like reading more if we have good books and people to share them with. There is power in finding a community of readers — it can be just a couple of kids who love the same series or genre, a class sharing a read aloud, or a book group (in person or online). I love that there are books that every Crocker kid knows and loves – it’s one way we’re connected to each other. We’ve all read Mac Barnett’s amazing book Sam and Dave Dig a Hole – you should, too. It will drive you crazy! This year, many of our classes read a chapter book called The Wild Robot. It’s been fun to see kids share the story with classmates, but also kids in other classes and grades. Now we have hundreds of kids who know the story of Roz the robot and we’re all stuck living with the serious cliff hanger at the end!
In Technology:
K/1: We’re really getting used to using laptops and learning some of the vocabulary we need to use them (cursor, trackpad, user name, tab, volume, etc). We try to do this with activities that dovetail with whatever students are learning in their classrooms. For example, in first grade, we played a game using online manipulatives (10s and 1s) to create numbers up to 100. The game let us practice math concepts being taught in class while practicing clicking and dragging on the trackpad. We also played a game involving odd and even number recognition which reinforced a concept taught in class and let us practice using the trackpad without clicking. We finished by typing some words on a website called Alphabetimals. Alphabetimals is a fun way to play with words, gives their fingers a break from clicking and dragging, and lets the kids use the keyboard without requiring serious typing skills. In kindergarten and first grade, we also use ebooks, audiobooks, and a research database just for young kids. Using these tools let us have conversations about what they are and practice using them.
2/3: In second grade, we’re still learning how to use the laptops and expanding our technology vocabulary. Because the kids’ reading and spelling skills are improving, we start learning to use the library catalog, an online encyclopedia, and doing other kinds of online searching. Late in the year, we’ll use Google Docs to write a paragraph and a poem. This gives us a chance to get our feet wet and do a little writing, formatting, saving, etc. In third grade, we introduce keyboarding and Google Drive, Docs, and Slides (G Suite) and teachers begin to use them on projects in their classrooms like the living museum, animal reports, and short stories. (All OUSD students have Google accounts administered by the district. No, our students don’t have access to Gmail through these accounts.)
4/5: We continue using and improving our skills with tools like Google Docs and Slides. We continue practicing online searching using different techniques in a range of places. To a greater extent, we work on projects that grow out of classroom activities that are different depending on the teacher. For example, some 5th graders research elements on the periodic table, create scientist trading cards, create individual or class slide shows, or rate/ review books online. Some projects that seem simple allow us to practice a wide range of skills. We recently created word clouds, took a screen shot of our work, and uploaded the screen shot to Google drive. We’ll be using the word clouds later this year when we upload the image to student blogs the 4th and 5th graders will be creating.
Q:  What do you like about what you do?
Ms Lisa: I get to know all of the kids, many of the families, and I work with all of our teachers.
Q:  Can you give me an example of how what you do has made an impact on a kid or kids at Crocker?
Ms Lisa: I coordinate events that connect all of us as a community — the book swap, Poem in your Pocket Day, puzzle week, Hour of Code. I also get to work with kids individually — helping them find a great book or learn a new skill and they help me find great books and learn new things, too.
Q:  Anything else worth mentioning that parents might be interested in knowing?
Ms Lisa:
  • Crocker has one of the best elementary school libraries in Oakland! I’m really proud of that. It wouldn’t be possible without our incredible community support.
  • The library is open every day after school for 15 minutes so kids can exchange books or check out additional books.
  • Your student can show you some of what we do on the Crocker launch page at
  • I really appreciate all of you who help keep things running smoothly in the library and help out during computer time. Thanks!
Thanks to all who support the PTA to keep Lisa Hobbs employed through the PTA.  To keep this and our many other wonderful programs running, please donate to the PTA through Annual Giving.  Any amount helps!

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Enrollment Applications Due January 20, 2017

All incoming students must complete an enrollment application form and turn it in to any OUSD school or the Student Assignments Office by January 20th at 4pm.  You can find all of the information and as well as a form to download here.

Our current 5th graders will get pre-filled forms sent home this week.


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Spotlight: Vocal Music Teacher Jen Myzel Swanson

Spotlight: Vocal Music Teacher Jen Myzel Swanson

jenswansonSpotlight: Jen Myzel Swanson (Ms Jen) – Vocal Music

We welcome Jen Myzel Swanson to Crocker Highlands in her first year with us and look forward to the vocal concerts on December 13.  Vocal Music is one of the many programs that are 100% funded by the Crocker Highlands PTA.  Please support Annual Giving to keep these programs running.

Q: How many hours do you work at Crocker and how do you spend that time?

Ms Jen:  15 hours, and I teach all 18 classes once per week! I spend 13 of those hours teaching, and a few hours a week curriculum planning and preparing the materials for different lessons. The K-1 classes are 30 minutes long and grades 2-5 are basically 45 minutes (sometimes 40).

Q:  What is your background in this role?

Ms Jen:  I’ve been a musician for 8 years, with vocal and guitar as my two main instruments, which I learned through self-study and private lessons as a young adult. I have produced four music albums with a fifth in the works, the songs being very relatable to children and to the themes of living a healthy and sustainable life.  I have worked with kids in summer camp and after-school settings in a range of roles from wilderness skill educator to mentor to tutor for eleven years.  I also taught private music lessons during the 2015 school year before beginning at Crocker Highlands.  In addition, I have been a facilitator of “The Work that Reconnects” workshops for adults and children focusing around the intersection of music and activism since 2014. I somehow am always either working or living with children, it’s what I love to do.

Q: Please give an overview of what you do in your role for and how it differs by grade.  What are you covering now or plan to cover by end of year?

Ms Jen:  What I aim to do is instill the joy and power of music in the children, as well as to teach them vocal techniques for becoming better singers as they grow older.  I teach them music from different genres and time periods in order that history and culture can be learned through the music. In K and 1, I work with simpler songs that teach them singing, rhythm, rhyme, cadence, and sometimes other languages.  Beginning with the 2nd grade age level, I do more complex songs and also begin to incorporate some song-writing. This first half of the school year my theme has been “Storytelling through Music” and we’ve done everything from the old English Folk Song “The Fox” to Boston’s political song “MTA Song” to the new hit hip-hop musical “Hamilton”. The second half of the year will have a different theme, which will be how to explore mood and emotion through music.

Q: What do you like about what you do?

Ms Jen:  I love it. I feel very in touch with my inner playfulness and I can tell that most of the kids are having fun with me in music class.  That is very important to me, because I believe music is one of those things throughout our whole lives that can help us both celebrate and get through hard times. I want to support them in developing an appreciation and connection to music, and I feel grateful that I’ve come into an already well-established music community, following in the footsteps of Jill Rose, who has been mentoring me as well. One of the things I love most is to see once the students have really learned the words, they get so passionate about singing the songs together. I also think singing together helps create class unity.

Q: Can you give me an example of how what you do has made an impact on a kid or kids at Crocker?

Ms Jen:  I think that the kids are learning some new cultural context for the songs we’re learning, like indigenous people’s history through “Color’s of the Wind” and Boston political history through “The MTA Song”. I also think that music is an outlet for many of the kids to connect to a different part of their brains than the analytical mind, which feels very important, especially at this young and formational age.

Q: Anything else worth mentioning that parents might be interested in knowing?

Ms Jen:  You can learn a lot about me by listening to my original music as well! It can be found at  The other thing that parents may want to know is that I am a close student of Bay Area elder, scholar and activist Joanna Macy and have been a facilitator of her work, The Work that Reconnects, for the last three years. This work is a bridge of environmental and social justice activism with spirituality, group practices to help us stay awake to our world during these uncertain times.

Thanks to all who support the PTA to keep Jen Myzel Swanson for Vocal Music as a program for our children which is employed through the PTA.  To keep this and our many other wonderful programs running, please donate to the PTA through Annual Giving.  Any amount helps!


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Crocker Receives an Award

Crocker Receives an Award

Hi Crocker Families,

It is with great pride that I share the news that today, Crocker Highlands received two awards at a ceremony honoring a number of our OUSD schools. Based on the 2016-17 School Performance Framework, OUSD identified schools that had shown outstanding growth in academics or school culture and climate.

Crocker Highlands was one of just two schools to receive recognition for both!

Our high levels of achievement and positive school culture are the result of an amazing collaboration between staff, students, families and our broader community. We’re also pretty lucky to have such great kids!

The dedicated professionals at this school, which includes teachers as well as support staff, are so committed to providing our students with an engaging, supportive, safe, healthy and academically rich experience. We are also very fortunate to have a parent community that works in partnership with us. We are grateful for our many volunteers and the generosity of you, our PTA, in sponsoring additional programs, added staff, technology, and so much more.

I am very proud of everyone’s hard word and so appreciate the many contributions of both the adults and students who comprise the Crocker Highlands School Community. Congratulations!

-Joci Kelleher



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Spotlight: 3D Art Teacher Kathy deRosas

Spotlight: 3D Art Teacher Kathy deRosas

kathyderosasSpotlight:  3D Art Teacher Kathy deRosas

I am Kathy deRosas the 3D Arts teacher at Crocker Highlands Elementary School. My 2- 10 hours a week at Crocker are spent on helping the kids translate their concepts into physical objects while learning how to use their cognitive and motor skills to shape clay along the way.  The kids then learn how to glaze their clay objects, with me carefully transporting an array of beautiful ceramic monsters, bowls, cups, haunted houses, cats to and from the kiln.  While you can generally find me rolling around a cart filled with clay, clay tools, glazes and brushes; I can sometimes be found in a storage room near the multi – purpose room, where I hide to do all my class prep.

I have an undergraduate degree in education and an MFA in art. I have spent 25 years in art, and art education with an emphasis on early childhood art education. While I have worked in private art studios, museums, art centers, after school programs and my own art/ ceramic studio, the most influential art teaching job was at a private studio The Berkeley Child Art Studio in Berkeley, CA. in the 1990’s.  The studio’s philosophy of play based and child directed curriculum exposed me to the perceptual development of children through the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture.  I taught and developed curriculum for parent and child art classes, and children from the ages 3 through 13 years. This was the beginning of my work in ceramics and teaching ceramics to preschool and school age children. I was also introduced to many progressive educators and philosophers. These four individual’s books are the foundation of my teaching philosophy.  Howard Gardner, Artful Scribbles Signifance of Children’s Drawings, Rudolf Arnheim Art and Visual Perception, A Psychology of the Creative Type, Rhoda Kellog Analyzing Children’s Art, and Herbert Read, Art is Education. The exposure to these educators /writers has assisted me in teaching that enhances and develops creativity.

My role is to introduce the students to the basic skills of ceramics. This includes techniques such as the pinch pot, coil and slab techniques of hand building and brush glazing using low fire glazes.   Truth be told, it’s about early sensory development, the development of fine and gross motor skills, self -expression, problem–solving, and very importantly a sense of pride in their creativity.

The kindergarten and first graders are primarily learning the basic skills of making pinch pots, coils and learning how to attach two pieces of clay together. The projects are more complicated as the students gain more experiences working with clay. These skills are integrated into a project that reflects the curriculum for each classroom. For example:

  • Ms. Butler integrated the students pinch pot ceramic monsters with a writing project.
  • Ms. Labaro’s first graders, who are in the glazing stage of their ceramic pinch and coil pots, have the project integrated into their science curriculum.
  • Ms. Anderson’s 3rd grade class, who have just finished their cereal bowl clay project and are integrating the clay project with the empty bowl project, and “The Alameda Food Bank” in early November.
  • All the 4th graders will be making Mojave pots that integrates California history. The focus will be on the coil pot, and glaze Mojave geometric designs like Mojave pottery.  
  • Mosaics is a new technique that I introduced in the 3rd grade. In the spring, while Ms. Graffius teaches a unit on sea animals and Ms. Dino teaches a unit on space, both classes will end up using the slab hand building techniques to creating their own mosaics through clay.  

There 3 ceramic projects at school that students at Crocker have created:

  1. In the hallway to the multipurpose room there are 6-7 ceramic and mosaic spirit animals created by Ms. Spees and Ms. Oretsky’s 5th graders. 20142
  2. In the courtyard, there is the ceramic lifecycle of the monarch butterfly created by Ms. Anderson’s 2nd graders now 3rd graders. 2016
  3. In the office, there is a ceramic heart that says “I love Crocker” created by my students in the Clay Explorations after school class. 2016

While the program has given students an opportunity to experience the magic of clay, I am deeply overjoyed to witness that sense of pride that the kids display on their creation.  I thoroughly enjoy working in the classroom with so many diverse teachers and students, with each project being so unique to the culture and community of the classroom. One perfect moment is when I open the kiln after glaze firing and I see all colorful objects ready to go to the classrooms.

THANK YOU for all your support. I am grateful for all the teachers, parent volunteers and students that make all the projects a wonderful experience and a whole lot of fun!

The Ceramics Arts program is one of the many programs paid for by the Crocker PTA.  Please donate to Annual Giving to continue to keep this and our other programs running!



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Book Fair – Nov 28, 29 & 30

Book Fair – Nov 28, 29 & 30


Book Fair, Nov 28/29/30

This year we have some exciting changes with our annual Book Fair held in conjunction with independent bookstore Books, Inc.:
  • From Winter to Fall!  The Fair has moved ahead of the holidays this year.  We’ve stocked up on extra inventory for children and grown-ups alike.  Tick off a few gifts from that Christmas shopping list, encourage literacy, and support your school all at the same time!
  • 3 Days instead of 2 and extra evening hours!
    • Monday, Nov 28: 3 pm – 8 pm
    • Tuesday, Nov 29: 8 am – 8 pm
    • Wednesday, Nov 30: 8 am – 6 pm
  • Dinner on site!  We will have a Taco Truck on site in front of the MPR from 4 pm to 8 pm on Monday and Tuesday.  If you’re tired of Thanksgiving leftovers, feel free to dine outside or grab your dinner to take home after shopping.
We are very pleased to announce that author Mac Barnett ( will be coming to speak to the children during on Monday, Nov 28 during the school day.  His books will be available for purchase during the Fair – look for his dedicated table!
Don’t forget to check in at the “Teacher Wishlist” shelves populated with books that your teachers will have hand picked to add to their in-class libraries.  If you are able to buy a book or two for your child’s classroom, we’ll set them aside and deliver them as soon as the Fair is over.
Note that this event is open to the whole community, please encourage your friends and neighbors to come along to dine and shop.
We are still looking for volunteers to help set-up, cashier and breakdown.  Sign up here:

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