very good mood has descended upon me. Perhaps it has to do with the arrival of Thanksgiving.
Arriving with Thanksgiving at my house will be every one of my relatives who live west of the Rocky Mountains. And some are bringing friends! I am delighted.
This good mood was amplified by the Grateful Dead, who sang to me this morning during my commute to work. They sang about wanting to get more work in the Cumberland mine. "Can I go, buddy, can I go down, Take your shift at the mine? Make good money, five dollars a day."
Now I wasn't heading off to work in a mine, needless to say, but I can appreciate Jerry Garcia singing about an honest day's work and being happy to have it. Schools are much more like a horticulture endeavor than a mine. There's the planting of seeds, the caring for the seedlings, the blooming, the maturing and the harvest - a bright future.
Families, music and work come to mind as students turn in their Thanksgiving essays, and we gear up to contemplate the many things that fill us with joy.
Families and music are also showcased in the movie "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." Therein, James Garner's character Shep admonishes his daughter, "It wasn't always bad, honey. Do what I do. Think about the good times. Let that be what sticks with you."
I liked the movie. And I like that sentiment.
As we go about Watsonville and surrounds, there is plenty of "good stuff" going on. I've been having the pleasure of focusing on it since the election. So let me share with you some of those quietly wonderful doings that have been taking place in our schools.
At Lakeview Middle School a new mural was recently dedicated. At the ceremony, I learned how this project evolved. Teacher Gina Rodriguez led a group of students, adults and young people, in an art and literacy project that began last March.
Initially, the students wrote poetry and essays about their life experiences. These writings were put together in a booklet. Then the muralist, Guillermo "Yermo" Arana, took artistic inspiration from the writings and, with the participation of the students, created a very special tribute to their memories. The mural graces Lakeview's walls, a lasting project that will remind students of their roots and their past as they go about creating the future.
Prior to the event, Hortensia Andrade had sent invitations showing scenes from the mural. My pretty invitation was stapled into my teacher's plan book so that I could enjoy the pictures and remember to attend! My students in Santa Cruz saw the beautifully colored drawings in my plan book and excitedly reported that they had seen the art at the Familia Center. Yermo tells me that his work is indeed there, as it is in approximately 30 locations locally.
On another front, recycling has become a tremendously successful endeavor at many of our local schools. Teachers and students at various schools in Watsonville are saving thousands of school dollars while learning and practicing recycling. They are recycling the usual substances - paper, cans, bottles - and even recycling the leftovers from the school lunches as compost!
I learned about several of these recycling and conservation efforts at a recent school board meeting at which Resource Conservation Awards were presented to three PVUSD teachers. One of the teachers brought students to the meeting to share in the public recognition of their efforts. These awards were presented on behalf of the City of Watsonville by Nancy Gray and Tami Stolzenthaler.
Startling is the amount of money saved! Kim Blake of MacQuiddy Elementary has lead an effort yielding a savings of more than $5,000 over a period of 14 months. Satina Ciandro of Watsonville High has headed up a project which is expected to save $29,400 by the end of this year. Nancy Jackson of Starlight Elementary has developed a system that saves more than $300 a month in garbage bills!
Thanks to all who have saved the PVUSD dollars. And tons of kudos goes to you for the tons of garbage your efforts have successfully diverted from the landfill.
So if you see me walking around with a big smile on my face, you will know some of the reasons.
Sandra Nichols is a Speech and Language Specialist with Santa Cruz City Schools in Santa Cruz, California and sits on the Governing Board of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. This essay was first published in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, November 23, 2002. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication or web site.
© Sandra Nichols 2002