Solutions and Support to Build High Performing Schools and Districts.

At REACH, we speak your language. We are a group of previous teachers, principals, superintendents and respected leaders in education, and know first-hand the challenges you face today. We value the work that’s already been done in your school or district, and are dedicated to working alongside your team to reach the next phase of implementation. We provide hands-on support to identify learning needs and deliver the quality service clients. In addition, we focus on building effective and high performing collaborative teams to support long-term and sustainable resourcefulness of teachers and school leaders.

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Mayonaisse Jar

The Mayonnaise Jar

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are
important to you…” he told them.

“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Please share this with other “Golf Balls”

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Advice from Grammy

My mom was a primary teacher for 40 years. One of the best I know. Now her granddaughter is in her first year of teaching. My mom answered an email where my daughter was asking for help. I know it is a long post but promise, it is worth it. Now that is an example of explicit, concrete support, at exactly the right time when needed! Enjoy!

Advice from grammy to her granddaughter:

Crissy, I have been thinking about you and your little girl who is having trouble in spelling.  I do have some thoughts but giving advice is not easy!  Some people want it and some don’t!  Here are my thoughts.

1.  My first option is to cut her spelling list in half.  She has probably always had trouble and is completely discouraged.  Until you can have a better option I would cut the list.  This is not the long term solution for her.
2.  I would take a hard look at her spelling mistakes and see if there is a pattern.  Sometimes it is syllabic.  If the pattern shows that her mistakes come in the last syllable you can attack that.  It may be suffixes that are getting her and she needs to be sure to know the rule before adding a suffix, etc.. 
3.  If there seems to be no pattern I would strongly suspect that the fourth grade spelling list is not at her instructional level.  If that is the case she will not get any better at spelling all year long using that list.  It would be like telling me that beginning tomorrow I would be expected to function as an astronaut! Yikes!
4.  There is spelling program that I want you to have.  It is superior to everything I have ever heard of.  It came from the Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska.  I tried for about and hour and a half today to find one online much like it.   No luck.  I will call the curriculum director tomorrow and try to get a copy of what they had or now have.  I used it in third grade in Port Angeles.  In short – it gives you everything you need.  All pages to copy for EVERYTHING.

  • It suggests no more than three spelling groups per classroom. 
  • It is so easily managed. 
  • You give a test to the class beginning with about second grade spelling. 
  • You grade it seeing if anyone is at that level.   
  • Then give the third grade test and that will probably filter out more students. 
  • Keep giving the grade level tests to those that have passed the last test until you can divide the class into three instructional levels. 

Some of my third graders were working with the fifth grade spelling lists.  The guide will tell you how many missed words make the stopping place at each level.  

Now that you have them placed:

  • You give a pretest on Monday for each group. 
  • They check their own spellings using the list to be learned for the week  of course under your supervision).

Now…….. they will have a manilla folder with graphs pasted on the inside.  [forgot to tell you they circle any misspelled words as those are the ones that they will study.  They do not need to study the ones they spelled correctly] On their graph page for each week there will be a place to record the number of words they spelled right on the pretest and they mark that graph in red. 

Then after the post test on Friday they graph their correct spellings in green.  Fun to see the growth and they are now in charge of their  spelling!!!!!  It gives them power.  Of course all of this is done under your supervision or that of a room helper.  They keep the list in their manilla folder in a pocket that I had made.  I used to have them do spelling with me on the floor.  Easy for me to keep a good eye on the happenings.
5.  Once I had the problem diagnosed and a solution is in place I would call in the screaming mom and discuss the method for helping her child.  I would suggest that both of you want her daughter to be successful and is she willing to help for five minutes each day.  How can she say no?  Then show her how to help her daughter study and for her to keep it a pleasant time.  This program will tell her exactly how to study with her daughter – hopeful that I can get that program! 
6.  Are you interested?   If you already have other suggestions that you would prefer doing please know that I think that is wonderful.  If you want me to pursue the program – just let me know. 
7.  Screaming parents are few and far between but we all get to have the pleasure of some!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  She may be the first but she won’t be the last!  I know that you are doing a wonderful job and please don’t let her define your work.  These people make us feel awful until something good happens!!!!!  You will never forget her but time eases the pain!!!!
Now, I have used up my word quota for today so I HAVE to quit!
Keep in touch and love and kisses to you!   

– Grammy

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Smiles, growth, tears and fear,                                                                     
For these I am thankful, yes,  
Privileged am I to take this journey with you,

Walking along this path of change, challenge, growth, excitement and fear is a tremendous honor.  When I arise each morning, I cannot believe that I indeed have the opportunity to do this work.  I take my work seriously as I know that much trust and belief has been bestowed upon me.  It is my mission each day to be of help, to care deeply about those I am privileged to encounter, and to remember that I am one human being with one perspective and much to learn. 

To all of those who have walked on this path alongside me, thank you.  Thank you for joining me in this endeavor.  When each child is born, they are a most precious gift.  Fortunate are we to be able to contribute to their success in life. 

Sometimes we stroll along the path, taking in all of its wonder and sometimes we are in a full on sprint, barely looking left or right.  This depends on how great the needs of the children we serve.  For those of you who have recently put on your racing shoes, thank you.  For those of you who slipped into your hiking boots for rough terrain, thank you.  And for those of you who needed full combat boots, thank you as well!  It is my honor to walk beside each of you!


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Whales Tale

Recently, as I was flying over the Cook Inlet, I looked down and saw a pod of Beluga whales.  I had just come from working in a HUGE school that struggles with many difficulties.  As I gazed upon the Beluga pod, I was acutely aware of how agile they were and how easily they changed direction.  The water currents, strong winds, ice bergs, and large vessels did not dissuade them from accomplishing their journey.

Conversely, blue whales are enormous!  A blue whale is the largest mammal on earth. It is so large that it takes at least three minutes for it to make a turn of 180 degrees.  When a deterrent seems present, it takes a blue whale a long time to avoid the potential danger.

As I began to think about creating change with the schools I work in, I realized that some of them had become nimble, beluga whales while others were still struggling to turn 180 degrees in a full three minutes, like a blue whale.  The more I pondered this, the more I realized some things about my job when I am serving schools. 

These are my considerations when working with a school/district:

  1. Support a school in being precise with the structures and systems that are built in order to facilitate their ability to “turn” with agility. 
  2. Recognize when I am working with a school that demonstrated the attributes more like that of a Blue Whale.
  3. Recognize that I must build their capacity, not just tell them what I “know” about effective schools.
  4. Provide them with a mental picture of what it would be like to demonstrate the agility of a Beluga whale.

Schools are complex organizations with one goal, increase student achievement for each and every child.  When schools are able to demonstrate the agility of a beluga pod, they are far more likely to be able to meet the demands that are upon them.  Whatever they are!!

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A Tree’s First Summer

This weekend I planted trees along the Sammamish Cove.  As we planted, the horticultural specialist taught us important considerations when planting a new tree.  Here are the important considerations that seem to apply to our work as TA providers:

• Gently remove the dirt around the roots so that they have room to stretch and grow

o When working in a school, I have to continually think about what needs to be gently removed in the school to free up the room for the transformation that needs to take place.

 • A new tree’s most difficult time is in the “first summer.”

o This is often true for schools who are in the middle of transforming their work in the improvement process.

• When filling in the hole with dirt, place the poorest soil near the roots.

o This is done so that the roots are forced to grow outward and seek water and nutrients.

o If you plant the rich potting soil next to the roots, it becomes “lazy” and does not grow the root structure it needs to survive the “first summer.”

o This one was new and is sometimes hard for me.  I tend to want to place the rich potting soil next to the roots but indeed, if I do the work, the school does not gain the strength it needs.

• Adding a bit of rich potting soil on the top provides the appropriate nutrients for the new tree.

o The tree needs the rich nutrients from potting soil and by placing them on top, they appropriately seep into the soil while not creating a lazy root system.

As I pondered these considerations, I realize that this is always on my mind as I work with a school:

• How much support do I provide?

• How am I building the muscle strength with the leaders and teachers in the school so that they are indeed to ones who can do the heavy lifting of transformation?

• Where and when do I place my expertise and teaching so that they do indeed get the rich nutrients they need to thrive?

I definitely do not have the answers for these considerations and I do know that I need to attend to them continually.  It is my responsibility to continually assess what the school needs, what will help them transform the quickest and how to I help prepare them for their “first summer?”  I will remember lessons from our horticultural specialist and hope that as I make my way through my work, I indeed attend the important considerations for “planting a new tree.”

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Marathon Running- RTI style

I spend many of my weekend hours in training for a distance run of some sort.  I have been thinking about Response to Intervention as I spend many, many hours in training.  You see…I am a Tier III runner.  There are some friends of mine who put on their running shoes, take a drink of water and head out onto the course.  Me however…I need all kinds of supports to make it to the finish line.  Both of us love running and have the goal of reaching the finish line.  This is much how I think of RtI.

Supports needed by Tier I Marathoner:  Running shoes, a carbo loaded dinner the night before, water at the aide stations on the route.

Supports needed by a Tier III Marathoner:  Carrying a running belt with water, energy gels, Advil, Ipod, sunscreen (because we are going to be out there 6 hours), and maybe even someone to ride their bike alongside them.

You see, the Tier I and Tier III runners both have the same goal, cross the finish line. Get the medal!! If someone told me that I was only allowed to run in 5k’s I would be devastated.  I am fully capable of running a marathon, if I have the right support.  I take a little longer and I need additional “helps” to get me to the finish line. Nonetheless, I can compete, set goals for myself, train hard and accomplish my dream for that day.  Thank you to every person in my life who helps me compete.

As I close this post, I hope you will consider that when we are serving our students, some may only need running shoes and a drink of water while others need the full range of supports to cross their marathon finish line!!

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