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Meet the New Staff at ASA: Getting to Know Fred Koehler

It’s time for another “staff introduction” so you, our readers, can get to know one of our amazing faculty members here at ASA. This month, we were privileged to interview Fred Koehler, the new Director of Media and Design here at All Saints Academy and a welcome addition to our team. He loves to hear people’s stories, and he certainly has one of his own to tell. From central Florida to life in West Africa and back again, Fred is changing lives one story at a time.

Born in Columbia, SC, Fred moved to central Florida when he was three. In 1998 Lakeland called him here as a student at Florida Southern College, and he graduated with a degree in graphic design alongside a minor in communications. Following his graduation in 2001, Fred joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Togo, West Africa where he was to stay for 2 1/2 years. During this time he spoke French along with a smattering of indigenous languages. Life in his little farming community was slow-paced, and that’s something Fred says he loved about his time spent there. He gained perspective about filling your days with what matters, taking time to notice life instead of constant busyness, and took away lessons in contentment. People there are happy with little because they don’t know life any other way, and in their eyes they have all they need. Fred was part of the HIV education and prevention program during his time in West Africa, and came away realizing how impactful the stories of people can be in the lives of others.

When he arrived back stateside, he was hired on with Polk County Public Schools in the public relations office, which gave him more opportunities to work with a variety of people throughout the community. Life back in the United States was good and he remained in his public relations position for two years before moving on to launch a creative services division for a marketing company in Winter Haven. Here, he kickstarted their in-house graphic design studio, and worked hard at it for five years, when he then bought out his portion of the company. Recently, he joined us here at All Saints Academy where he plans to use his background as a creative director and advertising agency owner to help ASA tell our story.

Fred has two children of his own, Abby (10) and Jack (8), and he loves spending time with them as often as possible. He is a self-proclaimed “water bug” and enjoys hitting the mud flats on the Gulf with a fishing rod in hand. In addition to fishing, he enjoys kayaking and diving. Fred is also a working artist who writes and illustrates for children’s book publishers, projects that have taken him all over the US and abroad. Fred loves to share his passions with his family, and brings them on as many of his adventures as possible. Another companion he enjoys spending time with is Cheerio, the family’s dog who was adopted from the local SPCA last year and who defends their home by attacking all packages left by the UPS man.

Here are a few more details about Fred and his story that we think you’ll enjoy:

What is your 5-year goal? 

Personally, I look forward to raising my family here in Polk County and seeing my kids become great students, artists or athletes – watching them bloom into whatever they decide to become. Professionally, I want to help ASA create a culture that celebrates all of the incredible things our school has to offer. I’m excited to see our halls filled with exceptional students and faculty. I hope to help grow this community by successfully telling our story to the world! It hasn’t taken long for me to recognize that this institution is thoughtful, generous, culturally diverse, and inclusive. I feel honored that they would invite me to be a part of it.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

“I would give myself a full head of hair, and the ability to do twice as much work in half the amount of time.”

Another fun fact about Fred? He keeps a bowl of candy on his desk much like his unnamed-26predecessor Kristin did here at ASA. However, his candy comes with a price. Students know that if they want the candy, they have to leave a story. It can be true, made up, written down, or told verbally, but it has to be shared to earn the chocolate. It’s a treat for a tale, and something Fred and the students enjoy. We love seeing our faculty developing relationships with our students because that personal, engaging aspect of teachers and staff is one of the many things that makes ASA so special.

We are thrilled to have Fred here at All Saints Academy, and we can’t wait to see how he helps ASA’s story spread throughout Polk County and beyond.

Finishing Strong: Being Your Best At The End of The School Semester

As Christmas break quickly approaches, and we prepare to wrap up the first semester of the 2017-2018 school year, it can be hectic with various holiday activities, school assignments, exams, presentations, performances, and more. While all of the flurry can be fun with the anticipation of this special time, it can be helpful to have some tips to help you through when the days seem full and you aren’t quite sure from where you’ll pull the time or energy to make it through the next thing on the calendar. We are encouraging our students (and teachers) to finish strong this semester, and put their very best self forward at the end of 2017.

Some tips we offered them in the classroom might help you too, so keep these things in mind as you prepare for the upcoming holidays:

Be Intentional with Your Time

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you look at a to-do list, or a weekly calendar, and see a variety of due dates and activities facing you. If you just start running from one thing to the next with no forethought or a plan, you might end up wasting valuable time. Have a loose “game plan” for each day, with the highest priorities at the top of the list, and things that could wait at the bottom. If items could be grouped together (such as, studying for a final exam on the bus ride to your basketball game) it will save time and effort, and could leave you with more checked off your list each day than you expected! Also, have a planner or calendar where all activities, homework assignments, exams, games, etc. are listed with times and specific notes. This gives you a “master plan” to work from each day, so nothing important gets overlooked. This intentional planning of your time will guarantee that you end the semester with everything checked off and ready to enjoy the holidays!

We Succeed Together, NOT Solo

Teamwork is important in education, and not just in collaborative projects or on the football field. At ASA we encourage students to think of their teachers, mentors, advisors, and other school faculty as part of their team, and to use them as a support system when trying to finish the semester strong. We want our students to succeed, so extra help is ready and waiting for those who ask. Don’t struggle along by yourself! Pull resources from those around you so we can all enjoy a successful end to the semester.

Take Care of YOU

Don’t forget about yourself in the hustle and bustle. Taking time out for health and wellness is most important at this time of year, since no one wants to be under the weather over break! Engaging in regular physical activity through exercise such as yoga, running, sports, or other fun choices is a great way to relieve stress, improve circulation and cardiovascular function, and give you a clear head to keep working hard. Be mindful of what you eat as well, since holiday treats are lurking at every corner and the excess sugar can actually decrease energy and make you feel worse instead of better. We aren’t saying you can’t enjoy a Christmas cookie or a party treat, but make sure you’re fitting in all your healthy choices too! Finally, get enough SLEEP. Lack of sleep is a common issue at the end of the school year, but failing to get your 8 hours each night could have consequences far greater than dozing off in class. Lack of adequate sleep means you’ll have a harder time studying and paying attention to lectures, might struggle on exams, and have overall poor performance which is not how you want to finish out 2017.

As we prepare for the next couple of busy weeks here at All Saints Academy, we hope you feel encouraged to finish strong. Whether you presented at the Innovation Studios NuVu exhibition this week, performing in the Upper or Lower school holiday concert, or gearing up for exams, know we are here for you and ready to help you accomplish your goals and be your very best in the coming New Year.

Integrated Education: How Our Youngest Students Learn Through Play

Here at All Saints Academy, the phrase “no pencils required” is often used to describe our educational philosophy. This means we strive to provide learning through a variety of experiences, hands-on activities, rich literature and reading materials, and discussion among educators and students. For our youngest students in our Lower School​,​ a lot of this learning comes through play.

Play is something that comes naturally for children, yet gives them a wide array of educational opportunities​, and we endeavor to create an environment where “learning” and “fun” are one and the same for our young students. ​ Walk into one of our Pre-K or Kindergarten classrooms here at ASA and you’ll find days filled with music, dancing, imaginative play, visits to our hydroponic and vegetable gardens and pond habitat, and of course, plenty of time in our “Discovery Zone.”

What is this Discovery Zone? Essentially, this area is where students in Pre-K through Grade 1 are introduced to math, science, technology, and design concepts through ​the ​exploration that comes naturally to children of this age. Activities like the magnetic wall, the light table, engineering blocks, sensory table, artistic tinker lab, and even robot exploration are available for children to enjoy through play, all the while building the foundation that will make up their education throughout their time at All Saints Academy, all the way up to our Upper School Innovation in the Baldwin Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Collaboration is another important part of our Lower School (Pre-K to Grade 5) at ASA, and we incorporate it through programs ​like our ​Learning Buddies, pairing students across grade levels,, and through various clubs and extracurricular activities available for various age groups. These clubs and activities also bridge subjects like performing and fine arts, leadership opportunities, technology, and more. Nothing is one-dimensional in the curriculum at ASA. Our goal is for each activity, and each learning opportunity, to engage many parts of our students’ minds, and give them the highest quality, well-rounded education possible.

If you are interested in learning more about how we approach education from the earliest age at All Saints, we have plenty of information here, and with a simple click or two you can learn more about our learning opportunities and curriculum for middle school and Upper School students as well. The spark of a love for learning begins early, and our goal is to fan that flame and turn it into a blaze that motivates our oldest students far beyond their days at ASA.

Politically Correct: The Benefit of Civics in Education

As young people grow up hearing terms like “representatives”, “electoral votes” or “legislation” thrown around in casual conversation around them, they likely will not fully understand what’s being talked about until adulthood; when hopefully they choose to engage in more of our political process. It is important for us at All Saints Academy to help change the preparedness of our young people at an earlier age to more effectively understand and engage in their civic duty by exercising his or her right to vote, understand how, or why, they should participate in government and politics and how it affects no only them, but generations to come.

All Saints Academy is proud to be part of the “Civic Education Project”, a collaboration between Dr. Anne Kerr (President of Florida Southern College), Barney Barnett (Publix Super Markets, Inc.), Bill Vass (ASA Trustee), Rick Jeffries (Head of the collegiate program at Polk State College), Carolyn Baldwin (Head of School for All Saints Academy), Ryan Walsh (Associate Head of School for All Saints Academy, and other ASA team members. These professionals have brainstormed a curriculum that will incorporate civic education back into mainstream teaching, and therefore, bring about a better understanding of politics and how government works.

This project has several main goals (read more about the project here) designed to build better citizens who understand why they get to participate in democratic process and how to work alongside fellow citizens to create win-win initiatives that better the country as a whole. The program features a weekly speaker and discussion around the presented topic — a simple, yet effective approach — that provides students the opportunity to hear various perspectives from peers. The discussion requires that points be based on facts and evidence and will use a foundation of government documents (like the Constitution) instead of textbooks or interpretations. The goal of this course is to ignite a spark of respect for our country’s foundation and foster an understanding of the real political process and its importance.

We are proud to collaborate with our fellow educators at Florida Southern College and Polk State College; we anticipate great things to come!

Meet The New Staff at ASA: Getting to Know Ms. Channa Comer

“I’m happy to be here and looking forward to learning from everybody. I see myself as a learner first before anything else…that’s an important mindset to teach and foster in kids.”

-Ms. Channa Comer

This year at ASA, we want to take time to introduce our wonderful educators, and give you a glimpse into who they are and how they make a positive impact on All Saints Academy. This month, our spotlight is on Ms. Channa Comer.

If you were to ask for her to sum up herself in one sentence, Ms. Comer would say “Science takes up my life!” She is the Science and Engineering Coach for our Lower School and a recent addition to the ASA family. She received her Bachelors in Business Management from Baruch College in NYC and her Master’s in Science Education from City College, and has a long list of impressive contributions to the science and education fields. Ms. Comer came to us from the DC Metro Area US Dept. of Energy, she and was part of the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship: Sponsored by US Department of Energy for STEM Educator across the country to work in federal agencies. She also worked in the office of science at the Department of Energy and Coordinated the National Science Bowl. Teaching young people is a passion for Ms. Comer, and she loves middle school education (especially 6th grade). She was the science dept. chair for Baychester Middle School in the Bronx, and is credited with starting many STEM-based after school programs including the GREEN Team, and Baychester Science and Engineering Club. She believes in enrichment for students of all backgrounds, and was able to pursue this through her position as curriculum specialists for the after school program at Baychester.

Ms. Comer’s career in science also influences many of her hobbies, as she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and cooking using publications such as Cooks Illustrated and Cooking Science magazine. Gardening and repurposing items are also hobbies, and she often turns old glass bottles into drink ware, or repurposes vintage clothing (Ms. Comer loves making headpieces for her dance costume). In her free time she enjoys yoga, dance, reading, and international travel. So far, she has been to multiple places in NA, SA, Asia, Africa, and Central America including Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Egypt, and Korea. Some of these travel opportunities were related to education and/or science, as she taught in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Korea. When she comes home though, the loves of Ms. Comer’s life are her two cats, Teena Turner and Lucy Luu and makes sure to spend quality time with both of them. She says if she was stuck on a deserted island with only three things, two of them would be her cats, and the third would be duct tape!

Some fun facts about Ms. Comer?

  • Favorite foods are pizza and ice cream (but she does try to eat healthy!)
  • She loves vampire movies (like “Twilight”)
  • She’s a big Stephen King fan
  • She’s working on two children’s science books right now, one in development (5-7) and a graphic novel about leaf cutter ants in Costa Rica.
  • Her dream, and goal, is to open a string of independent schools for underprivileged students in communities where they don’t have access to high quality education based on fostering learning and not test scores.
  • She has studied MMA, Kung Fu, and Karate.
  • She was a professional body builder back in the day.
  • She ran the 1994 London Marathon to raise money for the Leukemia Society.

We are so glad to have Ms. Comer as part of our team of educators here at All Saints Academy, and we can’t wait to see the great things she has in store for our students this year and in the years to come. Welcome Ms. Comer to the ASA family!

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