Career Exploration

Written by Mrs. Bergman, School Counselor

I like to tell our students that I have the best job in the world, but that’s not entirely true. I have the best job in the world – for me. Our students’ task, over the coming years, is to discover what the best job in the world is – for them. With that in mind, the Upper Team Transitions Class kicked off their unit on career paths.


We began the unit by creating Strengths Maps, a visual representation of students’ personal strengths in four domains – character, academic and career, interpersonal relationships, and hobbies.  This will serve as a launching point to explore which career paths might be a good fit for each student’s unique set of attributes and talents.


The students started by taking the Via Institute’s Character Strengths Survey, which asked them to rate how much they agreed with statements such as “I always look on the bright side” and “I like to think of new ways of doing things”.  Based on their answers, they were each provided with a report on their top character strengths.  Next, they completed graphic organizers listing their strengths in each domain.  Students found that there was overlap in the different domains, for example some character strengths were also interpersonal strengths, and some strengths in their hobbies were also seen to be academic and career strengths.  Finally, students used the lists they made to create their Strengths Map posters.  Once they were finished,
each student had an opportunity to present their Strengths Map to the group and answer questions about what they had included.  This sparked some great discussions about students’ uncommon skills, such as blacksmithing and service dog training, and how those could translate into a career.


As we move into our exploration of career paths, the students will use their Strengths Maps to help in identifying jobs which could be a good fit for them.  Our goal is that this will get each of them one step closer to finding out what that “best job in the world” might be.


Mrs. Bergman, School Counselor

Expanding Expression

Written by Mrs. Imgrund, Speech-Language Pathologist

Many students with weaknesses in the area of expressive language have a hard time accurately describing objects, events, and concepts. Just the other day I asked an elementary school student to describe an apple. She said “an apple is when it’s fall!” Although her description was on the right track, it certainly wasn’t very detailed. This is where the Expanding Expression Toolkit (EET) comes in!


The EET is an intervention designed to help children improve their oral language expression; especially their ability to describe objects, events, and concepts.



The students use the EET strand (the rope with colored balls attached) as a visual and physical reminder to give a complete description. Each icon on the EET corresponds with one aspect of a complete description:


Green Ball- Green Group (What group does it belong to?)

Blue Ball – Blue Do (What do you do with it? What does it do?)

Eye Ball – What Does It Look Like? (What size, shape, and color is it?)

Wood Ball – What Is It Made of? (What is it made of or made from?)

Pink Ball – Pink Parts (What are its parts?)

White Ball – White Where (where do you find it? Where would you use it?)

Question Mark Ball – What Else Do I Know (prior knowledge, fun facts)



My students LOVE using the EET and I have seen great improvements in their describing skills. Many of them know the EET chant by heart and are already using this strategy independently. Although describing is only one aspect of expressive language, it is an important one!


Mrs. I

Speech-Language Pathologist


Creating a Learning Community

Written by Ms. Guillory, Upper Team Teacher

As a first-time teacher, the first few weeks of school feel make-or-break. This is when you establish your authority as a leader in the classroom even though you’re only about five years older than your oldest student. This is when your students will figure out how many buttons they can push before your head pops off. This is when you show the other teachers you have a voice and an opinion despite your naïveté and youth. This is when you show parents that, despite the fact that you’re working on your Master’s in special ed., you do have the credibility to teach, coach, and help shape the minds of their students – that you do deserve to be here. If it were any other place than Horizon Academy, I’m not sure I’d have the support from students and staff that I’ve come to cherish and rely on (whether they know it or not).


Over the past few weeks, Mrs. Asher, our Head of School, and Mrs. Hagen, our new Xtreme Reading teacher, inspired us to create learning communities within our classrooms. A community does not just mean several people sharing space; a community needs nurturing and care in order to flourish.


In our classroom, we felt that creating a shared goal would bring us closer and foster our learning community. As a group, we brainstormed ways to achieve this (while holding ourselves accountable) and came up with something simple: Daily, we will each ask one person in the classroom how they are doing. This will not only accomplish the important skill of establishing genuine concern for the other members of our community, but will also help take us out of our busy own heads to empathize with someone else.


If only you could see the loving community forming in our classroom, where students are freely speaking about difficulties in their past and encouraging one another to keep trying and striving for greatness. Even when things feel difficult, my students remind me why I’m here.


Establishing a learning community is just as important among staff members as it is within the classroom. As a new teacher, I’m constantly wandering into uncharted territory. Last week, I was having a particularly difficult time with a student, feeling like I wasn’t going to be able to meet their needs as a learner. I sought advice from my fellow Upper Team teachers, who were willing to drop everything and help me solve the problem. I spoke to the counseling team, who were ready to come up with solutions and brainstorm new ways to approach the issue. I spoke with the administrators, who, as always, were ready to oversee and implement the necessary changes.


Everyone is working for our students’ success, and everyone will check in with me in the coming days and weeks to see how things are going with this student. It is that constant, continuous care that reminds me I’m not an island; we’re all in it together.


There is a long road ahead, and even if there is some magical day when I stop feeling like I have to prove myself to everyone else, I know I will be surrounded by a community that inspires me to keep striving for the greatness Horizon Academy inspires. The first few weeks flew by with many hiccups. However, I know I need not worry; while it seems sometimes like the world might want to break us, it is the community we have built that will build us back up again. It is an honor to be part of this wonderful place, and I look forward to the journey.