Hello, and welcome to our fourth week of school. My name is Casey Drzewiecki-Baldwin and I am the Middle School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director. This is my ninth year at PRA and 14th in education.
I grew up in northern Michigan (the pinky) in a small town called Cedar, a predominately Polish Catholic Community. I moved to Colorado after I graduated from Central Michigan University. I grew up playing basketball,volleyball, softball and running track and field. I always enjoyed working out and I most definitely took PE every single semester. Once I moved to Colorado, I fell in love with hiking, trail running, paddle boarding, and snowboarding. I began my teaching career as a therapeutic recreation teacher and earned my special education endorsement at Devereux Cleo Wallace, a residential treatment facility. I spent just over three years working in residential treatment before I became the high school health and PE teacher at Fort Lupton High School. Although I was grateful for the experience at FLHS, I knew I wanted to find a community that had similar values, enter PRA. I’m so thankful for the experiences, students, staff members and opportunities that PRA has provided for me.
I absolutely love working with middle school students. This is the time in their lives they are learning and creating positive habits, learning their boundaries and discovering who they are as a person. One skill that we help students learn at the middle school level is the importance of reading. Reading is important because it improves our focus, memory, empathy, and communication skills. It can reduce stress, improves your mental health, and helps you live longer. Reading also allows you to learn new things to help you succeed in your work and relationships, and what middle school student doesn’t need help with relationships? Students have study hall four times a week. During each study hall time, students are given 10 minutes of free reading during regular schedule days and up to 20 minutes on block days. This is a silent time in which students read, relax and calm their nervous system from the day’s stressors. Reading increases comprehension, creates vocabulary expansion and can strengthen writing capabilities. (See Study Hall Contract here.)
It can be difficult for students to understand the long-term benefits of reading, but as they grow it can improve memory function. Does your middle schooler like to read? Here are a few tips to get them started:
- Let your student choose their own reading material.
- Read together out loud
- Keep up and spark conversations about what their reading
- Designate family reading time (instead of TV/devices/phones)
- Encourage your MS student to read to a sibling or animal
- Visit the bookstore or library together
- Encourage journaling
- Provide access to audiobooks so they can follow along.
- Take reading outside: Listen to audiobooks while hiking or while enjoying the sun.
- Leave reading materials in the car (minimize device time)
I’ve personally seen the negative effects of being on my device after a long day of work. Reading and responding to one more email, endlessly scrolling through the news, recipes and workouts can leave me wanting more—just one more scroll and next thing you know it’s way past my bedtime. I’ve now made a rule for myself to put down my device by 8 p.m. and to pick up a book and read, even if it’s for 15-20 minutes. After a long day of work, a fun fiction or mystery book is my absolute favorite thing to read and decompress. Since then, my sleep has improved.
In conclusion, set a goal as a family to set down your devices and pick up a book and read 10 pages or 10 minutes a night. There are far more benefits to reading than not. I look forward to asking students what fun books they are reading in the upcoming weeks.
by Casey Drzewiecki-Baldwin
Middle School Assistant Principal and Assistant Athletic Director