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Teachers work on thriving

A team-building exercise is aimed at helping teachers work together to meet school goals.

September 02, 2006|By Vince Lovato

Palm Crest Elementary School's 30 teachers were cruising on the "sea of eternal summers" on Friday when a storm blew in and their ship started to sink.

As their ship started to sink, they had to decide what items they could take onto a lifeboat to survive.

It seemed like a desperate situation until they learned how to come together to save themselves.

Teachers were participating in a team-building exercise organized by their new principal, Anais Wenn.

"Our goal is not just to survive but to thrive," Wenn kept telling her all-female faculty.

Teachers were split into six teams and each had to come up with its top-three items to take on the lifeboat. After working independently, the groups read off their lists of items. All of the teams decided to take water and a knife. The third item teams wanted to bring varied from group to group, but it was an lesson on how different groups can come to the same — or similar — decisions, Wenn said.

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"We have everybody in the community to help us thrive," Wenn said. "There is no reason we can't. It all depends on our willingness to come together."

Wenn's team-building exercise is at least partly in response to the fact that Palm Crest's 2006 Academic Performance Index score dropped 26 points to 909 from the previous year. And though the score is still almost 200 points higher than most schools in the state, Wenn wants to build a team that will surpass expectations.

Beth Chamberlain, a counselor and Associated Student Body advisor, said Wenn's leadership has already helped sharpen the staff's focus.

"I think the exercise was very effective and I think she's outstanding," Chamberlain said. "She is a good decision-maker and she bases it on what's best for the kids. She is a natural-born leader."

Veteran first-grade teacher Susanne Horne called the exercise thought-provoking.

"I learned a good team lesson," Horne said. "At times we are all in survival mode at a school but we aren't alone. [Wenn] taught us that we can come together and work together."

The community gives a lot of support to the high-achieving school and Wenn said the community should expect high achievement.

School starts Tuesday for all the students in the La Cañada Unified School District.

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