Thursday, December 24, 2009

Free Tree

This is my Christmas tree! A family donated it to school. After it was used for our staff Christmas party on Dec. 4, I volunteered to give it a new home. The organizing committee decided that I would be a great host for this fine tree and sent it home with me that very night. I joked that I was the first person in all of Austria to have their Christmas tree set up. Here, it's tradition to set up your tree on Christmas Eve and attach candles to the branches. Then in the evening, families light the candles and have their Christmas celebration.

Rathaus Christkindlmarkt Field-Trip

The fourth and fifth graders (fifth graders pictured above) took their annual field-trip to the Christmas market at the city hall. It was a cold day, but the weather was sunny and clear. The students had their choice of craft workshops this year. Some made a mosaic coaster and others decorated a wooden tissue box holder. Below is a group working on their mosaic coasters.
And here's a proud student showing their decorated tissue box. After the craft workshops, the students got to shop at the market with parent and teacher chaperones. They bought gifts for family members, gifts for themselves (like mood rings!) and tasted Austrian delicacies at the food booths.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Ever show up at work and realize you dressed just like someone else without planning it?!? Well, that happened to me and Melissa today. At least two of us have good fashion sense! We got a good laugh over this one.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Liz Turns 30!

What a fun day of celebrations! It's official - Liz is 30. Here I am celebrating at lunch with the other elementary teachers. This cake is a traditional Austrian Sacher Torte. It's a chocolate cake (but not sweet like American chocolate cake) in two layers with apricot filling between the layers, frosted with chocolate frosting.
One of the most special parts of the day was the birthday party that my class organized for me with the help of their German and ELL teachers. They kept the whole thing a secret, so I had no idea until the party began! The students brought me 30 of various items, like 30 teelights and 30 pieces of chocolate. They also prepared some special lessons for me in all of our academic subject areas. I had to take timed math test, on which all the answers were 30, and use the letters in "Ms. Stevens" to spell 30 words on a spelling test. Their ideas were SO creative and unique! And of course, we had treats at this party, too.
A family from school and church hosted a birthday open house for me in the evening. Many friends came to share some cake and their good wishes for my 30th year. The daughter of this family is one of my fifth grade students. She was so much fun to celebrate with because she was so excited about the open house - she talked to everyone, took lots of pictures on my camera, and seemed to enjoy the gathering as much as I did!
Thanks to all who sent cards, emails, Facebook messages, and gifts. You made my day wonderful!

Cooperation Skits

The elementary students have been learning about cooperation. Each class prepared and presented a skit on this topic at chapel. These skits reinforced cooperation as "working together to do more than you can do alone." What a great message!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

RheaAnne's Birthday!

The first Christmas Market of the season opened at the city hall on Saturday. In honor of my friend's birthday, RheaAnne and I decided to visit on opening day. We enjoyed a stroll through the market and the taste of roasted chestnuts.
Later, RheaAnne and her roommate organized a progressive dinner with a Mexican theme. We had chips and salsa at the first apartment, tacos and enchiladas at the second, and chocolate cake at the third. Everyone stayed late talking, laughing and playing games. It was a great evening!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Good Morning!

The elementary kids have been enjoying some fabulous songs in our weekly chapel sessions. I think their favorite one is "Good Morning". This week the primary (kindergarten) students led us in the motions and words to this song. So cute!

Fall Break Camping Trip

A group of seven VCS teachers went camping and hiking together over our Fall Break weekend. We didn't go far - just to the other side of the city, to the Vienna Woods. We rented "bungalows", which were small rooms with four bunks, a table and four chairs. We did our cooking in a community kitchen provided by the camp.
The highlight of the trip for me (besides winning at Hand and Foot) was the hike we took on Sunday. The sun was out and the fall colors were gorgeous. We stopped for a picnic lunch half-way through. I really enjoyed spending time in nature and talking leisurely with friends along the way.
Yvonne has a new camera and got serious about capturing great photos. This one makes me laugh!

Dinner At My Students' House

This is not a new picture, but it's one of my favorites from this year so far. This student invited me to her house for Arabic food with her family. It was a wonderful evening together! I like this picture because I have seen this student coming out of her shell more and more as the weeks go by. Her face is so expressive here and full of joy!

Computer Lab Time

The fifth graders have computer class once a week. They learn how to type and use common computer programs. Our class also enjoys using the lab for special projects and class activities.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meet Mel Mac

This is my friend Melissa. She is new at VCS this year and brings with her a lot of enthusiasm, efficiency, and humor. I love it that she keeps me laughing! She works with elementary students as the elementary chaplain at school and is also great at substitute teaching and grading papers in her free moments. She is very talented and full of good ideas. She is also an avid blogger herself and has enjoyed giving me a lot of grief about not putting up a picture of her on my blog yet. So Mel Mac, this is for you!

Overnight Nanny Fun

These cute Dutch kids go to my school and church. Their parents asked me to stay with Rick, Anouk and Frank while they were out of town overnight. We had lots of fun flying a kite, watching Shrek 3 and baking American chocolate chip cookies together. Here the kids are playing in the sandbox (complete with water tray!) at the park.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cultural Pluralism in Room 106

Our class recently completed our first Social Studies unit on culture. As we investigated our own cultures, the students created a biographical map that showed places they, their parents, and their grandparents have lived and visited. Their maps were color-coded and labeled with important family history information.

At the completion of our unit, we had a culture party. Students wore traditional clothing from their countries and brought traditional foods and games to share with the class. We also performed a skit about new immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in the early 1900s. Our parents, other teachers, and our principal were invited to join us for the party. It was an exciting time of celebrating the unique aspects of our cultures.

Lovin' the Library

This year's fifth grade class loves to read and loves to visit the library. Here they enjoy a story with our librarian, Mrs. Dax. She has made our school library such a fun and appealing place to go. We look forward to our library time every week.

Monday, September 14, 2009

See the Pigs Run

While hiking in the Vienna Woods nature preserve, we saw some wild pigs (or are they boars?). It was such an interesting sight that I had to capture it on video. Check this out!

Staff Retreat 2009

Our staff retreat was held at the Romanian Baptist Church in Vienna. The facilities were just right for our group. Being on the opposite side of the city made it feel like we had gone away for the weekend, even though we were still in town. Altogether, it was a refreshing and relaxing time.
Tom led one of the praise and worship times. He chose songs that followed a blues pattern and asked Lukas to play bass and me to play the electronic drum set! That was a blast!
The dining hall room was a bit crowded with a group our size, but the food was delicious and nobody complained. We ate traditional Romanian dishes throughout the weekend. My favorite dish was cabbage rolls, filled with rice and ground beef inside.
The No Talent Show is always a hit and this year was no exception. These two guys did a very funny skit in which they pretended to be representatives from our insurance company here to answer questions about our policies. Most issues they addressed eventually wound their way back to "personal negligence", "failure to pre-certify", and "using services outside the PPO network". Funny stuff!During free time, I took a hike in the Vienna Woods with a group of staff members. The forest smelled wonderful and it felt great to stretch our legs and enjoy nature together.

Good-Bye Highleys!

This month we said good-bye to the Highley family. Nick has headed up the student ministries program at school and Melissa has been the elementary secretary. The older of their two daughters was in my fifth grade class last year. I'm thankful for the good memories I have of working with them over the past year and wish them the very best as they move back to the U.S.A.
Above, Nick (right) and his friend Jeff get sat on by Nick's daughter and her friend. Below, Melissa shares a fun moment with two other staff ladies from school.

Afternoon with the deJong Family

The de Jong family invited me over for lunch after church recently. Their oldest daughter is in my class at school. After lunch, we played games with the children and talked while sitting on their apartment balcony. At the end of the afternoon, we took a short drive to Grinzing, where you can get a great view of Vienna. Here my student, her mom and I pose with the city behind us.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The 2009-2010 Fifth Grade Class

Welcome back to school! This is my 2009-2010 class. We're a smaller group this year, but we hope that more students will join us as the weeks go by. This particular class is full of hard workers, good listeners, and smart brains! I'm looking forward to a great year with them!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Teacher Orientation Week

It's Back to School time! I've arrived safely back in Vienna just in time to meet the new staff members who have arrived and take part in Teacher Orientation Week. Here Nicki and I pose during a free moment in our technology training workshop. Nicki is a new elementary teacher on our staff whom I look forward to working with this year.

Lovely Laura

My Aunt Susan and Uncle Mark graciously hosted a family dinner for me on one of my last nights in the USA. Among the family who were able to attend, was my cousin Laura. Laura and I share a special friendship and were glad to see each other one more time before I left. She is growing up so quickly into a lovely young lady - kind, smart, thoughtful and helpful to others. She has strong faith in God and is full of potential for the future.

Twin Falls, Idaho

My brother, Jon, and I spent a few days in Idaho with mom and her husband. We enjoyed camping in the mountains, four wheeling, and visiting the Twin Falls. The weather was sunny and hot and many good memories were made!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cruising in Colorado

I had the opportunity to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Colorado. They took me to Boulder, a town I've been eager to visit. While there, we toured the Celestial Seasonings tea company. It was fascinating to hear about how they make their teas and to see the assembly line in process.

Theresa had the idea to rent scooters one day during my visit, so we went to Manitou Springs and scootered through the Garden of the Gods. Wow! That is, I think, absolutely the best way to see that park! We had so much fun together on those scooters.

Good Friends, Sweet Times

What a blessing to see good friends in MN! We took walks around lakes, talked over ice-cream, sewed tablecloths, and even spent an overnight together. These ladies sharpen and encourage me!

Charity, Mel and Kari

Charity and Mercy at the U of MN

My previous roommate of six years, Angie!

My Alaska Cousins Migrate South

My Uncle David, Aunt Sarah and cousins from Alaska came south to visit this summer. It was so much fun to see how Rebekah, Emily and Brian have grown - not only taller, but smarter and funnier! We enjoyed a long weekend at the cottage together, as well as some time at my grandparent's house. Thanks for making the effort to come see me while I was home!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stateside with Sandi

My roommate and friend of the past two years moved home to the States this summer. Her friendship has been so precious to me and I am thankful for these two years we've had together in Austria. I'm also thankful that we got to visit each other in the midwest this summer and I know that we'll keep in touch and see each other again. Sandi, thank you for getting to know me, caring about me and being willing to invest in my life.

Friday, July 17, 2009

4th of July at the Cottage

I spent the 4th of July weekend with family at my grandparent's cottage. Family members came from Alaska, Virginia, Idaho, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. What a gathering! We ate well, slept close and played hard all weekend. We also took advantage of this chance to celebrate my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary while we were all together.

The girl cousins share a special bond in our family, mostly because we're outnumbered by boys. Here we all are at the 4th of July parade.

Happy Belated Father's Day!

After leaving Sandi's family, I went to visit my dad. We celebrated Father's Day fashionably late with ice cream at Dairy Queen. I also enjoyed going to church with my dad and taking a Sunday drive together.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Yvonne, Sandi and I flew home to the States at the end of June. We flew into Chicago and I spent several days with Sandi and her family.

Sandi and her dad showed me some of the historical sights of their area, including Bloody Mary's Bridge and a restored canal boat on the Erie Canal. It was also a time of catching up on sleep and getting over jet-lag. It feels great to be on summer vacation and to be back in the States!

We ate a leisurely dinner on the deck. Grilled chicken, sweet potatoes and fresh fruit - yum! I really enjoyed my time with Sandi's family!