Midland Middle School

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Bio

I was born and raised in Lyndon, Illinois on our family farm. I attended Prophetstown Schools. After high school I attended Mount St. Clare College and played basketball. I later coached High School Football for East Central High School in Miles, Iowa.

 

This will be my 16th year in education and my 8th year at Midland. I taught the first eight years of my career in Sparta, Illinois in Southwestern Illinois. I taught 8th grade Social Studies, coached basketball and was the Middle School Athletic Director.  During my tenure I also attended graduate school at McKendree University and obtained my administrative license.

 

I have been married to my wife Michelle for thirteen years. We have two children, 9 year old Macie and 5 year old Ava.  My favorite restaurant is Neil and Shorty's BBQ in Princeton, IL. My favorite television show is Chicago PD. My favorite book is The Things They Carried  by Tim O’Brien (I highly recommend it!). I'm a diehard Chicago sports fan (we finally won it!). 

 

I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to work with you this year! There are lots of good things going on here at Midland Middle School so stop in and see us sometime! Until then, it’s a great day to be a Timberwolf!

 

Posts

Denise Retires

We all knew the day was coming. No matter how much we prepared or said we were ready, Wednesday was Denise Balensiefen's last day at Midland Middle School. Denise was secretary for the Sparland Schools and then stayed on through the merger becoming the eyes and ears of this institution for 30 years. 
 
I remember my first meeting with Denise nearly seven years ago. I was living in SW Illinois and was going to be in the area visiting family as we prepared to move to this community. I had asked then Superintendent Mr. Sivertsen if I could stop by my office to tour the middle school and drop off a few things. He apparently forgot to warn Denise that I was coming. I'll never forget the moment I walked in with my wife and at that time, my 2 year old daughter. Denise was, as she usually was, a flutter of activity. She had her back to the door and when I walked in yelling "Good morning," she swung around, did a once over and forced a smile saying "How can I help you." She was thinking to herself, "whatever this guy is selling in a tote, I'm not interested and don't have the time. Nice touch with the wife and kid, though." I could feel her annoyance so I quickly introduced myself. That's when the Denise that we all know came out. She introduced herself, welcomed us to your community, whisked my daughter away looking for a snack and I knew in that moment, the transition was going to be okay. 
 
As we shared a moment on the morning of her last day as my secretary, I told Denise that everything I was able to accomplish here and integrate myself into the community was made easier because of her support. Denise knows everything, just ask her, and she knows everyone, just ask her. She is absolutely beloved by our staff. Our students, respected her more than anyone else in the building. She had that aura around her. Trust me, I've seen many a kid crumble when she told them she expected more of them and that she knows Grandma and will be calling her, lol. That is Denise. 
 
I tried for months, unsuccessfully, to have a public celebration for her to honor her. Denise had none of it. Several years ago, I honored Denise through the Regional Office of Education's "Salute to Excellence in Education." When I told her she was going to be honored, she laughed and said, "seriously, you did not." Denise told me she didn't need honored for just doing her job every day. We need more people like Denise in our world. This past spring, I gave Denise a special "Lifetime Achievement Award" at our 8th grade virtual promotion ceremony. If you didn't have a chance to see it, here it is. Denise had asked me not to do anything special for her as she retired. I begged her for a party to celebrate her, but in Denise fashion, she didn't want the spotlight. On Wednesday, she did her last upload of data to the state board of education, sent one last email and walked out. 
 
She doesn't have social media and she probably won't see this post, but if you happen to run into Denise around Lacon, skip the congratulations. Rather, tell her thank you for thirty years of amazing work and dedication to our community. She has rightly earned her retirement. We will miss her, but we hope trips and grand kids fill her time better now!
 
- Mr. Janssen

Communication

As you might have noticed on Friday, a newsletter went out from the Middle School. We did our first batch upload on Friday with information into the school website. I did the upload wrong, my bad, so not all of you may have gotten the message. If you're not sure if you're email is in the system, please call the school (463-8009) and have us fill it in for you! We'd be happy to get that added.
 
Communication is changing throughout the Midland District. We previously utilized a service called School Messenger to send all calls and emails out to parents. We recently found out our school website can do all of this for a fraction of the cost. It makes too much sense for Mr. Gauwitz for us not to begin the switch. So, eventually, we will make a full switch to our website's parent company, Edlio, for our communication.
 
Throughout the district, we have our goals of communicating more frequently to you through the site. By posting this today, I very well may have passed my total posts from last year. That simply wasn't good enough in my eyes for our community. I promise to be better. I will be posting several times a week regarding various issues and updates from the middle school. I will feature student work from time to time as well as part of our news stories. 
 
Also, we are will continue to utilize the weekly newsletter. My goal is at least, every other week. The newsletter will include several important dates and news articles or posts from me. 
 
You'll also notice less information flowing to social media. Posts that go to social media will often flow straight from our website. As a reminder, social media communication is preferred one way. The social media sites aren't always monitored throughout the day. We have missed questions, concerns and even student pick up changes due to messages or comments not being seen. Furthermore, we also know many in our community don't utilize social media. Posting only to social media leaves out a population who may not see what is going on in our community. Again, we can do better. 
 
Also, don't forget about our remind pages. I've included a link here for you to log into remind to receive homework updates by grade level and any breaking news from Mr. Janssen. Here is the link
 
One last communication piece I can't forget to mention. Recently, we discovered our website has an app! You can get it through both the Google Play Store or Apple Store. Search for School News by Edlio. After downloading the app, search for our school. Our calendar, news and posts and any alerts will come straight to your phone about your child's school. Pretty awesome, right?
 
As a reminder, our new phone number is 309-463-8009. You can also email me at ajanssen@midland-7.net or contact our secretary at mpyles@midland-7.net. We are both more than happy to discuss any issue or help with any problem. 
 
We are always striving to do better. We believe that there is never a point we can't improve. We hope some of the communication changes that we are making, you will also feel more connected to your child's school. 
 
As always, there's a lot of great things going on at Midland Middle School, so stop in and see us sometime after the pandemic. Until then, it's a great day to be a Timberwolf!
 
- Mr. Janssen

Remote Learning

We had a very successful in person week last week. I was proud of our students for how they handled the unique situation that we are currently dealing with. The staff has adjusted very well and I'm proud of their efforts. Remote learning is not something we take lightly. We need to remember, however, that this cannot and should not be similar to last spring.
 
Teachers have stepped up with more resources and direct instruction to help our remote students. We understand that as parents, you are not the teacher. Our staff has spent countless hours working with new technologies to deliver instruction regardless of where the student is. There will be bumps in the road. We know that. All we can do is smooth them out when we hit them so that it doesn't happen again.
 
Today's post is a reminder of remote learning guidelines and then to also share a few ideas of how to help your remote learner. First of all, keep in mind that remote learners will be graded as if they are attending school in person. If an assignment was due on Tuesday and was not handed in, it will be considered late and graded as such. If a student is having technology issues, please contact the school so that we can either help trouble shoot those issues or let the teachers know what is going on. Also, from time to time teachers will require students to log in for a Google meets. If the teacher requires the attendance, it can be graded and scored. If a student misses and didn't provide a reason for the miss that would follow our attendance guidelines, the student would then be scored as such. Finally, teachers are available from 2:30pm - 4:00pm Monday through Thursday and until 3:30pm on Fridays. They have created times during that period not only for answering student emails, but to also video chat with students. If your student is struggling, this would be the perfect time to have them check in to get the help they need. Furthermore, we've assigned classroom aides to check in with our remote learners. You might get tired of the constant checking in, but we want to ensure that we are meeting your child's needs.
 
Recently, Hank Thiele, Superintendent of District 99 in Downers grove, shared several tips for remote learners. This is good information and sage advice for anyone currently remote learning and for all of us should the need arise this school year. 
1. Find a spot for your child to learn and focus on the material. If multiple children are learning at home, find a different spot for each or earbuds for all. If doing a video meeting, consider separated spaces. 
2. Create and follow a daily schedule. Routines are highly encouraged including when the day starts, bathroom breaks, lunch breaks and other breaks throughout the day.
3. For younger students, help navigate them to their email or google classroom and show them what their tasks are for today. If they are older and can navigate themselves, have them go over with you what they need to complete for the day.
4. Don’t go to class with your kid or have siblings drop in (unless asked or invited). You wouldn’t if school was in-person. Give them their space to be a student and make mistakes. That is where the learning happens.
5. Be patient. This is completely new for everyone. 
6. Check out with your child each day. Ask specific questions about their learning experience and don't settle for "nothing."
 
I hope that clears up any questions with expectations and maybe gives you an idea to help your remote learner with the six tips. Remember, if you have any questions, please let us know.
 
Mr. Janssen

Winter Survey Update

Hello Midland family,
 
As I type this update, the current wind chill is -2. I'm cold just sitting in the office. It's fitting then, that I  update you on the status of the Winter Survey that was given to the community during the district's parent - teacher conferences.
 
If you'll recall, we asked parents and guardians to take a brief survey. The survey was needed after we had such a rough winter last school year. January of 2019 will be remembered as the "we barely saw you" month for the school district. As a district team, we heard suggestions from the community about how we can avoid (if possible, who knows what Mother Nature has in store) the amount of days we've used in the past. We received over three hundred responses to the survey. This gave us great insight to what we can do as an administrative team to plan for in the future. 
 
One of the first questions discussed the idea of a two hour late start. 88% of the responses favored a late start. It was clear listening to some of the community that this was something we could embrace and implement immediately. We've used one late start already in October. Fun fact, did you realize it was colder on Halloween than on Christmas Day? Mother nature, man. The district has every intention of continuing to utilize a late start when necessary. 
 
The other part of the survey was information regarding an idea started by many schools around the state last year. The idea was called e - learning or alternative learning. When school was postponed due to weather, teachers would post homework and students would complete work. Attendance was taken by the teachers in a variety of ways. The student and the teacher would then be given credit for a day of attendance avoiding the need for additional days at the end of the school year. As many schools in our area utilized these days, I had several families discuss with me the potential of bringing alternative learning or e - learning to the Midland School District. 
 
Our survey revealed nearly 78% of our community favored utilizing e - learning or alternative learning days. That number made me confident enough to  move forward with a discussion with staff, administrators and the Midland Board of Education. I also spoke with districts in our area that utilized e - learning last year. 
 
In November, I attended conference sessions dedicated to e - learning. The more I learned, the more questions I had on our ability to launch e - learning this year. It was, in a word, overwhelming. I brought my information back to our administrative team and our board of education. I shared with them my concerns to make it work this school year. I also asked our district leadership team of teachers and administrators to look at e - learning.
 
Our goal is continue work out this problem. No, we will not utilize an e - learning day this year. However, we are hopeful that before the 2020 - 2021 school year, we will have a program in place that we feel comfortable with. Good programs take time. I'd much rather work on as many issues as we can before to ensure a smooth day, rather than rush into something that isn't beneficial to our students or staff. 
 
Thank you for reading and I hope you find warmth today. I have every intention of bumping up the office heat when Denise isn't looking. There are a lot of great things going on at Midland Middle School, so stop in and see us some time. Until that day, it's a great day to be a Timberwolf.
 
Mr. Janssen

Survey's

Welcome to fall! It is very blustery today, so please drive careful. 
 
Parent - Teacher conferences are tonight and Thursday night. Midland Middle School will be asking parents in attendance to fill out two surveys. I will include the links to the surveys within this post so that you can fill them out before you arrive, should you choose to do so. These surveys are also available on our school website at mms.midland-7.net.
 
The first survey we'd like you to fill out is a needs assessment survey. Next year, Midland Middle School will be receiving new federal and state dollars. As part of receiving those funds, we need to take a look at what we need to improve in our building. This is where you come in. If you could take a few minutes to fill in this needs assessment, we would be grateful. The results of this survey will be shared at our next PTO/Parent Advisory meeting in January. 
 
The second survey is a winter weather survey. Last year, schools throughout the Midwest burned through their emergency snow days and had to extend the calendar. Some schools sought alternatives to the normal day and prevent having to add so many days to the calendar. These alternative days included late starts. This is something that the Midland District did try last year and we'd like your feedback on it. Also, schools tried alternative learning days or e-learning days. 
 
An alternative learning day is an opportunity for students to be able to learn without being in session. The district will still be able to claim the day and no additional days would need to be added to the calendar. Students would be assigned work through their Google Classroom. Students, particularly in the upper middle school and high school, would need access to internet to be able to receive the work. However, students who don't, will not be punished. Any students who does not have internet would be given the work prior if possible, or more than likely, after they return to school. They would have a certain amount of time to complete the task for it to count towards their attendance. While there are details that would need to continue to be worked out, the Midland administrative team would like your feedback. We'd like to know if alternative days or e-learning days are something you'd support the Midland district utilizing. This survey will gather some of your thoughts. 
 
Both surveys are very short and should only take a few minutes to complete. If you have any questions, please contact me and I'd be happy to talk to you more about either survey. Again, thank you for your time to read this post and to fill in the surveys. 
 
Have a great day and I hope to see all of you this week at conferences!
 
Mr. Janssen, Principal
 
 

Twitter

In today's 21st century school, technology and communication are critically important. Here at the Middle School we have our own Facebook page that we post to regularly. However, for more detailed classroom information, our building has started to embrace Twitter. 
 
Many of our teachers are tweeting daily. They are telling the story of their classroom. In most cases they are tweeting images of students working, awesome work completed by students or happy times with students. It's quick and simple to use. Staff can share a quick image or a few words from their room and move on without much effort. 
 
In the past two years our district has embraced Twitter. We even have our own hashtag. If you are not familiar with Twitter, a hashtag is a way to link messages of similar content. For example, if you wanted to follow information regarding Education you could do a Twitter search for #education. Midland CUSD #7 created their own hashtag. If you are on Twitter you can search for #twolves7pride. When staff post to their classroom Twitter, they regularly use this hashtag. 
 
I've attached several links for your viewing. One link is all of our Middle School Twitter handles to follow. The next link is a how to for Twitter if you are interested in starting your own Twitter account. If you're not interested, please check out our Middle School Website. On the main page of our website is a copy of the tweets sent from desk @principaltwolf. Give me a follow and I hope to tweet with you soon! 
 
 

Skyward

With winter really digging in it is important for us to have the right phone numbers in Skyward. When we do an all call the phone numbers are pulled directly from Skyward. Many times when a call is not received it is because a phone number was changed, but not updated in Skyward. Parents, if you have changed numbers since registration please log into Skyward and update your number. If you can't access Skyward, please call Denise in the office. You can leave her a message if she's not at her desk. 
 
Also, in the event we need to reach parents for a delay, early release or cancellation we will not only do an all call, we will also post to our social media sites, post on our website and we will utilize the Middle School Remind accounts to keep parents updated. If you've never logged into our Remind accounts please see the attached below. If you've never logged into Skyward, please call Denise or myself in the office and we will help you get set up. 
 

Remind Accounts

Hello parents! I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!
 
As many of you know Midland Middle School utilizes an app called Remind. It sends messages to parents regarding homework. Many staff members throughout the building use it on a daily basis. However, over the past few weeks I've talked to parents and staff about how we are using Remind. I believe we could be using it more efficiently. For many parents you are slammed with multiple messages from different subjects and if you have multiple students in the middle school you are getting slammed with Remind messages throughout the evening. I recognize how that can be confusing, and perhaps even overwhelming. This past week the Middle School Building Leadership Team talked about the problem and worked out a solution.  Instead of having a teacher by teacher Remind account, we will instead have a grade level account. So parents, if you have a 5th grade student there will be a 5th grade Remind account. This will be true for all grades. I will mail a letter home with instructions on how to sign up for the appropriate grade level account when we are ready to launch. Teachers will keep their old Remind accounts. They will still send private messages to you as needed and you also can message them if you've connected with him already through Remind. Also, parents any message sent back through our Homework Remind page will be sent to a shared account with teachers. They will respond as needed.  
 
I also wanted to share out that I wanted to take advantage of Remind's services for communicating with parents. In the past, I've utilized Google, Facebook, Twitter and our school website to communicate with all of you. Today, I've started using Remind. I will do my best to post information, middle school events and other announcements to keep you in the loop. We will continue to post to our Facebook page and my Twitter account (@PrincipalTwolf) as well as our school website. 
 
We do our best to communicate with parents and students. It's all part of our plan to offer the best experience we can. Thank you for your support and have a wonderful rest of your weekend. 
 
There's always something good going on at Middle School so stop in and see us sometime. Until then, it's a great day to be a Timberwolf. 
 
 

Technology

 Hello everyone! We had a great first week of school. Great job parents, teachers and especially students!
 

I wanted to take a minute to talk about some of the tools we are using in our classrooms. Over the past few years Midland CUSD 7 has made a great commitment to upgrading our technology we offer our students and parents. This commitment has resulted in a new website, Chromebooks and an infrastructure upgrade to handle the increased technology. In the middle school when I arrived 4 years ago there were two computer labs with older desktop machines. In the 4 years since we've reduced our computer labs to one, but that lab was refitted with all new computers. We also added a STEM LAB with new computers that have a variety of programs on them including drafting and 3D printing programs. Nearly all of our classrooms are also now equipped with Chromebooks with enough for each student.  

Your students will be utilizing their Chromebooks on a near daily basis. You may hear a phrase from our building called 1 to 1 or 1:1. This is a ratio showing the amount of technology available per student. We are very nearly there in this building. At this point, the Chromebook carts are assigned to various classrooms throughout the building. The Chromebook doesn't travel with the student. Each student has an individual log in that they use.

Many of our teachers are using a program called Google Classroom. Midland CUSD 7 is a Google school. We utilize many parts of Google Suite (gmail, docs, sheets, slides and calendars). Teachers utilize Classroom to post classroom assignments, homework reminders or other various topics they want students to review. Students can log in and see other students questions and help their fellow students. I remember last year a teacher coming to my office to show me a message posted by a student on her classroom page. The student was asking for help on a problem. Before the teacher could answer, several students saw the post and helped walk the student through the problem. What great classmates! Students can access Classroom from home on a desktop computer or can download the classroom app to a mobile device.

Also parents, ask your child's teacher about their Google classroom account as parents can be added to get updates from the class as well. We also have many teachers using a program called Remind that will send a text message at the end of each day with what your child will have for homework that night. Again, please talk to your child's teacher to see if they are using Classroom, our website Edlio (mms.midland-7.net) or using Remind. Finally, Google Classroom also updates on some our teacher webpages. If you can subscribe to a teacher’s web page to receive updates as teachers post information or assignments.

Our goal is to nurture an environment of 21st Century Learning Skills. Many of these skills like collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking activities are at the core of our instructional practices. Thanks for reading and as always, there are a lot of great things going on a Midland Middle School so stop in and see us sometime. Until then, it's a great day to be a Timberwolf!

School is Coming!

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had an enjoyable summer spent with family and friends. August is here and we are counting down the days until the new school construction is complete and the building is opened. While we wait for that day, I thought I would write to all of you to talk about the upcoming year at Midland Middle School and the various changes that will be happening.


First, I’d like to introduce new staff members for this school year. Ms. Beth White will be joining us as our new Guidance Counselor. Beth comes to us from Bradley University. Also, joining us this fall is Mrs. Angie Tower to teach 6th grade English/Language Arts and Social Studies. Some of you probably already know Angie as she is joining us from the elementary school where she taught the past few years. We are very excited to have them in our building!


This year also brings about great changes in our school bell schedule. This year the first class will start at 8:23am (dismissal times are not impacted). Previously, first hour started at 8:30. A schedule change was required to accommodate a new period that I am introducing to the building. I’m calling it our Den’s Hour. It will be the time period in which our Response to Intervention (RtI) classes will be offered.


In the past, students were pulled for RtI from regular core classes. To avoid that conflict we created Den’s Hour. The course meets daily from 8:23 until 8:48. Students are assigned to a Math or English/Language Arts RtI class. During this class they will be working with staff members on learning strategies as well as having more time to work with current content in those class periods. Students who don’t meet the standards of being in the RtI class will be assigned to a Den’s Class. Students in grades 5 and 6 are combined into 4 Den’s Classes. They rotate each quarter around the following four classes: Healthy Life Styles, Current Events, Technology and Agriculture. Students in grades 7 and 8 are also combined into 4 Den’s Classes. They will rotate around the following four classes: Agriculture, Economics, College/Career Readiness and Character Education. Students in RtI will be reviewed at the end of each quarter and could be moved in and out of RtI depending on their progress. While grades will be taken in these classes, they will not count towards athletic eligibility nor will they factor in end of year academic promotion decisions.


We are excited about the creation of the Den’s classes. Previously, we did allow parents to opt out their child from RtI. At this time, we will NOT be allowing opt outs. We feel strongly about the opportunity for children to have the time to meet with staff to gain learning skills and have extra time to work on and practice current content being discussed in class.


Midland Middle School also will be utilizing a program called Moby Max. We began introducing it last year. This year we have a school wide program. Students can log in at home with Moby Max. Moby Max offers a robust intervention program for students of all abilities in every core subject area. We will be using this program as part of our Den’s Hour.


We’ve also changed how we are offering Physical Education and meeting the Health requirements for students. Previously, students in 8th grade took one semester of Physical Education and one semester of Health. After talking to students and parents it was clear that a different solution was needed. Starting this fall, students in grades 7th and 8th will be taking Physical Education on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s. On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s students will be taking a Health class. This allows the school to meet the health requirement without making students give up an entire semester of Physical Education. One other Physical Education change is that PE uniforms are no longer needed. Students in grades 7 and 8 will still change for PE, but their outfit is their choice as long as it meets school dress code policies and is not the clothing they wore to school.


This year students will also be able to have salad bar at lunch. Students may go to the salad bar even if they are getting hot lunch (there is a separate charge for both) or brought their own. A small salad is $1.25 and a large salad is $2.40. A normal hot lunch is also $2.40. Breakfast is $1.75.


For more information please visit our website mms.midland-7.net, like us on Facebook or give me a follow on Twitter at @PrincipalTwolf.


I know that was a lot of information to digest, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. If you have questions please reach out to the office and speak to Denise, Beth or myself. Enjoy the last few days of your extended summer and I look forward to seeing all of you soon. There’s great things going on at Midland Middle School, so stop in and see us sometime. Until then, it’s great day to be a Timberwolf!


Sincerely,



Adam Janssen

Principal

Midland Middle School

Student of the Month Kindle Fire Drawing:
5th Grade - Nolan Matuszak
6th Grade - Emma Kovach
7th Grade - Jasmine Henry
8th Grade - Leah Pyles
 
Thank you to the Midland Education Foundation and the Midland Middle School PTO for their generous donation of the Kindle Fire's. 
May Students of the Month: 
L to R: Quin Gauwitz 5th Grade, Ryan Bella 6th Grade, Madison Colby 7th Grade, Leah Pyles 8th Grade