Appreciating Teacher Amber Riess

May 9, 2018 10:12 by Kelly

“I love teaching, I love my job, I’m excited to come to work every single day,” said Amber Riess, O2B Kids Hunters Crossing VPK teacher.

Riess has been teaching 4 and 5 year olds at O2B Kids for almost three years. She says she has wanted to be a teacher as long as she could remember. “When I was younger, I was always the mothering type and wanted to work with kids,” said Riess, “My teacher at the time told me I should become a teacher when I grow up, ever since then I decided that’s what I wanted to pursue.

She says her favorite part about teaching at O2B Kids is their “edutainment” system. “The resources we are given is incredible,” said Riess, “Kids are free to do what they want creative wise and have unlimited options. They are so proud of their work when they are done, it’s an awesome feeling to see.”

She says she loves teaching this age group, but it’s bittersweet to see them leave for kindergarten. “These children aren’t even mine and I am so sad to see them graduate,” said Riess, “I’ve grown so attached to them since they have started.”

When asked what her favorite memory has been this school year, Riess light up and said, “The Leprechaun!” A couple weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, one child per day would wake up with a single yellow band around their wrist and they had no idea where it came from. “Every day they would freak out, and I would say maybe it’s the Leprechaun, so the day before St. Patrick’s Day we set up a trap with chocolates inside, and the very next day the trap moved and there was a single yellow band inside,” said Riess, “Then, I said lets go to sleep and see what happens. When they woke up, every single child woke up with a yellow band around their wrist and lost their minds! They talked about that for a month.”

Riess says it’s those special moments and seeing the progress her students make over one year that make her job so rewarding. “I know it sounds cheesy, and it is cheesy, but to see my students who have never written their names then learn to write their full name is absolutely incredible,” said Riess, “I’m like I taught you that! I taught you this huge life skill that you will use the rest of your life.”


Appreciating Teacher Pauline Wilkes-Smith

May 9, 2018 08:35 by Kelly

“When I walked through these doors… it was love at first sight,” said Pauline Wilkes-Smith, O2B Kids VPK teacher.

Wilkes-Smith first walked through the O2B Kids Supercenter’s doors almost 14 years ago. She has been teaching children ages 4 and 5 ever since. “I love that age group because of the milestones and the progress they make before Kindergarten, it’s really impressive,” said Wilkes-Smith.

She says her students started in August not even knowing they had letters in their name, and now they are writing their first and last name. “They are prepared and ready for kindergarten,” said Wilkes-Smith.

With it being Teacher Appreciation Week, Wilkes-Smith says weeks like this is important because there’s a lot of small things that go unnoticed and gets wrapped up into everyday normal expectations. She says an example of this is her daughter Payton, who has been a student at O2B since she was only 6 weeks old. “When Payton was in the infant room I told her teacher that she would not eat off of a spoon, and a week later her teacher had her eating off of a spoon,” said Wilkes-Smith.

Wilkes-Smith says she has wanted to be a teacher ever since she was in the 5th grade. “My teacher was such a mentor, I wanted to be just like her,” said Wilkes-Smith, “That’s why I love teaching at O2B so much, because they teach us how to teach kids how to love school.”

Eggstravaganza 2018!

March 30, 2018 10:34 by Kelly

Around 600 people came out to O2B Kid’s Supercenter for the biggest hunt of the year!

This year, the festivities included a bounce house, dunk tank, snow cones, and even a princess! Roshelle Twymon, also known as Princess Tiana, is part of the University of Florida’s student organization, Royal for a Reason. She says her favorite part about coming to Eggstravaganza is meeting all of the kids and making them excited for the egg hunt.

Not only were the kids excited for the hunt, but they were excited for the chance to be the one person in their age group to find the golden egg! Play leaders searched high and low for the perfect spot to hide the three special eggs. Supercenter member Alyssa Billis, found the golden egg for her age group up high in the jungle gym. “I can’t believe I’m the one that found it!” said Billis.

O2B Kids Supercenter Operations Manager, Nick Weston, has been part of Eggstravaganza for the past five years.  He says his favorite part about helping put together special events like this is what the community as a whole gains from it. “Our special events gives us a chance to share what we do here with the rest of the community,” says Weston, “We have people that have never been here before, so seeing our walk wall, big toy, and everything else makes it a little more magical for them”.

Science Fair Week!

March 30, 2018 10:28 by Kelly

Here at O2B Kids, “We believe in discovery”. Chances are you’ve probably heard a play leader say this, or even seen it written on our walls. That’s because this saying can be found in our manifesto… and it’s one we try to live by. This theme especially comes into play during our annual Science Fair Week!

Michah Holley is in the sophomore class at Archer Road. Not only did he do a science fair experiment on ‘How Plants Absorb Water’, but he also conducted a hypothesis, data, and a conclusion… not bad for a preschooler! Michah’s parents wanted to get in on the action by being his “lab assistants” and helped him present his project to the class.                                                                                       

“We believe in learning by doing” and “We believe in trying new things” are two more sayings that can be found in our manifesto. Not only do we live by these statements on the everyday here at O2B, but they also go perfectly hand in hand when it comes to our Science Fair Week!

Our preschoolers broke out the beakers and cylinders to conduct their very own science experiments in the classroom. While using gloves (our preschoolers practice cautionary safety measures of course), kids we asked to make a solution using food coloring dye. Declan is a senior at our preschool and with the help of his dad, Luke, his classmates got the chance to do another hands on experiment.

Pirate & Princess Fun Run 2018

March 30, 2018 10:04 by Kelly

Pirates and Princesses came together for the annual Fun Run! This is the second year O2B Kids partnered with Joey’s Wings 5k at Westside Park to raise awareness and funds for their cause.

Joey’s Wings is a non-profit charity that supports childhood cancer research, while providing support, advocacy, and education for parents. The charity was created in memory of Joey Xu, who passed away on Nov. 26, 2014 from childhood cancer.

Throughout the run, pirates and princesses had to endure various obstacle courses. The obstacles represent the many challenges that children with cancer have to overcome during treatment, like chemo and radiation. 

With the help of runners (and walkers), $11,000 was raised and will go directly towards pediatric cancer research. 

First, second, and third place winners of their age group. 

Click the link below to see the race results!

O2B Kids Fleming Island Member = State Chess CHAMP!

March 30, 2018 09:32 by Kelly

“Checkmate”, a chess phrase that O2B Kids Fleming Island member, Eyal Farber, would say as he earns the title of State Chess Champ.

Just a year and a half before his state title championship, Eyal played his very first game of chess during an O2B Fleming Island class.

Coach Al, who teaches chess class at O2B, is Eyal’s coach and the one who taught him how to play. He says the progress Eyal has made in just only a year and a half of playing is truly remarkable.

Eyal says his favorite thing about playing chess is that it’s fun! He won five out of the five games at the competition and says, “It feels really good to be the State Champ, because I didn’t think I would win.”

Eyal says his favorite part about coming to O2B Kids is going to chess class, and he will continue to go until his dream of becoming a grandmaster at chess comes true.

Magic Buttons - Creativity Matters

July 3, 2014 07:40 by Andy

My four year old daughter is magic.  She tells me so.  She can do anything...or not, depending on how it suits her.  She doesn't have to drink milk.  You see, "magic girls don't have to drink milk."  But she agrees to drink it anyway.  She doesn't have to sleep either... although she agrees to go to bed...usually.

She tells me she has a button...five in fact.  Magic buttons.  But I can't see them.  They are in her bones.  The first button turns her magic on.  The second button turns her into a flying pony, a unicorn, a butterfly, a ladybug or a flower...."the real kind, not the fake kind."  The third button turns her back.  The forth button turns her into a rock star and magic "sprinkles" shoot from her entire body.  Rock star sprinkles.  We're not sure what the fifth button does, but we're quite sure she has one.

And I celebrate.  I celebrate the createive mind that is blossoming in my home.  I celebrate the confident spirit that defines who my daughter is.  She knows she can be anything.  She is not deterred by laws of nature or human obstacles that too often kill the dream.  A past Newsweek article presented research stating that the correlation to lifetime creative accomplishemnts was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.  The article goes on to say that for the first time in generations, American creativity scores are falling significantly in younger children from Kindergarten through sixth grade.

What does this mean?  Why is this happening?  In short, there are no conclusive answers.  But there are clearly some easy places to look.  More TV; more video games; more structured school curriculum with less art, music, and physical education; less neighborhood freedom and exploration.  Entertainment is being packaged FOR kids.  Kids no longer have to create it.  So how did we get here?

I think creativity has always been taken for granted. Although it is valued and appreciated, it hasn't been coveted or desired.  We do not formally teach creativity.  You have "it" or you don't.  We assume that kids have "it"... until it leaves... and then you're a grown-up.  Can this be?  Is this OK?

Newsweek states that "a recent IBM poll of 1500 CEOs identified creativity as the No.1 'leadership competency' of the future."  Our world is changing.  The knowledge revolution is upon us.  The jobs of tomorrow will be very different than the jobs of today... and we don't even know exactly what they will be.  So what to do?  

Nurture the creatiivy of your child.  Ask what ifs.  Paint pictures.  Dance in the kitchen.  Play princess or pirate or superhero.  Talk about nature and people and places and things and ideas.  And most importantly, embrace the most wonderfully annoying, educational, simplistic, complex question in the world..."Why?"  Answer the question every time it is asked.  Turn the tables on your child and ask them to take a guess at their own questions... and then fully engage yourself in the answer!  Be present!  Be interested!  Be curious!  Be a parent!

If you do...and if you are... your child's magic buttons will ensure a very succesful life journey.  Here's to rock star sprinkels and an enjoyable ride.  

Art Lesson... almost!

June 1, 2014 12:46 by Lieba

So, the other day, one of my counselors asked me to come see what the kids in her art group were doing. I walked in the Art Studio and the kids were all laying on their backs, under the tables, painting.  Painting up!  Yep, you'll find masterpieces under our tables.  So cool!!

My counselor turned to me and said, "Let me see if they remember what we talked about."

She then asked the kids, "Who did we study today?"

Together they shouted, "Michelangelo!!"  

Impressive!  So I asked, "What, did he paint tables or something?"

They yelled, "Nooooooo!!!!"

Then one student (you gotta love her enthusiasm) says, "Wait! Wait! It was a church, I mean a chapel...wait...I got it! The SIXTEEN chapel!"

Teachers as Fortune Tellers

April 30, 2014 03:53 by Kristi

“People always want to see the future.  Well I see the future every day.” 

That’s how Ms. Kelly, a teacher of 3 year olds at O2B Kids Alachua, describes her job.  And she’s right!  Not only does she see it, she shapes it.  Now that’s power!  Each day Kelly, and so many other early childhood educators like her, invest in the lives of children, which means they are investing in the future for all of us.  Teaching curiosity, creativity, problem solving, and literacy means our children will have the skills they need to be responsible grown-ups and the future’s leaders. 

Kelly’s prediction for the future?  The class of 2029 will be awesome!  The 3 year olds that she works with every day consistently impress her.  They are bright, engaging, and eager to grow.

But not every child is in Ms. Kelly’s class.  What about all of the other 3 year olds out there?  Research tells us that 30% of kids entering kindergarten are not ready to learn.  30% of children in 3rd grade read below grade level.  30% of children do not graduate from High School.  That’s not a coincidence.  The problem begins before school starts, and that means the solution starts there too.  We need to get more kids into quality early childhood education centers, we need to make sure parents have the resources they need, we need to make sure our kids are healthy, we need to encourage curiosity and creativity – the building blocks for literacy. 

Let’s not wait for Superman.  Let’s encourage more people to be Superman, like Kelly, and work hard to get the class of 2029 ready… for our future.   

Twenty Minutes Can Change the World!

February 21, 2014 07:59 by Andy

Did You Know...

1.  More learning happens in our first five years of life than during any other period of our lives.

2.  Children learn - or don't learn - the skills they need to become literate during these first five years.

3.  Literacy is more than just learning how to read.  It is learning how to understand, comprehend, compute, rationalize, analyze, decide, weigh options, problem solve, create, and learn more.

4.  The literacy level of a child in kindergarten is an accurate predictor of that child's future path.

5.  Literacy is what children need to fulfill a lifetime of potential.

6.  Some skills learned during the first five years - such as learning to talk - tend to happen naturally.  However, literacy takes deliberate training and effort.

7.  While literacy takes deliberate action, it does not demand a high tech or expensive solution.  It just takes time and it just takes words.

8.  There is a wide range in the number of words young children hear.  Research has shown that some kids are exposed to 3 million words during their first four years, and others hear 11 million words.  The higher word count correlates with higher literacy in school.  Word count matters!

9.  Research also proves that one of the most effective, impactful activities to develop literacy is the act of reading to a child 20 minutes every day.

10.  Any reading is helpful.  But reading with a child while asking questions - and stimulating a dialog with the child - develops their understanding of books and words, stimulates their curiosity and creativey, and improves literacy.

So, let's get started!

  • Use positive and descriptive words when talking with a child.
  • Read books with children of all ages.
  • Encourage dialog while reading.
  • For preschoolers, ask questions about words and pictures.
  • For school age children, take turns reading, and talk about the story.

Words matter!