The Freshman Transition Network

Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up!

Please tell the other members of the network a little about yourself. Nothing is too short and nothing is too long. Just let us know who we are so we can turn this network into a true community.

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Thanks for joining and for introducing yourself. Glad you like the site. Please let me know if I can ever help you out

I am currently a high school principal in  North Carolina.  It is a pleasure to serve students, staff, and parents everyday.  The opportunity to motivate, encourage, and inspire is my most passionate goal.  It drives me to continue my practice of educating young people.  I joined the network to learn from others who may be experiencing some of the same challenges, as well as victories that I am trying to overcome and celebrate.


Greetings, Gail, from one high school principal to another! Along with your position, I share your passions and goals as well. I look forward to connecting with you.

Hello! I am the associate principal at Spring Woods High in Houston Texas. In the last 15 years I have worked as an elementary teacher, high school assistant principal, elementary principal and now associate principal at high school.

Glad to have you as a member of this site.  Feel free to let your voice be heard and to share from your experiences.

Hi all, 

My name is Renae Townsend. I found out about the Freshman Transition Program by attending Scott Habeeb's "Go Beyond the Content" workshop last week. Thank you Mr. Habeeb for providing the big picture of what inspires students; but also providing us hands-on strategies on how to inspire students in the classroom. I really appreciated your workshop. I went back to my classroom feeling renewed and reassured about the importance of being "intentional" and creating a positive environment by intentionally telling students that you care about them. Also, I really liked what you had to say about being the' "compass" or "Mt. Olympus" for students. I truly believe that teachers today (more so than ever) must intentionally inculcate the building blocks of success into their classroom environments (or what John Wooden refers to as "The Pyramid of Success"). 

I teach ESOL in Goochland County Virginia (small county outside of Richmond city). I have my my M.Ed. from UVA and undergraduate degree from JMU. I fell into teaching 14 years ago and never have looked back. I've taught English to International and Second Language Students (Adult Ed all the way to Kindergarten). Currently I teach K-12 in Goochland Elementary, Goochland Middle, and Goochland High. I love my job because I feel like it provides me an "eagles-eye" perspective of the challenges that both students and teachers face.

One thing that troubles me in the school environments is that students seem to lose their authenticity when they grow up and transition from elementary to middle to high school. If there is one thing that sums up my teaching objective, it would be that I intentionally strive and work to help my students to maintain their authenticity. I believe that it is so important that students know and can identify what it is that "defines" them as people. Society sends us so many mixed messages re: what we should be/say/do. I see so many kids who are drowning in school environments and looking for their identities outside of themselves. 

You can check out my blog at I've summarized a lot of the activities I've done with my ESOL students in Goochland county on my blog. I use art or music or journaling for many other activities in the classroom.

I also believe in the strength and importance of community and collaboration. I've worked hard to create a "volunteer program" in Goochland County, where different community members work with my ESOL students either in the home or classroom environments. I truly believe that it "takes a village to raise a child." 

Thank you SO much for allowing me to join the Freshman Transition Program. I'm really excited about collaborating as a community of teachers and administrators alike!!!!! 

Thanks, Renae, for introducing yourself to the group and for sharing your blog with us.  I'm looking forward to visiting Goochland in August!

My name is Cynthia Morton and I am a licensed professional counselor and the lead counselor at Salem High School in Conyers, GA.  Besides my role as lead counselor, I am the peer helper coordinator and educator for our county. As part of my role, I will establish a peer advisory group using my older peer helpers to assist our freshman students. In order to do this, I knew that I needed to seek out and join a group of educators who are knowledgeable and passionate about student transition.  I am so thrilled to be a part of this network and looking forward to learning from the experts!

Welcome aboard, Cynthia!

Sounds like you're pretty busy supporting young people there in Conyers!  I hope you'll find resources on this network to help you.

Please let me know if I can ever serve you or your school.  I regularly work with schools/systems on 9th grade transition efforts.  You might also check out my book on the topic:

Take Care

Hello All!  I am new to the network.  I am currently an assistant principal to a rural high school in Alabama with 900+ students. I work primarily with Career Tech, curriculum, instruction, and standardized testing (ACT, PLAN, Workkeys, Advanced Placement).  We are implementing a FA in the 2015-2016 school year.  I have joined to form networks and gather your experience with FA.

Welcome, Gia!  I'd love to hear more about your FA plans.

Have you ever talked to Leslie Esneault in Huntsville?  She might be a good resource for you.  You can connect with her by going to her page on this network:

I work for a non-profit that serves 2 high needs schools in Philadelphia.  Resources are limited.  Last year, one of the schools had no guidance counselors for 400 students, no library, no after school activities, limited books etc.  Our principal and vice principal were also teaching half days.  Our organization maintains a classroom in the schools and is staff by recent college grads.  We partner with schools by building relationships with students and filling in the gaps.  In 3 years, we helped to increase our schools college-going (mostly community college) rates from around 3% to over 80%, but we realized that far too many students were dropping out and the others were ill prepared to complete college level work.  We knew 9th grade was the problem.  So, even though--as an ancillary provider,  we had no blueprint, we decided to try to build a freshman transition program.  We knew that attendance tracking would be importance, but in our first year did not have the resources or the administrative buy in to be proactive.  We named our program RAISE, an acronym for a way to approach your HS career  R- Readiness/Rues: are you ready/do you know the rules, A-Attendance:  do you show up, go to class, and pay attention, I-I work hard everyday: do you do the work, S-Self-advocate: do you ask for help when you needed it, and E-Evaluate: do you realistically evaluate your efforts.  We plastered the school with RAISE posters --RAISE your expectations, RAISE your voice, RAISE your hand.  Then we offered a 4 part workshop--during one block scheduled class/week-- , based on research and experience, to provide topics that would be beneficial to the students, activities that would be fun, and build relationships that would connect them to our community.  We stressed the need to Believe+Act+Inspire (our motto) 

At the end of the first marking period, we identified the kids who were off-track (based on U Chicago research-attendance/grades).  There were over 60 kids/100--mostly boys.  We selected 40, divided them into 2 groups, and set up lunch time group mentoring  once a week for 6 weeks.  We mostly did fun group activities and built relationships-always ending with a short discussion that focused on the importance of attendance and effort.  It was hard at first, but the kids started to love coming.  It was voluntary, but attendance went from 60% to 90+% over the 6 weeks (which meant they were coming to school too)  We offered incentives to students who came after school for academic help and in 2 weeks we went from no kids coming in to 30 over the course of one week.  When the next report card was issued, 7 of the 40 students went from Ds and Fs to As and Bs and 5 students had perfect attendance (50% of our students miss more than one month a year)

It was a simple attempt, but it proved that we could make an impact.  Next year, our goal is to get involved with attendance, particularly in the first month of school, and try to run at least 2 events to get parents involved--something that does not happen at all in our schools.  We also want to offer some services to help educate teachers.  That is tricky though, since we are not teachers.  I did try to contact U of Chicago and find out what materials they were using to offer continuing education to teachers to deal with issues that urban high-needs students face (part of their on-track program), but didn't I have any luck getting information.  I did note that one of the blogs posted here was written by a teacher who changed his teaching approach to offer students the opportunity to build on success--eliminating multiple choice tests etc.  If anyone has any suggestions for materials that teachers would find helpful and ways that we might present these materials to them, I would appreciate your input. 

I really love your website and find lots of good suggestions for my team.  Thanks for offering your expertise and enthusiasm!


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