A conversation with Cathy Baur, Principal Monta Loma Elementary School Mountain View-Whisman School District
Tell us a little about your school; where it is located, when it was founded, and who it serves.
Monta Loma is one of six elementary schools in the Mountain View-Whisman School District. Our school is located in the area between Rengstorff, Middlefield and San Antonio Road (in the northwestern area of Mountain View). We also serve the students who live in military housing at Moffett Field. We have a school population of approximately 500 students ranging from Kindergarten to Fifth grade. About 55% of our students qualify for free or reduced price school lunches, and about 60% are classified as "English learners." Most become fluent in English while they are at Monta Loma.
The majority of our English learners speak Spanish, but we also have kids who speak Mandarin, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and French, among other languages. The best thing about having such a diverse student body is that all our students are exposed to other languages and cultures at an early age.
Could you sum up the mission and key focus of your school?
Obviously, we want to educate our children. But beyond that, our mission is to build skills in kids so they can be successful in life. In fact, we promote five core values we want every child to learn and leave with: Respect, responsibility, courage, compassion and hard work. We focus every day on teaching the kids what these mean and what it looks like to live them.
What programs or activities is El Camino Hospital District's Community Benefit helping to fund?
El Camino Hospital's Community Benefit grant helps fund our Playworks program. (Playworks is a national nonprofit organization that supports learning by providing safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity to low-income schools at recess and throughout the entire school day.) We've been really lucky; this is our third year with this program and we've had the same coach - "Coach Titus” - all three years to provide fulltime supervision of both playground and classroom game time activity. Coach Titus arrives at 8:30 a.m. and stays most days until 5 p.m. He works with the kids and teaches them games and other play activities. He restructures the playground into game areas - during a typical recess you'll see soccer games, tetherball, jump rope, four square - all sorts of organized activities.
Titus also trains our older kids to be "junior coaches” and help with the younger kids. And, he runs an after-school program that focuses on Fourth and Fifth grade students - they do homework first and then they can play games.
By funding Playworks, how has the El Camino Hospital District Community Benefit made a difference for your School?
The change in what our playground looks like is amazing. Before, kids would walk around aimlessly. Now they make the most of recess. They know how to choose teams and go out there and play. Because the kids are so much more involved now, there are not as many conflicts on the playground. We compared how many children were referred to the office for problems this year and last during the same time period, and the referrals were down by 50%.
One reason is that Titus makes sure that he visits classes almost every single week, so he can teach them social interaction skills. For example, they learn "Rock, Paper, Scissors” as a way to resolve disputes. He not only teaches them how to play, but how to play fair, how to be a good sport, and how to stay positive. He is the most positive person I know, and the most popular person on the campus - with teachers, parents and students.
Without Titus and Playworks, I think our playground would quickly go back to the way it was before . . . with more games ending in fighting and arguing.
Our teachers love Playworks, too. They say that because the kids burn off energy outside, they don't come back to the classroom with recess issues that disrupt learning. When they come in they're ready to learn.
The other major benefit is keeping the majority of the kids active. They may not have any place at home to run and play, (many live in apartments) so they're getting that opportunity here. And socially, they are learning skills that will serve them throughout their lives, such as how to be a team player.
Cathy Baur is in her 17th year at Monta Loma. She taught there for 13 years before becoming principal four years ago. For more information about Monta Loma visit www.montaloma.mvwsd.org.