How have the PTSA Grants helped our students?


Our grant was used to continue student subscription to the cloud-based software Noteflight. While it was originally designed as a composing software, but has been expanded in the past several years to include more educational purposes. This includes a library with pieces that we have access to which allow students to practice along with their music, and even submit playing test recordings to me. I believe some amount of composition is essential in music education. Composition is a culmination of student’s musical understanding. Being able to read music, and perform music is one aspect. But a student must truly understand music in order to turn around and create it.

As this is the second year of this roll out, I was able to expand my use of it. Students across all grades were doing composing in some form, whether it be heavily guided (6th grade), or more freeform (high school). The final project of the year for high school was to create an arrangement of a popular song, the definition of popular music being whatever is cool to them. In addition to creating the music, I asked students to really think about what a finished composition looked like: not just notes and rhythms, but also dynamics, bowings, articulation, rehearsal letters, and other things that inform a player of what the final performance should be like. There was a really wide range of presentations from both concert orchestra and sinfonia: music from the Marvel Universe, New York, New York by Frank Sinatra, and even more popular tunes by the band AJR. After all versions were created, they were practiced and then performed at our recent orchestra concert.

In the end, Concert orchestra selected an Infinity War Medley arranged by Jonathan Whang (10th grade), and Spiderman Homecoming by Lokesh Vuchhuru (10th grade). Sinfonia selected Sober Up by AJR arranged by Eric Chang (10th), Ziqi Xu, Alyssa Yin, and Lily Bai (12th grade). Sinfonia ended up so enjoying playing the arrangement that they decided to play it for the Awards Assembly on June 5th.

I have included the links to the concert recordings as well as the original Noteflight arrangements:

Infinity War (Concert) (Noteflight)
Spiderman Homecoming (Concert) (Noteflight)
AJR Sober Up (Concert) (Noteflight)

The orchestra has greatly appreciated all of the support we have received from the PTSA, and hope to continue working together in the future.

Anna Silarski, Orchestra Director

PTSA Grants have been a great support to the students this year.  In addition to the jazz band folders and timpani head which I submitted feedback on earlier, the band also received grants for registration fees for the Newport Jazz Festival and the Eastshore Band Festival. 

The Jazz Band had a great experience at the Newport Jazz Festival in March.  After their morning performance, Paul Harshman (Director of the UW Jazz Ensemble) worked with the group and gave them a fantastic clinic.  The students were very inspired by his feedback and work with them and have regularly referenced the concepts he worked on with the group throughout the Spring.  The students were also selected to perform in the finals concert that evening, and were selected as runner up by the adjudicators.

Both the Concert Band (9th and 10th grade group) and Wind Ensemble (11th and 12th grade group) participated in the Eastshore Band Festival on March 14.  The Eastshore Music League increased the registration fees for this year to cover the cost of additional clinicians and guest artists at the festival, with the goal of improving the educational experience for the students.  The PTSA grant covered this increased cost.  At this festival, both groups worked with a clinician for an extended period of time before their performance, then went on stage to perform for the festival adjudicators.  After the performance, the percussionists worked with the guest artists in a percussion specific clinic.  After the festival, the students had great comments about the value of the event and their learning from the clinics and performances.  In past years, this festival has not offered the extended pre-performance workshop or additional percussion clinics and the students would come back with little enthusiasm for the event.  This year, the students came back to school inspired to keep performing and recognized the event as a very positive experience.

Thank you so much for the financial support.  These grants help to fill the funding gaps needed to provide to the students with a well-rounded musical experience in the Band program. 

Andy Rubesch, Band Director 


Thank you so much ISPTSA for your support and contribution to the IS technology and innovation team. We’ve been able to introduce 3d printing and other technologies to students now more than ever thanks to Maxton and his further development of the maker space. Students have been 3d printing things just about every day since it has opened in April as well as using other items in the space. Throughout the year they’ve enjoyed using the Raspberry pies to tinker and code with. The 360 camera project is still in development and will continue into next year. The microphone and phone cords have been in and out of my room for different projects all year as well. Your contribution has greatly impacted our day to day operations and students learning and enjoyment of the school and our community. Thank you again. 

Jess Albrecht, Technical Specialist

The PTSA grant for Actively Learn this year has allowed me to get my students really engaged in the reading process and for me to check their comprehension in real time. I know that reading assignments can get long and daunting, and that leads to skimming, which then leads to misinterpretation. Sometimes students walk in thinking that the exact opposite thing happened! And if you are not correcting that for several days, or if the student is absent when we discuss that section of reading, then comprehension goes out the window. Actively Learn is a reading comprehension platform AND a database of thousands of online resources and open-source documents and books AND a communication platform centered on common reading experiences. 
I am including a couple of items:
  1. Excel spreadsheet: I can take the overall class data with the scores on questions, the vocabulary “look-ups,” and much more, and send that to Excel to look at all the data in an organized fashion. 
  2. Screenshot 1 (below left): Students have short-answer responses to questions that I create in the readings. I can score them on a scale of zero to advanced and leave a comment. Students can ask to revise certain questions and I can look at those new responses and re-evaluate. After students answer a question, they can see other student responses and comment on those as well.
  3. Screenshot 2 (below right): I can look at various data points in real time, as well. I can see who is looking up which words, which questions get the lowest scores, and other data points.
All this information informs my interaction and feedback with individual students in real time. It is meaningful for both them and me, and the instantaneous nature means that the students can immediately apply the feedback! This is invaluable! I can also take the data for use later to inform how I teach and re-teach various reading comprehension strategies, sections, ideas, and so on.
Basically, I love Actively Learn. I want to use it more! I am so thankful for the grant! THANK YOU! 
Jen Sorenson
9/10 Humanities, Humanities Department Head, JSA Adviser, National Board Certified Teacher


Here is some information about my two grants from first semester:

Jazz Band Folders – The new folders have been a tremendous resource in supporting students keeping their music in order and in good condition.  The students all demonstrate an additional sense of pride in being a part of the group with folders that look and feel very professional.  


Timpani drum heads – The new heads for our timpani drums allow the percussionists to accurately tune and use our set of timpani.  With new equipment, the students are more conscientious about putting away equipment at the end of each class period.  The students show great care in maintaining the quality of the new drum heads.  The International School was the host of the Eastshore Solo and Ensemble Festival, during which students from across the region came to International to perform for adjudicators.  Several students performed timpani solos using our new drums, and one student will continue on to compete on the timpani at the State Solo Contest in April.  We were very glad to be able to support the students with quality instruments.  


Thank you so much for your support!

Andy Rubesch, Band Director 



The value of the Interactive Notebooks:

  • 6th grade students are learning how to manage notebooks and notetaking. The interactive notebooks are a tool that helps them establish good habits and routines around this task. Notetaking and Notebook management are lifelong skills they will use in college and beyond.
  • The interactive notebook templates provide a developmentally appropriate way for students to summarize their learning on key learning targets for 6th grade. They serve to focus student attention to these key concepts.
  • The interactive notebook templates give another opportunity for students to improve their fine motor skills. I’ve noticed a decline in students’ fine motor skills with the growth of technology. The developmental window will be closing soon for these students. The work needs to be done now.

Thank you for providing this grant,

Julie Reeder
The International School
Math Department Head
National Board Certified Teacher