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Monday, February 6, 2017

Apron Lady: Will You Be My Valentine?

Do you know The Apron Lady? Her name is Sandy Welch and I am so proud to call her my dear friend. If you have attended any I Teach K conferences in the last few years you've probably noticed the crowd of teachers chatting and laughing with her in her booth. She is the creator of the Show and Tell Aprons. 
Grab a cup of coffee and sit down to read the story of our friendship. I promise that you will be glad you took the time to know her better. We are just 2 kindergarten teachers, who live in opposite parts of California who found out they had much in common.
This friendship started in Vegas when I was sitting with a group of bloggers I knew from the internet, chatting over lunch. This darling lady came over and asked me if I thought teachers would buy her apron. She was a total stranger. I looked at the apron she held up and I was shocked at how clever the design was. It took me 2 seconds to fall in love with it. OMG I had to have one. I went into a class on writing with Deedee Wills and she had one in her hands. We both agreed it was brilliant. This is where it all started for me. What happens in Vegas can change your life... right? It sure changed mine. I loved the apron but I really loved the teacher behind the design and wanted to see her succeed. We kept in touch through our blogs during that year but I don't think she had started a FB page yet.Check out her blog known as Kinder-gartening to get a glimpse of her students and how she runs her classroom. It will make you "belly laugh" when she shares her latest crisis or classroom disaster. She is so real about life in a kindergarten classroom but full of great strategies for helping young children learn. Her love for our youngest students just makes her more endearing.  Check it out.
Time moved on and I decided to drag my poor husband to the next I Teach K conference and he convinced me to set up my own booth.  He was willing to work the booth while I went to classes and watched my favorite Teacher to the Core, Katie Knight present. Guess who had a booth across from me? Yup, Sandy Welch. Her principal and the secretary of her school attended  this conference so they could help her sell aprons. Can you image your principal doing this? Both of these women loved Sandy and were  happy to support her  new business. The two of us talked constantly between customers and found out we had  much in common. We become even closer friends, sharing a few meals and just chatting about all kinds of things... educational and personal. She was so supportive and kind about my materials that I wanted to pack up the whole booth and hand it to her. I love this picture of us that my husband took! We promised to stay even more in touch and we did.  Before I left Vegas she handed me an apron and insisted that is was a gift. I wanted to pay her. She would not take my money. Around the Christmas holidays she sent me an apron (beautifully wrapped) with Kindergarten Crayons embroidered on it and I was speechless. That does not happen too often. 
There is more so hang in there...
 We saw each other again at the California Kindergarten Conference and my booth was right next to her! Woohoo! Both of our husbands were with us and bored out of their minds (truth be told). Steve Welch is a gem. He is a great guy and the perfect compliment to Sandy. Our friendship grew stronger and I helped her sell some aprons when I could. I had no trouble convincing teachers this was the best purchase of the conference! If you have never attended this conference it is my absolute favorite. Get a ticket right now if you live anywhere in California. It is fan. tas. tic. I can't talk Sandy into presenting but I "forced" her to sing her 3 Bears song to a group of teachers and they each bought an apron... I swear- true story. This year she is part of my presentation!

Over time we exchange phone numbers and chat about all things to do with our families and kindergarten. We try to calm each other down about testing... report cards... testing... limited time for kids to play. You know- all the issues that make us crazy as teachers. As the months went by she told me Steve could not come to Vegas with her and she was worried about going solo. I offered to go in his place and we decided we women could handle this with no problem. We had a blast... It was so much fun with Katie Knight staying one night in our room and seeing other bloggers we loved. We stayed up for endless amounts of time and talked. Sandy has the best sense of humor but she is also a worrier and I just tried to reassure her. Yes, we could pull this off. No problem. We sold aprons like wild women and even ran out of some designs. 

Teachers fell in love with her personality and she spent time talking about this apron and how it kept students engaged. Teachers crammed into the booth, asked questions, and I convinced them that they would really regret not purchasing one. We took pictures of kinder teachers in tutu aprons and just had such a great time being with "our tribe." It was incredible fun. Principals bought aprons for their whole kindergarten team and we told them their teachers would love them forever. Can you imagine? We talked and drank coffee and Sandy even had special granola bars for us to snack on. It was exhausting but well worth the effort. Our friendship only grew closer and each purchase was thrilling to me! 

Sandy brought jewelry rolls with her to show teachers how they could display their cards. This was a game changer for me. Game changer. Now I wasn't walking in my room at 7:00 AM wondering where my letters were or the retelling cards. She taught me how to organize myself so I wouldn't pull my hair out. Can we all agree this is pure genius? Leave it to a kindergarten teacher to simplify life.

Sandy has the best sense of humor. Her friend Carolyn Kisloski who blogs at Holding Hands and Sticking Together wrote a book with Dr. Jean Feldman. Yup, the Dr. Jean. We both loved these two books and wanted teachers to purchase them. Check out the sign she created at her booth to push sales. We talked about these great reads and teachers listened to us. If you don't have them they can be purchased here and you can thank me later. Carolyn and I have become friends and she has been so generous we these books when I want to do a giveaway for a presentation. Buy them. They are worth it. They are all about engagement. We took pictures of teachers who had purchased them and sent them to Carolyn throughout the day. Teachers helping teachers...

Here is a list of reasons I've come up with for why you must have this amazing apron. Stick with me because I am never wrong about crucial teacher resources. Even if your teaching closets are ready to explode you need this hot little item. Trust me, I know.
Is this getting too long? Hang in there and this part will make you laugh. Let's all agree I am ridiculous but you will understand if you scroll down and continue reading. It can be a life changer. 
We have all done this at one time or another, rushing out the door with a thousands things in our hands. There is no time to go back home and those stains down the front of your shirt are staring you in the face. Not attractive at all.  Solution... just slip on that Show and Tell Apron and no one is the wiser. Problem solved.

Every time I receive a district email about testing I reach for something to eat. Is this your reality too? I swear the amount of testing in kindergarten is directly related to teacher weight gain. I'm just being real with you. Now nothing really fits right and yes those buttons are pulling a little more than desirable. Yikes. What now? You should already have been at work. No worries. That apron is waiting for you in the classroom and no one will know the difference.

I had a principal a few years ago who thought this apron was the best thing since peanut butter. When I had it on she would scream across the courtyard, "What's our star word today?" I was convinced she liked me because I looked the part... super kindergarten teacher on campus. She grinned from ear to ear when she watched me use it for teaching. My evaluations were glowing. It's all about student engagement people! 

Have you ever stood in front of your closet hating everything in sight? Sometimes I get so sick of my own stuff and can't even make a decision about what to wear because I am so exhausted from doing report cards or entering data, data, and more data. Finally I just grab two dark things and throw them on. I am not attractive- trust me. I head for my classroom and I jazz myself up with that cute black and red apron that is a favorite of mine. Attitude change. I return to the human race.

There are days when I know I need to do laundry but I just can't drag myself away from that 33rd episode on Netflix. Can you relate to this? Or maybe I sat on FB for some ridiculous amount of time just letting time slip by. Yikes! I get up the next day and those same black pants are staring at me with no other choices to be made. Let's all agree this is not a problem for a man but woman notice stuff. It's a lot of pressure. Grab an apron and no one will even notice. Another problem resolved and it's barely 7:00. Now for that 4th cup of java. 

Some kindergarten teachers dream about being a princess and Sandy has come up with the cutest apron to help make this happen in your classroom. This is her tutu apron and she highly recommends getting a tiara to accessorize properly. It is adorable. The girls in your room will be so in love with this look and Halloween will be a no- brainer. It is tutu cute. We sold a zillion of these in Vegas this year.

We have had some serious rain here and the kids have been hanging off the rafters. Okay that is a bit of an exaggeration but you get my point. Let's just say I had good reason to question my management skills. What does a teacher do to calm 30 wiggle worms down? Sing songs using apron cards, duh. Tell stories. They are fascinated by this and I am convinced they think you are a YouTube video. Gotta do what ever it takes...
Now I am ready to be serious. Okay just a little bit serious. I love using this apron to practice subitizing skills during small group instruction. I have the kids write their number on a white board and hold it up. You snooze, you lose. They love it! Grab some cards from Sandy's TpT store. They are well worth the few dollars.

Do you have that kid in your room that can never remember the sight word you have hammered on all week? Sometimes I want to pull my hair out but that's just me overreacting. You can have kids read the word as them come into the room and when they are ready to go home. They love this but I always like the 19th child who hears all the others say it and has no idea what the word is. Do you have one? Sandy also mixes the cards up (they are out of sequence) and has the children help her put them in the right order. I have to try that. You could also have them write the word on a dry erase board, spelling it correctly to make it more interactive.

I use picture cards to help students learn to track from left to right. It is also a great way to build vocabulary for a theme you are working on. It has really helped my ELL's build language. Sometimes I turn one card over to see if they can remember what it was. Visual memory practice made easy.

Sandy sent me a child's version of the apron and I had to come up with rules for using this during independent work. They were desperate to wear it. I have them work in partners and retell a story we have worked on. This is a huge favorite and great fun for the littles. Watch out of the corner of your eye for kids ripping it off of each other... just sayin'.
 If you ever come to a conference and meet this wonderful lady please force encourage her to sing you a song and use her magical cards. It takes real talent to do this quickly but she rocks it out. She is a total show stopper when she does her version of The 3 Bears. Don't let her try to squirm out of it. She is hilarious. Remember I said this. You don't want to miss this. Trust me.

You are finally at the end of my post (are you whispering amen?) and I want to thank you for hanging in there with me. I use the apron a million more ways but I am sure you need to feed your kids or call your mom so I will end it here. Blogging changed me. Important friendships grew. I am a better teacher.
Note to Sandy...
You have been a blessing in my life, more than you will ever understand. Thank you for always being there for me and always supporting my crazy ideas. You are always willing to make time for me. My only regret is that we met  just a few, short years ago. We should have met in kindergarten. You will be my forever friend. I love you. Thank you for all that you do for teachers and most of all for our children. 
The best friendships are unexpected. Please be my valentine.