The 8 Keys of Excellence

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Growing up, school was a struggle and not just for me, but for my entire family. My mother worried constantly about my grades and me getting into a good college, which made her hover over me every day when I came home from school. Her worrying made my dad stressed which led to lecturing, and all this just made me less interested in school because I thought school was to blame and not me. As a teen my only concern was sports and hanging out with my friends, until I learned something that really helped me to bring aspects of my life into perspective, and it’s called the 8 keys of excellence. If you have been by my office you will have seen  the 8 keys on the wall, as a constant reminder of the lessons they’ve taught me over a lifetime.


As educators and families, we work every day to make sure our students are living with integrity, and being the best forms of themselves. Living with integrity means making sure that your actions are in line with your values, and this can be hard. To have true integrity we have to constantly ask ourselves are we being true to us, or being what we think other people want to see.

Failure Leads to Success

I can honestly say at least one teacher probably explains this to a student once a week, but it can be a hard message to truly understand. To fail at something can be a massive blow to our ego and self-esteem, but it’s only a failure if we aren’t able to learn from it. Mistakes should make you humble, and drive you to do better with knowledge about what you need to do better.

Speak With Good Purpose

Thinking before speaking is pretty simple as an adult, but as a teen it’s not so easy. The teenage brain is driven by so much emotion that words often come out without a second thought. Remember that words are powerful, and everyone thinks differently so everyone will react differently. If people focus on speaking positively and with the best intentions, the number of miscommunications and undue hurt feelings can be avoided.

This Is It

This is similar to a more sophisticated version of YOLO (You Only Live Once) as the kids say. This is it means focusing your attention on the moment, not worrying about the future. This is not saying go do something reckless because it seems cool, but focus on the positives of your life as it currently is. Life is far too short to spend timel looking forward for something better.


This key is about putting your full heart and soul into everything you do 24-7. When we live committed, we can boost our confidence, and avoid indecisiveness. Commitment sets us on a positive path, that allows us to overcome any problem.


Taking ownership in our lives can be a hard lesson while going, but it’s important to take ownership and responsibility for our words and actions. We can’t always control everything that happens around us, but we can take ownership for our responses. When we own our life and choices, we can be a positive example for those around us.


Life throws problems at us all the time, being flexible means we are able to handle those problems with strength and grace. Flexibility is about the willingness to try something new and not getting locked into one way of thinking or doing things. When we are flexible, we can work well with others and be open to new ways of thinking.


When we are in balance, we are focusing on what’s meaningful and important in our lives. Sometime in life, we can get so bogged down with the things we believe are important, that we lose sight of what truly matters such as our families, friends, and our health.

Creative Learners VS. Organization

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How to know if you have a creative learner

Creative learners have many great traits, but some of those characteristics make it difficult for them to focus and stay organized. Some creative characteristics are that they are sensitive, intuitive, artistic, athletic, musical, and think about the big picture. Some of the drawbacks of being a creative learner are that they are often procrastinators, daydreamers, disorganized, poor test takers, and struggle to put ideas into words. Unfortunately, traditional education styles often label creative learners negatively as “problem students” when they just aren’t being catered to adequately.

How to help them at home

Make sure students have a singular place to put all school work divided by subject, either a three-ring binder or an accordion folder. Having one place to put work and notes helps to keep items from getting lost, and not to miss important information when its time to study for a test. Creative learners often don’t turn in homework, and it’s not because they don’t do their homework, but because they can’t find it to turn it into their teachers.

Using red and green folders can help students organizes homework during the day and at home. The red folder is for homework and assignments that haven’t been completed, and the green folder is completed work that needs to be turned in.


Use a planner to keep track of homework, projects, and test dates. Students should cross off items as they are completed, and make sure to keep their planner with their folder to keep everything relevant together. If you encourage your student to mark social events and holiday on their calendar, it will eventually become second nature to write everything down.


Creating a positive environment is essential for studying and homework, which is an easy way to help your student without being overbearing. Having a fan or music without lyrics can help students focus because many creative learners prefer to have background noise while working. Make sure to keep students from studying in bed, being in bed tells a person’s brain it is time to sleep, making it harder to concentrate and retain information.

Above all, the most important thing your creative learner needs is understanding. However frustrated you may become watching your child struggle, I guarantee they are twice as upset and frustrated. Taking the time to talk to your child about their frustrations and possible solutions show how much you care about their feelings, and that will go a long way with a creative learner.

Dealing with Teens and Depression

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Depression is a complex illness because unlike the flu or rash, the symptoms of depression can be difficult to spot and may appear slowly over time. As a parent, the idea that your child is struggling with an illness that takes more than just medication to treat can make us question how well we have done our job. If you think there is a possibility your child has depression here are some indicators you can look for.

Feeling Hopeless- This is one of the most common indicators of depression because it trickles down into other aspects of someone’s life. Feeling hopeless can lead someone to start internally asking the question ‘why bother?’ or ‘why does this matter’ about everything in their life. The hopelessness can start to make them think things like their friends, school, and family aren’t important, which can lead to poor grades and fighting with loved ones.

Irritability or Hostility- A person with depression is dealing with a tsunami of hopelessness and sadness, so when they are forced to do mundane tasks that in their minds are unimportant they can have a hostile reaction. As a friend or family member, it is important to try and remember that the hostility is coming from depression and not the actual person.

Extreme Fatigue- Sleeping all day and night, or being constantly tired is a sign many doctors look for when diagnosing someone with depression. Sleeping frequently stems from hopelessness and leads to people thinking ‘what’s the point in getting out of bed because nothing matters.

Other Signs And Symptoms

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Reckless behavior
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Thoughts of self-harm

What do you do?

As scary as all these things may seem, living with teens with depression can lead happy and healthy lives, it just takes work. One of the most significant challenges for parents of teens with depression is the desire to find immediate solutions, but the truth is an instant solution is unrealistic. It is essential to try and understand your loved one’s situation and put yourself in their shoes. Ask questions about how your loved one is feeling, and focus on letting them know that you accept them and just want what is best for them.

Treating Depression?

Studies have shown the best ways for teens to deal with depression is a combination of finding a medication that works, and being able to have an open dialogue about their feelings. Finding the right medication can take a long time, and be a frustrating process, but finding the right one can be the key to helping a teen with depression live their best life. It is essential to talk to your family doctor about symptoms, and if necessary allow your child to speak to the doctor alone and ask any questions they need.  If your teen is too uncomfortable talking to you about their problems, you can ask your doctor for recommendations for a counselor or psychiatrist who works with teens and kids. If those are not an option for you financially, try speaking to your school about your teen speaking with a guidance counselor or school psychologist.

The SQ3R Reading Method

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By following this method, readers can retain more information and be better prepared for tests or quizzes.

SQ3R is a reading strategy which means:







Look at all maps, pictures, charts, and captions

Read the titles, headings, and subheadings

Look at review questions or any study guides


Ask yourself, “what do I already know about this?”

Turn titles and headings into questions

Ask yourself, “what would my teachers say about this?”


Write down the answers to questions as you find then

Stop and reread parts that are unclear or vague

Read aloud answers to questions to help you remember


Reread notes written in your own words

Look at all highlighted or underlined sections

Orally recite notes from memory

Create flashcards with important dates, ideas, and vocabulary

Review answered study guides

Take an oral quiz with a friend or family member

Studies have shown that following this method helps with information retention, and prepares users to think critically about what they have learned.

Understanding Your Child’s Learning Style

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What are learning styles and why do they matter?

Learning styles were created as a tool to attempt to understand the ways different people think and learn. Visual learners do well with things like diagrams, charts, and presentations. Auditory learners must hear information in retaining it, so they excel in group discussions, oral presentations, and engaging lectures. Traditional teaching styles are geared towards visual and auditory learners when in reality they are only a small part of the student population. We have now discovered that creative learners make up a significantly larger portion.

What is a creative learner?

Creative learners are often mislabeled at an early age as difficult or unmotivated when in reality they just haven’t found an environment that challenges them correctly. Creative learners succeed when they can combine standard things like reading and lecture with things like art projects, and mental puzzles. Understanding your students learning style can be the key to helping them in their academic career, and can set the stage for future success.

Study Tips

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There is no magic potion to make students better test takers, but here are some simple ways to help even the most nervous student confident before any test.

Study Setting

Research has found that things like color, sound, lighting, and movement can have a significant effect on how we retain information while studying. Using a location like at the kitchen table, at a desk, or on the floor work better than comfortable places like in bed or on the couch.

Controlling the background noise can also help stimulate your brain, like classical and jazz music, but if you don’t prefer those, music without lyrics or low lyrics can help. Music with lyrics can cause you to lose focus on words your reading or writing, then cause you to not retain information. Color is also another useful element in studying for a test. Using different colors while taking notes helps to stimulate your eyes for information retention. Using bright colors on dark backgrounds helps your eyes to focus on the information. Lighting also helps with focus; natural light allows a person’s eyes to focus.

Answering Questions

If you don’t have a study guide or example questions, make up your test questions before reviewing. See how many you can answer from memory to see where you may have gaps in your subject knowledge, then you can fill in the answers while going over your notes and reading.

Taking Breaks

Taking breaks doesn’t mean you aren’t focused on the information you’re trying to retain, studying is more like a marathon than a sprint. Moving around and getting the blood pumping can help wake up your brain and prepare it for the information that is about to come. You can also read aloud or walk around to engage your brains muscle memory. No matter how you chose to take breaks when you split information into chunks helps your mind remember more details and facts than cramming information in one big piece.


When writing an outline, start by writing the main ideas first. Make sure you have a firm grasp on the big picture information before you focus on the smaller details. Outlines are an excellent tool for organizing information for future use or if you want to give yourself a last-minute polish before a test.

Operation Sandwich

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This time of year its important to be thankful for all that we have and to be mindful of the need for others. Luckily for us at TrinityPrep, we’ve got some amazing parents who found a way for us to give back to our community through Operation Sandwich and The Urban Ministry Center.

For those of you who don’t know, Operation Sandwich, which is run by The Urban Ministry Center, encourages people to make sandwiches to feed the homeless in our community. They serve around 300,000 sandwiches annually and are hoping to serve more every year.

Here at Trinity, we became involved with The Urban Ministry Center thanks to the involvement of our PTSO members. Thanks to donations from our parents and the work of our students making sandwiches, we have been able to donate around __ sandwiches to benefit the community.

If you’d like to know more about Operation Sandwich or The Urban Ministry Center and the work they do, check them out at

Operation Sandwich.