Author Archives: Taylor

Congratulations to Our Hedgie Gear Design Contest Winners!

We received so many wonderful entries: there’s obviously a lot of Hedgie love out there. Though the judges had a difficult time choosing which entries most stood out, choose they did. The votes have been counted and we are thrilled to announce the winners of our first (but hopefully not last) Hedgie Gear design contest!

Sam Parezo (Kindergarten, Ms. Beard)
Michelle Portillo (Second Grade, Ms. Meyers)
Quinn Weber (Fourth Grade, Ms. Cameron)
Josie Fenzel (First Grade, Ms. Engler)
Delaney Robey (Third Grade, Ms. Neal)
Mia Wilde (Fifth Grade, Mr. Donovan)

Thank you to everyone who submitted a design. We can wait to see what you come up with for next year’s contest! Winners, please email with your t-shirt size. These designs will be available in our shop in mid-June.

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Us

When “Asian Cast Member” Bowen Yang took a seat at the Weekend Update desk on Saturday Night Live and implored people to “do more” in the face of anti-Asian hate crimes, he didn’t just mean donate money to the Asian Community Assistance Association gofundme campaign. (Though do so by all means, if you’re able to and feel so inclined.)

There are a lot of ways to “do more,” and in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’ve compiled some suggestions here. 

You can learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history. Time Magazine has compiled a collection of milestones; and has curated a wealth of resources from collections at The Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and more. 

If you’re looking to tackle the subject of the AAPI experience with children, there’s a lesson plan for that.

If you like your education to be less formal, you can check out the StoryCorps collection of AAPI voices, or Vanity Fair’s list of podcasts by AAPI creators.

Would you rather just immerse yourself in tales spun by AAPI authors? The LA Times has a list for you; so does Mental Floss. Strictly a sci-fi fan? There’s a list for you, too!

Looking to do something in our local community? Baltimore Magazine has some ideas (some events have already passed, but the list of AAPI-owned restaurants is worth a look). You could check out Baltimore’s own Asian Pasifika Arts Collective; tour the Walters’ Asian Art collection; learn about the Jhu Yong Han Lion Dance troupe at JHU; or check out Towson University’s Asian Arts & Culture Center.

And make sure to keep an eye on the Chinatown Collective!

However you want to do it, it’s important to acknowledge the history and contributions of AAPI communities this month, especially considering the current social climate.

Meet with Ms. Ramos!

Ms. Ramos, Hillcrest’s Acting Principal, is hosting two meetings on Wednesday, May 19. The first meeting will take place from 9:00-9:30 a.m. and the second from 6:00-6:30 p.m., via Google Meet.

These will be informal question-and-answer sessions for families. Anyone interested in joining should log in with the Meet code Ramoschat2021.

What Is “Work to Rule” Anyway?

Beginning today, April 22, BCPS teachers have agreed to participate in a Work to Rule initiative. This means that teachers will only work according to the stated rules of their contract. Instead of coming early and staying late as they usually do, teachers will walk into the building at 8:30 and leave at 3:45. There will be no return emails, Talking Points or phone calls outside of school hours. The goal is to send a message to the Board of Education and Central Office of BCPS that teachers deserve better, and our families deserve better, than the constant “pivoting” without consideration for what that means to staff and students.

The PTA does not have an official stance on the Work to Rule action, but we do support our teachers and staff. We trust that they act in the best interest of the students and families they serve. If you feel the same, now might be a good time to share those feelings. You can also support our teachers by understanding that the constant communication that most of us have become accustomed to is yet another “above and beyond” task that our teachers voluntarily take on in order to support their students.

Here’s a little more about what the BCPS teachers union is looking for:

  • The union wants internet issues resolved.
  • Teachers want to be reimbursed for 100 minutes of planning time lost during two days of no internet access.
  • The union wants more information regarding the January data breach.
  • Teachers said that when school opens to four days a week, they are seeking an option of one teacher dedicated to virtual learning and another for in-person instruction.
  • The teachers want clarity regarding 122 teaching positions lost during the pandemic.

It is important to note that Hillcrest teachers are participating in this action in solidarity with the entire BCPS school district. This is not necessarily a statement directed at Hillcrest.

I think we can all agree that teachers have been nothing short of heroic over the past 13 months. Now more than ever, teachers are in need of our support. In addition to respecting the teachers’ work to rule schedules right now, here are some other ways to show appreciation:  

  • ask your child to write a thank you note to their teacher
  • send a virtual gift card for coffee or lunch
  • send a simple email telling them why you are thankful for them (and copy Ms. Ramos & Ms. Shortt)
  • ask if they need any books or supplies for the classroom
  • HERE is a list of the teacher favorites collected by our amazing Hillcrest Front Office Staff

You can also submit something for our Staff Appreciation video:

  • a picture of your child holding hand-drawn poster with a message for entire staff or a specific teacher
  • a picture of your child wearing Hedgie Gear
  • a short video of your child singing a song of thanks or reading a poem they made (roughly 10-60 seconds)
  • a picture of a notecard with a message to teacher or the entire staff

Remember, this video is for the entire Hillcrest staff in addition to classroom teachers. All submissions must be submitted by April 30, 2021.

And finally, if you’d like to share your support for the teachers beyond the halls of Hillcrest, here is some additional contact information for the district and state:

Keep Hillcrest Green!

Earth Day is this Thursday, April 22nd, and BCPS has organized a Virtual Earth Day event for schools to get involved. The Green 60 is a contest where students to submit videos or pictures of activities they participated in that promote caring for the Earth, and their school will be awarded points based on those submissions.

To participate, use your BCPS account to upload photos, videos, and/or artwork to the Google Drive here. Don’t forget to Tweet a picture of your Earth Day activity with the hashtag #BCPSGreen60 to @BCPSOutdoorSci, and most especially to @HESCourtard. Hillcrest’s Green School certification is up for renewal next year and participation in BCPSGreen60 is a great way to show our commitment to a green school!

In honor of Earth Day, the PTA Environmental Committee is also encouraging those interested to help the environment and our community by cleaning up litter in neighborhoods, parks, and other areas throughout the rest of April. Trash bags and gloves are available for porch pick-up at 744 Edmondson Ave. and 406 Montrose Ave. If you need supplies and are unable to pick them up, please email and we will get them safely to you! 

Please remember to stay safe when cleaning up. Wear your masks and maintain social distancing, wear gloves and wash you hands when you are done, wear high-visibility clothing if you will be near traffic, and never touch anything that may be dangerous (sharp objects, chemicals, etc.).

Don’t forget, when we’re talking about protecting our planet, every little bit helps. There is no Planet B!

The Equity Committee Has a Diversity Problem

As many of you know, the Hillcrest Elementary PTA has an active Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Not quite two years old, we’ve focused much of our energy and activity on the Equity piece of our work. We host a monthly discussion group to tackle issues like systemic racism and cultural appropriation; have formed a student advisory board to develop student leadership skills and to help identify equity issues in our school and community; and we work to provide the Hillcrest community with relevant training opportunities (Bystander Intervention, Leveraging Privilege, etc.). 

We’re proud of what we’ve done so far, but it’s time to explore the Diversity and Inclusion mantles of our group more deeply. This is a problem, because our committee doesn’t include enough diversity. With a handful of exceptions, the work we do is driven by white women. A quick glance at our student population will tell you that is not a representative sample. We are committed to ensuring an equitable experience for our entire school community, but we need more windows into that community.

What issues are important to our students and families? What languages are spoken in Hillcrest’s hallways? What cultural traditions or holidays should we be aware of? What can we do to better serve our school?

We are always happy to welcome any new members to our committee. As we begin to prepare for the next school year, we’d especially love to become a committee whose active members are more reflective of the school we serve, and more in touch with its entire community.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, joining our team, or offering feedback or insight, please email

April Is Autism Acceptance Month

This year the Autism Society of America, along with leading disability organizations across the country, announced that it is formally shifting references of “Autism Awareness Month” to “Autism Acceptance Month” because “inclusion begins with acceptance.”

According to the CDC, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less…ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is about 4 times more common among boys than among girls.” (How ironic, then, that two of the most famous individuals with ASD are Temple Grandin and Daryl Hannah.)

Though there is no curative treatment for ASD, and no solid explanation for its cause, the internet can be a treasure trove of information and opportunity for anyone whose life has been affected by ASD.

Pathfinders for Autism works to support and improve the lives of individuals affected by autism through expansive, customized programming, and by providing resources, training, information and activities free of charge. They provide Maryland families with everything from help understanding health insurance to how to interact with police

The Autism Society of Baltimore-Chesapeake recorded its discussion with Behavior Specialist Joy F. Johnson, Black & Autistic: A Focused Discussion on Being Prepared and Allyship, held June 19, 2020, to explore the unique needs of the Black autistic community. 

Autism Speaks identifies resources by state and life stage.

Closer to home, Baltimore County has a Special Education Resource Center, and this website even highlights a handful of resources.

Plus, the Hillcrest PTA’s Special Education Liaison Rachel Didovicher ( is an invaluable resource. Anyone looking for help translating the alphabet soup of ASD, ADHD, IEP, or any of the acronyms that can make navigating through the school a challenge should email her. If she doesn’t have an answer already, she’ll help you find one.

Celebrating Laylat al Bara’at

Laylat al Bara’at is a Muslim holiday celebrated at night, which is associated with the descent of God from heaven and the generous forgiveness of sins. It is regarded as a night when the fortunes of individuals for the coming year are decided and when Allah may forgive sinners. Therefore, on this night every year many Muslims pray and fast the next day. This year, the celebration begins at sundown on March 28.

Also called Mid-Sha’ban, Laylat al Bara’at falls in the middle of the month Sha’ban, a month before Ramadan.

Laylat al Bara’at is important to many Muslims, but not for all the same reasons:

  • In the Shia view, it is the date when Imam al-Mahdi was born. Shias believe him to be the twelfth, final and current Shia Imam and also the Mahdi, a very important Islamic figure who is believed by all Muslims to bring absolute justice to the world by establishing Islam as the global religion.
  • In the Sunni, view Mid-Sha’ban is a night of worship and salvation, commemorating when Allah saved Noah’s followers from the deluge. It is also when Allah prepares the destiny for all people on Earth for the coming year. For this reason it is sometimes called the “Night of Emancipation” (Laylat al Bara’at).