Monday, August 22, 2011
I ended the first day of school visits by presenting an Exemplary flag to Bryker Woods Principal Jane Kronke and Ruth Hansen, the school’s secretary for 20 years (and with AISD for 29 years!).
We visited the first grade classroom of the school’s Teacher of the Year, Monique Cavazos. The students were drawing pictures of what scientists look like and what they do. Then they discussed their drawings with each other. Ms. Cavazos told them they would all have the opportunity to be scientists this year.
Third grade Teacher of Promise Meredith Dayon was showing her students how to use a planner to help them get organized early in the school year. Their homework assignment for tonight was to spend 20 minutes reading—something I love to hear!
I then met with Bryker Woods parent Cord Dover, who is directing the Boltage program at the school. This is part of a national program to encourage walking and biking to school and is co-sponsored in Austin by the Bicycle Sport Shop, Trek, the Austin Cycling Association, and Bike Texas. Last year, students around the country logged 365,000 kid-powered miles. This is the third year for the program at Bryker Woods. As Mr. Dover explained, this is not only good for the students, but it reduces the school’s carbon footprint. Last year at Bryker Woods, students walked or biked 10,460 miles, saving 5.75 tons of CO2. I think we will want to consider this program for the entire district as we look at improving the health and wellness of our students. If anyone at Bryker Woods wants more info about the Boltage program, they can contact Cord Dover at email@example.com. He will be happy to help sign up the students in this great program!
I began the day with the Freewheelin’ Mustangs of Zavala and ended it with the Panther bike riders of Bryker Woods. Not a bad way to start a school year.
Stay tuned for first day of school report at the Board Meeting tonight.
It’s always a joy to visit Garza Independence High School. The classroom of the school’s Teacher of the Year, Margaret Fackler, was a mixed math by design. She loves all math and can teach different subjects to different students at the same time – Wow! I thought my job was hard! By day, she is an inspiring and favorite teacher of Algebra 2, Physics, Pre-Cal and Calculus. By night, she can sometimes be found on the Roller Derby track under the name Olivia Shootin’ John, a crowd favorite there as well. She promised to help get an AISD Roller Derby team pulled together soon.
We also visited the multi-credit course, called Garza 10-18, taught by Randy Atchison and Vaughn Camacho. (“10-18” means to respond quickly.) The Austin Chronicle calls it “the most innovative class in Austin.” The students learn emergency preparedness, survival skills, CPR & First Aid certification, HAZ MAT training, criminal court proceedings, and much more. Students have the opportunity to explore the impact emergency preparedness has on their regional & local communities through the lens of various systems. This is the only class in the city in which students are allowed into the emergency transportation and communication center. They gave me a cool cap with their class name to remind me to 10-18 to all things Garza.
A couple of students seemed to be awestruck by their opportunities in the course. Shayla told me that it taught her to act professionally and to understand the criminal justice system. Clark learned about crime scenes and how police work them. He said you see things you never would see normally. “It’s hard to say how wonderful this is,” he said. Sasha said it helps build relationships with the police department and get a deeper understanding of what they do. It’s like a course in CSI.
Garza has an interdisciplinary, multiple credit, self-paced curriculum. This is an alternative high school that students choose for the relevance and the rigor, as well as the college and career prep it offers. At the same time, I encouraged the Garza students to read for their schoolwork and beyond their schoolwork.
It’s very fitting that this school, bringing in students from all over town and specializing in interdisciplinary learning, has the mythical Griffin for a mascot—half eagle and half lion – because they soar and roar!
I was met at the door of Eastside Memorial High School by new principal Joseph Coburn. I was able to see the new Health Science Practicum. It will provide the students with the opportunity to take part in a rotation in a local hospital. Through this course, Eastside students can end up with a nursing certification, as part of the Career and Technology Education strand at Eastside. This new curriculum is being conducted in partnership with Austin Community College and is being taught by Nancy Diesel.
Next I visited the classroom of the Eastside Global Tech’s Teacher of the Year, Jean Fiske, a special education teacher. Her classroom was moved into the main building this year, which makes the experience more inclusive with the school. I followed this by stepping in on the Algebra 2 class being taught by Ingrid Ristroph, the Eastside Green Tech Teacher of the Year. (I always enjoy watching her teach.) She began by telling the students what they will need to prepare them for every day of schoolwork. They are:
1. Be dependable.
2. Advocate for yourself. But be polite and respectful, but ask questions the minute you need to.
3. Support each other to learn and stay focused.
4. Be a problem solver.
5. Follow school rules.
And, then, they jumped into their math work. Ms. Ristroph teaches from a google site she set up (look for her photo with a hot pink post-it covering one eye – a dead give away that it is indeed her). Today the students shared laptops for a group assignment to access the day’s work. Then she jumped right into a lesson using real-world problems. I worked alongside a student named David on an exercise comparing teachers’ salaries year over year. We were answering questions to identify the variables and the domain of the salary range. Are the data discrete or continuous? Does the salary grow linearly and is the slope consistent? A great Algebra lesson. I was thrilled to see students involved in lessons on the first day of school. Setting a high standard for excellence on the first day is essential.
I’m looking forward to great strides at Eastside Memorial in the coming year. Eastside PRIDE!
Govalle Elementary School, a Recognized school, was one of 15 AISD schools to move up one level in the state accountability ratings, despite the fact that the State raised the performance standards. So, of course, we wanted to present the “Recognized” flag to Principal Nancy Maniscalco, her PTA president Gabe De La Cerda, and several student leaders as soon as we arrived. I asked a student named Kelvin how many books he read last year. “Over 100,” was his answer. I told him that was exactly what I like to hear.
I then got into math manipulatives with the 2rd graders of Dan Gach’s class, Govalle’s Teacher of the Year. I also stopped into the 3rd grade classroom of the school’s Teacher of Promise, Crystal Davis.
Next I visited the Science Lab, in which teacher Lana Stone and several students, calling themselves “the 4th grade engineers,” demonstrated their work from the summer STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) academy. Student engineers Robert, Gloria, David and Eduardo explained their STEM hand-pollinating project to me, through which they pollinated flowers. They were like human insects. They turned what they learned into blogs about their work. I was so impressed by their writing and the responsibility they took as bloggers. Please visit the incredible site they created and the video about their summer work at stonestem.edublogs.org.
I ended the visit to Govalle by joining the kindergarten classes for lunch. They were so cute and nervous going through the line for the first time this year. It looks like a great start to another great year at Govalle.
Go Govalle Roadrunners!
Sanchez Elementary School is a Recognized school for its second straight year. There, we briefly visited a number of bilingual classrooms. This year, Sanchez Aztec Stars is instituting one-way dual language, beginning in pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st grade. As soon as we arrived, Principal Azucena Garcia took us to the bilingual kindergarten room of Giovanna Rolls. We went from the little kids to the big kids, next visiting the bilingual 5th grade classroom of Carolyn Martinez. She was already working with students on the concepts of “empathy” and “respect,” as part of our Social Emotional curriculum.
In the 3rd grade classroom of Steve De Avila, the students were outfitted in tool belts, holding pencils and erasers. They were ready for work. I watched Ayde Mireles using an Innovation Station to show her 5th grade students how to take notes. She demonstrated using their notebooks to record their notes on one side of the page and the teacher’s input on the other side of the page for each lesson. A great skill that will help them all through public school and college!
We ended the visit by presenting the school with its Recognized flag in the classroom of 2nd grade bilingual teacher, Martha Sanchez, the school’s Teacher of the Year.
The Sanchez Aztecs rock!
Martin Middle School is perched just north of Lady Bird Lake and within a short distance of Fiesta Gardens. We began with a visit to the classroom of Martin’s Teacher of the Year, Storm Vance, as she went over the school schedule, the students’ schedules, and talked about the discipline and behavior policy to set the guidelines for a safe, productive year! Next stop was my visit with a nutritious breakfast prepared by the sweet cafeteria staff. The new Principal, Leticia Vega, joined me.
From there, we joined the AVID classroom of Terry Davis. AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) is designed for students who will be the first in their families to attend college. This is the second year of the program at Martin, and it’s enrolled to its full capacity. It teaches study and note-taking skills, provides college visits, and expects its students to enroll in rigorous college-prep courses. At Martin, that usually means enrolling in the International Baccalaureate (IB) middle school program.
Before we left, we were able to drop in on the Career and Technology classroom of Katrina Hicks. Ms. Hicks’s classes regularly win state and national awards for career education.
I am very pleased by the college prep mentality at Martin. We need every student in the district committed to rigorous reading, the kind that is promoted by AVID and the IB program. For many of our students, that should mean reading twenty times as much outside class as they currently do.
On to Sanchez.
I kicked of the school year bright and early at historic Zavala Elementary School with the UT Spirit Band playing the UT fight song and the cheerleaders leading the Zavala Mustangs in cheers. Principal Sean Fox guided us through the halls of Zavala to the Kindergarten room of Dacey Long. Interestingly, Ms. Long used a puppet to show the students how to introduce themselves to each other and to me. They caught on fast.
Then we visited the 4th grade room of Zavala’s Teacher of the Year, Tanya Quezada. In the first half hour of the new school year, her students were ready with questions. After I told them a little bit about myself, Gilbert asked me what it was like in Spain. Jewel wanted to know what it was like in Austria. And Zino wanted to know about Tennessee. I told them about the value of knowing more than one language and about the Kodak chemical industry in Tennessee. Clearly, these students are ready to learn. And Social Studies are an important component of their education.
We ended our tour by entering a classroom of students wearing safety goggles. I was surrounded by little scientists. This was the Science classroom of Cheryl Gibson, who has taught at Zavala for 32 years. They were ready for a new year exploring the universe.
Thank you, Zavala, for super entry into the new school year.
I am so excited to be at Zavala this morning to welcome students here and all over the district back for the first day of the new school year. Zavala is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The school was also recently awarded a grant from the National Wildlife Federation to create a School Yard Habitat, featuring native Texas plants to foster community involvement and to beautify the school grounds.
Some of us got our day off to a good start on a bike ride with the Freewheelin’ Mustangs bike club here at Zavala. More than 20 Mustangs and I were escorted by the Austin Police Department, and we were met at the end of our ride by the LiveStrong volunteers providing our water stop. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo was also there with me today. AISD Police and the Austin Police Department have a strong partnership that helps us keep all of our students safe.
The Zavala bike club has been going strong for three years. It’s a perfect example of our goal to promote student wellness. In terms of fitness, a large number of our students do not meet the targets for healthy body mass index. Only two-thirds of our high school students meet cardiovascular measures. Fitness programs should also apply to every adult in this district, too.
And, if that bike ride didn’t get our hearts pumping, we have the University of Texas Spirit team here, too. What a great way to start the first day of school. There is a straight line that every student here can draw from Zavala to college. With hard work some of these students will also be attending the University of Texas and maybe even a part of the Spirit team ten years from now. And I know every Zavala Mustang will be prepared to graduate ready for college in the coming years because they have been a Recognized school two years in a row!
Today, everyone is excited because it’s the first day of school. But I want that excitement to last all year long. I want all students to be in school all day, every day. You can’t learn if you’re not in class. We know there’s a direct correlation between attendance and student engagement and graduation. It’s a simple equation:
Come to school + do your homework + participate in school activities = graduate ready for college and a good career.
I am proud to be part of the team that is preparing the way for what promises to be a great school year. Thanks to our outstanding custodians, the floors of AISD are shiny. Our bus drivers are getting our students to school on time. Our cafeterias are ready to serve. Our grounds are neatly trimmed. The teachers, principals and staff have put up displays in every hallway and classroom welcoming students and outlining school procedures. We are ready for a safe, productive, and exciting school year. Let’s learn!