Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I was proud to deliver an “Exemplary” banner to Joslin Elementary School Principal Jennifer Pace and Assistant Principal, Griselda Galindo-Vargas. Then I stopped in to see the 2nd graders eating in the cafeteria and to thank the cafeteria staff, who made me a healthy dessert of nuts and berries. Many thanks to kitchen manager Rosa Jeronimo, Roby Oduna, Deborah Baker, and Simona Salas!
I then met the brainy 5th grade techno-scientists, with their Math and Science teacher Gloria Rangel. I worked with two students, Anthony and Marcos, on their computer. We looked at my blogs, so I could explain what my job is like and how large our district is. The class was then engaged in Glogster—a way of visually creating a poster on a laptop with graphic tools similar to power point, but used for education. Before I left the class, Anthony and Marcos promised me they would read, read, read!
My last visit at Joslin was with the school’s Teacher of the Year, Theresa Melomo, a first grade teacher. This is an inclusion classroom. The class is accommodating two hearing impaired students by teaching the other kids how to look at the student when speaking as well as having two sign language helpers in the classroom. I taught them how to remember my last name using hand gestures (in charades style) for a car, a star and a fin. They got my name right away! Breaking complex things into simple, visual terms helps everyone to learn.
Ms. Pace tells me the teachers are very excited because the school has 65 new computers this year. Year in and year out, Joslin does a great job for its South Austin neighborhood.
After the presentation of the “Recognized” banner, Gorzycki Middle School Principal Vicki Bauerle, led me on a tour of their great fine arts program. I couldn’t believe how incredible the Tiger band sounded, and on its second day of school! I guess it’s only fitting since the school is named after the late Diane Gorzycki, former award-winning Bailey Middle School band director and AISD administrative supervisor for Fine Arts.
I had the good luck to visit Michele Huerta’s 6th grade theatre arts class right before they started their “Connection Bingo” exercise. I started the activity by asking everyone to laugh out loud for 30 seconds. It wasn’t long until everyone in the room was genuinely LOL! It was crazy fun! I plan on using this exercise in my other meetings. Everyone in the room was very happy and ready to jump into the next exercise with smiles on their faces.
Then I got the chance to visit with 7th grade students during lunch. Ah, middle school students! They recommended the taco bowl with lots of veggies on top for lunch with milk for my drink. I got my vitamins and minerals for the day, thanks to them! It is now my favorite school to get a taco bowl!
During lunch, I met the school’s Teacher of the Year, Megan Butler, a Special Education English/Language Arts teacher, and Teacher of Promise Andrew Doggett, a 6th grade Science teacher, who also coaches football.
Ms. Bauerle told me the school was off to a very smooth start—and its only their third year. It showed. Congratulations, Gorzycki Tigers.
It’s always fun to visit Bowie High School, home of 2800 Bowie Bulldogs. And it was especially fun to present Principal Stephen Kane and Student Council co-presidents Matt Orlando and Janson Higgins with the “Recognized” banner for their school. Go Dawgs!
Our first stop was Wendy Uzzle’s life skills classes. Bowie’s high quality instruction includes its Special Education classrooms, in which teachers like Ms. Uzzle address individual student’s needs.
We dropped in on Chef Richard Winemiller’s Culinary Arts class where it is all business. Chef Winemiller is doing team building with the class. He has them working alongside each other, going back and forth slapping out a rhythm on the table. This is a precursor to helping them understand what “building the basics” could mean to their career. They will take simple skills, like knife skills, and use them to turn out complex gourmet meals. By the end of the curriculum, they will be certified in food safety, food handling and food management, so they can go straight into a job in the food industry. But, there was no food. I will have to come back when they do their meal preparation for the Bowie community event. Chef Winemiller also has a great sense of humor – see that cartoon he shared with class…
Bowie Teacher of the Year, Kelly Flickinger, was talking to her Math class about building character. She told her students that character matters most of all, but they also need to graduate from Bowie as thinkers and scholars, they need to be literate and stay healthy, and they need to be effective communicators. I love her enthusiasm. It is contagious in the classroom.
That contagiousness does indeed spread throughout Bowie – it’s a great school with great spirit!
I was pleased to be able to present the “Recognized” banner to Bailey Middle School and its principal Julia Fletcher again. Not surprisingly, the school looks fantastic. And it’s setting a good example by embracing our “No Place for Hate” campaign. Bailey has been working on their designation since 2009 and it has paid off in the school culture, which is welcoming and warm.
I visited Bailey’s Teacher of the Year, Benjamin Summers, in his Science classroom. This is his first year teaching Science after three years teaching Math. He appreciates the opportunity to use both his left brain and right brain in this class. He described a structure that provides tons of real time support by other seasoned science teachers as he perfects his new assignment.
I then went to the classroom of Ellen Cox, Bailey’s Teacher of Promise. She is such a great teacher that students see on average 40 percentage point gains, according to the principal. Already on the second day of school one of her students calls her “awesome.”
Our Chief Academic Officer Ramona Trevino and I talked with the staff about the use of Schoolnet. The teachers were ready to engage students in rigorous instruction, using the curriculum roadmaps and the assessments. I am looking forward to seeing our new technology integrated into every teacher’s work this year.
In a rare moment of peace and quiet, I was able to speak to the principal about where she grew up and what she experienced in school. It was the perfect end to the visit for me because knowing her a little better made it clear, that based on her values she wants to provide a high quality education for all kids. This is why Bailey is such an outstanding school! Congrats to the whole team!
This morning, I grabbed a Capital Metro bus in South Austin to ride to Akins with a group of students. On the bus I talked with freshmen Jose and Eric, both former Mendez students. I’d met Jose when he was performing in the band at Mendez. Now he’s signed up for the Akins band. I’ll have to watch for him on the field at some future Akins football game. On the ride, we reviewed their schedules and talked about college readiness.
We arrived at our newest high school, now home to over 2700 students. I had to say a quick hello to my favorite rocket class before heading to the first classroom visit. I stopped by to see my favorite robotics teach, Mr. Sebastian Espinoza was to the Certified Nursing Assistant Career and Technology class. The students told me they are taking the class because they want healthcare careers, including being nurses and Emergency Medical Technicians. Their teacher, Debra Johnson, is an RN and has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing too!
The first part of the course focuses on long-term care. They do a practicum at a nursing home after they spend time in lab learning the skills. Later in the course, they shadow nurses at Seton Hospital. The students then have to receive at least an 80 on a state exam to receive certification. I also told the class that being bilingual makes them even more marketable.
I met Jared, who is considering going to my alma mater (Harvard), in Kyle Voge’s Physics classroom. Jared would be a perfect candidate for the school and I think as shoe in. Mr. Voge is known as the Akins “Rocketman,” teaching rocketry to his physics students, who compete in Central Texas rocketry contests. Mr. Voge was the Texas AP Science Teacher of the Year and represented Texas at a national conference. I talked with Jared about his career plans. I urged him to set high career goals, choose good classes and take part in extra-curricular activities. He will be competing in a global economy.
Before leaving I was also able to meet Akins’ Teacher of the Year, Becky Redland, in her English class.
Throughout my visit, I was tailed relentlessly by three Akins journalists, doing a great job and asking tough questions. The reporter was Haleigh Wagner, and the photographers for the Eagle’s Eye newspaper were David Vatoillid and Alex Herrera.