2020-2021 Bobcat Beat Newsletter
feel like SOMEBODY
Casler's Corner
by OFE Principal, Andrew Casler

Hi Bobcats!

The end is finally here! Before you prepare for a summer of fun, take a moment to congratulate yourselves on an amazing year of Perseverance, Motivation, and Wisdom. While all of our EMPOWER values are important parts of being an OFE Bobcat, you have exemplified these three more than ever in 2020-2021. I am so proud of you all.
We are excited to be able to plan the 2021-2022 school year, so keep your eye out for updates via Living Tree. As you drive by the school this summer, watch for construction on two new fabulous playground structures in the front as well as a new swing set in the back. We can’t wait to play on these next year!
Have enough fun this summer to make up for last summer…and we look forward to seeing you next school year!
Mr. Casler

From the PTA President

As my role as PTA President draws to an end, I wanted to thank all of our volunteers that worked so diligently over the years! Just this year alone we have dealt with major flooding, hurricanes, power outages, and a pandemic. That doesn't even cover all of the personal issues these volunteers have overcome. Through it all, our OFE volunteers persevered to provide events and programs for our Bobcats. This dedication is the bedrock of what makes OFE so great!  

My oldest is moving on to FBMS this fall, but I am not going far, I still have an entering 4th grader. I am so excited about the new leadership that is coming on to the OFE board! You are in good hands with Michelle Tabor, OFE PTA incoming president, and Lindsey MacLeod, OFE PTA incoming president-elect. If you are not yet a part of the PTA I implore you to get involved. Through the PTA, you will meet new people, get to know the school and make good friends along the way. Email presidentelect@oakforestpta.com for more information about volunteering. 

I want to share a special thank you to all of the PTA board members with graduating fifth graders that have committed their hearts and hours over the last six years, or more, to Oak Forest Elementary. Your commitment and friendship mean so much. 

Goodbye for now,

Charity Autry, 
Exiting OFE PTA President
Thank you, teachers, staff, and administrators
From Your OFE Community
There are no words that can adequately describe the depth of appreciation our students and families have for each of you. You showed up, virtually and in person, with your full self, dedicated to keeping our community safe and serving each individual Bobcat in untold numbers of ways. 

You navigated constantly changing situations, taught us all the difference between synchronous and asynchronous online learning, managed the nuances of recess playground rotation and so much more. Virtual class presentations, parties, and distanced group projects brought a sense of normalcy to an abnormal year. Teachers and staff bring wonder to the classrooms every day and this year, you brought it through the screens to our homes as well.

You mapped routes so students could safely enter and exit school every day. You disinfected classrooms, air ducts, and doorknobs. You rearranged classrooms to ensure students were safely spaced. You brought your Ancillary classrooms to your students and taught band outside. You never wavered in your commitment to the entire OFE community.

Thank you. Thank you for loving our Bobcats well, and their families too. We couldn’t have made it through this year without each one of you.
PTA Treasurer’s Update
By Amelie Comeaux, Treasurer
Thank you to everyone who has donated to the OFE PTA this year, through the fall fundraiser, community and family partnerships or the Auction. Because of your generosity, the PTA has been able to help Mr. Casler and the OFE faculty and staff find creative solutions to the many unique challenges we faced over the past year, in addition to continuing many of the programs we hold so dear.

Remember those packets and manipulatives you picked up at the beginning of the year? PTA funds made those possible. How about the technology students needed in class and at home? PTA funds purchased those, along with charging carts and other needed supplies. Those boom shakers and portable pianos that Mr. McBreen and Mr. Glickfield use to delight our students in music class? Those were funded by the PTA too.

The PTA funds exciting things like WITS, Ready to Grow, School Book Clubs, Field Day, new library books, reading intervention program materials, the repairing and purchasing instruments for the Bobcat Band, and the Accelerated Reader program and rewards. But it also has funded or will fund next year, not-so-exciting things like copier rentals and paper, replacement textbooks, general classroom supplies, new garden fencing, and a PTA shed to keep our supplies safe from year to year. The PTA supports these projects so Mr. Casler has more flexibility with his HISD budget.

In addition to everything above, the PTA has funded:
  • President’s Project - Gaga ball pit in the back playground
  • Classroom Enhancement Funds to reimburse teachers for classroom supplies
  • Professional Development for Teachers and Staff
  • Teacher and Staff Appreciation 
  • The PTA Directory 
  • #OFESpirit Week 
  • 5th Grade Celebration 
  • 5th Grade Legacy Project (new swings for the back playground) 
  • Living Tree 

Your donations to the PTA fund a ton more things, but this gives you a taste of the impact you make each day in our school. Nearly every classroom, activity, or fun event has been enhanced or supported by the PTA. Thank you for all you do to support our school and students.
Yearbooks Delivered! Please Read Carefully
By Jen Scogin and Josh Frey, Yearbook Chairs
All yearbooks ordered by Wednesday, May 27th, were delivered to each classroom on Friday the 28th. Teachers should have started passing them out on Monday.
If you have not received a yearbook, go through the troubleshooting checklist below:
  1. If you are a virtual student, you will need to coordinate with your teacher to pick up the yearbook
  2. If you are a 5th grader, see the note below.
  3. If you ordered AFTER Wednesday, May 27th, you should receive your book this week.
  4. Check your student's backpack or under their bed or under dirty clothes (those are some places yearbooks have previously been found).
  5. Check that your teacher has passed out the yearbooks.
  6. If your teacher did not have you on their list to receive a yearbook, you did not order one. You will need to email yearbook@oakforestpta.com and see if we have any more available.
Note for 5th graders:
All 5th-grade teachers hold their students' yearbooks until the yearbook signing party on June 10th so that they do not lose or forget the yearbook before the party.
The Show Must Go On!
By Layla Hindi, Bobcat Beat 5th Grade Reporter
In the Spring of 2019, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders began rehearsals for the annual OFE Spring Musical. This year, the play was Mary Poppins. We were having so much fun singing and dancing like there was no tomorrow. But then, tomorrow came and with it came COVID-19. Rehearsals came to a screeching halt. We were devastated. But in the words of our fearless director, Mrs. Julie Osterman, “the show must go on!”

Mrs. Osterman, along with her co-directors, Mrs. Amanda Gildersleeve and Mrs. Jennifer Scogin, developed a plan that would allow the production of Mary Poppins to continue. Earlier this year, I had the privilege to sit down with Mrs. Osterman to discuss what it took to keep the show alive.

When the live performance of Mary Poppins was shut down, Mrs. Osterman met with Mr. Casler to decide how to handle the situation. The original thought was to postpone the performance and do it live in September. However, in July when Broadway shows were still canceled, Mrs. Osterman realized that even in September a live performance was not the responsible thing to do. At this point, Mrs. Osterman realized that Mary Poppins was going to be a virtual performance.

Mrs. Osterman was excited about pursuing the virtual performance. She had made a promise to the students that no matter what, there would be a performance of Mary Poppins. She had worked with a community theater, Tapestry Players, and also her church youth choir, so she had developed some ideas as to how to make this work. She also had a vision of how this would look, and she was excited to see that come together. She knew it was going to be a lot more work, but she was excited to do it.

Mrs. Osterman was not alone in her decision to create a virtual performance. Her two co-directors were in this with her. She felt that they trusted her gut decision to go virtual. She thinks that they were just as excited as her. Mrs. Gildersleeve and Mrs. Scogin were instrumental in creating choreographed videos for the songs that the students used for practices. They sang and danced along with the music so the students knew exactly what to do.

According to Mrs. Osterman, “before COVID-19, there were 134 students enrolled in the Spring Musical.” Upon realizing that the performance needed to be virtual, Mrs. Osterman created a Signup Genius for kids to sign up to participate virtually. In total, 82 students participated in the virtual performance. Mrs. Osterman was pleased with the number of students that decided to participate.

After Spring Break, she had to switch rehearsals to a virtual platform. Not only was this new to the students, but also Mrs. Osterman. In the beginning, rehearsals were on Facebook Live. This was difficult because while she could see that the kids had logged in, she could not physically see them. Eventually, she moved the rehearsals to Zoom. This worked better because it was interactive.
Mrs. Osterman and her team decided to include the entire show in the performance, excluding a few reprise songs. They cut the songs because they wanted to “make sure that every cast member was represented.” They used a Zoom platform to record all of the dialog scenes. For the songs, each cast member was individually filmed. Families had a choice of filming at home and submit it through Mrs. Osterman’s Dropbox app, or they could film one on one at her home studio, or they could film in small groups at her studio. She then organized all the Zoom recordings and the filmed songs and gave them to the editor to piece together.  

For filming, Mrs. Osterman had to find a way to get costumes and props to the students. For the students who filmed with Mrs. Osterman, they were able to change into their costumes at the studio. When they were done filming, the costumes went into a quarantine period. For the families who filmed at home, she placed a clothing rack on her front porch and the families picked up the appropriately labeled costume. After they finished filming, they returned it to her porch.

Mrs. Osterman and her team put in many hours and overcame many obstacles to fulfill her promise to the students to create a performance of Mary Poppins during the COVID-19 Pandemic. I’m sure all 82 students appreciate their hard work and dedication….I know that I do!

And as you know Annie Jr. has been filmed. Whether or not it will be shown on a screen with an audience or be another virtual-only performance….. that remains to be seen.
Editor's note:

The show did go on, and what a show it was! The Mary Poppins Jr. performances are available for personal viewing via the YouTube links below.

Please note - the links may not be shared on social media due to copyright and is for personal viewing only.

"Mary Poppins Jr." Jolly Cast - October 2020
*This link may not be shared on social media due to copyright and is for personal viewing only.

"Mary Poppins Jr." Sugar Cast - October 2020
*This link may not be shared on social media due to copyright and is for personal viewing only.

The "Annie Jr." premiere is happening Sunday, June 6, and all students will be able to see it in their classrooms beginning June 7.
Bobcats’ Summer Reading Recommendations
By Alice Llanos, Bobcat Beat contributor
School’s out for the summer! Our much-needed break from the daily routine of early mornings and homework is here. As you pack your suitcase for a vacation or send the kids off to camp, don’t forget to include the most important item of all…a great book! Reading during the summer months helps children prevent the “summer slide,” that is the tendency to lose some of the academic strides that students made over the school year.

It can be hard to get your kids excited about reading in the summertime, especially if they think it’s a mandatory assignment. So instead of handing them a reading list, get them involved in choosing a book that interests them. In fact, when children read a book of their choosing for fun, they experience greater gains in reading comprehension, vocabulary building and grammatical development. (Don’t tell them that!)

Instead, let them explore the library or a local bookstore. Seeing an interesting cover and holding the book in their hands will often capture their interest. Encourage your children to start a book club with their friends. Reading the same book and discussing it week by week can generate excitement and motivation to read. Read a book and then watch the movie version of that story. Talk about the similarities and differences between the book and movie. And, finally, if your child doesn’t know what to read, take a book recommendation from a friend.
Here are some fun summer reads recommended by our OFE librarian and students.

  • Ms. Hunt: Mouse and Hippo by Mike Twohy (kindergarten-2nd grade); A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mr. Rogers by Fred Rogers (2nd-3rd grade); Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (4th-5th grade)

  • Avery Hirshberg (kindergarten): You Don’t Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman and The Zoey and Sassafras Series by Asia Citro

  • Charlie Jane Peden (kindergarten): The Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems

  • Zuzu Peden (1st grade): Baby-Sitters Little Sister #3 Karen's Worst Day (Graphic Novel) by Katy Farina

  • Sawyer Sykes (2nd grade): Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

  • Samuel Maruna (3rd grade): The Contract by Derek Jeter and The Last Kids on Earth Series by Max Brallier

  • Alejandra Padilla (4th grade): Someplace to Call Home by Sandra Dallas

  • Penny Peden (5th grade) Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series, “#4 Dog Days” by Jeff Kinney

  • McCain Sykes (5th grade) Code of Honor by Alan Gratz
OFE Awards Three Texas PTA Lifetime Memberships
Congratulations to David Church, LaTrice Ferguson, and Ruth T. Mendez who were named Texas PTA Lifetime Members at a recent PTA meeting! These three remarkable OFE community members have gone above and beyond for our students and families and this honor is given in appreciation for their dedication and committed service. We recently caught up with LaTrice, Ruth, and Mr. Church and asked them what this recognition means to them. Here’s what they had to say.

David Church: It’s truly an honor for me to receive a lifetime PTA membership from Oak Forest’s PTA. I’ve always put kids first, whether as a teacher or an administrator, and I’m grateful to be recognized by the PTA for my contributions to Oak Forest. I’m also proud to be included with the select group of people who have earned this award, including my fellow recipients this year, LaTrice Ferguson and Ruth Mendez.

LaTrice Ferguson: I am so honored to have received the lifetime PTA membership award because I truly value what it symbolizes and hopefully means that I have positively impacted some children and their educational experience. I have always been impressed with the selfless actions of previous recipients and was humbled and proud to receive the award with amazing influencers like Mr. Church and Mrs. Mendez.

Ruth Mendez: I am honored and humbled to receive the Lifetime PTA Membership award. This award is special to me because it comes from a group of amazing individuals who share my commitment to serve and improve the OFE Community. Serving with you has been one of the highlights of my life. Thank you!

Thank you for all you have done for OFE!
5th Grade Graduation Information
  • Only two guests per student
  • Note guest arrival time on the flyer, due to space limitations, do not come before your allotted time or stay after your allotted time
  • Lunch provided will be hot dogs. If your student can not eat hot dogs, please pack a lunch for your student
  • Yearbook committee will have a photographer at the stage to take every student's photo. Please do not congregate to the front to try to get pictures. We will have you covered! We are still trying to maintain some social distancing as best we can.
  • We will have photographers at the photo booth (donated in part by PTA and by some parents from Warren's homeroom class), candid shots during the 5th-grade party. We will also include photos from the yearbook signing party the day before. Images will be available for download after the event. The download information will be sent via Living Tree and on the 5th-grade Facebook group page.
What We'll Miss About OFE
By Penny Peden, Bobcat Beat 5th Grade Reporter
Hi! My name is Penny and for my last article, I asked some other 5th grade kids what they were going to miss most about OFE. Here are their responses:

  • Austin Scogin: I will kinda miss Bobby the Bobcat. I will also miss Mr. Harting. He always took an interest in my gymnastics and was supportive of me. He always gave me extra tips on how to improve my strength in my gymnastics. 
  • Andon Bowman: I am going to miss the teachers.
  • Layla Hindi: I am going to miss the teachers because they are so nice and understanding.
  • Lina Mendez: I am going to miss all the loving teachers I had.
  • Soledad Salazar: I am going to miss the community and amazing teachers I had.
  • Theo Ferrier: I am going to definitely miss all the memories I’ve had meeting new friends and teachers. I will also miss some of my friends, as a few of them are going to separate middle schools. I remember meeting Mark in Kinder and we’ve had a nice time together since. I also am going to miss all of my wonderful teachers I’ve had over the years. Overall, I have had fond memories and good times at OFE that I will cherish throughout my life.
  • Zoe Power: I'm going to miss recess because middle school doesn't have recess.
Class of 2033 Kinder Play Date
By Clara Peden and Jennifer Collins, New Parent Liaisons
Having wanted to put the 2020-2021 school year behind us so badly, we sure made it an unforgettable one! The class of 2033 recently gathered for a traditional Kinder Play Date, just a little later in the year than usual.

With the overwhelming efforts of our PTA, administrators, teachers, and community, our kindergarteners transitioned into elementary seamlessly. Now they are closing this memorable year with connections we thought we’d never make, and celebrating the adventures that await first grade!
OFE PTA Member Spotlight: The Roberts Family
By Jenna Taylor, Bobcat Beat Editor

This month, the Bobcat Beat would like to introduce the OFE community to the Roberts family: Steph, Jason, and their children, kindergartener, Emily, and incoming kindergartener, Katie. We talked with Steph about their volunteer experiences at OFE and what they love best about our community.

Bobcat Beat (BB): For those at OFE who don't yet know you, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Steph Roberts: Hi! We are the Roberts Family and we have lived in Oak Forest for 12 years. I am a middle school science teacher and Jason is a home builder. Our daughter Emily is in Kinder at OFE and Katie just finished Pre-K at St. Rose. We are so excited that both of our girls will be at the same school next year! When not in school, the girls are involved in dance and enjoy playing outside with all the kids on our block. We also love getting out of town and heading to Lake LBJ as often as we can.

BB: As busy adults, we all often wish there were more hours in a day. Time is precious! So tell us what made you decide to give your time and energy to volunteer at OFE.
Steph Roberts: We have been so excited about our kids attending OFE. For years, we have heard friends rave about the teachers, staff, and PTA within this community. The hard work of the parents before us is inspiring and encourages me to get involved. Helping out also brings us joy and it feels good to contribute when we can.

BB: In what capacity have you volunteered at OFE?
Steph Roberts: Since we are new to OFE and there were so many restrictions in place this year, we did not get to volunteer as much as we hoped. Jason has volunteered to help replace the fence around the school garden and the PTA shed. Next year, I will serve on the Legislative committee and will help facilitate Coffee with the Principal.

BB: What has been your most favorite volunteer experience at OFE?
Steph Roberts: This year I had the opportunity to help put together the class auction basket. It gave me the chance to meet a couple of other moms from the school.

BB: What do you think your student/students think/s about your volunteer activities at OFE?
Steph Roberts: Emily and Katie think it's SO AWESOME that their mom and dad will be helping at their school!

BB: What would you tell other OFE adults to encourage them to volunteer?
Steph Roberts: As a teacher, I get to see firsthand how valuable parent volunteers are to the success of a school. It builds the community relationships and betters the environment for the children. I encourage every parent to volunteer at least once. Share with your kids how you are helping out. When you see how excited and proud your child is of you, it will brighten your day and you just might decide to sign up again :)
Bobcat Beat 5th Grade Reporters' Favorite OFE Memories
By Jenna Taylor, Bobcat Beat Editor, newsletter@oakforestpta.com

Our intrepid Bobcat Beat 5th-grade reporters are heading off to middle school and recently shared their favorite memories from their time at OFE. 

  • Jackson Autry: One big memory I had was meeting life long friends and great teachers. Another good memory I had, was the day school opened back from virtual, the principal and school volunteers greeted all the kids positively. 
  • Austin Caldwell: There are so many great memories of about OFE. I loved Mrs. Meaux's butterfly garden in 1st grade. I also liked Mr. Roy helping me learn art.
  • Theo Ferrier: I remember in Kindergarten when I was first making friends, I met Mark Wallace, Andon Bowman, James Kennedy, and a few other classmates. We used to go up onto the fire engine structure and we would play “Firemen” which was really just us running around on the play structure, Andon giving orders, and having an emergency exit (the steep stairway and the long slide). It was fun and games! It was pretty fun for 6 years at OFE and I will be very sad to switch schools for middle school. Thanks for reading my memories!
  • Layla Hindi: My favorite memory of my time at OFE is the 4th Grade field trip to Minute Maid Park. My father got picked to chaperone, and it was his birthday!
  • Olivia Lowe: My favorite memory at OFE is when our class went on a field trip to Minute Maid Park in 4th grade. We visited and saw many things you wouldn’t just see on the TV - where the announcers sit, how expensive it is to maintain the grass, why players use wooden bats, and how baseballs are made. I like this memory because I learned a lot about my friends and baseball.
  • Anjali Mavalwalla: Hi, my name is Anjali Mavalwalla and I love OFE. I came here in second grade from Charlotte, NC, and was super nervous, but I met lots of friends. One of my favorite memories at Oak Forest is when I sang Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" at the Holiday Concert in 2019. I was so nervous, but singing the song made me so happy. I will always remember this and my friends at OFE!
  • Penny Peden: My favorite memory of OFE is when we did the color run in fourth grade. Everybody was laughing and having fun with all sorts of colors in their hair, arms, legs, and face. What I will miss most of all are the great teachers I have had and known over the years. Thank you!

The entire reporting team has done such an amazing job this year! Thank you all for your thoughtful contributions and interesting articles!
OFE Outdoor Learning Update
By Emily Blakeley and Tamara Copeland, Outdoor Learning Chairs
Thank you! The Outdoor Learning Committee greatly appreciates all the parents and families who helped us by spending time watering this past year. The garden would not have been such a success without your help.

We also want to extend a huge thank you to Julie and Mike Morin for donating three red oak trees to the arboretum. Emerson, an OFE first grader in Ms. Olvera’s class, and her younger brother Landon assisted their dad with the excavation and transportation of the trees to OFE’s campus. The trees are growing strong! The Morin’s generous donation will be enjoyed by OFE students for many years.

The school gardens are looking great with all sorts of fantastic things growing. The cucumber garden is loaded with delicious, BIG cucumbers that the students are picking. Ms. Williams is washing and slicing, and our Bobcats are enjoying getting to taste them.

The new butterfly garden outside of Ms. Williams’ classroom is growing and thriving and makes the walk down the hallway so beautiful!

Have a great summer! We hope to see you in the garden next school year!
Bobcats Celebrate State Reflections Awards
By Anjali Ollingschlaeger and Aliya Sedighzadeh, Reflections Chairs

Congratulations to state-level Reflections participants!
Each of the following Bobcats participated in the state-level ceremony in Round Rock, Texas on May 15th. Way to go! 

  • Milena Lucia Solano-Arango - Living in a Paradise, Award of Merit
  • Mahaneeya Karthik - Ree Me's Kind Heart, Participation Award
  • Joey Lezama - I Matter Because I Am Like You, Award of Merit
  • Arani Olligschlaeger - I Want People to be Happy, Honorable Mention 
  • Emma Osterman - A Glimpse into My Life, Honorable Mention 
  • Austin Scogin - Bird in Flight, Award of Merit
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