Boosterthon Update, Fall Festival Returns and more in this issue!
Ask the Principal
featuring OFE Principal, Andrew Casler
Oak Forest students are an inquisitive bunch and Mr. Casler loves to hear what’s on their minds. Do you or your student have a question for our Principal? Ask it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
“What does Mr. Casler do all day?”
I spend a lot of my day walking around our school just listening to people. This allows me the opportunity to find ways to support our community. This includes talking with students, teachers, staff members, parents, and visitors. A typical day could include helping Mrs. Hunt find room for new library books in our library, finding a place for a new student club to meet after school, trying to figure out why an outside garden is flooded, helping a teacher with their read aloud, and meeting the parents to plan a community event. With a school as large as ours, every day presents new sets of challenges and opportunities to support our community.
"What are you scared of?"
Believe it or not, I am incredibly shy and have always had a fear of public attention. Since I was a child, public speaking would bring about all kinds of irrational thoughts, “ What if I say something silly?”, “What if I mispronounce a name or stumble over a word?”, “What if I make a mistake?”. These irrational thoughts have the potential to be paralyzing and are very self-centered. I have learned over time, that instead of focusing on my fear of making a mistake, to focus on others. What information can I share that people need? Who needs to be celebrated? Who needs to be encouraged? When I take the focus off myself and onto others, it allows me to overcome this fear. Another fear is dancing in public, I am a terrible dancer. Incidentally, my wife, who is a very good dancer, is also very afraid of Mr. Casler dancing in public.
"Why are the EMPOWER values so important to our school?"
One of my favorite questions to ask adults in a school community is “What do we want our students to be like as adults?” This is a question I have unapologetically stolen from one of my educational heroes, Ron Ritchhart. What I have found is that typical responses will be a desire for students/children to be empathetic, curious, happy, thoughtful, caring, inquisitive, etc. All these responses articulate dispositions or character traits. Our EMPOWER values are a way for our community to focus on fostering these types of dispositions for our students. These dispositions then serve as a lens through which our students make meaning and purpose for their learning.
Boosterthon's Triumphant Return Breaks School Record!
Fall Fundraising Team: Jessica Kirklin, Kara D'Agostino, and Jill Grimes
This past Friday, students tackled obstacles big and small, racing around the Frank Black Middle School football field to raise funds for their beloved Oak Forest Elementary.
And boy did they raise money! Initial reports indicate that our community raised more than $210,000 for the PTA Budget - an OFE record!
This was our first big school-wide in-person event since 2019 and having families and staff together again, cheering on our students was magical.
Thank you to everyone who participated, whether that was by donating, sharing emails, cheering or waving at our volunteers in the car line - every bit of your support made a difference. Special thanks to all the teachers who got our students so excited, especially those who got a pie in the face.
Once again, Mr. Casler was a great sport and volunteered to be slimed and Ms. Folse and Michelle Tabor were happy to make that happen. Oak Forest's newest music teacher, Mr. Thomas, also volunteered to be slimed and his wife, OFE's own kindergarten teacher Mrs. Janish, and Ms. Folse were more than happy to climb on the school roof and make it happen. Every single administrative staff member, teacher, and volunteer went out of their way to make this the best fall fundraiser yet! Your dedication to this event and to our school is felt every day, and we are so thankful and blessed.
In addition to being one of the best days on campus, the fall fundraiser pays for things at OFE like:
Classroom & School Enhancements
Maintenance of our Garden Arboretum, and more.
Thank you again to all who participated and Go Bobcats!
A Little Peek into…… the Core Enrichment Classes
By Alice Llanos, Bobcat Beat co-chair
From physical fun to green thumbs, our Bobcats are being exposed to a variety of hands-on learning experiences daily through our core enrichment classes. This year brings exciting changes and new additions to these classes formally known as “ancillary.”
The students participate in a rotating schedule with PE two times a week for maximum fun and exhausted kids. Joining our long-time PE teacher Coach Locke this year is Coach Harting, who might be new to PE but not to OFE.
Bobcats will be singing in their sleep as they also attend two music classes, one with Mr. Glickfield and the other with an OFE newcomer, Mr. Thomas. Mr. Thomas is launching a new music program at OFE which teaches guitar to the third, fourth, and fifth graders.
Mrs. Toal, who previously taught second grade, has become our new Science teacher. Partnering again this year with Ready to Grow Gardens, students will take an active role in tending the OFE gardens, planting new seeds, and harvesting what they grow.
Another stop on the enrichment rotation is Art with Mr. Roy. Whether they’re painting breakfast foods or their depiction of the coronavirus, they will be inspired by Mr. Roy’s new pet turtle. Tunechi, the turtle isn’t the only pet that the students get to see this year, Mr. Poppy the bunny is still hopping around the library. Grades Kindergarten through second get to visit him and Mrs. Hunt as part of their enrichment schedule, but, no fear, the higher grades have designated times to visit the library as well.
With this diverse selection of enrichment classes, our Bobcats will be excited for this special hour in their day to learn, play and grow.
Get ready for the biggest and best playdate of the year - Fall Festival! After a year hiatus, OFE PTA is thrilled to bring back the Annual Fall Festival on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 11 am to 3 pm, right here at school.
The event is a celebration for our Bobcats and the entire community is invited to attend. Carnival games, rides, inflatables, confetti eggs, face painting, crafts, and more are staples of this event and will all be back this year. Extra face painters have even been secured! This year will also bring the addition of a petting zoo - yes, a real petting zoo! - and a Food Truck Circle that will provide a variety of food options.
Most importantly, the event will also kick off the annual Fall Book Fair! Bobcats and their families will be able to peruse the classic moving bookshelves and find new favorites to bring home, or purchase for their class or school library.
More details will be coming soon, including ways that you can volunteer!
OFE PTA Member Spotlight: The Wright Family
By Jenna Taylor, Bobcat Beat Editor
This month, the Bobcat Beat would like to introduce the OFE community to the Wright family: Holly, Phil, and their children, fifth-grader, Cadence, third-grader, Austin, and first-grader, Beckett. We talked with Holly 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?
Holly Wright: We are the Wrights! 3/5 of us were born in Texas (all the smaller people in our house), Phil was born and raised in Ohio, and Holly was born in Arizona, but got to Texas as fast as she could! Holly went to The University of Texas and Phil went to Miami of Ohio. We care deeply about education and do our best to bring justice and love to this world in any way we can. We love sports (and are big Buckeye fans), the beach, traveling, and nature! We have two dogs (Minnie and Woody) and lots of habitats for fish, lizards, spiders, and other wildlife.
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.
Holly Wright: This is the last year that all of our children will go to the same school for the rest of our lives! We are so thankful for Oak Forest Elementary and we believe that if we can help support the teachers and staff at school, it will continue to be an amazing place for kids to be known, nurtured, and cared for!
BB: In what capacity have you volunteered at OFE?
Holly Wright: We worked on the Garden Committee when we first got to OFE and helped to build a relationship with Ms. Baker and Ready to Grow Gardens! We are now working on a new committee called "Outreach." The goal of this committee is to provide support to families, schools, and communities that don't have the resources we do. We are working to bring awareness to that very reality and to work towards equity in education for all students! What better way to make an impact in the world than to share what we have in abundance to make schools better for other children and families? Our dream is for EVERY SINGLE CHILD in Houston to have a place like OFE to learn and grow!
BB: What has been your most favorite volunteer experience at OFE?
Holly Wright: We have enjoyed cleaning out the garden beds, helping with class parties, assembling lunches for Kids Meals, --even taking down spirit week decorations is fun. We love being at school and we are really looking forward to more opportunities to serve!
BB: What do you think your student/students think/s about your volunteer activities at OFE?
Holly Wright: Our kids also love to help and serve, so they have been a big part of all we do! I hope that our kids appreciate the value of giving and see us as a model of generosity with our time, energy, and resources. They might act like they aren't excited to have their mom acting goofy when she's volunteering at school, but deep down, they love it!!
BB: What would you tell other OFE adults to encourage them to volunteer?
Holly Wright: OFE can be a bit intimidating, especially if you are new, or a working parent that has scheduling restrictions. I would suggest making sure that you are checking Living Tree often and picking one time each semester to sign up on a class or school sign up genius to get engaged! You can also reach out to me and I can help to brainstorm ways to connect and provide support, even if it's not in person during the school day. (You can reach Holly at email@example.com)
Welcome Student Reporters!
Fifth-graders Sasha Baughn, Alejandra Padilla, and Ryan Sakowitz-Smoley are our student Bobcat Beat reporters this year. Ryan and Sasha have been at OFE since kindergarten and Alejandra has been a proud bobcat since third grade.
All three reporters love to read and consider the OFE library their happy place. Respect, Wisdom, and Motivation are a few of their favorite EMPOWER values and we know they will put them all to good use as they write articles this year. If you have a story idea for the student reporters, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who's Who at OFE: Front Office Edition
By Jenna Taylor, Bobcat Beat Editor
The last few years have brought so much change that the Bobcat Beat team thought it was time to go back to basics and spotlight the amazing teachers, staff, and administration at OFE. First up is our front office team!
What do you do at Oak Forest? Vanguard Magnet Coordinator, 504 Coordinator, Core Enrichment Admin
What is your history or connection to OFE? I have lived in the Oak Forest area my entire life, born and raised, both of my kids attended Oak Forest and I’ve worked here 10+ years.
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? I am a total foodie and love trying new restaurants.
What do you do at Oak Forest? Principal
What is your history or connection to OFE? I have been part of the OFE community since 2017. I also have a 2nd grade Bobcat.
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? I love to BBQ and reading Science Fiction.
What do you do at Oak Forest? Student Information Representative/Registrar
What is your history or connection to OFE? In 2013 I was working for the afterschool program at Oak Forest. That same year I was hired by Oak Forest elementary school to assist the PE coach and became Coach Fike. This year I took the role as the SIR/Registrar.
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? There is not a job too big or too small when it comes to supporting our students, teachers, and staff. I feel very honored to be in position to have a positive impact in lives of our OFE students and families every day.
What do you do at Oak Forest? I am the assistant principal officially but my job is really to be the assistant coach to our students and staff. This entails motivating our Bobcat family to give 100% in all that they strive to accomplish. It also means I have the pleasure of watching our students grow in their academics and maturity from age six to ten.
What is your history or connection to OFE? My friend Shannon Cones worked here and encouraged me to do the same. She always talked about what amazing students and families attended Oak Forest and she was right. I have been here since 2001. I started out as a fifth grade teacher, then moved to second grade, and then became the assistant principal. I have made life-long friends with both staff and parents because of working at this campus.
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? I love to travel all across the globe and interact with locals and their culture wherever I am. This gives me a greater appreciation for my life and the lives of others.
(Believe it or not, "Nurse" is not my first name, it's Bryant)
What do you do at Oak Forest? Ice pack slinger extraordinaire
What is your history or connection to OFE? This is my 5th year as the school nurse of Oak Forest.
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? Even with COVID, all days are good days if the kids are alive and relatively healthy. Also, I think I have too many gummy bears now.
What do you do at Oak Forest? My official title is Teacher Specialist. In addition to serving as an administrator for kindergarten through second grade classes, I have the privilege of supporting teachers’ journeys as they create amazing lessons and experiences for our students.
What is your history or connection to OFE? My connection with OFE began back in the early nineties when my husband began working here as a music teacher and later, assistant principal. The staff and families have been my extended family since then. Returning to education as a classroom teacher in 2005, brought me to OFE and the wonderful world of all things kindergarten-a post I held until this year.
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? Would you like to know more about me? Feel free to stop by and ask about playing the bagpipe, traveling to 300 schools in one year, going to Disney World when it first opened, driving an Amish buggy, dancing with Mr. Rogers, or what Geese, the Paules, and OFE have in common.
What do you do at Oak Forest? Business Manager—HR, payroll, budget, and keeping my teachers happy
What is your history or connection to OFE? I attended Oak Forest, as did all four of my daughters. My mom lives three doors down and is the lady who makes the “Welcome Back Bobcats” mural every year. This year, the Gallegos and Rasmussen families also helped make the banner.
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? Food is my love language and I hate to exercise. Not a good combination!
Theresa Lynn Velasquez
What do you do at Oak Forest? I work at the front desk and help out with other administrative duties.
What is your history or connection to OFE? Both of my kids, Gia (7th) and George (5th) have attended OFE and before working at the school, I was a PTA member, treasurer for two years and served on the auction committee for four years. OFE has been very good to my family and we’ve loved being part of such a great community!
What is something you would like the OFE community to know about you? I was born in Charlotte, NC and I come from a pretty large family. I have five siblings, three nieces with another on the way, one nephew, 24 first cousins, and a ton of other cousins who I love so very much! My family is my everything.
Tending Your OFE Gardens
By Tamara Copeland, Emily Blakeley, and Stella Stevens, Outdoor Learning Chairs
It’s fall, but in many ways fall in Texas is like a spring. It cools down, the light is less intense, less scorching, and the earth gets ready for all the yummy stuff we can throw in a slow cooker, like carrots and potatoes and onions. So here we are, the kids helping out our partners at Ready to Grow get the, well, beds ready to grow! Expect some delicious results in a few months.
All paid for with our PTA fundraising, Ready to Grow is a science-based garden curriculum that comes to the school and provides the kids with a real-life farm-to-table experience. So when you find a small sweet potato in the bottom of their backpack…cook it! Food from the heart, nourished by little hands.
Family and Community Partners Generously Support OFE Bobcats
By Heather Williams, Kelly Law, and Laura Hanet, Family & Community Partnership chairs
The Family & Community Partner team was hard at work over the summer creating a new program to support our Bobcats!
New this year is our Family Partnerships, and we are so grateful to the 11 families that supported this initiative in this first year. A very big thank you to: The Briones Family, Todd and Tamara Copeland, The Glaser Family, The Gomez Family, The Grimes Family, The Maida Family, Michael and Chloe Niggli, The Olaloko Family, The Powers Family, The Sutherland Family, and The Williams Family.
Every now and then, on very special days at Oak Forest, Bobby the Bobcat, our school mascot, can be seen walking through the halls or greeting Bobcats as they enter the school building.
Bobby is great at giving high fives, hugs, and waving at our students, but is quite shy and can rarely be heard speaking. This means our students have lots of questions for Bobby and have asked the newsletter team to find out more about our favorite school mascot.
William from Mz. Blanco’s class wants to know what is Bobby’s favorite food.
I love vegetables and smoothies - particularly ingredients from the OFE gardens and preparing them in the cafeteria! I have to stay healthy to keep my energy up and move as fast as a bobcat!
Brock from Mrs. Llamo’s class is curious about what Bobby’s favorite subject is.
My favorite subject is Reading. I love to listen to or read a good story - in class, after school in the library with Mr. Poppy and in the Art studio with Tunechi, and at home with my parents!
Evan from Mrs. Hanson’s class would like to know if Bobby has any babies or kids.
I don't have any furry bobcat babies, but I take my job very seriously and I watch over all the OFE Bobcats! You never know when I spot someone modeling our EMPOWER values - I may even tell Mr. Casler!
Outside the art room, there is a cozy courtyard that is the perfect place to step outside, enjoy the fresh air and enjoy a calming moment. “I love visiting this peaceful space in our busy community,” said Angela Pennington, OFE Business Manager. “In addition to the beauty of the trees and artwork in the courtyard, you can hear the sounds of happy bobcats in the art room, often accompanied by Mr. Roy on his guitar.”
The next time you are on campus, maybe during Fall Festival, take a walk through the courtyard, check out the decorative tiles and painted rocks created by OFE Bobcats through the years and enjoy this beautiful space on our campus.
Reflections Deadline is this Friday, Oct. 15. Please go to the PTA website for additional information or contact email@example.com with any questions. We can't wait to see what you create!
Our OFE school directory rolled out this week! If you want to be listed and haven’t submitted your info, please complete the directory google form with the information that you want to be included, one form per student. If you used directory spot last year, your email is your user name and it will let you reset your password. If you have any questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2021-22 Yearbooks are on sale for an early bird special of $25! Follow the "Got Yearbook?" link on the Oak Forest PTA website to purchase from Balfour. Be sure to include your child's Name/Grade/Teacher on the forms. All purchases made now count towards the upcoming yearbook competition, but please wait to order a yearbook if you are a fifth-grade parent planning to purchase a full-page ad - those include a free yearbook. Questions? Email email@example.com.
Oct. 15 Coffee with the Principal 7:30 a.m. – Topic: Assessments – Library
Oct. 15 Reflections Entry Deadline
Oct. 19-21 Fall Individual Photo Day – School Uniform
Oct. 21 4th Grade Playdate
Oct. 28 5th Grade Playdate
Oct. 29 Book Character Parade 8 am
Nov. 4 PTA Association Meeting 6:30 pm, Multipurpose Room