Winter 2018
Right You Are
Go 24 hours without complaining. Not even once...then watch how your life starts to change.
--Zachery Desjarlais


When one teaches, two learn. 
--Robert Heinlein


Subtract one thing from your calendar. Fill it with something you love. Or nothing.
--Dan Tricarico @TheZenTeacher 


Teach in such a way that every child in your class looks at you and says, "I want to do that when I grow up!" 
--Ron Clark


I've followed up every procedural question I've asked this year with, "Tell me why that answer makes sense." Best thing I've done in 13 years.
--Megan Schmidt


Don't decide you can't before you decide you can.


Reading a new book every 11.06 days equals 365 days of professional development.


Can our school be so welcoming, so inviting, and so comfortable that every person who walks through our doors believes they are about to have an amazing experience?
--Douglas Fisher


Kindness is a silent smile, a friendly word, a nod of encouragement. Kindness is the single most powerful thing we can teach children.
--RAKtivist


The only difference between "I'm techie" and "I'm not techie" is the willingness to click on stuff and see what happens.
--Alice Keeler


You can't just teach one way. If kids aren't learning, you're the only one paid to try something different.

--John Hattie

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Upcoming Events
February 2
Early Release Day

February 13
Board of Education Noon Work Session, Education Center
 
February 19
Board of Education Meeting, Education Center, 6 p.m.

February 23
Digital Learning Day

March 12-16
Spring Break

March 20
Board of Education Noon Work Session
 
March 22
Principal for a Day
 
March 26
Board of Education Meeting, Education Center, 6 p.m.

March 30
Good Friday; Student Holiday; Staff Opt-Out day

April 1
Easter

Read 2 Learn Volunteers Needed!
Every year, WFISD's homegrown remedial reading program, Read 2 Learn, needs hundreds of volunteers to read with second-graders. The goal is to bring each child's reading skill up to grade level by the time he reaches the all-important third-grade. Please consider joining us. This 30-minute weekly commitment to help a child can make a world of difference! Sign up here.
Superintendent's Spotlight
By Mike Kuhrt
Mike Kuhrt
Hello Parents and WFISD staff:
 
There's a poster that reads, "I'm not crazy because I teach. I'm crazy because I like it."  Some people call it crazy because they just can't understand the dedication and selflessness that teachers bring to their profession.  
 
That same thing might be said for the most dedicated volunteers in our school district: Our school board members. They've willingly taken on a role that is time-consuming in all sorts of ways - and doesn't pay a dime. But they do it for the crazy-good purpose of serving students.
 
Think about it. The seven members who serve WFISD as school board trustees encumber their schedules with meetings and activities to support all our students and schools - not just their own children and not just the schools they attended. They make decisions to help WFISD become the absolute best educational environment possible for students.
 
Their duties include some real doozies. They must establish a vision for our schools that syncs with the vision communicated by the community and District leaders. They adopt a balanced budget. They issue financial reports. They set the school calendar. They negotiate contracts. They approve curriculum materials and policies. They make the difficult decisions to close or build schools - and figure out how to pay for them.
 
They cope with the controversy that some decisions create. They listen to community members wherever they go - even standing in line at the grocery store. They give up evenings and weekends for meetings and trainings.
 
Right now, there are more than 7,000 school board members in Texas voluntarily serving more than 5.3 million students.
 
Do you know our seven board members? Let me take the honor of introducing you to each one.
Pressing the Pedal to the Metal in Special Education
Burgess Elementary teacher Teri Brownfield taps specific strategies to help her students succeed
Teri Brownfield 
 
   
Burgess Elementary teacher Teri Brownfield has always wanted to teach special education students - and only special education students. No other group in general education brings the challenge or the satisfaction to her that her special education children do. Knowing their challenges and how brief a time she has to help them, she has built a philosophy and routine with children that has been so effective, she was picked as a West Teaching Excellence Award winner in her second year at Burgess and 10
th year of teaching.
 
Burgess staff members have praised her as one who helped turn around the school's special education culture. They say she has helped students see success who were formerly trooping regularly down to the principal's office. So what is she doing that works so well? And how does she do it? Communication Specialist Ann Work Goodrich visited her Burgess classroom and asked what works best in her classroom, how she builds self-esteem, and how she meets the challenges of special ed children at the low-income school.
 
Q: You were hired at the beginning of the 2016 school year, just before school started. You missed New Teacher Training and had to get up and running fast.
A: Yes, we had just moved here at the end of July. My Texas license had just been approved, and I said, "OK, I'll just apply." You never know when you move to a new area if they're looking for teachers.
 
Rider High School Student Is Youngest in America to Earn A+ Certification
Impressive? Yes. But Jallen Lane Arocho says he is not done setting records
Jallen Lane Arocho

When Rider High School 15-year-old Jallen Lane Arocho passed the test in September to earn the CompTIA A+ certification, he became the youngest person in America to land the industry-standard certification for entry-level computer technicians. According to a Google search done by Rider teacher Brian Bass, his accomplishment ranked him youngest in America and third-youngest in the world to earn the certification.
 
"It's amazing that he was able to get this certification at such a young age with no formal training," said Mr. Bass.
 
Also impressive: Jallen accomplished the feat all on his own. He just decided to do it.
 
But how? And why?
    
News Headlines
The latest and greatest achievements in WFISD
 
A Stellar FIRST Report
The FIRST ratings system tracks WFISD compliance with a variety of financial data, and this year WFISD earned an A. That's nothing new - WFISD typically earns an A --  but this year WFISD earned a perfect score of 100 for model compliance in 15 indicators of data based on the 2015-2016 school year. The FIRST system has created financial accountability for school districts since 2001.
 
Starting the UPSTART Program
This year, the Wichita Falls ISD will be the first school district in Texas to launch a new pre-reading program with 4-year-olds called UPSTART.  This home-based pre-reading program will give 4-year-olds the necessary skills to begin reading when they enter kindergarten. The program is open to 100 families of any income level who have a 4-year-old who is not currently served by a Head Start or pre-K program.  Participating families will receive a Chromebook and WIFI adapters if they do not have Internet service. They will commit to working 15 minutes daily with their child to build pre-reading skills using the Waterford Early Reading Program.
 
Bond Pay-off Completed
The Wichita Falls taxpayers pledged $59.5 million toward WFISD's 2015 bond construction and, in November, board members fulfilled their pledge of $4 million. Specifically, $3,634,000 was transferred from the General Operating Fund to the Bond Fund. The payment was the finishing touch to a job well done, said board member Bob Payton. The bond project included construction of the Career Education Center, middle school additions and renovations, and upgrades in Memorial Stadium parking and restrooms, along with technology infrastructure and safety enhancements throughout the District. "All that work that has gone on the past few years - it's great to come back and put a bow on it," said Mr. Payton.
 
Bond Projects Conclude
Nearly all projects paid for by the bond have concluded. A few finishing touches are still underway at the $35.7 million Career Education Center, which opened its doors in August, and on $500,000 in projects for safety and security enhancements across the District.

Mrs. Richie's Neighborhood
Fain Elementary's 2nd grade project captures history of Edgemere neighborhood -- and it gets personal for Fain Principal 
Fain Elementary Principal Clarisa Richie stands at the intersection of Augusta and Norriss streets in the Edgemere neighborhood with a class of curious Fain 2nd graders
When the Fain Elementary second-graders were looking for a special project to conduct this year, they settled on one close to home: their Fain neighborhood. They learned the names of its streets and which ones travel in and around Edgemere Park, the sprawling green space not far from the school.
 
But students were in for a surprise when they learned the history of those streets. Who would have guessed that the streets were named for family members of their very own principal, Clarisa Richie?   One day, the 2 nd graders took a walk to see the streets for themselves. Walking in lines behind their teachers, they traveled down Augusta Street and met their principal, Clarisa Richie, at the corner of Augusta and the cross-street, Norriss.
 
"Why did we stop here?" asked Mrs. Richie. Then she explained that the two streets had been named after her grandmother, Augusta Norriss, who lived to be 102 but never actually lived on either street. "My grandfather built these homes," she explained. "His brother built part of these homes. That's what is so special."
 
Teaching Through a Health Crisis
The school year had barely begun when life sent a curve ball to West Foundation Elementary teacher Mary Perez-Martin. She faced a sudden diagnosis of ocular melanoma and, now, wears a prosthetic eye
Mary Perez-Martin
The 2017-2018 school year started out like any other for Mary Perez-Martin - until she did some yard work over the Labor Day weekend. The West Foundation Elementary second-grade teacher suddenly seemed - underline the word seemed -- to have an allergic attack from all the pollen in the air. But when nothing cleared up what she thought was an eye infection and migraine, she went for help.  
 
She was diagnosed with ocular melanoma and, on Sept. 28, she underwent surgery to remove her right eye. By Nov. 2, she had a new prosthetic eye. All this while teaching second-grade and missing only about two weeks of class time.
 
How did she do it and how is she faring now? Communications Specialist Ann Work Goodrich visited her classroom to find out.
 
Q: Just looking at you, I would never guess you have only one good eye. Your prosthetic looks great and moves with your good eye.
A: When they did the surgery, they inserted a small marble into the tissue of the eye and reattached all the muscles. That's why I have motion. The tissue grows over the top of that marble. It creates a little mound, and they put a plastic conformer over the top of the mound. It prevents shrinking of the socket and retains adequate pockets for the prosthesis. The mound is what touches the back of the prosthetic because it's concave. As it moves, the prosthetic moves. The more the muscle heals, the more range of motion I'll have. It will get better and better.
 
Q: Weird question. Do you take it out every night or is it permanently inserted like a pacemaker?
A: I wear it 24/7. The only time I take it out is if I get debris in it or it feels irritated. It's marked so I know I have it in the correct direction.  The lids of the eye hold it in place. 
 
TAG - You're It 
New Talented and Gifted (TAG) Program Prioritizes Innovation, Creativity
 Allen Glenn and Jamie Jo Morgan
With the world changing so fast, it's easy to believe the prediction that 85 percent of the world's jobs that will employ today's students in 2030 haven't even been invented yet. With that in mind, WFISD changed up its gifted and talented program this year. Previously, two teachers traveled to elementary schools toting a basket of supplies. They taught all grade levels of GT students at each school together. This year, the entire Carrigan building is available to Talented and Gifted teachers Jamie Jo Morgan and Allen Glenn, who are furnishing and decorating the building on the fly for their 240 GT students. They're inventing a curriculum focused on innovation and creativity. Communications Specialist Ann Work Goodrich checked in with them for a mid-year report. Also, scroll to the end for some thoughts on the program from Ward Roberts, director of innovation and advanced academics.
 
Q: The Talented and Gifted Program looks very different this year.
 
Allen: We're trying to make these students into the creators and innovators of the future. We wanted our classroom to look nothing like a classroom and work nothing like a classroom.
 
Jamie: A new study by Dell Technologies says 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't been invented yet. Who do you think will invent those jobs? These kids. They won't do it learning the way we've always taught them.  They need some way to have limitless exploration and innovation opportunities and ways to explore their creativity.
 
Allen: There are two big words we focus on: Creativity and innovation. That's what we want these kids to do: Take nothing and turn it into something. Don't follow a recipe. You come up with the recipe.
 
Resilience Documentary: Teaching How to Combat Toxic Stress in Children 
Research now traces behavior problems straight to the brain

Director of Early Learning Dr. Travis Armstrong and Pre-K Instructional Coach Jane Ann Bruner

A documentary called Resilience has a message for educators: When a child suffers from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), the negative experiences are not only stressful but they can have a long-term impact on his life. They can even affect his brain. You always knew there were reasons certain children acted out in class, didn't you? Now the research proves it. Specifically, having at least four chronic or traumatic experiences during his short lifetime sets a child up for decades of struggle. However, one caring adult can mitigate the damage. One caring adult - maybe it is you - can nurture a child and introduce him to healthy responses.
 
This documentary's findings originated in the medical community among health care providers. Now, United Way representatives are introducing it to educators; WFISD has shown the documentary to all its Early Childhood staff, including Head Start Teachers, Pre-K Teachers, and paraprofessionals assisting in those classrooms. Director of Early Learning Dr. Travis Armstrong and Pre-K Instructional Coach Jane Ann Bruner - both strong proponents of the documentary -- talked to Ann Work Goodrich, communications specialist, about how the documentary is influencing WFISD's next steps.
 
Q: How did the Resilience documentary impact you?
Travis: Any good educator knows relationships are important. They impact students' performance and wellbeing. However, I had never heard the science behind it, presented as in-depth as it was in the documentary. The eye-opener for me was the impact that adverse childhood experiences have on the brain. When children experience ACEs, it creates damage and changes the neural pathways in the brain, affecting their ability to respond to stressful situations. It can cause them to act out with fear and anxiety. It's hard to undo the effects of such trauma, but the research shows that having one caring adult can make a big impact. That's good to hear, reinforced by research.
 
Much More Than Farming and Animals 
Ag teacher Amber West stresses that agriculture education stretches far beyond the stereotypes
Amber West shows off the greenhouse at the Career Education Center
Right up front, Ag teacher Amber West would like to dispel the misconceptions about her agriculture coursework. Number one: Ag is not just about farming. And it's not just about animals.
 
She insists: You don't have to come from a farm or ranch to pursue an ag specialty. You don't have to buy an animal. Your parents don't have to have an ag background. (Hers didn't.) They won't have to fork over a lot of money for you to show animals. If anything, you're going to make money in this class.  Maybe you'll be like one student whose involvement led to $22,000 in scholarships that he took with him to Texas Tech University.
 
So, if agriculture is not just about farming anymore, what IS it about?
 
Well, what is it NOT about? Every year, Ms. West challenges her students to come up with one product - just one - that cannot be traced back to agricultural beginnings. So far, no one can. And that's why she fell in love with everything ag when she was in high school - despite the early fears of her mother - and now why teaching it is her greatest joy. She earned a teacher's certification, then a master's degree in agriculture consumer resources from Tarleton State University in Stephenville. She has taught ag at WFISD for five years. (Plus, her mom came full circle and now preaches the benefits of ag programs, too.)
 
Q: What would you like students and their parents to know about WFISD's ag program, including its floral design program?
A: I wish more kids would open their minds to it. We need more kids in our program. A lot of the kids still think of ag as farming.
 
Q: This program still faces a stigma, doesn't it?
A: Yes, and we need to try to dispel it. We're preparing students for everything in agriculture. In Wichita Falls, very few kids come from an ag family. The Principles of Agriculture class is general. We go over everything from jobs with animals to plants to welding to woodwork. They are surprised. They say, "I really didn't realize this was ag-related."
 
On the first day of class, I ask them, "Give me one product that you think is not produced by an agriculturalist, and I'll tell you how it is."