Birthday presents are great, but FSE Teacher, Mrs. Kathy Silva, decided to use her birthday as a learning opportunity for her students, instead. To celebrate her birthday, she asked her students, and their parents, to give back to the community by donating new fleece blankets or new stuffed toys to the Children’s Alliance of South Texas (CAST). CAST is a local child advocacy center that provides comprehensive counseling services to child victims of abuse and their non-offending caregivers.
Part of being future-ready at FISD is instilling in our students the importance of community and contributing to the greater good. Mrs. Silva’s example showed her students that giving can be even more rewarding than receiving. She said, “My students were so excited whenever someone would bring in a donation! They would cheer and want me to take a picture of them with their donations!”
FISD is proud to have teachers like Mrs. Silva showing our students that caring about others is more than just talking about kindness, it’s also about taking action to make other’s lives better. Mrs. Silva says that her favorite thing about her job is, “making a small difference in the life of a child.” We want Mrs. Silva to know that it’s not a small difference she is making, it’s significant and it’s lasting.
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Many times students know what they want to do, but they might not always know how they are going to get there. Dr. Bays recognized FHS Counselor, Kimberly Ackley, for creating opportunities that help students forge a clear path to their future.
Mrs. Ackley has been vital in helping students understand their high school four-year plans and their futures beyond graduation. Students at FHS have so many choices: Alamo Area Academies, Dual Credit, Advanced Placement, and Mrs. Ackley does an outstanding job explaining these options to both students and parents at parent nights and campus events. She also works hard to ensure every 10th grader at FHS has the opportunity to take the Texas Success Initiative assessment so they all have the option of taking dual credit courses or attending the Alamo Area Academies. Another important contribution Mrs. Ackley makes is her assistance in planning the FHS SAT Boot Camp that helps college bound students prepare for that important entrance exam.
Mrs. Ackley has worked at FISD for 19 years in many different capacities, but we believe her final destination is where her passion lies. She credits the entire FHS counseling staff, “It's our entire department; it’s not a one man team.” Mr. Schroller, FHS Principal, sums-up her contributions perfectly, “Mrs. Ackley is always willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that our students are prepared for a prosperous life.”
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At FISD, teachers work continually to refine their own practices and create better learning outcomes for students. This year, Algebra I teachers at FHS have integrated several new practices to improve their own teaching and better serve their students. Working with their administrators and campus instructional coach, Algebra I teachers periodically video tape themselves teaching a lesson. Watching the video together, the teachers, administrator, and instructional coach identify areas to improve the lesson, student engagement, and overall instruction. They have also changed their assessment model and now formally assess student understanding every three weeks rather than waiting until the end of a unit of study. Assessing and intervening early to clarify student misconceptions allows teachers to better meet student learning needs and address small challenges before they become larger deficits in learning. These examples exemplify the commitment of FHS staff to continually work to improve their craft and better serve the students of FISD. #FISDGreatStaff
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“The only way to improve is to ask people what we can do better.” This is one of Dr. Bays’ favorite things to say. She takes feedback seriously and not just the feedback from adults. It’s important to her that we listen to our students’ voices, and that is why she created the FHS Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SSAC). They are a diverse group of students with varied interests and backgrounds that she and Mr. Schroller, FHS Principal, meet with regularly during the school year.
At the meetings, students are encouraged to share ideas, concerns and questions they have about their school, and, as a result, things are happening! In the coming weeks, you will notice a few additions at FHS; one hundred college banners will hang in the hallways, 10 blade flags will be placed around the campus that announce, “At FHS, WE MAKE IT HAPPEN”, and 24 Tiger/Jaguar banners will adorn light poles in the parking lots.
And, if you’re on campus, you might hear morning announcements with information concerning career fields or personal “shout-outs” to students about accomplishments or good character, you might see a member of the U.S. Military talking to our students, or you might notice a television in the hall outside of the counseling office with information about college visits and scholarship opportunities being displayed. Yep, those are all results of the SSAC’s input.
Because students are given the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with school leaders, they are able to change the culture of their campus, the place where they learn, grow and spend the majority of their time between August and June. Mr. Schroller sums up why he values their input so much, “I want FHS to be a place that when a current student, new student, or visitor comes to FHS, it captures their eyes, ears, and heart from the onset, and they can feel the positive culture. I don’t just want to talk about the culture the students want, I want to make it real, and I want to put their voice in action.”
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What does it take to get a 2,826% increase in the usage of a resource? Ask the FISD Library team, because that’s the percentage of increase they’ve seen in the check-outs of eBooks from all of last year to the first HALF of this year! It hasn’t been easy, but, if you ask them, it’s been worth it.
It started by looking at data that was a little bit difficult to swallow. In a digital age, the fact that in all of FISD, last year, only 557 eBooks were checked-out isn’t what you want to see. So, Mrs. Sharon Varnon, District Librarian, decided to make the use of eBooks a focus. Now, it’s easy to say it’s a focus, but what they did was make a strategic and sustainable plan to make eBooks a go-to resource for students and staff.
“It’s important that we adapt to the changing times. Kids in college have to be able to use digital resources and we need to prepare our students,” said Mrs. Varnon. But, introducing students to eBooks wasn’t all that had to be done. “We also had to make sure the library staff was comfortable with them and could help teachers and students who were also learning to use them for the first time,” said Varnon. That’s when she and the Library Facilitators really dug-in; they attended training and made a plan for each campus. A plan that has resulted in 16,300 check-outs in a semester, compared to 557 check-outs all of last year. According to Mrs. Varnon, both teachers and students are now asking for digital resources instead of avoiding them.
Students being able to use resources like eBooks increases their digital literacy, which is the ability to use technology to navigate, evaluate and create information. In this day and age, digital literacy is incredibly important to success in almost any field. We are excited that Mrs. Varnon, Ms. Ramsey, Mrs. Gerrard, Ms. Aguilera and Mrs. Nickles are making focused, intentional efforts to help our students prosper in an increasingly technological world.
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At FISD, we call ourselves a family. Families take care of one another and Dr. Bays recognized South Elementary teacher, Lisa Orth, for creating an opportunity for an entire campus to help one of their family members. Lisa organized a t-shirt fundraiser for Christy Canales; the shirts read, “Friends don’t let friends fight cancer alone.”
Christy Canales has been a teacher at FSE for 13 years. She’s currently battling cancer but she continues to be a wonderful teacher, grandmother and friend. Lisa said about Christy, “She thinks of her students above everything. She’s a sweet, kind, helping person. We just wanted to help her during a difficult time, to try to ease her discomfort.”
When Christy talks about her FSE family, she is overwhelmed by their support that comes in many forms: encouragement, meals, hugs, lending a helping hand on the harder days. “They are as good as gold,” she said.
Shelley Keck, FSE Principal, is proud of Lisa, her staff and their support for each other. “Floresville South Elementary is a Project Wisdom school, this year. Each day, we share a story or quote that helps remind us of the important things in life. Recently, we read a quote from Saint Francis of Assisi, ‘Blessed is the man who helps his neighbor in trouble, just as he would wish to be helped in like circumstances.’ Lisa Orth did just that. Christy is a fighter and we have her back! Keep fighting Christy!”
Christy is definitely not fighting alone. We call ourselves a family because we are.
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Jana Clarke, FHS Culinary Arts Teacher, is making a difference for students, but not just the culinary students. This November, the FHS Culinary Department hosted Friends-giving. Students from the FHS Life Skills class were invited to join the culinary students in the kitchen to make their favorite holiday recipes. After the students worked together to create a delicious meal, all of them sat down together to enjoy their efforts.
“It is so important that ALL students have the same opportunities whenever possible and are made to feel included no matter what disabilities they may have,” was her response when asked why this type of activity was important to her. And, according to Jana, food is a perfect way to bring these students together. “Food is the one thing that breaks down barriers and connects us as human beings. People for thousands of years have been breaking bread and building relationships. I thought, what better way to break down the barriers between students with varying abilities than to prepare a meal and, then, gather around the table to celebrate a job well done!” One of the things Jana may not have expected was how excited her Culinary students were to share their passion with students who may not often spend time in the kitchen. “I am not sure which students enjoyed it more, the Life Skills or the Culinary,” she said.
There was a lot more going on in that kitchen and dining room than cooking and eating. There was inclusion, collaboration, empathy, caring, mentoring and a whole bunch of happiness. FISD wants to thank Mrs. Clarke for providing an avenue to teach important life skills to ALL her students.
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