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Volume XXV May, 2010

Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District


CFISD Board of Trustees

Dr. John Ogletree, Jr. President Bob R. Covey Vice President Lida Woodul Secretary Bill Morris Don Ryan Ethel Wolfe Larry Youngblood

David Anthony, Ed.D. Superintendent


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Table of Contents

The Spotlight Teacher Award

Amy Calhoun Nancy Devlin Nicole Domingues Carolyn Jacobs Melissa Reid Kimberly M. Wilson


7 7 8 8 9 9

Instructional Strategist

Small Groups Are the Key I Taught It...but Did the Students Learn? When to Let Them Go Keys to Success What a Thrill! Exceptional Differences through Differentiation

Amy Aguilar The Best Job in the World Sharon Anderson The Breakthrough Sally Arce Double the Fun! Grisselle Betancourt Not a Minute to Waste! Elizabeth Bradley Everything Is on Purpose Mark Breerwood Inspiration by the Hundreds Delaine Crow I Wanted to Be an Architect Mary Duhon Loving Learning Gloria Elsner Every Child Should Feel Special Danna Spears Ferris Yay, Brittany! Courtney Foerster That One Class Kim Fox Put a Little Groove in It Patricia Garza Learning from Failure Lisa Harrison Unwinding Halo Kyndra Hartzler Setting the Tune Mary Catherine Kadlecek Classroom Jewels Patricia "Tricia" LaMarca Paying Forward: A Personal Approach Don Murchison Responsibility in Education Beth Muyskens Who Inspired Whom? Gina Reuter Family-like Atmosphere Becky Sallade Hedgehogs, and Turtles, and Fish--Oh, my! Leslie Schmidt Sacrifice Daniele Sebastian No Risk, No Reward Michelle Smith The Butterfly Effect Susan Niezgodski Smith Unforgettable Learning Experiences Jennifer Soto 10 Years from Now... Karen Webb Together, We Can Achieve Anything Brandi Wickel Teaching with My Heart Plas Williams, Jr. Choose Success Angie Yurch The Heart of a Coach

Creator of Student-centered Environment

10 10 11 11 12 12 13 13 14 14 15 15 16 16 17 17 18 18 19 19 20 20 21 21 22 22 23 23 24 24

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Positive Role Model

Jenneka Baham-Taylor Children Do as You Do Meagan Barnhart Lifelong Memories Keshia Moore Chatman More Than Words in a Frame Kathy Fortune Encouragement Vicki Fretwell Who Likes Algebra? Wendy Hankins Connecting with Kids Sheri Hoffman Yup! Yup! Doreen Jarvis Can I Make a Difference? Christine A. LeBlanc The Secret to My Success Laura Lyon Rock Solid Tara Magallan More Than Just a Teacher Lisa Manuel Great Expectations Lori Marshall Fate Was on My Side Ruby McLellan My Best Naheed Mujtaba Pursue Your Passion Paige Buchorn Phares The Gift That Keeps on Giving Sandra A. Pichardo-Longenecker Effort Creates Ability Christina Porter Seeing the Individual Karen Purdy Runaway Kindergartner Lynette Rampersad In Loco Parentis (In the Place of a Parent) Karen Anglin Richardson A Legacy of Great Teachers Evelyn Shephard A Little Spark Can Become a Wildfire Gail M.P. Stephens You're Thinking in English! Taylor Webb Glitches

25 25 26 26 27 27 28 28 29 29 30 30 31 31 32 32 33 33 34 34 35 35 36 36

Deborah Crawford Jennifer Dove Leanna Harper Abigail Hawes Sarah Johnson Jennifer LeBlanc Jennifer Leonard Jeanetta Mieth Stephanie Morrison Jessica Nance Liz Silva Traci Underwood Lisa Voelkel Wil Watkins Tracy Westbye Winx Whitney Kay Wingate


Lifelong Learner

It's Been a Privilege It's a Group Effort Growing as a Teacher Parting Gifts Changes and Challenges Bring Opportunities Inspirations from Newton's Law The Depths of Inspiration It's Never Too Late Learning Doesn't End The Balancing Act Music for Life Back to School Learning One Day at a Time 37 Years Old and Still in the 8th Grade Objective: Learn Guidance and Growth Blessed Connection

37 37 38 38 39 39 40 40 41 41 42 42 43 43 44 44 45

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Team Player

Susan Bergholtz Teamwork = Success Donna Copeland Are You IN? Dawn McGuffin Nixon I Can Do That Cynthia Norris Understand the Similarities, Celebrate the Differences

46 46 47 47

Index by Campus


Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District


The Spotlight Teacher Award

What does it mean to be an exemplary teacher? The district's Portrait of a CFISD Teacher describes these characteristics. Instructional Strategist Creator of Student-centered Environment Positive Role Model Lifelong Learner Team Player The annual Spotlight program in Cypress-Fairbanks--now in its 25th year--is the district's way of recognizing our classroom teachers who demonstrate these qualities day-in and day-out to make a difference in the lives of our students. Though each campus has a full cast and crew of star-quality performers, Spotlight allows each principal to select one teacher to be in the spotlight, center stage, so that we may honor that individual's performance. This publication is set up as an informal sharing of real-life stories. Sometimes, when our lives are bombarded by volumes of paper, information, reports, and other impersonal data, a personal story can have a powerful impact in reminding us that we are not dealing with statistics, but with human beings--children--and that each one is special. The narratives that follow were submitted by the 2010 Spotlight teachers, who were asked to choose one of the five dimensions of the Portrait and relate a personal "success story" from their experiences as a teacher or because of a teacher. The stories relate how the teachers developed these qualities in themselves or how these qualities observed in someone else provided personal or professional inspiration. Some honorees recount childhood memories from their own days as students, while some describe pivotal moments in their careers involving especially memorable students, colleagues, or events. We hope you will be entertained and inspired by these insights from our teachers honored in this year's Spotlight.

Although stories in this booklet may depict actual children, fictitious names have been used to protect privacy.


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Instructional Strategist

A CFISD teacher is an instructional strategist who thoughtfully designs learning and assessment activities which present the depth and breadth of content appropriate for students' age and aptitude and which promote students' actively thinking about the subject--the learners' engagement coming from personal connections, curiosity, challenge, and real-world applications.

Small Groups Are the Key

Amy Calhoun Tipps Elementary School Grade 5 Math and Language Arts "Congratulations, you passed!" One by one, I called each of my fifthgrade students forward to celebrate the positive results of their TAKS tests. Most of the students did not believe that they would ever hear those words after having failed TAKS in both 3rd and 4th grades. I will never forget the looks of pride, joy, and surprise on their faces. This amazing feat was only accomplished by daily, small-group instruction and frequent data analysis. That was five years ago, and that experience completely changed my teaching style. Out of 20 students, only three had previously passed TAKS. As I was faced with the challenges of helping my students, I quickly realized the only way to get results was to work closely with them daily. At first when I called them to work with me in a small group, I was met with groans and resistance. I had to show the students that I was there to help them, and I worked hard to gain their trust. Day by day, we forged ahead. I tried to teach them that they needed to put forth their best effort, learn from their mistakes, and, above all, ask questions. What a reward it was to see all 20 students succeed! On any given teaching day, you will find me sitting at my desk, completely surrounded by students. Small-group instruction is too beneficial to be ignored!

I Taught It...but Did the Students Learn?

Nancy Devlin Andre' Elementary School Grades 2-5 Reading Enrichment Dyslexia Specialist Early in my teaching career, my principal Marilyn Fredell emphasized to her staff that the most important thing was not that you covered or taught the material, but that the students learned. This simple idea has always stuck with me. At the end of a class or the end of the day, I still reflect, "What do my students still need to learn, and how can I do it differently or better tomorrow?" This goal of always striving to help my students succeed makes every day at school challenging and exciting.

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I never wake up in the morning disappointed that I'm going to school...even after 20 years. Now when I listen to a child read aloud, I am checking: Does he recognize "bossy e"? Did she say "hopping" or "hoping"? Did he notice the prefix in "unusually"? Then I rummage through games for prefix bingo, or a word sort for open and closed syllables, or pull out the "e-drop" game. I continually strive to find stories to inspire and interest my students. My rewards


are students who come into class with enthusiasm and students who leave my class

as successful readers.

When to Let Them Go

Nicole Domingues Hamilton Middle School Grade 8 Science Team Leader Each morning as I drive to school, I think about what questions I will ask my students or what ways I will make each lesson relevant to them. One year I tried a new approach-- stop teaching them the way I was comfortable learning, and allow them to teach the way they liked to learn. To accomplish this goal I chose eight of my lowest-achieving students to lead fifth graders during a complicated lab. Not only were the students shocked that I had chosen them, but also they were filled with questions and eager to learn all they could about the concept when they showed up for the training sessions. The students begged me to tell them how to teach the lesson, but I simply replied by saying, "You already know how to teach. You've been learners all your lives." Dismayed, they started collaborating amongst themselves and discussing what would be the best format to introduce the concept, execute the lesson plan, and assess their groups. On the actual night of the event nobody would have ever guessed that these were my at-risk students. They had confidence, knowledge, and creativity. The climax of the night, however, was when one of my students came to me and asked, "How do you know when to help them and when to just let them go?" Even though I was not sure how to respond to this question, I reveled in the amazement that came when I chose to let my own students "go."

Keys to Success

Carolyn Jacobs Gleason Elementary School Grade 4 Structured English Immersion Language Arts Have you experienced that fantastic feeling of realizing what you want to do with your life? It is the best feeling in the world. Within my first week of teaching, I felt this extreme fire start in my chest, and it has been burning ever since. My students really perform when they are given strategies to use to meet their goals. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the READ 180 program. This program strongly supports the English Language Learner (ELL) while providing the teacher with excellent techniques to reach the students. I like to start with a whole-group lesson to really introduce the day's concept to the class. Technology is usually incorporated into my daily "show." I find that creating a


PowerPoint presentation helps me to get prepared, and it helps the students not only to hear me, but also to see the information. When teaching ELLs, I feel that it is important to tell them the information, show it to them, and then let them experience it in a small-group situation. Small groups are great for really digging into the concepts. My students really push themselves in small groups because they feel comfortable and safe--conditions that are also very important keys to success in the classroom. Of course, there is also a time and a place for independent practice. I make sure to review reading and writing strategies daily with my students. As long as they have these tools, they can achieve success.

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What a Thrill!

Melissa Reid Willbern Elementary School Grade 3 Language Arts, Reading, and Social Studies In my second year of teaching, I wanted to spice up my lessons, so in my classroom I started using transitions (songs, chants, cheers, and music) along with movement. I wanted to give my students something that encouraged them--something that made them want to learn. After buying a ukulele and a mandolin, I created songs and freshened up my transitions. Now, every morning, my students sing their song of the day while I play my ukulele, chant silly poems such as "Polar Bear in My Frigidaire," or do the "Boom Chicka Boom" song while swaying back and forth. The students love it, and I can tell that they are excited to learn. Once, when we were learning about verbs and verb tenses, I wrote and sang a song to go with the karaoke version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." One reluctant student didn't like to write, much less participate in discussions. But when he heard this song, he did participate and raise his hand when I asked questions. He had even asked if he could finish his writing at recess time. I was in awe! I continue to use transitions, chants, and songs in my classroom. In fact, if I don't play the song of the day, the students always ask, "Are you going to play today's song?" They are excited about what they are going to learn! Engaging transitions can create a fun and exciting atmosphere for learning.

Exceptional Differences through Differentiation

Kimberly M. Wilson Thornton Middle School Grade 6 Math Team Leader "Can we do more? Please?" What? One more? Did I hear them correctly? It was unbelievable! My students wanted more problems to solve. I stopped and looked around the room. It was a learning community; students were helping each other, asking questions, talking about math, and it was amazing! They got upset when I told them that the desks were going back into rows and they would have tons of worksheets. They aggressively disagreed. "No! That's boring! I like small groups! You help me understand better!" This response was awesome to me! These remarkable results happened because I differentiated instruction by flexibly grouping students based on readiness. Students would rotate through three stations around my room: new information, independent practice, and computers.

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Computers were a favorite because the students played interactive games on the Internet or watched entertaining short video clips related to current material. Teach with small groups in middle school? With less than an hour per class, grouping did not seem practical at first; however, having small groups allowed me to work with students at their pace. With some groups, I was able to cover more material, and with others I could remediate. A big plus was that the students did not feel embarrassed to ask questions. I saw improvements in both behavior and performance. It was impressive! Differentiation will always be a part of my teaching. I have reached my students in ways I never had before. I did things differently, and it made all the difference!


Creator of Student-centered Environment

A CFISD teacher is a creator of a student-centered environment who provides a caring, supportive classroom in which students are workers and doers, comfortable in taking risks to further their learning.

The Best Job in the World

Amy Aguilar M. Robinson Elementary School Grade 1 Structured English Immersion Math and Science Undeniably, my passion is teaching! When I first began teaching, I had the privilege of working with two of the most passionate educators I know, Viki Personett and Robin Grimes. I learned very quickly that each student's needs and knowledge differed greatly, and that a one-size-fits-all instructional method would not work. Viki and Robin spent endless hours mentoring me and guiding me on ways to differentiate my classroom instruction to meet the needs of every student. Small-group instruction became the key to my students' academic success. I believe that each student is on the road to success; however, every student's road map for learning differs greatly from his or her peers. Through small-group instruction, I am able to teach each child as an individual, vary my rate of instruction, build relationships, provide opportunities to take risks, and help each child develop problem-solving skills. As I work closely with the students, I am able to see where each student is succeeding and where we are having difficulties. I say "we" because I look at each difficulty a student encounters, and I ask myself, "What can I do to help this student succeed?" Through these meaningful experiences, I have built an environment of confidence and motivation in learning. Together these qualities lead to every student's believing in his or her capabilities and potential. I thank God each day for blessing me with the best job in the world because I get to do what I love most...teach!

The Breakthrough

Sharon Anderson Black Elementary School Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) My first teaching assignment was in an adaptive behavior classroom, a setting for children with emotional/behavioral difficulties. When I first entered the room, paper covered the windows and doors. I immediately removed the paper and added a few bright details to the walls. Each day, I would write a quote on the board--to inspire not only my students, but also myself. In this small class of five boys, any attempt to help them achieve was met with


resistance. My task was clear: I needed to build strong trusting relationships, motivate them to learn, and raise their self-esteem for them to become successful at reading, writing, or arithmetic. Trust developed in small increments. They quickly learned that they could depend on a set routine and that their actions would bring about predictable rewards or consequences, depending on the choices they made. Each day began with breathing

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exercises followed by a discussion group. This time was very valuable. As the children became more comfortable, they would discuss issues occurring both inside and outside the classroom, enabling me to gain valuable insight into their daily lives.

Once their confidence grew within the classroom, I began the work of helping them become an important part of the school. I will never forget the looks of accomplishment on their faces when they became the creators of the school's first student newspaper!

Double the Fun!

Sally Arce Francone Elementary School Grade 1 One-way Dual Language Language Arts and Social Studies I consider the job of teaching my firstgrade students in two languages to be double the fun. Alma Flor Ada, the bilingual children's author says that those who speak two languages are worth double. I try to impress upon my students that sense of worth as we work daily to develop their English skills. Knowing two languages makes them special, and it will definitely make them more marketable when they enter the work force. Being a second-language learner myself, I feel that I easily connect with my students. I understand very well the struggles they go through with using verb tenses, learning new vocabulary, and just trying to put it all together so that it makes sense for them. Singing, chanting, rhymes, and movement are some of my favorite teaching methods. If you make it fun, they will learn what you teach them. Dr. George Gonzalez, a consultant in our district many years ago, showed me some great strategies for my English language learners, using repetition and daily vocabulary instruction. I modified his weekly lesson plans to fit my first-grade classroom and began to see the difference it made in English reading for my students. What an inspiration he was for me! Since then, we have become even more successful teaching English to our students. Besides receiving at least half their instruction in English, they also write in English--and a few even qualify to exit the bilingual program altogether. It really is double the fun!

Not a Minute to Waste!

Grisselle Betancourt Matzke Elementary School Grade 1 Bilingual Language Arts and Social Studies I love being a teacher! Nothing brings me more satisfaction than seeing my bilingual students learning, growing, and becoming the very best that they can be. It's not an easy job, though. At the beginning of each school year, I ask myself, "How am I going to help them get all the vocabulary, phonics, and skills they need to be successful in first grade?" Well, in my class we don't have the luxury of wasting a moment. My students work twice as hard because they are learning a second language.

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Every day, our routine moves quickly, and every minute is utilized to its maximum. The atmosphere is fun, fast-paced, loving, and student-centered. Before implementing something new, I ask myself, "Would my own children like this lesson in their classrooms?" If the answer is "yes," then the activity is good enough for my students as well. My students inspire me to be a better person and a better teacher, especially when they pour out their hearts to keep on trying or


when they exhibit a hunger for knowledge. My students make my day when they bring me their drawings, hugs, and smiles even though they are having a bad day. Finally, I'm very fortunate to have great

support from my students' parents, who volunteer hours of their time to help my class run more smoothly. I love children, and I love learning. Teaching is the perfect career for me!

Everything Is on Purpose

Elizabeth Bradley Aragon Middle School Grade 7 Math Team Leader "Everything is on purpose" is one of the five tenets of Quantum Learning, a researchfocused, brain-based instructional methodology advocated in CFISD. I live by this tenet daily. Why do I get up each day? My job is to expand my 7th graders' minds. What objective drives each lesson I teach? I must make sure that math is not hard for anyone. What is the reason behind the way I communicate with my students? I want them to know that I respect them, and I want to earn their respect in return. Why should I try to make my lessons engaging? I want students to enjoy coming to math class each day. Why do I strive to maintain a positive attitude in my classroom? This approach makes my job even more rewarding and fun. How do my students inspire me? They trust me to lead them and to show them new things. I try to build relationships with as many of them as possible so that I can earn this trust. Creating relationships with students provides me the opportunity to be a better teacher and gives me a purpose every day. My students have always been a contributing force of encouragement, not only for the teacher I was nine years ago, but also the teacher I still am today. I am thankful for the new things my students are constantly teaching me about being a good teacher.

Inspiration by the Hundreds

Mark Breerwood Cypress Springs High School Grades 10-12 Chemistry I and Advanced Placement Chemistry Team Leader "The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited." --Plutarch Inspiration comes daily in the faces of the students entering our classrooms, and the best, most defining moments of the day are in the doorway minutes before classes begin. The "good mornings" and "good afternoons" set the stage for what will soon


happen within the classroom. For some students, a simple "hello" is enough. For others, it's a time to stop and share, to listen, and to reaffirm that they are important. As exciting and wonderful as a course's content can be, it is the students who provide teachers' inspiration each day. As they enter, they trust that we are prepared for them and that they'll have our best effort, and we, in turn, expect theirs. As teachers, we reinforce students' beliefs that we are there for them,

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that we value each individual, and that we appreciate their contributions. Despite how hectic and and busy our days can be, those encounters are the most important and the most inspirational. When the bell rings and we step in front of our students, we are graced with a moment that

allows us to continue the thread of education spun in countless classrooms spanning thousands of years. We're handed the hopes and dreams Of others, a value beyond measure. As eager minds once again say, "What have you for us today?"

I Wanted to Be an Architect

Delaine Crow Carlton Pre-vocational Center Vocational and Independence Training for Adult Living (VITAL) Living in a Functional Environment (LIFE) Skills Secondary Transition Program "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something." --Gil Scott-Heron As a new teacher 12 years ago, I bought a banner to decorate my classroom. Although I liked the quotation on it, I did not fully understand its meaning--nor did I envision that it would become such an important part of my teaching philosophy. As a teenager preparing for college, I dreamed of becoming an architect, not an educator. But one summer, I had an incredible opportunity to be the arts and crafts director at a camp for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. This life-changing assignment led me to become a LIFE Skills teacher instead. My experiences at the camp, as well as those at other jobs, permitted me to see the intrinsic rewards that people with disabilities would enjoy by completing meaningful work and helping others. The foundation built through these experiences has shaped the way I design my classroom procedures and instruction. Our classroom learning team works with students who are transitioning into adulthood, and we get to be their personal "life coaches" during this journey. Teachable moments occur frequently when we are supervising students in a community business as they learn entry-level job skills or how to shop for groceries. The students are actively participating because of the high value of our real-world activities. The students learn about their personal strengths, weaknesses, and preferences using a hands-on approach. Everyone learns that his or her contribution is expected to make our classroom a supportive learning environment. Whether it is peer-mentoring or completing classroom job assignments, every student has a purpose. Occasionally, I wonder how my life would have been different as an architect, but then I realize I am one. I help build students' character, formulate plans, and design curriculum on a foundation of caring.

Loving Learning

Mary Duhon Hemmenway Elementary School Kindergarten Over my 23 years of teaching kindergarten, I have had the joy of helping a new group of children create their own "love

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of learning" home. (I know we've succeeded when they start to borrow my wall stapler!) My goal is to have each child feel the thrill of


learning. In his book The Essential 55, Ron Clark states what I try to do: "I put my students in situations where they felt totally alive and knew that they were truly living." Many years ago after reading The Tree House, my class wrote a letter to our principal, Jane Little, asking if we could build our own "tree house" (actually on the ground) in the woods next to Hamilton Elementary. Of course, she said "yes." With the help of many parents and children (both "a.m." and "p.m." students, as

they were known when kindergarten was a half-day program), we sawed, hammered, and painted donated lumber into a creative structure that stood for a couple of years. The children "owned" the structure, gained all of the writing and planning skills that went into it, and experienced the thrill of accomplishment. Each year, I start fresh with a new group of 5-year-old children and my hope is to help them feel "totally alive" in learning that will last a lifetime.

Every Child Should Feel Special

Gloria Elsner Hancock Elementary School Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) I'll never forget my kindergarten teacher. I don't really recall her face, but I'll never forget how she made me feel. Ms. Hall greeted me at the door, genuinely happy that I was there. She created an environment of safety, comfort, and possibilities. She planned activities that were fun, thoughtprovoking, and presented enthusiastically. She encouraged and believed in us all, and I looked forward to each day. This atmosphere is what I strive for in my class. I want every child to feel special and appreciated as he or she develops a love for learning. I'm filled with joy when children enter with huge smiles on their faces and excitement and anticipation in their eyes, when, just days before, they were crying and scared of their first day at school. I believe that all children need a teacher

to believe in them; to tell them that the impossible is possible; to encourage them to work hard; and to persevere until they believe in

themselves. What a joy and thrill to see a child surprise everyone--including me, at times-- and accomplish what many said was not possible. Being just a small part of this accomplishment is such a blessing. Teaching is such an honor, and it is a privilege to be entrusted each day with the most precious gift--a child--to care for, encourage, and love. I try to make every child feel special, just like Ms. Hall made me feel years ago.

Yay, Brittany!

Danna Spears Ferris Fiest Elementary School Grades 2-5 Special Education Resource I've known I wanted to be a teacher since I was five years old. I remember lining up my stuffed animals and reading to them. When it came time for me to prepare for college, my sister had her first child, Brittany. Brittany was born with spina bifida and


was unable to walk on her own. Even though she was faced with this disability, she was blessed with a wonderful spirit. Brittany's doctors fitted her legs with braces, and she worked very hard to walk. What great ambition she had! And there I sat, unable to

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decide on what I wanted to teach. One day, I was babysitting Brittany and heard a loud crash. I stopped to listen, thinking that I would soon hear her cry. What I heard instead was clapping and an excited voice saying, "Yay, Brittany!" I went to her room and saw that she had cleared off her toy box, pulled herself up, and sat on top of the lid. She was so proud of herself! Walking is an act that I do every day without giving it a second thought, and here

was this child, who was not sad that she couldn't walk, but determined to be successful. I knew at that moment that working with children with special needs was the career for me. Many students, teachers, and administrators have inspired me over the years, but I will never forget the moment and the person who inspired me the most. "Yay, Brittany"!

That One Class

Courtney Foerster Hopper Middle School Grade 8 Math Team Leader I am a very energetic teacher who starts class every day with a chant. My students have always loved the chant, but one class was reluctant. The first week, when I tried to do the chant, they just sat there with their arms crossed, staring at me. Anytime I tried anything that made them stand or move, they just glared at me. I didn't know how I could motivate them. But I never gave up. I continued to be my enthusiastic self. Slowly, the students started opening up to me and even participating. I showed them that I believed in each one of them and that I was not going to give up on any of them. When I was named the Spotlight teacher, I decided to address each of my classes to thank them for helping me become a better teacher. When I told my this particular class that I had been named the Spotlight teacher, they started applauding. I had to hold back tears. They did value me as their teacher! Some of the students thanked me for being their teacher, which meant even more to me than the award. As this class evolved over the course of the year, it showed me that one should never give up. I'm not sure who has learned more this year, them or me.

Put a Little Groove in It.

Kim Fox Sampson Elementary School Grade 5 Math and Science Math Liaison What is your automatic response when you hear a song with a catchy tune and a good beat? To groove, of course! That level of engagement is the goal every day in my classroom. From our "coming in" routine to finding the perfect song to match the lesson, music plays a very important role in my students' learning. I started incorporating music into my lessons only a few years ago, after watching

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my amazing fellow teacher, Tracy Barstow. She taught me the impact it can have on students' learning--and boy, was she right! Music has the ability to get kids grooving, not only physically, but also mentally. I am impressed daily with the connections students are able to make with the lyrics that they hear each day and the skills they are learning. A good song can serve many purposes:


an "attention-getter" before a lesson; a tool for remembering information; a quick break to relieve the "numb bum"

syndrome; or

a relaxing tune to stimulate thinking.

for kids to realize that learning can and should be fun. It is hard for me to remember what my classroom was like before music made an appearance. I cannot imagine it being nearly as enjoyable or meaningful.

Experiencing music is such a great way

Learning from Failure

Patricia Garza Lee Elementary School Grade 5 Math Failure is a terrible word; however, it is with failure that great things can happen. If one never experiences failure at something, then one does not truly understand what it means to be successful. Every three weeks, my students take a checkpoint (quiz) for a school-wide contest, and, each time, I cringe at the possibility of their scores not meeting expectations. After one particular contest when their performance was less than desirable, I was determined to help my students improve. On the day of the next checkpoint, I was ready to give my usual speech on using strategies, showing work, and taking enough time; instead, I decided to show them what it would take to achieve a successful passing rate. At the end of the explanation, I asked the rhetorical question "Do you think we can do this?" Not expecting a response, I began to walk across the room, when one student shouted, "I can!" I paused for a moment--in shock--then looked up at my class and asked, "Is there anyone else who knows they can?" Two more students raised their hands and said, "I can." Before I knew it, I had 16 students saying they could as well. I was amazed at how they motivated each other. Student success is the driving force in my passion to teach. Students who believe in themselves will always be on a path to success. Success is the opposite of failure.

Unwinding Halo

Lisa Harrison Langham Creek High School English II and Creative Writing English Department Chair "No, I'm going to finish reading it." These shocking words came from Wayne, a sophomore and self-declared "non-reader." He sat through class bored but polite, until the day he asked me, "Miss, do you still have that book you told us about?" He meant Unwind, a novel recommended to me by our school librarian, Sandy Barron. I had shared the story with the class, and its compelling plot inspired many students to go out and buy their own copies. I gave him my copy on a Tuesday, and by the next day, this


video-game enthusiast had read at least a hundred pages of the novel. "Mrs. Harrison," his friend laughed, "Wayne said he quit playing "Halo" yesterday to read that book!" "I wanted to find out what happens," Wayne said. "It's a good book." He told me that it was the first book he'd read. He is 16 years old. He read several more books on his own. I gave him another novel but noticed he wasn't making quick progress through it, and I asked

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him if he liked it. "It's okay, but it's not that good," he replied. I asked him if he'd like to go to the library to find one he liked better. That's when he said something that proved to me that he

would be a reader the rest of his life. "No, I'm going to finish reading it." Since then, Wayne has never come to class without a novel. Sometimes, he reads while I'm talking. I let him.

Setting the Tune

Kyndra Hartzler Postma Elementary School Grade 1 English as a Second Language All Subjects "Good morning students, good morning students, good morning students, I'm so glad you're here today!" "Good morning teacher, good morning teacher, good morning teacher, We're ready to learn today!" This song is what you will hear coming from my classroom each morning as my students and I gather together on the carpet for our class meeting. It is a great way to start the day! Singing creates a cheerful atmosphere in the classroom, and the words of the song remind students that they are here to learn and that I am excited to be their teacher. The song is also a signal that it is time to focus on what we need to do for the day. In my first year of teaching, I learned quickly that enthusiasm is contagious. When I am excited and make a "big deal" out of everything we are doing, the students get excited, too! Starting our mornings with a catchy tune is just the beginning of the excitement. Students are also excited about every part of our day because they are involved in the planning and know what to expect. By the end of the first week of school, they can already move the clip on our daily schedule to help keep me on track! In all we do, I help my students take ownership of their learning and set high expectations for each one. Together, we set goals and discuss ways to achieve them. My students know that I believe in them and that I will help them be successful. My goal is for students to enter my room excited for a day of learning and leave ready to do the same thing out in the world around them!

Classroom Jewels

Mary Catherine Kadlecek Wilson Elementary School Grade 5 READ 180 I received a letter last year from a student in my READ 180 class. She was new to the United States, having come from Jamaica. Dear Mrs. Kadlecek, I am writing this letter to tell you a lot of things. You are different from all the teachers I have ever had. You are nice. You make me feel at home, and you make me feel like

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your daughter. I love the way your class looks--it is so beautiful. I love Wilson Elementary. Love Always, V. I keep this letter in my jewelry box with my most precious items. Why? Making the students feel comfortable and safe in my class is one of the things I think about frequently.


When parents and children come into my classroom, I want them to know how much I love teaching. I want every child that I teach

to "feel at home" and to feel like he or she is my very own child.

Paying Forward: A Personal Approach

Patricia "Tricia" LaMarca Millsap Elementary School Grades 4-5 Structured English Immersion Math and Science In hindsight, my initial job interview with CFISD was the first time I recognized the characteristics that make me the teacher I am. Dr. Rocka asked me two key questions. First he asked, "What is your strength?" I replied, "My rapport with students." His second inquiry elicited another revealing answer. Although "What is your philosophy of education?" is a typical interview question, my response was atypical. "Do you want the `EDU 101' answer?" I joked, "or do you want to know what experience has taught me?" He smiled and asked for both. I spoke of the difference between the "textbook" classroom and the real students I taught. My approach has become catered to the latter. My choosing a student-centered approach is due to the influence of teachers who made me feel special:

concern for the peer drama I was experiencing. A third fought for my success by getting involved in my after-school activities. These teachers also had unique teaching approaches--a cool classroom, hip music, or hands-on lessons. I felt valued and motivated. In turn, I hope to meet students' needs personally and uniquely like they did; sometimes it takes thinking out of the box. Dr. Rocka's questions zeroed in on the teacher I am. I should have seen then that it was my destiny to teach 4th- and 5th-grade students in a structured English immersion program! If my answers during his interview were unusual, then one could certainly expect an approach that was different as well!

One showed respect and humor. Another gained my trust through her

Responsibility in Education

Don Murchison Adaptive Behavior Center Grades 6-7-8 Language Arts, Science, World Cultures Building Better Relationships (BBR) Consultant As an educator in an adaptive behavior setting, I strive to create a student-centered environment in which all feel safe and welcome. Each year has its own challenges, but I strive continually to identify the personal and ever-changing needs of my students. They bring with them many heavy burdens; therefore, we must break through these difficulties and continue to help them reach new educational and behavioral goals. I view the students in my classroom as if they were my own children, treating them as


if they were part of my own family. I share events in my life that are important to me, and they share events in their lives that are important to them. These exchanges create common ground so that the teacher/student relationship evolves into a more personal relationship in which both parties feel responsible to each other. I have many people to thank for my upbringing and who I am today, including my former educators and my mother. Raising a child to be a responsible citizen falls on the

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shoulders of all who encounter him or her, and therefore I value my job as an educator,

mentor, and role model with the highest regard and conviction.

Who Inspired Whom?

Beth Muyskens Bleyl Middle School Grade 6 Science "All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them." --Earvin "Magic" Johnson I have often wondered about my former students. Several years ago, I taught a young, troubled boy. I spent much of that school year worried about his well-being. You can imagine my delight at receiving an e-mail from this young man during his senior year of high school. Here is part of his message: "I used to keep cards and other papers in a shoe box, and for some odd reason every time I moved, I always kept the box. I found a getwell card from you, a GI Joe book that I think you got me during state testing, and my ostrich report! You helped me overcome so much. I was in a bad place then, and the years after that school year started to get better for me because I knew I could overcome everything that was brought against me. You inspired hope that I never thought that I could have or find. I don't know how exactly, but you did so much, and I didn't realize it until a couple months ago. I have you in part to thank; without your inspiration, I don't think I would be where I am today." What this child doesn't realize is that he also inspired hope in me to continue to teach. Of course, I, also, have a shoe box filled with special cards and papers, including his letters.

Family-like Atmosphere

Gina Reuter Duryea Elementary School Grades 3-5 Reading Enrichment Dyslexia Specialist When I was first asked to switch from being a fifth-grade language arts classroom teacher to a Reading Enrichment teacher and dyslexia specialist, I thought I would miss the family-like atmosphere of my own classroom. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Teaching Reading Enrichment gives me the freedom to work in small groups all day long. Whether my students experience difficulty with decoding multi-syllabic words, understanding the deeper meaning of a story, or deciphering a challenging piece of nonfiction, my being able to tailor instruction to their individual needs has been an amazing privilege.

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Every day I get to sit down with my small groups of students who struggle with the challenge of reading and watch their progress as we complete each session. We celebrate even the littlest accomplishments they achieve, providing the incentive for them and me to do more. Every time I see their faces light up with understanding, it reminds me of my very own children taking their first steps. Every little step leads to attainment of major improvements. I feel honored that the classroom teachers welcome me into their classrooms and their curriculum. Conferring with them about our at-risk learners and possible teaching


strategies has enhanced the students' learning experience and has enriched my delivery of instruction. I am thankful to my principal for giving me this opportunity. Now when I walk

down the hallway to my next Reading Enrichment group, I feel the family-like atmosphere all around me.

Hedgehogs, and Turtles, and Fish--Oh my!

Becky Sallade Adam Elementary School Grade 5 Science and Social Studies Science Liaison Destination Imagination Sponsor "You have what in your classroom?" I hear this question often because I teach science, and that means a lot of "stuff." I believe learning should be intriguing, challenging, interesting, and most of all fun. My classroom is full of things to look at and experience. I strive to create an environment where learning is regarded not as work, but as an exploration. I have cool science gadgets we can play with, like ocean balls, sound tubes, and magnets that can pick up paperclips through your hand. Then there are the things my students find and bring in. I can't turn down a cow rib or a dead bird that we can watch decompose! And what better way could there be to teach adaptations than to see and feel Hedgie the hedgehog's quills spike up when he feels threatened? Learning doesn't stop at the classroom door, so we started a juice-pouch recycling program to raise money. We also worked with an Eagle Scout to build a garden outside where we could discover soil properties, growing conditions, and the plant life cycle. My kids wanted to do Destination Imagination, so you guessed it--more stuff. It takes critical thinking and problem-solving skills just to navigate the room, and I love every minute of it! Yes, my room does look like a yard sale sometimes. But it is a place of wonder and amazement for truly the best things in my classroom...the inquisitive, smart, sweet, amusing minds of my students. Oooh, wait until they see the catapult!


Leslie Schmidt Hairgrove Elementary School Grade 5 Math and Science Someone once said to me, "Girl, you work too much! Don't you know that your job is over on the weekends?" My answer is simple: if you care about something, then you sacrifice--regardless of the season, time, or day of the week. I believe God's purpose for me was to become a teacher. My passion is to make a difference in every child's life while eliminating fear, anxiety, stress, or threat. Many of my students lack the opportunity to imagine life without risks; therefore, I provide an environment that enables them to explore


and to create lifelong memories. On any given day, when you enter my classroom, you can see children being swallowed by a whale shark, catapulting marshmallows at the teacher, and learning at a campsite. Most importantly, you will see children taking pride in themselves, their school, and one another. My teaching is not confined to the four walls of the school. I teach my kids to respect and acknowledge each other's uniqueness and individuality. It brightens my day when my students tell me, "It's okay. Remember,

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Ms. Schmidt, we have to be flexible," and "Ms. Schmidt, `failure will lead to success.'" When I see a swarm of children coming to the aid of a fellow student, I know the sacrifices I make are worth it!

Teaching is not just a job for me; it is my life. Everything that I do, I do it for kids. I am their protector, their mentor, their motivator--I am their teacher.

No Risk, No Reward

Daniele Sebastian Truitt Middle School Grades 6 and 8 Science Special Education Co-teach Can you imagine a group of eighth graders creating paper manes, drawing whiskers on their faces, and acting out predator/prey relationships--while another group creates and performs an American Idol-style rap audition about symbiotic relationships? Can you see sixth graders, up in front of the class reciting the layers of the earth, complete with kinesthetic movements for each layer, while the rest of the class mirrors it back to them? A few years ago, I would not have thought it possible, but then I realized that the more I am willing to step out of my comfort zone, the more the kids are engaged, and the more they are willing to take risks along with me. It is through trust that teachers can create classrooms full of creativity, imagination, joy, and--most importantly--learning. I no longer worry about looking ridiculous in front of my students. I can run around the room, jump on counters, and ask them to call out types of energy at the tops of their lungs without any hesitation because I know that where I lead, they will follow. So take risks, think big, and trust that the kids will come along for the ride.

The Butterfly Effect

Michelle Smith Cypress Ridge High School Grade 10 English II L, K, and H Team Leader One of my greatest focuses for my teaching is making things relevant to my students. My unit on the Holocaust is pivotal in this area. Students come out of it changed and wanting to make a greater change in the world. They emerge from it loving more, being more appreciative for what they have, and, mostly, more respectful of others and their differences. They understand what it's like to be oppressed and treated unfairly. These reasons are why the lesson has such a profound effect on them. One example was a male student. When I gave the butterfly assignment out, he had no interest in participating. I kept asking him to turn in his butterfly so that we could put it up, but his response was, "Ah, Mrs. Smith, I'm

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not doing that." He had been involved in gangs, saw friends shot, and even had one killed in front of him, all because of intolerance. Throughout the unit, I saw a change come over him. By the time we went to the Holocaust museum, he asked me if he could come, too. Then, as we finished reading the novel, he came to me. He gingerly held his butterfly, which was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. On the butterfly he had drawn angels' wings on one side, and on the other an outstretched hand holding a rosary. It was obvious that he had spent many hours creating this project, and it made me cry when I saw it.


Unforgettable Learning Experiences

Susan Niezgodski Smith Sheridan Elementary School Grade 5 Science Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Prevention Advocate I've never met my mentor, but I feel like we're "friends." He says good teachers make science fun, but a great teacher "turns ordinary activities into `Unforgettable Learning Experiences.'" Steve Spangler is a retired elementary science teacher, author, businessman, and trained magician. He inspires me to create student-centered, hands-on science lessons. Science is fun, but teaching new concepts can be difficult. Vocabulary words like "chemical reaction," "surface tension," "saturated solutions," and "mixture" can be confusing. I have to relate these words magically to a real-world situation students won't forget. So, we head outdoors with Mentos candy, a 2-liter bottle of soda, and safety goggles. Who could forget getting sprayed by an eruption of soda or winning a ribbon for the best geyser? Tough vocabulary is learned. It goes so well, some students come to school the next day discussing nucleation sites (feel free to Google that term). Why do I care if my labs provoke students to test their limits? Because I believe future innovations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics depend on it. I want my students inspired to ask questions and take risks. Each day, I want them to discover, explore, and create. My class should challenge them to change how they think. When students remember me, I don't want them to say I was ordinary. I choose to be great and to provide `Unforgettable Learning Experiences.' Along the way, if that means I have to be an amateur magician, I'm sure Steve will approve.

10 Years from Now...

Jennifer Soto Keith Elementary School Grade 4 Math "They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel." --Carol Buchner I think this quote represents how I have felt throughout my life--as a child, as a student, and now as a teacher. My career has included many schools with all types of demographics, and one characteristic remains true at every campus: Kids just what to learn in a comfortable and supportive environment. Without that setting, the curriculum I have taught means nothing. Throughout my years as a teacher, I have noticed the following progression.

As my students who struggle start to feel

more comfortable in my classroom, their test scores start to increase. As the students' test scores increase, their confidence also increases. As their confidence increases, students tend to take more risks. Students will not just meet your expectations but exceed them. My goal as an educator is not only to teach the curriculum that year, but also to invest in each student's future. I want my students to look back and remember the feeling they had during the year they spent in my classroom and then thrive on it year after year. If they do that, then they will excel in everything they do throughout their lives.

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Together, We Can Achieve Anything

Karen Webb A. Robison Elementary School Kindergarten When I began teaching I realized right away the importance of building positive relationships from the very beginning in order for my students to be successful. My classroom is often a student's first school experience, so I want to make it a great start. I try to build a class that provides community, teamwork, and caring for one another. I also try to teach my students that we are all struggling with something in one way or another so we must help each other succeed. We celebrate when someone does something for the first time. When a student is having trouble with a word during writing workshop, we spell it together. When someone has identified all of his or her sight words for the first time, you can often hear my students saying things like, "Way to go!" or "You did it--you are a sight-word king!" I believe that the students in my class recognize that we are all good at different things and, as a team, we can achieve anything! As the year goes on, the children are building each other up, and it makes my heart happy every time I hear them cheering their friends on. I feel that I am not only trying to build better relationships, but also I am trying to help my students to better themselves. It is a pleasure and a joy to help my students set a foundation that will lead them to a lifetime of successful learning!

Teaching with My Heart

Brandi Wickel McFee Elementary School Grade 4 Structured English Immersion Math and Science People-pleaser? Yep, I'm one of those. It's served me well at times because it has given me the motivation to push myself harder and to raise the bar higher. But as a people-pleaser, I tend to doubt my own instincts. I had a moment of clarity at the end of last school year when a co-worker said I should be "tougher" on the students during the next school year. Being the peoplepleaser that I am, I agreed that I needed to change and planned on doing just that. As I walked away, however, I immediately felt uneasy with that choice. That's not me! That's not who I am! I've gotten where I am today because of my "softer" way with students and because I let my heart lead the way. I have built strong relationships with my students and their families every single year. They know that I love them. They understand that when I look at them, I see beyond their little fourth-grade bodies in front of me and into their future that lies ahead. I hug them, I encourage and motivate them, and I fill their heads and hearts with hopes and dreams they never thought possible. Oh, I can be tough, and I'm definitely intense! But my students know that I am the safe place in their topsy-turvy world. Yep, I'm still a people-pleaser, but this time I will trust my instinct and keep teaching with my heart!

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Choose Success

Plas Williams, Jr. Campbell Middle School Grades 7-8 Teen Leadership, Advanced Academic Strategies (AAS), and Reading Workshop "You have the right to remain silent..." As a former police officer, I regretted saying these words as I frequently addressed juveniles who were making poor choices. During my time in law-enforcement, I gained a passion for helping youth develop a life of success. Over time, I realized that to have a greater impact, I had to change the road I was traveling. I eventually turned off the road of law enforcement and entered the education highway. I must admit that my time in education has become a fantastic journey with endless opportunities. In education I have learned that if you set the stage, the students will perform. My goal is to create a platform that will teach students how to embrace the vision for success, plan their future, and reach their true potential. I discovered that the ability to reach a goal starts with believing you can. Therefore, my classes begin each day with the students' reciting the following statement. "I am somebody who can conquer anything. I am a leader with mighty big dreams. I will lead many people with integrity, dignity, and cheer. I will bring honor to all those that brought me here. I will achieve my goals and become the very best because I've been taught by many, including the teachers at Campbell Middle School." Students succeed because they are motivated, inspired, and empowered to be their very best. Educators succeed because they make student success their priority.

The Heart of a Coach

Angie Yurch Labay Middle School Grade 8 READ 180 I love competition, and I always want to win. I find sports and games fun and exciting. If I lose, that's okay because I enjoyed the competition. But my opponent will know I will be better the next time I play. This mindset is the same one I have with my students. I constantly have a competition going on in my class--between groups, among my other classes, and sometimes even against other teachers' classes and other schools. Every effective coach I have ever had or watched always knew how to get the most out of his or her team. They would find what it took to motivate the entire team to reach the goal at hand. For my 8th graders, that goal is to pass the TAKS tests so that they can move on to high school with maximum


opportunities for including electives in their schedules. My goal is to have 100% of my students pass. For this to happen, I have to have the heart of a coach. I must first provide the students with the skills necessary to be successful. Next, I must learn what it takes for each student to give his very best for me. Some want me quietly to praise them, others need constant affirmation that they are doing the right thing, while others want me to announce before the entire school that they have done well. Still, some students need firm guidance while others open up to a gentle touch. But most importantly, they must all know that I believe they have what it takes to be successful!

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Positive Role Model

A CFISD teacher is a positive role model who displays the values and norms defined by good citizenship as well as the personal qualities frequently associated with effective, productive lives--trustworthy, responsible, persistent, optimistic, and respectful of self and others.

Children Do as You Do

Jenneka Baham-Taylor Post Elementary School Grades 3-5 READ 180 and Reading Enrichment I've always felt in my heart that I would someday serve as a teacher. My mom, a retired educator, functioned as the perfect role model, exhibiting love, compassion, and concern for students whom many would deem "unteachable." From her workplace, she carried the same educational values home to my brother and me; hence, I didn't understand why she wasn't overjoyed when I shared with her that I had declared education as my major. "Why?" she exclaimed, "There's no money in this field. Why not medicine?" Because she had instilled self-confidence in me and showed me the power of making good choices, I made the choice--because through my eyes, she was the perfect model teacher. Her interactions with everyone she touched positively influenced my outlook on life, ultimately making a positive impact on every student I encounter. My ability to connect with students on a personal level comes naturally. With every new class, I strive to seek out the "diamonds in the rough." Showing a genuine concern about children fosters trusting relationships, which opens opportunities for teaching and learning. While children are under my charge, I increase expectations as the days progress. Our students all mull over the same daily goal: "Do better than you did yesterday," whether academically or behaviorally. We celebrate all successes, from handling very minute tasks to overcoming grand obstacles. It is my desire that the qualities I acquired from my mother will transfer to the children I educate, nurturing future medical professionals, business leaders, politicians, public-service providers, journalists, agriculturists--and, yes, educators.

Lifelong Memories

Meagan Barnhart Yeager Elementary School Grade 1 All Subjects As a child, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher just like my mom. I remember playing school with my little sister and brother. The best Christmas present I ever received was an overhead projector. As a student, I closely observed my teachers. I learned valuable lessons throughout my years in CFISD from the following teachers...

Mrs. Elizabeth Slayton's compassion and

love filled our first-grade classroom. She captivated us with creative lessons, which included my favorite reader's theater, The Great Kapok Tree. Ms. Sherry Johnson was the young, beautiful algebra teacher everyone wanted. When I think back, it wasn't just that she was "cool"--she was an excellent teacher.

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Mrs. Lin Moore would begin each math or

PALS class with a quote of the day sharing her wisdom. Although she taught math very well, it is the life-lessons she taught that I remember most. My mom's passion for teaching was contagious. Her stories filled with laughter and tears influenced my desire even more. I remember the impact these teachers-- and many more--had in my life, and I try to

emulate them daily in my classroom. As a teacher, I feel blessed that parents have entrusted me with the education of their children. Daily I strive to make a difference in my students' lives. It is my hope that students will leave my classroom with lifelong memories of our time together. Teaching is truly a joy to me.

More Than Words in a Frame

Keshia Moore Chatman Metcalf Elementary School Grade 5 Reading and Language Arts Each day I walk into my classroom, thankful and excited for the opportunity to enhance the lives of my students. I am also immediately reminded of the awesome responsibility it is to motivate and challenge them to exceed their personal best. As I look back over my life, I realize that it has always been the words of my parents and teachers that have encouraged me always to do and be my very best. Now, as a parent and a teacher, I find myself imparting that same advice to my child and students daily. In one version or another, Dorothy Law Nolte's poem "Children Learn What They Live" (or, as I now personally refer to it, "The Teacher's Creed") has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. Growing up, I never knew the magnitude its words would someday have on my life. From my parents' home to Mrs. Richardson's 3rd-grade classroom, the poem was proudly displayed as a symbol of guidance. I would venture to say that my parents and Mrs. Richardson frequently referred to the poem's powerful message during life's most teachable moments. Realizing that parents are teachers, like it or not--on some occasions, one of the hats that teachers must wear is that of a parent. So, as a teacher who is guided by the profound words of this simplistic poem, I challenge myself every day with this question: If a child learns what he/she lives, what will I teach him/her today that will last a lifetime?


Kathy Fortune Cook Middle School Grade 7 Math Team Leader Sometimes people cross our paths and inspire us more than they ever know. Years ago, my second grade teacher, Mrs. V., always found ways to make her students feel special. I remember how Mrs. V. encouraged me to be in the school play even though I was shy. I was so worried I would forget my "lines," but she stood behind the curtain in


case I needed a little reminder. She boosted my confidence enough for me to participate in the third and fourth grade plays as well. Throughout the year, Mrs. V. gave encouraging notes and stickers so I would do my best. To this day, I've always wanted to be a teacher like Mrs. V. It seems like each year I have a student

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that college textbooks did not prepare me for. Last year, it was a student with a reputation for being extremely disruptive. Early in the year, he acted out, and I took him aside. He told me, "I know you're going to kick me out of class. I've been kicked out of class my whole life, and sometimes I go home to a packed suitcase on my porch."

I told him that I wanted him in class and that I believed he had the ability to do well. We had many chats that semester, which led to positive behavior changes and successes in math. Giving encouragement, like I had been given years ago by my teacher, can bring out potential that no one expects to see.

Who Likes Algebra?

Vicki Fretwell Cy-Fair High School Grade 9 Algebra I Team Leader I grew up in Dimmitt, Texas, where most adults were farmers or teachers. Since my mom and dad were math teachers, I did not want to be a math teacher--nor a farmer--so I set off to Oklahoma State University and majored in marketing. After working for three months in the business world, I knew I was in the wrong place. Now, 20 years later, I am happily teaching high school algebra, and I know this is where I belong! I remember being lost and confused in Algebra II because the teacher would give a brief explanation and then assign the homework. At night my dad would carefully explain every problem until I understood. I have never forgotten how it felt to be frustrated and confused in class--and then how it felt when my dad explained the problems in a way that made sense. These experiences are what I think about when I teach algebra. I try to make algebra easy to understand by carefully explaining the concepts and using silly analogies. I want my classroom to be a fun, inviting place where students aren't afraid of math! I know that not every student is going to become an algebra teacher or love it like I do, but my hope is that on the last day of school when I ask the same question I asked on the first day of school--"Who likes Algebra?"-- that I won't be the only one raising my hand.

Connecting with Kids

Wendy Hankins Kirk Elementary School Kindergarten Gifted and Talented HORIZONS Liaison As a teacher, I am completely dedicated to my students and passionate about teaching itself. I do not look at teaching as "just a job." I view it as making a difference in a child's life, which includes instilling confidence in students and ensuring that each one believes that he or she can and will be successful. I believe that teachers who are positive role models serve that purpose not only for the kids they teach, but also for all kids. Part of being a positive role model is connecting with kids. I am amazed by the relationships

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that can form and the learning that can take place when a child knows a teacher cares about him or her. While I have always taught kindergarten at Kirk, for a brief time, I was the long-term substitute music teacher, also at Kirk. This position allowed me to meet all of the students prior to my teaching at Kirk, including a student who then was a 4th grader. We made a connection, and now, although she is a 9th grader in CFISD, she still calls me at school and visits me, and I attend her


basketball games. It is an absolute joy to know I have made a difference in her life, as she has made in mine. But I do not want to make a difference in

only one student's life. I hope to make a difference in many students' lives. Only then have I been the best teacher that I can be.

Yup! Yup!

Sheri Hoffman Ault Elementary School Grade 3 Inclusion Math and Science If you believe in the phrase, "Yes I can," then say "Yup, Yup!" "Yes, I can"--three simple words that have inspired me, motivated me, and led me to this very moment. I am blessed with the most positive, loving, and supportive family a girl could ever dream of having. Through the years, my parents have always been there to say, "You can do it. Don't give up. Believe in yourself"...but I think the words that had the greatest impact on my life were "yes, I can." My dad, even to this very day, ends every call to me with the phrase: "Have a great day, and remember: `Yes I can!'" As a teacher, I find that there is nothing more exciting than sharing this "yes, I can" attitude with my students. While tackling the easiest to the most difficult math problems, I always empower the class with the "yes, I can" principle. I let them know that they have what it takes to complete the task, and they know that I truly believe in them. I have modified the "yes, I can" phrase with a fun, Quantum Learning flare. The class used to answer the question, "Can you do it?" with my favorite phrase, "Yes, I can." Now, they respond with an excited "Yup! Yup!" So if you should ever walk by my classroom, please feel free to ask any one of my students, "Can you do it?" They will always reply with a confident "Yup! Yup!"

Can I Make a Difference?

Doreen Jarvis Smith Middle School Grade 6 Science Team Leader Teaching is something that I am passionate about. I believe that this job is what I have always been destined to do. I remember struggling in school, but no one took the time to help me until I got to high school and was lucky enough to get Mr. Barr as my Biology teacher. You could tell that he loved what he did and was excited about sharing his knowledge with his students. Because of what Mr. Barr did for me, I vowed that I was going to become a teacher who would make a difference for my students. I have certain values that I adhere to every day. The following principles allow me to see my students for who they are and to challenge them to be the best they can


possibly be. Believe in your students so they will learn to believe in themselves. Remember that a new day could be a new beginning for a struggling student. Listen to what your students have to say. Think of the content-area that you teach as a business. You have to market your product so you can get the students to buy into what you are selling. Once you do this part, teaching is easy! Because I do these things, I love what I do, live each day to its fullest, and feel blessed that I have an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life.

Spotlight, Volume XXV

The Secret to My Success

Christine A. LeBlanc Walker Elementary School Grade 1 Math and Science "Follow your passion, and success will follow you." --Arthur Buddhold Many people work their whole lives and don't enjoy what they are doing. They work for money and other forms of recognition in an effort to be considered "successful." I, however, have always felt that loving what you do is an important key to success. Passion is the secret to my success. I am the oldest child of three. I took care of my younger siblings because it was expected. As I got older, I began to enjoy the responsibilities of childcare. I was led to pursue a part-time job in babysitting. I made very little money, but I enjoyed what I did. I treasured taking care of children. My love of childcare naturally led to the pursuit of teaching. I became a teacher because I adore being with children. My passion for teaching makes me happy to be alive, and it has given me a career that brings out the best in me. Teaching gives me purpose in life and allows me to make a positive difference in the lives of others. I teach mathematics to build students' decision-making and problemsolving skills. I wear a smile and speak kindly in an effort to instill positive attitudes in students and colleagues. I encourage kindness and generosity to unveil the compassion in others' hearts. Teaching is not easy, but it is worth the effort. My effort is not rewarded with fortune and fame, but with priceless moments.

Rock Solid

Laura Lyon Cypress Lakes High School World History, Advanced Placement World History, and Advanced Placement Art History When I entered advanced 9th-grade U.S. history, I first encountered the teacher who inspired me to teach, Carol Dusebout. Mrs. Dusebout was tiny--only 4'10"--but she was a dynamo in the classroom. She really knew her stuff. I learned a ton about U.S. history that year. More importantly, I learned that I really loved Mrs. Dusebout. She was the reason I did so well in her class. I loved the way she singled me out to say "hello" and see how I was doing. I loved the way she related to me. I loved the way she took the time to comment on my essays. I really loved the time she took to give me lots of feedback. I joined the club she sponsored. I took her social studies elective class. I visited her many times before school. I visited her often between classes. I visited her sometimes at lunch. I visited her after school a lot. She made me feel special and really great about myself. Mrs. Dusebout first became my teacher for the 1981-1982 school year. I have received a birthday card from her ever year since 1982. I have received congratulatory cards for weddings and babies. I look forward to hearing from her again this July. Of course I did my student teaching with her in 1996. I saw a master at work, showing her kids how much she cares about them. I strive every day to do the same.

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More Than Just a Teacher

Tara Magallan Spillane Middle School Grade 6 Reading When I sit and think about my job, I think of how many different hats a teacher wears each day while working with students. We are moms/dads who help our students strive for success and guide them to make the right choices. We are counselors who listen when they are struggling. We are gymnasts who continuously use our flexibility to meet students' needs, knowing when to push more and when to lay off. We are clowns, juggling a variety of activities to keep our students interested. We are coaches who motivate them to keep trying and to do their best. We are even handymen who help them to open a locker that is jammed.

But most importantly we are role models

for our students. The relationships that we build with our students are just as important as the content that we are teaching them. They look to us for guidance and support, and they watch our every move--even when we think that they aren't. They watch to see how we handle difficult situations, and they watch to see how we interact with others. They watch as we praise, and they watch as we correct. Whether they tell us or not, students count on their teachers to be role models. How rewarding! I feel so privileged to have a job where I can truly help others strive to be their best!

Great Expectations

Lisa Manuel Alternative Learning Center--West Grades 9-10-11-12 Fundamental Math, Occupational Training, and Mastering Academic/Behavior Problem-solving Skills (MAPSS) Being an educator for 28 years has given me numerous opportunities to make a positive impact and to help shape students' lives. One story that comes to mind is about a young lady who came to me as a freshman. She was a very angry and troubled girl. I remember my mentor-teacher persistently telling me always to stay calm and act like you're not upset when a student is disruptive. This girl tried everything to see what I would do. It was hard at times, but I didn't lose my cool. I expressed my expectations of her and never deviated from them. After several weeks of modeling appropriate behavior and compliance, I had made a breakthrough with her. She was expected to do her work, and she did. She was expected to follow the rules in the classroom and school, and she did. I received a phone call from her mom, who expressed to me how much her daughter had changed for the better and how much happier she seemed about school. I told her mother that she had learned the 3 D's: discipline, desire, and determination. Regardless of any student's situation, they all need to know they are important and capable of success. Making a difference in the life of a student is what we, as educators, strive for. My success as a teacher has enabled me to interact with students who will shape our society for the better. I am very proud of that role.


Spotlight, Volume XXV

Fate Was on My Side

Lori Marshall Lowery Elementary School Grade 1 Math When I was growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I never thought of doing anything else but teaching. I grew up with my mother and father both being teachers. I attended the elementary school where my mother taught and the high school where my father coached. I saw the hard work and dedication they both shared with their students and coworkers. They built lifelong relationships with their students. I continued my education at Stephen F. Austin State University, where I was reassured that this was the profession for me. My experience at the Campus Learning Center gave me the time to build loving relationships with the students. Fate brought me to Lowery Elementary where I was lucky to do my student teaching with two wonderful teachers. Thy both taught me so much about what it means to love and care for students. Everything I learned from them, I'm still using 16 years later. Both ladies continue to be in my life and are an inspiration to me.

My Best

Ruby McLellan Lamkin Elementary School Grade 3 Math and Science I expect my students to give their best personal effort while in my classroom, and they should demand the same from me. While this reciprocity may seem fundamental or simplistic, it can be quite challenging. However, I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many who routinely and enthusiastically model their personal best. Lamkin Elementary is a productive learning environment where the staff works as a team but thinks like a family. There is a shared vision and commitment to nourishing a student's hunger to learn and attaining student success. Every grade level has teachers who are passionate and selfmotivated in doing whatever it takes to ensure that their students perform at their best. Their lessons are fun, energetic and meaningful. Students are easily lured into their lessons by their teachers' unique styles and methods. As a family, the staff is naturally openminded and open-hearted. At Lamkin, I am encouraged to be creative and innovative. I can always find someone to listen to my ideas and provide honest, sincere, and constructive criticism. Everyone is quick to share their talents, ideas, resources, and--most of all-- their precious time. I strive to emulate the efforts and accomplishments of my colleagues. Their energy and enthusiasm is highly contagious, and the results are rewarding. I have become a better teacher because of what I have learned at Lamkin Elementary. My Lamkin family brings out my personal best. I can only hope that my students can say the same about me.

Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District


Pursue Your Passion

Naheed Mujtaba Holbrook Elementary School Grade 3 Structured English Immersion Math and Science "I was just pursuing what I enjoyed doing. I mean, I was pursuing my passion." --Pierre Omidyar Born to and raised by working parents-- my father, a lawyer; my mother, a teacher--I was much fascinated by teaching. As the eldest of five siblings, I took up the responsibility of teaching them, so as I grew up, I realized that teaching had developed into my passion. My mother had always been a role model in my "teaching world." I taught for six years in Pakistan. When I first moved to the U.S., I worked for the United States Postal Service for 10 years. During this period came the long pause--I married and had two children. While enjoying my life as wife and mother, I felt an old urge, triggered when I started teaching my own children, Andleeb and Wahaab. This feeling led me to think about returning to the classroom. With the support and encouragement of my husband, Toqeer, and my sister, Noshi, I was able to go back to the world where I really belonged. I feel fortunate to work with CFISD, and I consider myself blessed to be a part of the Holbrook team. Every year, I create a personalized, flexible system to motivate, encourage and praise my students. The best part of this system is to witness their academic growth. To me, patience and endurance are the keys to success in the teaching profession. I strongly believe in my students and create a strong relationship with them to make a difference in their lives.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Paige Buchorn Phares Goodson Middle School Grade 8 U.S. History Social Studies Department Chair Teaching is a gift that keeps on giving. Throughout my 25 years of teaching, my former students have chosen a variety of career paths, but my favorite is, of course, education. To hear that they remember a specific lesson or teaching method that inspired them to join the teaching profession is a particular thrill. The first half of my career in the classroom was at the elementary level, where students are concerned with playing Little League ball, selling Girl Scout cookies, and turning a double digit on their next birthday. Few are seriously considering career plans, yet I've been told that my humorous and supportive methods have led some of them to want to have fun as a teacher, too. My influence on others' becoming a


teacher has been brought to my attention in several ways, including a kind note inserted in a wedding invitation, an unexpected Christmas card, a Facebook posting, and a chance meeting at the mall. The most exciting way I learn of my former students' involvement in the field of education is to have the privilege of observing them actually teach in one of our district's schools. I've delighted in seeing them kneeling beside a student to gently encourage him or her to keep trying. I've heard students' laughter as the teacher uses humor to help meet the day's objective. To think that I may have had a small part in their professional pursuit fills me with such pride. I have received a beautiful gift wrapped in wonderful memories.

Spotlight, Volume XXV

Effort Creates Ability

Sandra A. Pichardo-Longenecker Reed Elementary School Grade 3 Bilingual Math and Science One of the most successful and inspirational experiences I've had happened a couple of years ago. One of my math students had a difficult time retaining information. Most of the time she didn't "get it" at first. I knew she would need re-teaching in small groups and lots of practice. She didn't mind the work, and she kept trying, no matter how many word problems or algorithms. Every new strategy she tried time and time again. We kept on working, struggling every day to make a barely passing grade. When TAKStesting day arrived, she worked as hard as she did every day. Yet, a part of me was concerned she might not pass. When I received the TAKS scores, I saw her name with the high-achieving "Commended Performance" group. It was an amazing moment! I have many other stories about students' success, even though they might not be as dramatic as this one. All my students learn to trust in their abilities through diligence and hard work. They will continue creating their future success stories because they have become aware of their intrinsic need to learn. My students and colleagues have shown me that success is nothing more but a result of hard work. My goal in the classroom is to continue reinforcing the concept that effort creates ability so every student can achieve success.

Seeing the Individual

Christina Porter Holmsley Elementary School Living in a Functional Environment (LIFE) Skills As I reflect on past influences that have shaped who I am today and who I strive to be as a teacher, one person stands far above all others. In 3rd grade I struggled with reading, and I was painfully shy and insecure. I struggled to find my place in our small school, and my teacher, Mrs. Morrison, was able to see things in me I would never have believed possible. Although I was an awkward, uncoordinated child, Mrs. Morrison encouraged me to take an interest in the soccer team. The team was designed for students in 4th through 6th grade, but with her encouragement I tried out for the team. Much to my surprise, I made the team. The confidence I gained from being chosen to play was priceless. I should also mention that the coach of this school soccer team was Mrs. Morrison. Over the next few years, this teacher pushed me to step outside my comfort zone and encouraged me to try new things. She saw potential in me, and she was able to extract that potential and help me develop into the person I am today. Every day as I plan for my students, I remind myself to look for the potential that needs to be extracted and to determine how I can help my students reach goals that might seem impossible. When my teaching career is over, I will be pleased if my positive influence on students was even a fraction of the impact Mrs. Morrison's encouragement had on me.

Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District


Runaway Kindergartner

Karen Purdy Swenke Elementary School Kindergarten Building Better Relationships (BBR) Consultant When I was a child, my elementary school was located directly across the street from my house. On my very first day of school, I walked across the street, into the school building, and down to the basement, which housed the kindergarten room. As I made my way down the stairs, I began to think that staying home might have been a better choice. To an almost-5-year-old little girl, this place was spooky! Just as Mrs. Volm (the kindergarten teacher) spotted me, I ran back up the stairs and across the street to my house. Much to my mother's amazement, I burst through our front door. Before she could question me, Mrs. Volm arrived on the scene. In her hand, she held a full-sized candy bar! In my family, candy was a very special treat and a rarity. Mrs. Volm knelt beside me and said, "Karen, if you come back to kindergarten, I will give you this whole candy bar". I returned to kindergarten that day, and thus began a warm and memorable friendship with Mrs. Volm. Throughout the rest of my elementary years, I often visited her in her classroom. Even during the summers, I would go to see her at her home, which was just a block from mine. On that first day of school and for many years to come, Mrs. Volm showed me that the best way to reach a child's mind is through her heart...with perhaps just a tiny bit of help from a candy bar.

In Loco Parentis (In the Place of a Parent)

Lynette Rampersad Copeland Elementary School Grade 2 Reading and Language Arts "Treat students the way you want your kids to be treated," was my daughter's profound teaching advice to me years ago. Knowing that students spend the most productive part of their day with me, I model the kind of caring and respect that children deserve. I remember that when I was scarcely three years old, I decided that I would be a teacher; however, in the time and culture in which I lived, being poor and having such aspirations was ludicrous. Fortunately, I was blessed with teachers who saw my potential. The fact that my letters and numbers were backwards and my handwriting was atrocious didn't dissuade their patience and positive attitudes. Here's how my teachers demonstrated caring and concern. Since my family's budget could only provide necessities for 10 kids, we couldn't afford


"luxuries" like books. So teachers loaned books to me and bought them for me. One teacher noticed that my shoes were too tight, so she "found" shoes that were exactly my size. Yet another teacher arranged with her ophthalmologist to provide much-needed glasses. When my mother passed away and we couldn't afford the cost of textbooks, uniforms, and transportation, my high school teachers dipped into their own pockets to provide a monthly gift! All my teachers put action behind their words, which showed that they were willing to invest in my future. They fulfilled my teachers' college definition of "teacher," which was "in place of a parent." As I teach, I keep in mind that I, too, am in loco parentis.

Spotlight, Volume XXV

A Legacy of Great Teachers

Karen Anglin Richardson Farney Elementary School Grade 4 Language Arts and Social Studies Post Elementary is where my passion for learning began. My teachers were beautiful and capable. They wore high heels, wrote freely on the chalkboard, and used red pens to draw happy faces on my assignments. I began studying to be a teacher by watching people like Mary Kimball and Judy Hooper, who were the picture of kindness and grace, even with difficult students. At Dean Junior High, I watched teachers like George Villamagna pour himself into every lesson. He inspired his students to follow their curiosities and look beyond the textbook. His passion was amazing. My time at Jersey Village High School was another lesson in exemplary teaching. Margie Comstock and Bridgette Horton showed great interest in me. They complimented me when I needed it--and held me accountable when I needed it, too. I continued to fill my portfolio with more ideas of the teacher I hoped to be. I recently spent time with a natural teacher named Hector in Panajachel, Guatemala. He had no formal training as an educator, but his connection with students was evident. He captured their attention, had an infectious smile, and was eager for each child to learn. In essence, he loved them. The way in which I teach is a reflection of all these role models. I hope to offer a stable, safe place to learn and explore. My goal is to be the same kind of role model to my students by offering kindness, instilling passion, and loving them.

A Little Spark Can Become a Wildfire

Evelyn Shephard Kahla Middle School Grade 8 Science Ms. Smith crossed the threshold of my hospital room in the pediatric ward. She brought a selection of books and suggested that I make sure to read whenever I could. She also stressed the importance of continuing to read. When she left, I felt a small ember of inspiration. I quickly adopted the view that my education was essential, no matter what circumstances I faced. After enduring major surgery, recovery, and ongoing chemotherapy treatments, I returned to school. Coping with a modest amount of hair and a substantial loss of instructional time, I felt overwhelmed. If it were not for my faith, my family, and the encouragement of my teachers and others, I would not have persevered. The positive atmosphere in the hospitals and at Holbrook Elementary also encouraged

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my success. Ms. Smith worked closely with me to improve my reading skills. As I progressed, my confidence grew, and the small spark grew into a blaze. Today, I follow in the footsteps of my teachers and doctors, who showed me the value of assessing, diagnosing, and prescribing. My students and I collaborate to set goals and formulate plans of action in order to attain those goals. When my very supportive team is asked about me, they usually describe my classroom as unorthodox, energetic, and motivational. In using these methods, I endeavor to pass the torch of inspiration on to my students so they can persevere, succeed, and spread the flame wherever they go. A little spark truly can become a wildfire!


You're Thinking in English!

Gail M.P. Stephens Cypress Falls High School New Arrival Center (NAC) English I, Communication Applications, Reading, and Skills for Academic Success (SAS) Language Support for Algebra and Integrated Physics & Chemistry (IPC) Could anything be bigger than Texas? What a daily joy it is to welcome the world to my classroom! The New Arrival Center offers new immigrant students the opportunity to participate in an intensive English-language program that has amazing results from day one. It is an adventure each year to meet my new students. This year I have students from 11 countries, speaking four different languages. English is the common denominator. I think of Ramiro who left his country because of his involvement in gangs and troubled life. He came to Houston for a fresh start, a new beginning. Coming with disrupted schooling made his transition difficult, but he was eager to learn English, and he wanted to make positive changes in his life. He was meticulous with his pronunciation. I remember feeling tears trickle down my cheeks in January when he quoted lines from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. I asked Ramiro if he had ever imagined that he would be excellent, one of the best students, with his own dreams to change his world. In our NAC classroom we learn about life, about finding our way in a new culture and country. We grow as a family, appreciating our differences. We all take risks and struggle to make progress. We celebrate every step forward. This week, I stopped the lesson as we were spontaneously answering questions about frequency and cheered, "You're thinking in English!" My 15 students grinned back at me and said, "You're right, Miss!"


Taylor Webb Arnold Middle School Grade 7 Math Coach for Cross Country Track and Soccer Start In third grade, my teacher told my parents I had some "glitches." She said that I wasn't going to make it academically, but if they encouraged me in art or sports, I could be successful. I was tested for many different disabilities, but nothing was conclusive. Therefore, by time I reached 3rd grade, I was labeled as not being smart. My parents saw that I was indeed gifted in art and athletics, but they never limited me. I was loved and supported in everything I wanted to do and tried to accomplish. Their support is, and always was, unconditional. With that fact in mind, I'm able to be who I am and, hopefully, support and encourage others in the same way. Every day that I see my students, I'm reminded of a simple Bible verse: "We love because He first loved us." (I John 4:19). I understand that not everyone is going to excel, but I also put no limits on what my students can achieve. When I was a kid, I felt like I could do anything. I believe it is my job to show my students that same love and support. I hope to be the encouragement for students who have no support and for those who have plenty.


Spotlight, Volume XXV

Lifelong Learner

A CFISD teacher is a lifelong learner who exemplifies the spirit of continuous improvement through selection of and attitude toward activities which foster personal and professional development.

It's Been a Privilege

Deborah Crawford Jersey Village High School Grades 10-12 Chemistry I and Advanced Placement Chemistry In my 36 years at Jersey Village High School, I have been privileged to work with some of the finest students in Cy-Fair. These dedicated young people have encouraged me year after year to become a better teacher. Many have exhibited a commitment to their education that could only be termed "inspirational." I have taught students who worked at fulltime jobs but still came to school every day. I have worked alongside students who had to leave families in other countries to come to the United States to better their lives.

I have experienced students who spoke

little English but excelled in school through their dedication and diligence. I have known students who were coping with serious illness but were committed to their education. I have particularly enjoyed students who decided that their college careers should revolve around science. Watching students grow into contributing adults has been truly inspiring throughout my career. It has been a honor to teach chemistry at Jersey Village.

It's a Group Effort

Jennifer Dove Warner Elementary School Grade 3 Math and Science Math Liaison The moment my name was called as this year's Spotlight teacher at Warner Elementary, I was filled with thoughts of all the people who influenced me along my path. It is these individuals who shaped me into the educator I am today. Johnny, my wonderful husband, thank you for always being my personal cheerleader. Without your encouragement, I would have never pursued my dream of going back to school and becoming a teacher. Mom, thank you for all of your support and encouragement. I am the person I am today because of you. Madison, my sweet girl, thank you for enduring so many nights at the school while I completed just one more task. I love you!

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Jennifer Tyler, my mentor, without you to

guide me that first year, I would have been lost. Thanks for always giving me a hand. Susan Huntsman, my idol, thank you for always having an open door. If I could be half the teacher you are, I would be great! Mike Maness, thank you for you everything, but, above all, thanks for taking a chance on me when no one else would. To my students, thanks for your inspiration. I marvel at how much more I learn from my students than they learn from me. I wake up every morning and feel blessed to be where I am today. I love being a teacher!


Growing as a Teacher

Leanna Harper Danish Elementary School Pre-kindergarten My first-year teaching experiences, in 1993, had a great impact in shaping my perspective about my role as a teacher. I took a professional development class called TESA, which stands for Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement. I started to set high expectations for myself and my class, and I knew the students could meet them. I used a lot of praise and encouragement. I still use the ideas I learned in TESA in my teaching style today. I encourage other teachers to set high goals and reach for the stars. Students want to shine, and they can if you as a teacher encourage them. In my years teaching pre-kindergarten in Channelview ISD., I attended a professional development session presented by the Center for Improving the Readiness of Children for Learning and Education (CIRCLE). It helped me improve on my concept about the ways children learn. Pre-kindergarten is such an important grade because students are building foundations for learning that follow them for the rest of their lives. They learn the basics of reading and writing. They love hands-on math and science activities. They explore their world in social studies. I have loved teaching at Danish. It is such a joy to see the children's faces light up when they can read a word, write a sentence, or create a pattern. I want to continue learning so that I can keep my students actively engaged in learning. I want to keep seeing those "I did it!" moments.

Parting Gifts

Abigail Hawes Moore Elementary School Grades K-5 Music "Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime." --Zoltan Kodály Each year, I conclude the last class meeting for each of my groups with the song "So Long, Farewell" from The Sound of Music. This year is unique in that I find myself bidding "auf wiedersehen, goodbye" to my very first graduating class. For most of these students, I was their first music teacher. For some, I will be their last. With this thought in mind, I reflect on the past six years with a certain degree of scrutiny. Zoltan Kodály, a Hungarian composer and music educator, observed that "often, a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime. This experience cannot be left to chance; it is the duty of the school to provide it." Due to the passion and talent of my own teachers, music and musicmaking are essential in my life. For this gift, I offer each of them my gratitude. Knowing that I have shared even the smallest bit of my appreciation for this art form with my own students brings joy to my heart, and the fact that I have inspired some of them to pursue music is an honor. Having the opportunity to provide that one musical experience which could lead to a lifetime appreciation of music is, and continues to be, a privilege.


Spotlight, Volume XXV

Changes and Challenges Bring Opportunities

Sarah Johnson Owens Elementary School Grade 4 Structured English Immersion Writing, Reading, and Social Studies Language Arts Model Teacher My first year of teaching was coming to an end when Laura Barrett, my principal, informed me that in the upcoming year I would be teaching 4th-grade students in a structured English immersion (SEI) program. She also told me that I would have a new teaching partner, someone transferring from another elementary. Barely able to hold back tears, I asked, "SEI? And who is this new teacher who will be coming to Owens?" My whole life, I have been one who avoids change, and big challenges just scare me! I was sure I would fail at helping these alreadystruggling students succeed. How could I ever capture their minds and take them to where they need to be? On top of everything, I remembered, at 4th grade I would have the reading and writing TAKS tests. Yikes! Five years have flown by since then, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity I was given. My students always amaze me, year after year, with the progress they make. Susan Aycock, that dreaded new teaching partner, has been amazing. We work as a team to build relationships with our children. Nothing I have accomplished would have been possible without her. My time with Susan and the SEI students has been an absolute blast! I've realized that life's changes and challenges help you uncover hidden opportunities. Taking on the SEI class was a big change, and it has been challenging at times; however, the opportunities I have been given have shaped the course my life and, I hope, my students' lives.

Inspirations from Newton's Law

Jennifer LeBlanc Alternative Learning Center--East Grades 6-7-8 All Science Courses Math Lab "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." This statement is not just Newton's Third Law; it can be applied to many parts of life. My inspiration to become a teacher was a reaction to the actions of other great CFISD teachers. I was inspired to become a science teacher because of my 6th-grade science teacher, Mary Patterson. I was motivated to become a lifelong learner because of my high school Student Council sponsor, Karen Sheffield. Mary truly understands how to engage students' curiosity. She encourages inquiry and always pushes students to explore. Her actions as an amazing science teacher caused me to have an equal reaction. I wanted to become a good science teacher to engage students in the process of problem-solving

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and inquisitive thinking. Karen taught me that curiosity is a key element in life. I have traveled across the world because of her inspirations. To this day, she continues to be a mentor to me, demonstrating the importance of lifelong learning through the many adventures she participates in. This perspective has encouraged me to engage in a large variety of activities that have truly taught me how to become an effective educator. My hope is that maybe my Alternative Learning Center students, who have become disengaged in the education process because of various reasons, will be inspired and will react to my actions, just like I was inspired by my great teachers.


The Depths of Inspiration

Jennifer Leonard Cypress Creek High School Geometry Team Leader Teachers consider it their job to inspire students. While this mission can be quite fulfilling, the most rewarding times are when our students inspire us. Recently, my students conducted a mathematical analysis on data concerning world populations who lack access to clean water. The students were stunned and saddened by the vast amount of people who lack this vital resource. They wanted to initiate a change for these people, but they could only think of temporary solutions. All they needed was a great idea! The following day, a student approached me with the idea to start a community service club dedicated to increasing awareness about the water crisis and raising funds to build water wells for impoverished communities. Over 100 students and three teachers joined this effort. To date, the students' efforts have generated enough money to rebuild several water wells damaged by the recent earthquake in Haiti, and they are currently attempting to fund another well in South America. While this lesson started out as a way to practice percentages and ratios, it emerged to be a worldwide relief effort! Teaching is not only about content, but also about helping students find ways to make a difference. We must show our students that they are important to the overall function of the world. Each has his or her place, and when they work together for the greater good--be it education or motivating change-- success will come. I am inspired daily. I cannot wait to see what else they accomplish!

It's Never Too Late

Jeanetta Mieth Bang Elementary School Grades K-5 Music In 2007, I was proud to receive my first grant from the "A+ for Energy" program sponsored by BP. This unique opportunity provided my 5th-grade music students the chance to learn about renewable energy in a fun way. The program's goal was for students to take the information that they had learned about renewable energy and create an original musical. During the process, they chose familiar melodies and changed the lyrics. I envisioned them choosing simple songs, like "Mary Had a Little Lamb," to demonstrate their knowledge. They far exceeded my expectations when they chose songs like "The Thunder Rolls" by Garth Brooks and "We Are the Champions" by Queen. At the beginning of this process, my science knowledge was limited. This grant


gave me an opportunity to expand my expertise and area of interest. On many occasions, I could definitely relate to the way some students feel overwhelmed when learning something new. The end product allowed my students to gain full mastery of renewable-energy concepts through writing and performing and later demonstrate that mastery with increased science TAKS scores. Students' enthusiasm with this project inspired me to write and receive subsequent grants and to continue our mutual knowledge and interest in renewable energy. This enthusiasm has now spread school-wide, with the completion of our third consecutive BP "A+ for Energy" grant. It's never too late to learn and to help students make a positive impact on our small part of the world!

Spotlight, Volume XXV

Learning Doesn't End

Stephanie Morrison Horne Elementary School Living in a Functional Environment (LIFE) Skills Finishing my first year of teaching, I remember reflecting over it and pondering these questions. Does the art of teaching become easier over time? Will I ever know how to handle every situation that arises? Will the amount of energy and time that I exerted during that first year become less as I gain experience? I know now that the amount of time and energy doesn't change, and I will never know everything. For a teacher, learning doesn't end--although it may come in different forms. Learning opportunities occur through interactions with parents, colleagues, and students, as well as from classes, book studies, and daily reflections. As a special education teacher, I have students with disabilities who come to me with different abilities and needs. When a student is struggling and/or a behavior is escalating, I pull out the different "tools" from my "teacher toolbox" to help that student become successful and reach their own personal potential. My toolbox might be full of teaching tools and strategies, but it doesn't have everything to meet each student's needs. I am constantly seeking additional tools and strategies to add to my toolbox. Although the time and energy hasn't become less, and I might not know how to handle every situation, the art of teaching has become easier. It has become easier because of the "ah-ha!" moments in teaching. The "ah-ha!" moments for me come in all types--students learning to use eating utensils independently, students learning to use a communication binder to communicate wants and needs, students learning to write their own names. These "ah-ha!" moments make all the effort worthwhile.

The Balancing Act

Jessica Nance Windfern High School Grades 11-12 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Business Computer Information Systems (BCIS) and Business Multimedia Pinnacle Liaison Teaching is a balancing act, one that requires creating an environment of success for students of all ability levels, keeping up with the lightning pace of technology, maintaining current knowledge of my content, and meeting the challenging situations that my unique students bring to class each day. All of it has truly been a lifelong lesson of 34 years of teaching and trying to balance it all successfully. This lifelong lesson in balance has helped me appreciate Windfern students and the

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careful balance they must strike with their families, jobs, and academics. Inevitably, their issues can spill over into the classroom, and so learning Excel is put on hold. Then the diagnosis begins. Is it a listener this person needs? Is it space? Is it extra time? Is it review? All this analysis happens as I work to keep students engaged and capable of maintaining their own equilibrium.


With the power they are perceived to wield, most teachers seem to be either heroes or villains to students. I know some days my students think me the hero, and other days... On those days when I am perceived to be the "bad guy," I hope we communicate and work out the conflict to maintain that precious sense of stability.

I feel fortunate to teach a subject like technology that is continually evolving, and challenging because I can say to my students, "I am learning with you; we're a team." Let's get on this balance beam called life and when we wobble, work for steadiness, and when we are steady, celebrate!

Music for Life

Liz Silva Jowell Elementary School Grades K-5 Music One teacher who had a great deal of influence on my learning was my grandmother, Mimi. I find myself, as a music teacher and church choir director, following in her footsteps in many ways. She was always trying to improve herself and others around her. Whenever we were going to visit her in Alabama, I knew that I had to practice the piano ahead of time. It was inevitable that she would be giving me lessons and taking my siblings and me to nursing homes, etc., to sing and perform. Every moment was a "teachable moment" and an opportunity to learn. I approach my own life and students the same way she did. I realize that I may be the only music teacher these children ever have. I want to instill in them a love of music and an ongoing desire to want to learn and experience more of it. I want to prepare them to be lifelong learners whether they grow up to be opera singers (as one has) or just to enjoy listening to the radio. Whatever their musical endeavors may be, it is my goal to give them the tools and confidence to appreciate and pursue the gift that is music.

Back to School

Traci Underwood Cypress Woods High School Grade 12 Advanced Placement English IV (Dual Credit) Team Leader I admit it: I am a "nerd" when it comes to literature. Throughout my undergraduate studies in college, I always sat in the front row, took pages of notes, and reveled in the books and poems we discussed in class. When I entered graduate studies in English in 2000, I was invigorated to be a student again. I loved going to class and listening to lectures on Modernism or Faulkner, discussing with my peers our own interpretations about the reading, and, yes, even writing essays! Being a student again reminded me of the joy to be gained from learning, from challenge, and from discovery. At the same time, though, it reminded me


of the frustration and anxiety students feel over writing, juggling deadlines for assignments, and waiting for grades to be returned. Undoubtedly, these years in graduate school made me a better teacher. I began to see curriculum as dynamic (as opposed to static) as my professors taught "old" poems from new perspectives and incorporated contemporary works like The Things They Carried into our studies. I identified with my students' struggles to articulate their ideas in writing, so I was better able to guide them through those obstacles. Since then, no two years in my classroom have been exactly alike. I

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constantly seek relevant editorials, articles, and art to bring into the classroom, or I choose different novels from year to year. I

hope my students see in me what it means to be a lifelong learner--one who relishes challenge and intellectual stimulation.

Learning One Day at a Time

Lisa Voelkel Birkes Elementary School Grade 1 How many times have you been in a conversation or meeting, and you did not understand what was being shared? You would just sit there, confused and unsure, since you were afraid to ask, afraid of being judged. If you are like me, this situation presents itself on a regular basis. We need to be more like the young children I teach and ask questions--lots of them. We also need to encourage them to ask questions. Questions are the building blocks in our life. We learn by expanding our knowledge. Early in my career, I was fortunate enough to work with a dynamic assistant principal, who later became a principal. She instilled in me that my continual, personal learning would be the foundation for my being an effective teacher. Ongoing education and professional development are important; however, they are just a small piece of the learning process. They contribute to the bigger picture of life and the lessons that it brings. As a teacher, I find that every day is an opportunity for all participants to learn from one another, including my students, who teach me so many things. I am always learning, whether it is from professional growth, other teachers, parents, students, life experiences, or trial and error. My hope is for each child I teach to feel special and for each one to develop his or her potential by becoming lifelong learners.

37 Years Old and Still in the 8th Grade

Wil Watkins Dean Middle School Grade 8 U.S. History Team Leader Football Coach "Don't be like me, 37 years old and stuck in the 8th grade" is a joke that I tell my students when they are struggling with something. It urges them to keep learning and not give up. Students have taught me many lessons during my years in school. One is that not everyone has an innate love of history. While it is not my job to make them love it, I can make it tolerable. I remember one student who told me at the beginning of the year that I had my work cut out for me because she hated history. In the end, she told me she still didn't like it, but she didn't hate it anymore. Another lesson I learned is that when my students see pictures of people from the past,

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they feel no connection to them. My job is to forge a connection between 8th graders and history. By telling them stories that entertain, I can create a connection and then almost fool them into learning. Awareness of that necessity makes me always try to think about history from a kid's perspective. I have also learned from my students that if you believe in them and never give up on them, they will succeed in life. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that our legacy is not how much money we accrue or what monuments we build, but the lessons we have learned that can somehow be passed on to others, enriching our lives.


Objective: Learn

Tracy Westbye Watkins Middle School Grade 6 Language Arts "I'm planning Mrs. Westbye's Class: A Documentary. What really goes on in her classroom?" This was a 6th grader's unconventional greeting one day. I had actually been in a bad mood, but I had to laugh out loud at that ridiculous picture-- teacher laughing, students sweating, wondering what will the next assignment be. It's too bad that the daily posted objective and assignment remove any suspense. Teacher or student, the constant objective is to learn. In my classroom, the big picture is that students leave the room with new knowledge in their heads and enhanced skills for communicating proficiently in the English language. As for learning something new, I am no exception to this rule. For the reminders on my classroom wall to "Give it Your Best!" and "Do Great Work," I am as much an audience as the tweens in my midst. If I am not learning, then I have no business being called a professional (and too many late nights and tuition bills were spent for that to happen). Humans are learning creatures and do not thrive when stagnant. Instinct resists it, and insanity stretches it further. Balancing English graduate classes and my job stretches my attention, but my job is where I learn more. Teaching is learning, which is why I enjoy staying informed on how youth and language change as I attempt to keep up.

Guidance and Growth

Winx Whitney Hamilton Elementary School Grades K-5 Instructional Specialist Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) and Living in a Functional Environment (LIFE) Skills Throughout my educational career, I have been blessed with wonderful teachers, professors, mentors, and administrators, all of whom have challenged me. My parents, as teachers, taught me that honesty, trustworthiness, mutual respect, and hard work make you a better person. From my teachers, I gained a wealth of knowledge and learned to persevere. A college professor took me under her wing. She taught me the skills I required and gave me the confidence I needed to start my career as a teacher. She constantly demonstrated that an effective teacher recognizes that roles are often reversed: sometimes the teacher is the student and the student is the teacher. From my students I have learned that each child has a special talent. With love and encouragement, that


talent will shine through. As a lifelong learner, I know that each day will bring new experiences and new knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge is gained through reading and research. Oftentimes it is learned from others. The people who have touched my career are many, but the most significant person in my educational career has been Robbie Sheridan. She taught me so many things and truly made me a better person for having known her. She taught me that no matter how old you are, there is always learning to be done. From Robbie, I learned that relationships are everything. When relationships (with students and staff) are nurtured, anything is possible. She taught me that when you believe in someone, he or she will succeed. She believed in me!

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Blessed Connection

Kay Wingate Frazier Elementary School Grade 1 English as a Second Language (ESL) All Subjects My mother taught me "The Lord's Prayer" before I could read or write. I would repeat the words in phrases, echoing her. At six years old, I recall seeing the words of the prayer in print and feeling so pleased that I could read it so well. Last year, I was blessed with the challenge of teaching one-way dual language. I searched for some connection to these students, who would speak mostly to each other, in Spanish, while responded very little to me, in English. Beginning a fill-in-theblank activity, I wrote on the board: "I am 47 years old." Someone walked through the room and said, "I can't believe you wrote your age on the board." I replied, "I thank God for every year." I heard whispers among the students: "She said `God.'" At recess, one of my students came to me and said, "Mrs. Wingate, do you know God?" There the blessed connection began. After that encounter, this student would bring her friends to meet me at recess. Knowing God made me worth getting to know better. Sunday in church, my pastor began to say "The Lord's Prayer," and we all joined in. We sang songs of my youth and songs of today. We shared the reading of Scripture. The church and school are places for lifelong learning. For me, there is no separation between church and school because whatever you preach and whatever you teach should come from the heart.

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Team Player

A CFISD teacher is a team player who cooperates with others for the group's benefit, striving to solve problems by analyzing all pertinent data, listening to and valuing others' viewpoints, and actively seeking consensus.

Teamwork = Success

Susan Bergholtz Bane Elementary School Grade 2 All Subjects My first year at Bane was my second year as a teacher, yet it was like being a first-year teacher all over again since I was in a new place. I have to admit, it's my opinion that I was the luckiest person ever that year. Not only did I have an awesome teaching partner, but also I had an incredible grade-level team. I learned a lot that year from my partner, my team, and my mentor teacher. They taught and showed me what it was like to be a team player, a person who does whatever it takes for the betterment of the team and the students. Over the years the second-grade team has changed a little with new teachers coming in and other teachers moving to different grades, but no matter what changes have transpired, the teachers in second grade have always been true team players. We always plan, collaborate, analyze data, and celebrate together. We always work as a team because the success of our students is the most important thing. Everything we do, we do for our students. Being named Bane's Spotlight teacher for this year is a tremendous honor--an honor I can't receive without thanking my second-grade team, my Bane family, and last--but definitely not least--my family at home. It is with all of your constant support that I am able to be a successful teacher.

Are You IN?

Donna Copeland Emmott Elementary School Grades 1-5 Special Education Resource and In-class Support Dyslexia Specialist Special Education Liaison At the beginning of this school year, our principal, Mary Ann Smith, challenged us with a question: "Are you IN?" She continued. "Are you INformed? Do you know your TEKS, your content, and your students? Do you stay on top of current trends and research? Are you INvolved? Do you choose to take responsibility for what happens in your classroom and/or work? Do you talk to and plan with your team? Do you believe that you are the deciding factor in whether or not our school succeeds?


Are you INspired? Do you love what you

do? Do you share your joy and excitement with others? Do you live life to the fullest, knowing you will never have the opportunity that this day brings again? Do you inspire others to be positive? Are you INvested? Are you dedicated to Emmott Elementary? Are you choosing to do the right thing each day? Do you feel you have a stake in what we do here? Are you treating others with professional respect and loyalty? We will be working together this year to ensure that we are all IN!"

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I was inspired by this challenge! I have the privilege of collaborating with outstanding teachers and paraprofessionals to find creative ways to help our students be successful! I enjoy providing specialized

instruction because students learn in many different ways. It is an exciting challenge to discover each child's unique talents, abilities, strengths, and competencies. And it's truly a team effort that we are all IN!

I Can Do That

Dawn McGuffin Nixon Cypress Ranch High School World Geography and Advanced Placement U.S. History (Dual Credit) Social Studies Department Chair In the world of education, not a day goes by that somebody doesn't need something. In fact, as I write this, a student just asked if I could write him a letter of recommendation (needed by the end of the day). My response to this request--as it is to any other need of students, teachers, or staff--is "I can do that." Need someone to work on curriculum? I can do that. Sponsor an organization? I can do that. Mentor students? I can do that. Set goals and expectations for the Social Studies Department? I can do that. Use differentiation to better the learning in the classroom? I can do that. Lead staff development? I can do that.

Open a new school as a department chair?

I can do that.

Work 24/7? I can do that.

Seriously, this list is not the reflection of a Spotlight teacher, but, rather, the workday of any individual who is part of education. We all take on so much to benefit our students and to improve our schools that our educational mantra should be "I can do that!" So, the accurate pronoun here isn't "I" but "we." As a team at Cypress Ranch, we work together, and if I can help any part of our team, then that's what I do. Being a "worker bee" is what has allowed me the opportunity to help students and staff and make my profession so rewarding. Yep, I can do that!

Understand the Similarities, Celebrate the Differences

Cynthia Norris Lieder Elementary School Grades K-5 Special Education All Subjects Special Education Liaison Here's to the kids who are different, The kids they call crazy and dumb. The kids who aren't cute and don't give a hoot, Who dance to a different drum. Here's to the kids who are different, The kids with the mischievous streak. For when they have grown, As history's shown, It's their difference that makes them unique. --Digby Wolfe

Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District

Working with students from different grade-levels, I am constantly amazed at how much praise and recognition contributes to success. When students are identified as having special needs, their challenges may blindside us to their potential. When our focus is on a learner's strengths, there is no limit to what they can do. Their paths to mastery may circumvent traditional methods, but reaching the pinnacle of success is always possible with encouragement and belief. The greatest impact on a child's education


occurs when everyone believes in student success and works as a cohesive unit to provide multifaceted learning. This approach involves keeping lines of communication open and collectively gathering ideas that build on each other to provide a positive and interconnected learning environment. In this

way, diverse learning styles are supported and taken to the highest possible levels of mastery. At my school, a dynamic team spirit is fostered and nurtured to address the needs of all of our students, and I am proud to be part of this great team!

Index by Campus

ABC .................................... 18 Adam .................................20 ALC-East............................ 39 ALC-West ..........................30 Andre' .................................. 7 Aragon ................................12 Arnold................................ 36 Ault .................................... 28 Bane ................................... 46 Bang...................................40 Birkes................................. 43 Black .................................. 10 Bleyl ................................... 19 Campbell............................ 24 Carlton Center ....................13 Cook................................... 26 Copeland............................ 34 Cy-Fair ............................... 27 Cypress Creek ....................40 Cypress Falls...................... 36 Cypress Lakes .................... 29 Cypress Ranch ................... 47 Cypress Ridge .....................21 Cypress Springs ..................12 Cypress Woods .................. 42 Danish................................ 38 Dean................................... 43 Duryea ............................... 19 Emmott.............................. 46 Farney................................ 35 Fiest ................................... 14 Francone............................. 11 Frazier................................ 45 Gleason ................................ 8 Goodson............................. 32 Hairgrove...........................20 Hamilton Elementary........ 44 Hamilton Middle................. 8 Hancock............................. 14 Hemmenway ......................13 Holbrook............................ 32 Holmsley............................ 33 Hopper................................15 Horne................................. 41 Jersey Village..................... 37 Jowell................................. 42 Kahla.................................. 35 Keith .................................. 22 Kirk .................................... 27 Labay ................................. 24 Lamkin................................31 Langham Creek ................. 16 Lee ..................................... 16 Lieder................................. 47 Lowery ................................31 Matzke ................................ 11 McFee ................................ 23 Metcalf............................... 26 Millsap ............................... 18 Moore ................................ 38 Owens ................................ 39 Post .................................... 25 Postma ................................17 Reed................................... 33 M. Robinson ...................... 10 A. Robison ......................... 23 Sampson .............................15 Sheridan ............................ 22 Smith ................................. 28 Spillane ..............................30 Swenke............................... 34 Thornton.............................. 9 Tipps .................................... 7 Truitt...................................21 Walker ............................... 29 Warner............................... 37 Watkins.............................. 44 Willbern............................... 9 Wilson.................................17 Windfern ........................... 41 Yeager ................................ 25

You may view this publication online at with Spotlight editions since 1999--by selecting "Curriculum" within the "Departments" menu.

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