Friday, January 20, 2017

A Small Team of Big Contributors


A team consisting of only 10 people make all the deliveries and pickups to and from the 43 campuses and several department buildings within Mansfield ISD. Their services can sometimes go unnoticed; but when the devoted employees don’t do their jobs, everyone feels the effects.

“We distribute and collect mail, food and supplies, salvage and surplus, furniture, records, etc.,” said Brad Barker, MISD’s warehouse supervisor. “When schools move in or out of a facility, we’re the ones who move all of their assets too.”

The workers in the distribution center work in all types of weather conditions. Even though the conditions can be a bit unfavorable at times, Barker said he loves his crew, and they love their jobs.

An MISD employee stops to ask which surplus items are available.
“I have a great crew. I rely on them, and they rely on me,” Barker continued. “I don’t have a big turnover. Most of my guys have been here between three to 15 years. Without them, the district wouldn’t run as efficiently.”

The distribution workers are focused on not wasting money. Barker said that all collected materials are either recycled, put into surplus or auctioned away.

“A lot of staff do not know that they can come to our warehouse and look around to see if they see any pieces of furniture that will benefit them,” the supervisor said.

Putting items into surplus is one of the new ideas Barker was able to bring to the district. Along with surplus, he said he loves figuring out what the district needs in terms of supplies and being able to be of service to others.

“My guys get the job done pretty quickly. Mail is usually delivered the next day, and we can move an entire campus in or out in approximately three days. We just love what we do.”

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mastering Reading by Increasing Vocabulary


Through the hallways of Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary School, young learners can be heard shouting out some pretty advanced vocabulary words.

“Algorithm! Distinguish! Fiction!” the second-graders said as the teacher gave a definition of each term.

The elementary school, like many others across the district, is focusing on building vocabulary to strengthen reading skills. The emphasis on vocabulary lines up with Mansfield ISD’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, which states that students will read on level or higher by the beginning of third grade and will remain on level or higher as an MISD student.

“We believe that if the students master their academic vocabulary, they will be reading on grade level, especially our second-graders,” said Dr. Lori Ayala, assistant principal of Sheppard Elementary School.

A teacher reviews vocabulary in the hallway.
Teachers have started using several teaching techniques to make vocabulary fun and memorable. They utilize videos, games, flipbooks and vocabulary journals in which the student talks about the word, draws the words and writes the word in a sentence.

“The teachers are constantly reviewing the words, even when they have time in the hallways for restroom breaks,” Ayala explained.

Student progress is also tracked. Word mastery has increased across the campus, and each student keeps a journal of how they are improving.

“Everyone has met their goals so far,” Ayala continued. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to pass with 70 percent. We’ve met that goal and went beyond that.”

For more information about MISD’s Vision 2020, visit the district website.

Friday, January 6, 2017

“Sciyonce” Teaches Students Biology Through Popular Tunes


With her cordless mic on, classroom lights dimmed and disco lights spinning, biology teacher Arlevia Davis is all set to do her lesson review.

To the tune of a popular hip-hop song, she starts singing one of her latest creations, which teaches about DNA.

“With the expenses of materials, you can’t always get the hands-on labs,” said Davis, who is in her third year of teaching at Legacy High School. “So I decided that I should start writing songs for the large amount of vocabulary that exists in the content area just to keep it fun and exciting and interesting.”

When she performs in front of her class, she said she turns into her alter ego, Sciyonce, to shake away her nerves and become as engaging as possible.

Davis tells her class to recall her song lyrics as they answer science questions.
Davis has biology renditions of songs from various artists and genres. She said she likes to keep it different to appeal to a majority of her class.

“Students love it,” she explained. “They know class is about to get a little more upbeat when I have my Britney Spears mic on. Some of them have even told me that they appreciate the time I take to write the songs, so that was very encouraging to hear.”

Most importantly, the 15-year educator has found that the songs help her students retain the information. To her, the more annoying the song is, the better.

“I tell them, ‘I want this to be irritatingly stuck in your brain whether you like the songs or not,’” Davis continued. “I feel accomplished when they say, ‘Oh no. That song is going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the day.’”

Davis is currently working on a song about genetics. She said she hopes her performances will teach her students to be fearless in life.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Middle Schoolers Adopt a Child for the Holidays


The holidays came a little early for some children at Alice Ponder Elementary School. Students at neighboring Rogene Worley Middle School adopted a few of the elementary school students and showered them with gifts, food and fun.

The Adopt-a-Child tradition has been going on at Worley Middle School for more than 20 years. The school gets a list of what some less fortunate Ponder Elementary students will need for the holidays, and the middle schoolers buy as many of the items as they can.

A Worley student presents a child with one of many gifts.
"It's just a wonderful day to see our students watch joy in the eyes of another person and know that they were a part of that," said Principal Julia McMains of Worley Middle School. "This is one of our best days of the year and one of our proudest moments."

One by one, the elementary students unwrapped their gifts, ranging from bikes to dolls and race cars. The look of excitement could be seen on the faces of the children and the older students who surrounded them.

"We decided that we need to make their Christmas happy," said eighth-grader Malachi Witherspoon. "It was all worth it when we saw the expressions on the children's faces."

Worley's Adopt-a-Child event is sponsored by the student council. The student body spends time decorating classrooms and providing snacks to make the day of opening presents extra special for the elementary students.

Friday, December 9, 2016

MISD Students Crack the Code

Students at Perry Elementary complete a coding problem.
Coding can be an intimidating subject, but students all across Mansfield ISD are proving that it’s so easy, a kindergartner can do it.

Kids from various grade levels are engaged in learning computer science. It’s all part of the Hour of Code, a global movement where people of all ages spend an hour learning the basics of coding and solving problems in fun ways.

The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. This year, it landed on Dec. 5-11.

Technology teacher Jami Davis from Annette Perry Elementary School said she can see the difference in her students when they begin to decipher code.

“Code develops higher-level thinking and problem solving,” said Davis. “Once they start coding and solving the questions, they start feeling good about themselves and getting more self-esteem.”

Davis said she implemented the Hour of Code at her school three years ago when the worldwide initiative was launched because she saw how important the skill is for each child’s future.

“I believe that making these students efficient in technology is just as important as math and reading for future jobs,” she continued.

Source: HourofCode.org
Although the level of difficulty for coding varies by grade levels, Davis said one thing remains the same—student engagement.

She noted that students are wanting to code in their free time, and she has expanded her coding lessons to three weeks because one hour is not enough to her.

“I encourage any teacher who is hesitant about joining to just do it—even if you don’t know code. Code.org has made it very easy with videos and tutorials. It’s a great experience.”

To date, tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries have participated in the Hour of Code. One-hour tutorials are available in over 45 languages. For more information, visit the website.

Friday, December 2, 2016

MISD Kids Find Their Genius Through Clubs


On Fridays, there’s an extra pep in the step of the third and fourth-graders at Martha Reid Elementary School, but it’s not because the weekend is near.

The students know that if they do their school work Monday through Thursday, there’s a special period Friday morning where they can engage in different clubs.

Origami, the art of folding paper, is intriguing to the students.
Principal Rebecca Stephens said the idea was implemented in the second six weeks to coincide with one of the guiding statements of Vision 2020, Mansfield ISD’s new strategic plan, which states that students will participate in an extracurricular or co-curricular activity.

“Every kid has an interest; every kid has their genius,” said Stephens. “We’re giving them the opportunity to try different clubs to see what they like to do outside of school.”

She added that having the clubs during the day gives students who may not be able to come early or stay later an opportunity to participate in the different activities as well

Origami, science, music, drama, robotics, Legos and kindness are just some of the various offerings each six weeks. There’s also a Book Buddies Club in which the older children read to the younger ones.

Students said that reading is more fun with partners.
“I like reading because it helps me learn, and I can get a job one day because of it,” said third-grader Keller Johnson, who enjoys being a book buddy.

Stephens added that it’s not just about having fun. The Friday clubs give children something to look forward to throughout the week.

“It has made a difference because they have the intrinsic motivation to do well at school and be a part of school, and they take ownership in that.” she said.

Next semester, the club rotations will be available for the second-graders as well.