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The Official Blog of the Mansfield Independent School District.

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From the time a student first enrolls into a Mansfield ISD school, the mission of inspiring and educating all students to be productive citizens begins.

For the Special Education Department, this means giving students with disabilities the life skills they need to live an independent life. The Transition Program that is provided in high school specifically focuses on preparing the students for success post-graduation and into adulthood.

“Transition is really setting our kids up for life after they leave us,” said Rebecca Brooks, special education coordinator. “We really look at our life skills and also their job skills and help them to be successful once they leave us.”

Some of the tasks the transition students complete in class include washing laundry, putting up dishes, shredding papers, arranging menus and hanging up clothes.

Community input is a big component of the skills that are taught. A team of staff and local business owners meet to discuss what the current workforce needs are. That information is then directly implemented into the program.

“We hit all the academics that we have to do and then a lot of vocation life skills,” said Jinna Danser, life skills teacher at Legacy High School. “Sometimes people might be like, ‘Well, why don’t you just help them more?’ Because they’re not going to get that help when they leave here. So, we're trying to be able to pull back as much as possible but also help when needed and encourage independence.”

The goal is for the students to learn pre-employment skills that can land them a job or help them get placed with a vocational agency that can further develop their skills.

Alisa Carter, a student in the program, said she’s learned a lot through the Transition Program, and it helped her with her career goals.

“I want to become a baker,” said Carter, a senior at Legacy High School. “I like seeing people bake—bake cakes and cookies—because it looks good, and I thought it’d be really fun.”

Brooks said she loves seeing the achievements made along the way to get the kids that much closer to living a successful life.

"We want the students to be life ready," she said. "And that can look like their independence in the home... all the way up to having a job with purpose and having a job that they enjoy and making their own money. That’s huge.”

The MISD Special Education Department provides services to those ages 3 through 21 (birth through 21 for students with visual or auditory impairments) who meet the legal requirements of one or more disabilities as defined by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Find more information about the offerings here.

“Everything starts with a farmer.”

That’s what Cymbre Penwarden, agricultural science elective teacher at Donna Shepard Leadership Academy, instills in her fifth and sixth grade students every day.

Students in her class learn where their food comes from, where their clothes come from, and get hands-on experience caring for animals and vegetation. Penwarden said the program builds upon what is taught in elementary school at Tarver-Rendon School of Agricultural Leadership.

“Those kids come into class with that knowledge already and have ideas of what they want to do, and they share it with the students who didn’t get to go to Tarver-Rendon,” said Penwarden. “They just take it and keep going a little further and a little bit further with it.”

At the intermediate level, Penwarden said her assignments are more student led. Everything from garden beds, coops and feeding areas are designed and built by the students.

Reagan Blanton, a sixth grader at Donna Shepard Leadership Academy, said the various lessons she’s learned in her agricultural science classes throughout the years have guided her decision to become a professional goat breeder.

“I started out at Tarver-Rendon, and they had a small ag program. Then, I got into it and started doing FFA (Future Farmers of America),” Blanton explained. “Then, I came here, and it got a little more serious—and I got more serious in it—and now I want to become a breeder and continue my passions for FFA.”

The students in the agricultural science course are responsible for the daily chores of the school’s mini farm and garden. They feed and clean the animals, ensure the animal living quarters are well kept and water the plants.

It teaches the kids the basics of agricultural and gives them a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

“I love just being a leader and being able to do this in general because I know a lot of people aren’t able to do this and don’t have the opportunity to do this in their schools,” said Addison Penwarden, sixth grader at Donna Shepard Leadership Academy. “I like taking care of the animals, I like bonding with them, and I like making friends every year.”

As special bonds are formed along the way, the teacher noted that what is learned at these younger grade levels helps them that much more as they continue exploring their interest in agricultural science.

“I think the goal is just to get them excited and understand how important the agriculture industry really is to everybody,” said Cymbre Penwarden. “Getting these kids to start off at such a young age gives them such an advantage when they get to the high school and their taking classes that actually sends them on a career path.”

Those interested in continuing in the agricultural science classes can attend nearby Jobe Middle School in the seventh and eighth grades. They can then study a variety of courses in the agriculture, food and natural resources program at Ben Barber Innovation Academy at the high school level.

From all of us at Mansfield ISD, we're wishing everyone a bright and beautiful holiday season with lots of love and goodwill.

We're blessed to be part of such a caring community that works together to achieve student success and meet the needs of others. Thank you all for your selfless dedication.

Happy holidays and have a wonderful new year!

When students at The Phoenix Academy receive their lunch, they get some extra knowledge on the side to go with it.

Beginning this school year, students are invited every school day during lunchtime to go to the school’s library area, called The Nest, to learn practical lessons that will help them reach their goals in life.

Nicholson Scott, III, the school’s innovative learning and technology facilitator, organized the lunch and learn after realizing that it’s something he would have liked to have in school.

“One of the major reasons why I started the lunch and learn is because I knew where I was coming out of high school,” said Scott. “I needed a plan in order to kind of further myself in life, and you really don’t start thinking about that until those final moments.”

He teaches different topics each week to help students develop a plan and a goal for their life. Whether it’s to go to college, learn a trade or join the military, every student is encouraged to voice their plans and explain how they’ll achieve it.

“This week, the topic is accountability. The week before that was defining a benchmark. You know, simple things that kids really haven’t put a lot of thought into. They hear it all the time, but they haven’t put thought into it,” he added.

Principal Regenia Crane said the group of kids involved in the daily talks keeps expanding, and she’s excited to see the difference the lunch and learn is making on the campus.

“The kids love it,” she said. “To walk in there and see a room full of kids who are engaged and who leave with relevant information that leads them to be prepared for life is phenomenal.”

Students noted that they come back every day not just for the information, but also for the way the material is presented to them.

“The lunch and learns were like a great opportunity for me to see a brighter future for myself,” said Latrey Mitchell, who is a senior in high school. “It’s just real and uncut and 100%, and I feel like we need that. We really do. We don’t need to sugarcoat everything.”

Scott said his main goal is to create a different type of informative session for the young adults, and he wants kids to remember these nuggets just as they would the lessons in their other subjects.

“We get academics. Obviously, that’s the goal of being in high school. But what are we doing as far as maturing the students within life issues, life situations, life planning?” he added.

The Phoenix Academy provides a self-paced accelerated curriculum for students who may be deficient in their credits or meet one or more of the state at-risk criteria factors. The school plans to continue the lunch and learns and integrate it into the culture of learning real-life lessons.

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