Our Schools

2018-2019 District Blog

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There’s always something going on at the Mansfield ISD Natatorium. If swimming and diving competitions aren’t in session, children are usually using the facility to learn more about water safety.

“We offer swim lessons to the community from ages 4 to 14,” said Blake Kahla, MISD coach and swim school coordinator. “Our mission is to teach kids how to swim, so they can be safe in an aquatic environment.” 

Summer classes last for two weeks, ranging from a novice level 1 to an expert level 8. The goal is for participants to move up one level by the end of each session. 

According to Kahla, 95 percent of the instructors are MISD high school students. 

He said it’s beneficial for all involved because the younger children can see what an advanced swimmer looks like while the older students can learn how to interact with beginners and their parents. 

“I just like seeing them happy, and they enjoy coming here and swimming with me,” said Jacqueline Green, an incoming senior at Lake Ridge High School. “My goal is to teach them something new. They might not understand the skill, but at least be confident enough in themselves to actually learn.”

During the school year, all MISD third-graders go to the natatorium to learn about water safety. 

The coach said the district offers year-round classes to build confidence and teach lifelong lessons in water safety so that children learn to be comfortable in both small and large bodies of water. 

For more information about natatorium classes, visit the facility website.

The use of drones—also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—is on the rise, and Mansfield ISD is starting a new class to help students prepare for the booming industry. 

Edu-Drone will be offered in January 2019 with a focus on obtaining skills to become a commercial drone pilot for a variety of career pathways. 

“It’s just such an exciting adventure for us,” said Christie Alfred, executive director of curriculum and instruction. “It allows students from all different interest areas to come in…and it’s potentially a huge opportunity for employment for them as they graduate high school.” 

The classes will take place at Ben Barber Innovation Academy (BBIA) for MISD high school juniors and seniors. 

After successfully completing the course, students will be able to take the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 exam to become a certified drone pilot. 

“We have drone clubs at some elementary schools. Also, at our STEM Academy, they’re very involved in the drone program and will soon have competitions. Those types of activities promote the pipeline for students to engage in the Edu-Drone class in the future,” Alfred continued. 

Beverly Ver Steeg will be the instructor for Edu-Drone. She currently teaches engineering and aerospace classes at BBIA and is excited to expand the aviation offerings at the school. 

“I actually fly drones at home and kind of play with them. It’s a hobby,” said Ver Steeg. “When we knew we were getting a class, I was like, ‘Yeah!’ and sort of pushed to teach the course.” 

The 11th- and 12th-graders in Edu-Drone must have passed Algebra I, be at least 16 years old and hold a valid driver’s license. 

There is still space in the class. Interested students can visit their counselor for more information on how to get enrolled.

College fight songs traveled through the air while tailgate foods and activities aligned the campus grounds.

But there was no college game scheduled for the day. In fact, no college students were even in sight. 

All of the day's excitement came from fifth- and sixth-graders at Asa E. Low, Jr. Intermediate School in celebration of National College Colors Day. 

National College Colors Day is acknowledged on the Friday before Labor Day across the country. On that day, students, family, fans and alumni display their team spirit by wearing their college or university colors and apparel. 

"Awareness begins now,” said sixth-grade counselor Brandi Bates, who helped coordinate the event at Low Intermediate. “Our parents need to be aware of what the district offers, and we don’t want them to wait until it’s too late.” 

Throughout the week, students learned about different college-related topics, such as best study habits, admissions and fields of study. 

Organizers say the big picnic event on Thursday was to help celebrate the lessons learned in a fun way while inviting parents to take part in the educational experience. 

“I think it’s a good way to sort of introduce them to the concept of college at an early age so that it doesn’t seem so big. It kind of brings it down, I think, to a more casual level,” said parent Kirsten Woodard. 

One of the popular components of the National College Colors Day Picnic was a drawing to play football with Principal Jason Short. Students earned “caught being good” tickets throughout the week, which entered them into the raffle to play. 

“I like today because we get to wear our college shirts, we eat outside, we get to play games… it’s really fun,” said fifth-grader Caleb Randle. 

This is the second year Low Intermediate has held its schoolwide picnic. Staff members said they are happy to plant the seed about higher education to the students and start those important conversations.

A battle over state lines kicked off the Mansfield ISD 2018-19 high school football season. 

MISD football teams, bands, cheerleaders, drill teams and fans made the trip up north to celebrate the inaugural Border Brawl football competition on Aug. 31, in which five MISD teams faced five Oklahoma teams. 

“This is something special for our school district and for our kids to experience,” said Legacy High School head coach Chris Melson. “It’s not just the football team. You got the bands, drill teams, cheerleaders, supporting staff… everybody gets to experience it.” 

Border Brawl was brought to life by MISD Athletics Director Philip O’Neal and Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas. 

The idea was to provide students with new opportunities while engaging in friendly competition. 

“I think it’s important for us to create experiences for them,” said O’Neal. “The connections and lessons they learn from going beyond their region will help them in college and in life.” 

“Our kids have never gotten to do something like this,” said Daniel Maberry, head coach at Mansfield High School. “You get to see games on T.V. all the time where teams sometimes travel to Florida or Nevada to play some of the private schools, but these are two quality programs coming together to experience something they never have before.” 

The Oklahoma competition included teams from Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow, Bixby and Sand Springs.

Even though the games took place hours away, there was no shortage of MISD fans. Hundreds of people filled the stands to show their support. 

“To be here at the Border Brawl is just showing that Texas and Oklahoma can come together and make something like this possible,” said Brandon Jones, junior at Summit High School. 

O’Neal said that apart from the competition, Mansfield ISD being able to come together as a unit was priceless. 

“This is an opportunity for Mansfield ISD to be unified in their effort to come to Oklahoma and compete against the Tulsa-area schools as one,” he said. “The benefits of that go way beyond the sports field.” 

The same schools will face each other again in the Border Brawl track meet, which will take place at the start of the 2019 track season.

“Mimi!” “Gigi!” “Grandpa!” 

Those were the words being shouted by Mansfield ISD children this week with big smiles plastered across their faces. 

The students at Nancy Neal Elementary School and many campuses across the district celebrated National Grandparents Day, a day in which grandparents and grandfriends can celebrate intergenerational relationships and family time. 

“It’s a special day in my heart because I’m very close with my grandparents, and I feel like it’s a great way to bring our grandparents into the classroom and into our school… and spend some quality time with them,” said Lesley Norris, librarian at Neal Elementary School. 

Grandparents and grandfriends of Neal Elementary School were invited to eat lunch with their grandchildren. 

Afterward, they were welcome to go into the library to participate in the book fair. 

“I’ve been going to Grandparents Day for five years,” said Ellen Dill, a grandmother of a fourth-grader. “It’s just another bond between the grandparents. [My granddaughter] gets all excited about it. It’s a little reminder that she knows she’s special.” 

National Grandparents Day falls each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. The purpose of the holiday is to honor grandparents, give them an opportunity to show love for their children's children and to help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer. 

“I always tell my kids if their grandparents live far away or if they’re not close by, call them on the phone, tell them how much you love them and just share that special moment with them,” Norris said. 

Norris added that it warms her heart to see the grandparents and grandfriends interact with each other. She said that is her motivation behind coordinating the event each year.

The Hall of Fame is reserved for the best of the best in a particular industry, and Legacy High School’s journalism team is about to be added to the list of elite student publications in the country. 

The National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) inducts a student publication into its Hall of Fame if the publication has earned 10 All-American ratings, the organization’s highest distinction, within an 11-year span. 

Legacy High’s yearbook and student newspaper, titled “The Arena” and “The Rider Online” respectively, met that criterion. The Hall of Fame induction is an accomplishment that journalism adviser Leland Mallett said came sooner than he realized. 

“It’s a huge honor,” said Mallett. “It just goes by fast. You’re like, ‘Really? That’s where we are? We’ve been here long enough to do that?’” 

Students who have had a part in the success of the publications were also excited to hear the news. 

“I worked on this publication for three years, and I’ve seen us get these awards all the way through,” said editor-in-chief Kathryn Pedroza. “To be part of this 10-year process, it’s been really cool to see it evolve and then us get to this point.” 

Mallett said he is proud of every student who has contributed to Legacy High’s body of work and appreciates the former students who still reach out to give their feedback. 

“It’s fun, their ownership in it all these years,” Mallett continued. “It’s an honor to say, ‘Hey! We’re on that list.’ Pretty proud of what the kids have done.” 

Hall of Fame inductees receive a special plaque and are added to the NSPA Hall of Fame plaques, which are displayed at the semiannual national convention. 

Legacy High School journalism students and staff will travel to Chicago in November to be formally recognized at the convention. 

Staff members said they hope the recognition will help grow Legacy High’s journalism program and cause more students to become involved in it.

Student engagement and classroom rigor went to a whole new level at Donna Shepard Intermediate School. 

Thousands of educators around the world took part in Rock Your School Day on Sept. 20. It’s an event with the goal of getting every student in every classroom to reignite their love for learning. 

Participating educators are tasked with creating an outside-the-box educational experience for students, and Shepard Intermediate staff members were up for the challenge. 

“As the kids were walking in, there were the electives teachers who were rocking music, and then the administrators [dressed in rock gear] were greeting students at the buses when they were coming in,” said Amalia Cervantes, the lead English language learners teacher at Shepard Intermediate. 

The neon rock ‘n’ roll theme was just the beginning. 

When fifth-graders went into their classrooms, they discovered that each one had a different theme with several interactive activities. One class was decked out in Hollywood glam. Others featured camping, the beach or investigative gear. 

Although organizers wanted the students to have fun, keeping the curriculum at a high level was equally important. 

“Today, we were learning about fractions. And then in science, we were learning about solubility and stuff…seeing what happens when you mix salt and water,” explained fifth-grader Samuel Kleinjan. 

Staff members said they stayed late, came early and received tons of help from parents to help transform their classrooms into a captivating learning experience; but it was all worth it in the end. 

“The kids were super excited, and that’s what matters,” Cervantes continued. “They were engaged. They want to be here today and any day that we’re going to do these again...because we will be doing them again.” 

School administrators plan to incorporate a Rock Your School Day at least once every six weeks. They said it is important to continually find a way to deliver ordinary content in an extraordinary way.

June 11, 2018 is a day that will be forever etched into DeAnna Garner’s memory. Along with her wedding planning, closing on a new house and enjoying the summer, she received devastating news from her doctor. 

“I have triple negative breast cancer, and then it’s also in my lymph nodes, so I’m stage three,” explained the Martha Reid Leadership Academy art teacher. “It makes you feel kind of like poisoned or something. I wanted it out of me.” 

Garner said breaking the news to her kids was probably the hardest part. She said it was also hard reliving the moment of her diagnosis with each person she told. 

The mother of four began chemotherapy in the summertime, and shaved her head beforehand due to the hair loss it causes. 

She was worried about how to introduce herself to her new students with her new look, so she turned to her best coping mechanism—humor. 

“I wore a shirt that said, ‘Does this shirt make Ms. Dee’s head look bald?’” Garner said with a chuckle. “That’s how I want them to know that it’s okay.” 

Apart from comedic relief and her strong faith, Garner noted that the love she receives from her school has been tremendous on her road to recovery. She said there have been fundraisers, shirts, gifts and an outpouring of kind words that have helped her make it through tough times. 

The teacher also said Mansfield ISD’s Colors for Caring monthly initiative, which encourages the community to wear cancer awareness colors to show support for a loved one affected by cancer, took on a whole new meaning for her. 

“I think Colors for Caring is amazing because coming to school on a day when people were wearing pink for me…it does make you feel better,” Garner added. “I think it’s really good.” 

Garner underwent her most recent chemotherapy on Sept. 20. She has a few more rounds of chemotherapy to go before she undergoes surgery. 

She hopes to transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor by August 2019. Learn more about MISD's Colors for Caring days here.

UPDATE: Tarver-Rendon Elementary school won the Farmers Insurance contest. Students and staff were presented with the $100,000 grand prize check on Dec. 5 at a surprise assembly.

What would you do with $100,000? Staff members at Tarver-Rendon Elementary School hope to expand their agricultural leadership program with it. 

They applied for Farmers Insurance's Dream Big Teacher Challenge. As part of the application process, educators nationwide submitted proposals explaining the impact the money would have on their community. 

The proposal took four months to write, but staff members said it was all worth it because Tarver-Rendon Elementary School made it to the final round. Out of the 15 remaining finalists, five will win the grand prize. 

“We figure we have a one in three chance, and we’re the only school district in Texas to be one of the finalists, so we’re very proud of that,” said Principal Jamie Norwood. 

Right now, the school provides students the opportunity to learn character skills by raising animals, growing their own food, using the food in their homegrown salad bar for lunch and giving some of the harvest to local food banks. 

Winning $100,000 would open up even more doors. 

“With the grant, we would be able to have an outdoor classroom with stadium-like seating, more stalls for more animals, raised garden beds, more pathways and more signage,” Norwood added. 

Rita Denton, director of student nutrition for Mansfield ISD, said the kids would be exposed to more organic and homegrown foods as well. 

“I think with that grant and the opportunity that this administration and teachers have at this school to get more equipment, I think that it would bring more ingredients to our garden bar,” she noted. 

The grand prize winners will be chosen through online voting. 

Cast your vote for Shaye Anne Atwood, agricultural leadership teacher at Tarver-Rendon Elementary School, here. 

Voting is open until Nov. 3, and people are allowed to vote once a day.

Mansfield ISD students in grades 7-12 have the opportunity to enroll in an elective that helps them learn vital educational skills so they can succeed in all levels of education. 

Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, is a college-readiness system designed to increase the number of students who enroll in four-year colleges or universities. The program is about setting high goals for the students and allowing them to rise to the challenge. 

“We’re preparing students to be able to excel in school and be ready for the next level,” said LaKetra Robinson, an AVID teacher at James Coble Middle School. “In the middle school level, we’re preparing them for high school; and at the high school level, we’re preparing them for college and career.” 

MISD also has an AVID Excel program for English language learners (ELL) in middle school to support those students with their academic success in hopes that they will continue the program in high school. 

Kimberly Peña, an AVID teacher at Timberview High School, said the needs for AVID students change as they progress in the system. The foundation is set in middle school, but organizational skills are stressed even more at the higher level. 

“There’s a diversity in their classes. Some of them are taking AP courses where they’re allowed to get college credit,” she explained. “They have a lot more freedom with their time management, so they have to be accountable to themselves on how they spend that time.” 

Students in the program noted that AVID classes have broadened their perspective on studying skills and goal setting. 

“I need to put in the work myself. Nobody else is going to do that for me,” said Corbyn Wilde, a junior at Timberview High School. “It has also helped me plan by giving us time in class to really consider what we’re going to do with our futures.” 

Although the students graduate from the program with a knowledge of test-taking strategies, organization, study skills, notetaking and public speaking, Robinson said her favorite part about teaching AVID is the holistic approach to educating a child. 

“We’re teaching them about life skills, so I’m building them up to be prepared for society,” she added. 

MISD classes are not designated for AVID until seventh grade. However, foundational AVID programs are available to MISD fifth- and sixth-graders to start them on the path of college readiness as well. 

More information about the AVID program is available here.