Friday, March 18, 2016 was a big day for the National Academic League team at TH Bell Junior High School. Months of preparation and countless hours of practice paid off when the Minutemen advanced to the national championship after defeating Roland Park Middle School of Baltimore, Maryland. TH Bell faced off against Hanes Magnet School of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the current defending national champions.
The National Academic League was founded to encourage academic competition in a tournament setting. Essentially, it is a "battle of the brains" between opposing schools. As per the description on the NAL website, "A team of 15 to 40 students under the direction of a coach play a four-quarter game focusing on questions that span 22 subjects grouped under the basic curriculum areas of math, English/language arts, science and social studies. Each question has been correlated to National Curriculum Standards. Players use strategies to keep possession of a question sequence, learn teamwork as they huddle to answer a complex question, learn to problem-solve by preparing and presenting a solution to real-world problems, and engage in a fast-paced, quick-answer contest."
This was the Minutemen's first time playing in the national championship. The tournament was played via live video feed at Weber Innovation Center. The four-quarter game consists of a roundabout video segment where players buzz in to answer trivia styled questions, a teamwork video where teams huddle to answer timed questions together, a problem solving video where players take on a "real life" problem and collectively present their proposed solution, and finally, a one-on-one video that is a speed contest sometimes culminating in a free-for-all. National champions are ironically awarded with the TH Bell Award. The National Academic League was founded by TH Bell's namesake, Dr. Terrel H. Bell along with Dr. Donna L Elmquist. A Utah native, Dr. Bell served as the U.S. education leader under three presidents. The NAL was launched in Salt Lake City's Granite School District in 1991.
TH Bell proved to be a worthy opponent to the defending champions at Hanes Magnet School; however, Hanes ultimately went on to defeat the Minutemen in Friday's match. Weber School District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Stephens, who attended Friday's match, commended the team and reminded them that their accomplishment as national first runner up is not diminished by Friday's loss. He praised their hard work and dedication, and conveyed the pride the District felt at their achievement. We have a feeling that this will not be the last we hear of TH Bell's NAL team!
On Wednesday March 2, 2016, Weber School District partnered with the Weber County Sheriff's Office, Pleasant View Police Department, Roy City Police Department, and the Utah Highway Patrol to conduct the largest safety drill in the district to date. The three-staged lockdown, evacuation, and reunification exercise was conducted at Kanesville Elementary in West Haven.
Gone are the days when the only drills teachers and administration needed to worry about involved earthquakes and fire. As a district we must now be prepared to protect the safety of our students in a variety of situations. Weber School District is committed to being prepared to protect, evacuate, and reunite the children with their parents and loved ones in the event of a natural disaster or tragedy.
Principal Scott Zellmer initiated discussion of drill that would involve transporting students from the school. Unlike most other schools in the District, Kanesville has the distinction of being geographically located in an area without surrounding schools, parks, or other public spaces that are suitable for an evacuation of this magnitude. In preparation for the drill, the Weber County Sheriff's Office suggested use of the Weber County Fairgrounds as an evacuation site due to its relatively close approximation to Kanesville and the fact that its layout was easily secured by law enforcement.
Lockdown, evacuation, and reunification drills have all been conducted separately prior to Wednesday's drill, but this was the first time the District has conducted all three drills concurrently. Planning for the drill was a months-long process that required a small army of volunteers and cooperation with multiple agencies. The day began at 9:00 with teachers receiving the signal to begin the lockdown with “locks, lights, out of sight”. Classrooms were individually cleared by law enforcement and children were escorted onto waiting buses, walking hand-in-hand. Streets along the evacuation route were closed to traffic, and a police escort accompanied the buses to the Fairgrounds where the children were taken into the Exhibit Hall. Parents were notified via email and text of their student's location and given the “all clear” to begin arriving at the Fairgrounds for reunification. Upon arrival, parents filled out information cards and were asked to present their identification. Once checked in, they were sent to a waiting area until their children were brought to the reunification table. At that point, identification was again verified and students were reunited and sent home with their parents. The cooperation of parents in the process was appreciated very much.
Nate Taggart, Weber School District's Spokesperson and Safety Specialist stated that it is everyone's hope that we never have to use this protocol, but emphasized the importance of being prepared for such an event. Overall, the process was very smooth and well executed with few issues. Many lessons were learned, and ideas for expediting evacuation and reunification were shared. Input received from law enforcement, parents, and school officials has been invaluable in helping us to streamline the process; however, the most important feedback we received was from the students themselves. The children felt protected and secure knowing that procedures were in place to ensure their safety. They even reported having a lot of fun watching movies and playing games while they waited for their parents to arrive. But perhaps most fun of all, they received their very own police escort!
Recently the Weber School District had the opportunity to celebrate the efforts of a group of talented young authors. This year marks the inauguration of Weber Young Authors and Illustrators, a program designed to develop the writing talents of junior high-aged students in addition to helping elementary-aged children understand math and science concepts.
It may not be immediately apparent how a writing program would foster understanding of STEM concepts for 2nd and 3rd grade kids until you understand how and why the Young Authors program was created. Mrs. Kimberlee Irvine of South Ogden Junior High spearheaded the program with several objectives in mind. Mrs. Irvine envisioned a program where budding young authors could hone their literary skills by penning children's books based upon science and math principles. She also enlisted the talents of illustrators to help bring the authors' stories to life. After the stories were written and the artwork created, the resulting books would be published and distributed to younger students to help with STEM conceptualization.
The goals of the program were two-fold; not only would this foster a love for literacy and writing in the older students, it would introduce math and science topics with an endearing and fun approach that would pique the interest of young readers. Ultimately, Mrs. Irvine states that the resulting books created by her students were "poignant, brilliant, and heartwarming." Being the first year of the program, these authors/illustrators had the added discernment of being the "founding" artisans of the program.
An unintended and wonderful pattern began to become apparent during the process. Mrs. Irvine said, "Some of our authors and illustrators chose to create books with an allegorical focus that will help students struggling with depression and other challenges." Several of these students found validation and affirmation of their talents as authors which eased their struggles with self-doubt and depression.
South Ogden Junior High 9th grader Sidney Maudlin wrote "There and Evaporated Again", a delightful book on the evaporation process centered on the central character "Dewey." This book caught the attention of Sarah Young, Utah State Office of Education's STEM Director. Mrs. Young read "There and Evaporated Again" to her 7-year-old son Jake each night. It quickly became Jake's favorite story, in fact, little Jake would only allow his mom to read him other books if she promised to end their story-reading session with the book about "Dewey." Mrs. Young wrote a letter to Sidney commending her on her charming story along with a very special picture colored by Jake.
At the Young Author's Celebration, each author/illustrator was presented with a copy of their published book in addition to a medal of commendation. We are proud of these students and their contributions. Guest speakers included Matthew Patterson, Weber School District Curriculum Specialist, and Dr. Jeff Stephens, Weber School District Superintendent.
Authors and illustrators recognized were: Hannah Jefferies/Illustrator, Maddie Stone, Sally Palmer, Melanie Nielson, Hannah Mosher/Illustrator, Ashley Udink, Victoria Udink, Riley Dickamore, Quinn Michaels, Nicola Ward, Timothy Parkinson, Jennifer Morales, Ali Azcher/Illustrator, Laura Kester, Sidney Maudlin, Dylan Hunter/Illustrator, McKenzie Leininger, Lucas Quintrequeo, Callie Bryner, Kali Hyer, Ashley Allred, Bethany Michaels, Grace Fawbush, Taylor Seager, Katelyn Smout, Liliana Corrales, Trevor O'Neal, Abigail Hohmann, Emma Ipsen, Sterling Oliver, and Shianne Archer.
Call for Nominations through March 25, 2016
Nominations for the 2016 Huntsman Awards for Excellence in Education are now being solicited by the Awards Committee and will be accepted through 5:00 p.m., on Friday, March 25, 2016.
Each year the Huntsman family presents a check for $10,000 and a crystal obelisk to each of eleven outstanding Utah public educators: six teachers, three administrators, one volunteer, and one special education teacher. Nominations are received from throughout the state and reviewed by a board consisting of some of the Utah’s most prominent citizens and eminent educators, including past award winners. The 2016 recipients will be announced in late April, and the Awards will be presented at a banquet in Salt Lake City on May 13, 2016.
One of Weber District's most beloved music teachers, Niels Hansen of South Ogden Junior High, was honored at the February Board Meeting with the "I Love Teaching Award." Mr. Hansen was nominated by Principal Michele Parry, who stated, "I've seen many of his students completely change, becoming better students in other subject areas, and even leaders in the school, because he believed in them and gave them a chance to find their niche." Aside from the fact that Mr. Hansen is a fabulous music teacher who puts on delightful concerts with his students, most importantly, he is a model and a mentor to children and peers alike. As Mrs. Parry states, "Teaching isn't just what he does, it's who he is."
In a world where children are increasingly more immersed in technology and electronics, music education is more important than ever. Albert Einstein once said, "I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music." As this wise man knew, music teaches children math in rhythms, physical education in coordination of hands and fingers, and science in acoustics and volume. Music is education of the whole being.
For 15 years, Jill LaFeber of South Ogden Junior High has been caring for hundreds of staff members and students at South Ogden Junior High. Mrs. Parry, who also nominated Mrs. LaFeber, said that every student, teacher, parent, or staff member walks into the main office sure to be greeted by a smile. While she is meticulous in her secretarial duties, it is her loving dedication to each student that really makes her stand out. Mrs. Parry wrote of several examples where Jill has gone above and beyond the scope of her job responsibilities to make sure that students are cared for and nurtured in the school environment, from customizing a locker for an exceptionally small 7th grade to taking extra care of an injured student. Mrs. LaFeber was given the "Extra Mile Award" for the many years of loving service that she has given to our District.
Congratulations to these two wonderful individuals.
Kanesville Elementary students Sophia and Sabrina Johnson's dad Jeremy is a big Miami Dolphins fan. So when the sisters saw a news story about a Tayton Timothy, the little girl from Delta who had been injured in an accident, they noticed that she was wearing a Miami Dolphins jersey in her photo. The sisters thought that they would like to send Tayton a care package to buoy her spirits and help speed her recovery. When Principal Scott Zellmer learned of the girls' plan, he suggested that the school do a mini fundraiser to purchase Dolphins gear for Tayton. Little did he know that his little fundraiser was about to snowball into a huge outpouring of love and support from the Kanesville community to a little girl whom they had never met.
The students began selling paper dolphins for $1.00. Kids were able to sign their names on the dolphins and hang them up in the halls. Alicia Johnson-Coats, an ESL Aide at Kanesville, stated that kids were literally emptying out their piggy banks to buy dolphins for Tayton. Within three days' time, students had raised an astounding $4,200 to help defray mounting medical bills and travel expenses. With the help of Mrs. Johnson-Coats, students put together a video presentation to send to the hospital. When Tayton's family received the video and learned of the effort at Kanesville, they decided to pay a visit for themselves. Mr. Zellmer called an assembly, and along with his student body, presented Sammi Timothy (Tayton's mother) with the money that had been raised. Sammi tearfully thanked the students for their love and support, and stated that Tayton was well on her way to recovery. She was grateful for the joy they had given her daughter, who as of last night, was able to watch movies and laugh with her family.
Sophia Johnson's teacher, Stacy Rountree, states that she is not surprised at the lengths the two sisters went to in order to help a stranger. She said that she has witnessed many instances where Sophia has shown kindness towards her peers, and has even anonymously helped other students in need. Sophia and Sabrina, along with the Kanesville Student Council, worked tirelessly to help raise money for a child who began as a stranger, and is now a friend to the entire student body at Kanesville Elementary. In today's assembly, Sammi promised the students that Tayton will make a personal visit to thank them when her health allows.
Lisa Gilstrap, Principal at Green Acres Elementary nominated Mrs. Karen Vause for the "I Love Teaching" Award for the month of January. Specifically, Mrs. Gilstrap stated that Karen is a "truly gifted teacher and loves doing it." Karen diligently works to make sure that all of her students are successful, and has wonderful way of nurturing and teaching her special needs students. Karen is knowledgeable about collaborative team processes, best teaching practices, academic standards, and assessment. Her knowledge in these areas have proven to be very beneficial to the school improvement process at Green Acres. Mrs. Gilstrap says that Karen has "shown incredible grace under difficult circumstances, keeping the students interests always at the forefront." We are pleased to recognize this gifted teacher, and thank her for her contributions to our students.
In the summer of 2012, Mrs. Kara Liston became the chair for the Christmas Tree Jubilee Committee. This month, Kara was recognized for the "Volunteer Award" to recognize her invaluable contributions towards the success of the Jubilee. When joining the committee, Kara brought with her "organizational and management skills from private business, a knowledge of the community, a desire to serve our children, but mostly the heart needed to ensure success." Mr. Zimmerman explains that it is essential that a chairperson not only provide time and skill, but more importantly, that they possess heart. He stated, "Kara was probably too busy to take on the Jubilee...however, she had the heart." Since 2012, the Jubilee has raised over 1 million dollars to benefit our students, a wonderful milestone that is no doubt due in part to Kara’s leadership and service. The Weber School District was honored to recognize Kara this month with the "Volunteer Award."
The Christmas Tree Jubilee has become a cherished holiday tradition for many Ogden-area families and residents. Each year this event raises funds needed to support Weber School District students in many special programs: Science, art, athletic, and music programs, "All Ability" playgrounds, and field trips for elementary school children to name a few. The organization of the Jubilee is a massive undertaking requiring hundreds of willing hands and hearts.
The weather outside might be frightful, but students at Weber School District schools are doing their best to make sure that the most vulnerable in our midst are warm and well-fed this holiday season. Each junior high and high school in the district has embarked on fundraising drives to raise money and to collect food, toys, and clothing for needy families. The methods employed may differ, but the goal is one and the same. To bring joy to children and their families.
Fremont High School's student government is busy raising money for the Kash-4-Kids charity drive. Funds raised will go help disadvantaged students with everything from clothing purchases to medical bills. At Bonneville High, students look forward to the annual Shop with a Hero trip. This program raises money for police officers to take children Christmas shopping. The Weber High School student body is embarking on a fundraiser called "Live Hannah's Hope" for suicide awareness. Funds raised will be used to purchase food and goods for needy families. At Roy High, the annual Sub for Santa campaign is in full swing. They are also holding a coat drive to make sure that little ones stay warm during the cold winter months.
Junior high and elementary students have also caught the spirit of giving. Combined, the nine junior high schools in our district have managed to donate over 15,000 cans of food along with other goods for the Utah Food Bank and other local charitable donations to make sure that families will have enough to eat during the holidays.
We proudly commend the students, faculty, and staff of our secondary schools for their generosity and charitable spirit. It is no doubt that many children and families will be blessed by their contributions. It is our wish for all to have a peaceful holiday season and memorial New Year.
A well-run school is the result of hard work and dedication from a variety of professionals. Much of this hard work goes on "behind the scenes" by unsung heroes. Each month, the Weber School District recognizes employees who have been nominated by their peers and supervisors for their extraordinary professionalism. During the December School Board meeting, we had the chance to highlight Mr. Fred Smith, Teacher at Fremont High School, and Ms. Carrie Pilot, Head Secretary at Weber Innovation High School.
It is no secret that Head Secretaries often wear many hats. Carrie Pilot of Weber Innovation High School epitomizes this notion. Ms. Pilot is not only Head Secretary at WIC, she is also Head Secretary for Weber Online and Weber Online-Home School. Mr. Reid Newey nominated Carrie for the Extra Mile Award after witnessing her amazing ability to juggle multiple responsibilities and challenges with "grace, patience and complete professional competence." Weber Innovation Center is in its first year of operation. During the past year, Carrie has quite literally built a school from the ground up. Mr. Newey stated that as an administrator, he has come to depend on Carrie knowing that she will handle everything without problem or issue. Students at WIC love Ms. Pilot. Her warm and accepting attitude makes everyone feel immediately at ease, knowing that she is willing to help them with whatever issues they may have. As Mr. Newey wrote, "She is an amazing person, a great friend to all, and a very deserving nominee for the Extra Mile Award!"
Mr. Fred Smith has been teaching in the district for ten years. He serves as the digital media teacher as well as the head and assistant coach in soccer at Fremont High School. Fred has a passion for what he teaches and that passion shines through to his students, which is why his classes are filled every year. Many of his former students have pursued careers in digital media as a direct result of their experience at Fremont High School in Mr. Smith’s classes. Dr. Rod Belnap nominated Mr. Smith for the I Love Teaching Award, stating that he is what they call a "warm demander", that is "someone who is genuine, a cheerleader, and support of young people ... but also someone who has clear, fair expectations." Mr. Smith has made a substantial contribution to Fremont High through his professional publicity and quality media projects. His most recent project has been the "Fremont Spirit Video". This was a huge undertaking, requiring 2000 students to be in a designated place at the same time, demonstrating school pride and enthusiasm. The resulting video was nothing short of impressive. It plays on the TV system schoolwide and is a source of great pride to students and staff alike. Dr. Belnap wrote, "Fred sees students for whom they can become, not for who they are at the immediate present and helps them envision careers in things they may not have thought possible before."
Congratulations to these two individuals on their well-deserved awards. We are honored to recognize their spirit and hard work. Thank you for all you do every day to create a successful school experience for our students.