“Thanks for your service.” The week started with our Veterans Day Assembly. Monday morning began with our Student Council leading our annual assembly honoring our veterans. With the help of the WHS band, choir, and orchestra, our students led one of the finest traditions for our student body.
Our speaker was Mr. Dean Phillips who is a veteran of the US Army while also being a substitute teacher for our campus for nearly twenty years. Mr. Phillips, who served two combat tours in Vietnam, did a fine job.
Photo by WHS Senior, Will Rhodes
We also shared a story from our Virtual Vietnam Memorial, which has over 1800 videos created by WHS students honoring the servicemen and women who gave their lives in Vietnam.
One of the coolest aspects of our assembly is when we play the songs of the armed services and request students and staff to stand if their parents or grandparents or any relative served in that armed service branch. We appreciate all our groups making this a special event for our community.
In the fall of 2011, our campus was the pilot program for the introduction for the 1:1 technology initiative. As one of the two administrators tasked with this initiative, I can say that this has been a process that has always included feedback from all stakeholders-students, staff and parents. During this past week, our staff and parents received a survey from the Digital Learning Task Force. We hope you can find the time to complete this survey:
CLICK HERE TO BEGIN SURVEY
Feedback is crucial for any organization, and we hope the DLTF receives an ample amount of direct feedback. Our students will be receiving their survey the week after Thanksgiving Break.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful day for many reasons. It is special for I believe it is the one holiday that can be deeply personalized for each family. Everyone has their own traditions and activities that are simply part of the day.
Since my father was in the Air Force, we moved around a lot. For those who had parents in the military, this day could take on many variations based on a number of different circumstances: how far away from family, how long in the new assignment, living on or off the base, stage of military career, and if dad would be home for the day. After getting to spend back-to-back Thanksgivings with family in Montgomery, we found ourselves in southern Illinois at Scott Air Force Base. We would be spending the day alone due to various circumstances. After helping with the preparation for the meal, my mom and I took our dog for a walk. It was very cold with skies filled with gray. We were walking along, and my mom asked me what I was thankful for on that day. I do not remember what all I said, but I do remember my mom taking the time to tell me all the reasons she was proud of me. This yearly exchange became our tradition that would last until she passed away. We spent our last Thanksgiving traveling to many homes in November of 2001 as we knew she would pass soon. My mom was clever and crafty enough not to have that thankful and proud exchange until we arrived back to her home late that evening after celebrating Thanksgiving at least six times with her friends. That night was a little different as she not only told me what she was currently proud of me for, but she went on to detail the things she knew she would be proud of me for as I grew as a husband, possible future father, and educator since she would not be around the next year.
Traditions are fun for they can be passed down from generation to generation. While my girls may not look forward or listen to my “proud list” for each kid, they all do glowingly and joyfully express their gratitude for Grandma Mary whom they never met. Have a wonderful break, and take care of each other over the next week.
Over the years, I have written about the excitement and joy derived from watching our students compete, perform, and create life-long memories. Whether it’s on a field, stage, diamond, track, trail, gym, robotics field, it is a pleasure to watch our students compete with the help and guidance of our coaches, directors, and sponsors.
With nearly 90% of our students involved in extracurricular activities, there are numerous opportunities nightly it seems. There also is the downside of some of these seasons - they end for our seniors. Over the last few weeks, our marching band, tennis, volleyball and cross country teams experienced the end of their seasons. The abruptness and jolting end can be highly difficult on our seniors no matter the measure of success. When I was coaching at WHS, we had many ends that happened in a state championship game or the first round of the playoffs, and they were all challenging and sad.
Only one team may experience a championship - so a disappointment ensues for thousands of kids every year. As I have observed over the years, a strong hug and a few simple words go a long way between our kids, parents and staff. This is truly a time where kids may not remember the words...but they will always remember how they felt in that moment. As we celebrate our seniors involved with football, Hyline, band, cheer and Tech Crew this evening, we hope everyone has a fantastic, if not, Chaptastic night.
For those of you who love the cold weather, we hope you enjoy the brisk and chilly air. For those who detest the weather being below 70* like me, here are my thoughts:
On a final note, do you ever wonder what teachers do on Early Release Days? Early Release Days provide opportunities for our staff to collaborate and engage in rotations to enhance their teaching and to gain more insight into our children. To give you an idea, teachers were able to choose from a variety of sessions this past Tuesday, 11/6, including:
Of particular interest to many was the presentation by our Guidance Counselor, Lisa Arronge, on The Teenage Brain. Who wouldn't be fascinated by that?! Be sure to check out the TED Talk by Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, one of the world's leading researchers into adolescent neurology, who explains the mysterious workings of the adolescent brain.
Here are resources shared by our Educational Technologists during Early Release Day you may also find helpful:
At Westlake High School, we have two Educational Technologists. Lisa Johnson and Chris Hanson are two of the finest Educational Technologists in this wonderful state. Lisa and Chris work with our staff daily in many areas. On October 31st, they took our sophomores through a single period called Base Camp which our freshmen completed earlier this fall. Each grade level receives a customized set of activities.
This Halloween, our Ed Techs had an App-tacular time with Sophomores. All sophomores visited the iPad Base Camp during their World History or WHAP class. The intent of the Base Camp was two-fold:
600+ sophomores visited our base camp yesterday. Their favorite stations were Google Keep, Screen Time, Clips, and Toontastic and we received lots of great feedback from them:
We would like to wish our Girls’ Cross Country Team luck as they compete at Old Settler’s Park. If you would like to see some of our athletes who represent our community at the finest levels, come on out at 8:30 am to support the team as they run for state for the first time in our history.
The CHAP Band will be competing for state at 9 am on Monday morning at the Alamodome. The band has an outstanding show which will be up against some of the premiere programs in Texas. State band takes place every other year, and the band has reached this competition every time since 1998. Good luck to these outstanding groups of students, coaches and directors.
As a final request, today is Donation Day for the Eanes Educational Foundation. EEF funds 16 full time positions at WHS. Sixteen is a rather significant number...these teachers impact around 2,000 students a day. We hope you will take the time to donate today for every dollar makes a direct impact. DONATE HERE
Have a wonderful weekend. We hope you are designing some great plans for the Thanksgiving Break. As one of our seniors pointed out earlier this week, we get nine days instead of just five for a break. And that is awesome…….
As you know, we have been on a water boil notice since early Monday morning. We would like to thank our students and staff for making this week at WHS as close to a normal week as possible. We can easily and confidently report that there has been minimal interruption to our days this week in regards to instructional time and all of our extracurricular and club activities. Our Maintenance and Operations Dept did a fantastic job of making sure we had supplies daily! We would like to thank our parents for sending water with their students and for making lunches for their kids when possible.
We continue to allow our students to pick up water bottles throughout the day as needed. We have water bottle stations in the Chap Court, the Commons and NGC Cafeteria. Students have been very grateful for the freedom to pick up water at their discretion. We only have a few rules: one per student, please recycle, and drink the water you take. We did have to address the rumor that if our students drank all the water, that we would cancel school.
With the water boil notice in effect, concessions at our events will be impacted. As an example, we will have bottled water, canned drinks, and sports drinks available at our football games on Thursday and Friday evenings but no ice or fountain drink service. Our normal food service should be OK but may be modified as the evenings progress. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
We hope everyone has a tremendous weekend. The weather should be absolutely gorgeous with sunny skies and highs in the 70s and low 80s. We look forward to a No Homework evening next week on October 31st and also towards the beginning of November.
Today marks the end of the first quarter of the 18-19 school year. It has been a busy week and quarter for our students and staff. We believe we have had a strong first quarter due to some outstanding senior leadership on campus. We have had some significant gains in our staff with a skilled group of new teachers who are small in number but have had a positive impact at WHS. I was talking to a group of senior boys yesterday who were amazed how quick the year is going, and they mentioned how Thanksgiving break is perfect this year-it’s exactly halfway in the second quarter and that is pretty cool.
Last week, our sophomores and juniors took the PSAT on Wednesday during a shortened week that also included the second week of ACL and several games with Lake Travis - Tennis, Volleyball and Football - all in one day. It was a busy week but a highly successful week on campus and in these events. The ability of our students and staff to remain focused during a week like this one serves our students well as they enter college and post-university life and they learn how to manage, prioritize, and even enjoy all that we know life can bring our way.
As part of our mission to help our students find their passions, we encourage our teachers to engage with our community. We do this through our Mentorship program, Clinicals and CERT programs through HST, Incubator and Accelerator programs, and many volunteering opportunities. Our teachers have even begun taking field trips such as our astronomy classes venturing to Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory.
Here is an opportunity some our students had recently:
Last week a group of Norman Morgan’s Robotics students got the opportunity to visit UT Austin’s Nanotechnology research facility at the J.J. Pickle Research Center. This facility is one of only sixteen facilities like it in the United States where cutting edge research on design and fabrication of microchips occurs. This was truly a day of learning...
We hope you have a fabulous weekend. On a positive note, the sun may make a rare appearance this Sunday. Hopefully you can find some time to get outside and enjoy a fall day of sun and cooler temperatures.
We would like to remind you to make a donation to EEF. As a group was listening to Dr. Leonard's State of the District today, it was quite impressive to visit with parents about such a large donation which all goes to funding staff positions including teachers, nurses, and librarians.
We hope you have a wonderful three-day weekend. This weekend always hits at a perfect time. Everyone is into the flow of the new year. The routine is established, and our habits for the year have been established. We are half way to Thanksgiving Break and nearing the end of the 1st Quarter.
We hope everyone can slow down this weekend and get some true quality time with their loved ones. One cannot predict when the best memories will be made with family and friends, but one must be present with family and friends for any memory to occur. Make some time even during a busy ACL, Texas-OU weekend, and activity-filled three days with your closest ones.
As my mom used to say often, “we don’t remember days, we remember special moments.”
Every year we host an amazing College Fair for our Juniors and Seniors. This year it was a marvelous event with great planning by our Counseling Department and PTO. Our Juniors usually spend the most time visiting representatives as the future college experience becomes a little more concrete. Juniors can be thrilled with thoughts of independence, leaving home and beginning a new life. This also can cause the first true anxiousness and discomfort about these same thoughts. Our Seniors seem to peruse and gleefully meander between the schools they have on their personal list. Some you see, are set with their choices as the application process is on-going and time-consuming. The College Fair is also a time that our teachers and counselors see a surge in requests for recommendation letters. This may be a good time to have a quick check-in about college plans with your Junior or Senior as you may gain insight into your child’s plans since they can change sporadically.
Last week, we were fortunate to open the grand walkway between the library spaces. This has been a desire for me personally as I arrived in February of 2002. This was significantly the most poorly designed area for traffic flow at WHS. This doorway was actually closed at one time to any student traffic until we opened it up in the spring of 2012. After the opening of the door, I had been reportedly told that “an opening simply cannot be done.” Even though a larger passage looked physically feasible with the current design, the answer was always no. The list of reasons was exhausting and even illogical at times. Perseverance is a mighty trait to have when the goal is to make our students’ lives a little better. With the help of our Campus Leadership Team and forward thinking by Maintenance & Operations (M&O), including Jeremy Trimble and Brian Bolek, we were able to get this completed after many years! The look on our students' and staff faces as they were passing through the first few times was priceless. These little things in our daily lives are our response to meeting student needs especially when they can minimize frustration and allow more time between classes.
We had nearly a 33% jump in our sales for our Homecoming Dance this year. Thanks to Student Council for this wonderful memory for our kids.
We hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.
Homecoming is always a little special at Westlake High School. Even with extremely busy schedules, this day and weekend have a special feel and excitement. Our students and staff always take pride in this school and community, but this weekend seems to bring everyone together a little closer.
Upon returning to Westlake High School from WRMS, I made a commitment to brand our campus with reminders of this wonderful community.
New wall graphics throughout our campus
It was amazing to see how many students attended our Pep Rally while also representing their class with the color selected for their specific class. We welcomed our alumni and parents to the Pep Rally with a reserved section right in the middle of our Juniors and Seniors. We have had a wonderful day as veteran faculty members like myself have reminisced about some of our past greats like Toody Byrd, Ebbie Neptune, John Matysek, Mark Hurst, and Scott Gardner (the list goes on and on……). We will be honoring Coach Al Bennett this evening before our volleyball with the naming of the court after him.
Homecoming Pep Rally 2018
While we think of the past, we are also invigorated by our current students and staff who continue to make this campus the best in Texas through their own innovations and creativity. As we all get busy with an array of events this weekend in town, we hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on this special place that is truly the “Pride of the Hills”.
As we conclude our fourth week of school, we have all settled into our routine or routines. We have our morning routine concluding with the morning drop off or pre-work procedures at the home and office. We have our lunch routine, our exercise routine, our evening and night time routines. We have our calendars on our phones, laptops and even an old school physical calendar that exists somewhere in our kitchen so we do not miss something. Our kids have their routines as well which include managing up to seven classes with an array of activities. They have calendars on their phones, laptops and some have dry erase boards in their bedrooms and/or bathrooms. Routines, even according many experts, are key to a successful life.
Routine: noun- a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.
Adjective- performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.
As it was raining over the weekend, many of our routines were altered or canceled. On Sunday afternoon, my youngest daughter Kate and her friend and neighbor, Lucy, reminded me of the notion of spontaneity. Instead of allowing the rain to literally dampen their normal time together outside, they chose to play in the rain as if they had never experienced rain before Sunday (not a difficult concept to imagine in an Austin summer). The interesting and profound part of spontaneous events that turn out positive is the pure joy. Nothing is planned. Without prior planning, there are no expectations. Without expectations, the immense satisfaction is deeper and more meaningful.
We hope your weekend is a pleasant one filled with planned activities and possibly a spontaneous event as well.
We have had a week of true quality time together at WHS. This week has been filled with many activities that have brought our students, staff, parents and community together to share common experiences.
The first major activity was our Back to School Night on Wednesday evening. This evening was well attended, and our parents brought exceptional enthusiasm and good natured attitudes to our campus. As part of a consortium of schools throughout the country, I can report that we are the rare campus who actively invites our parents to a Back to School evening - it is a special night for our staff as well.
We also had our annual picture day. Even with 17 and 18 year olds, our kids love to get dressed up for their yearbook picture. Our staff was thrilled this was on Back to School Night day so they were already dressed up. When these two groups merge out of the normal classroom setting, students and teachers strengthen those relationships as they stay out of subject matter.
Westlake’s students came together for our first Pep Rally of the year. Even Vito looked peppy in his spirit gear.
Science at Westlake hit the ground running with students working together and engaged in a variety of hands-on experiences. AP physics students used DataHubs to recreate motion graphs. Physics students used spheros to predict when and where potential collisions would occur. Engineering students designed and made self-propelled vehicles. The common thread was students working collaboratively to solve problems, and design solutions. All of which amounts to an exciting and thought provoking beginning to the school year for our science students! Quality time with hands on activities builds community daily at WHS. Check out the pictures below to see what's “movin” on campus.
Tonight we will have our first home football game. This is a true community event as we enjoy the talents of our football players, band musicians, Hyline dancers, cheerleaders, and Tech Crew. Good luck to all of our students tonight!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections