As I have written about over the years, there are many milestones in the life of a high schooler, a parent of a high schooler, or being the teacher of high schooler. These milestones make this a memorable and unique journey which we all get to share as a community with our kids. Some of these milestones include learning to drive, applying for a first job, college acceptance, prom, extracurricular contests, and all the normal school events. One of the most challenging time periods exists as we head to the conclusion of the school year. While we have now completed 146 of 175 school days, there is a new feeling. We‘re 83% completed with this academic year, but we still have so much to do! Sometimes the hardest and most difficult period of time is when we can see the finish line but know how much effort we still must exert to attain the goal of completion. Twenty nine days left but so much to accomplish. While we may believe we will all look like this on May 25th…..
….. we may need a little help, and encouragement.
Our children and students may need some motivation and love during these six weeks. While as adults we know from our experience that it will be summer soon, our kids may need some help along the way. These next two weekends can be the best time to visit and check in to see how the end of the year is impacting them. The seniors can see the final weeks of their high school experience, and our juniors can see the end of what is traditionally the most challenging year. Our sophomores are looking forward to a relaxing summer while we truly may not ever know what many of our freshmen are thinking about at any moment. As we progress through the next weeks, please reach out to us with any concerns you may have so we can help you support your student. Our team of teachers, counselors, administrators and support staff are ready to help. The road to the finish line can be challenging for all of us on campus but our goals are attainable if we work together.
We would like to congratulate Valerie Taylor for the being the Westlake High School Educator of the Year. Valerie currently serves as our Humanities Instructional Partner. She provides support, guidance and acts as an advocate for our English and Social Studies teachers. Valerie also teaches our Capstone Seminar and Research classes with Mrs. Crocker and Mrs. Dupre. Valerie has many roles including coordinating our New Teacher Academy, collaborating on Early Release and Summer Professional Development activities, GT Coordinator, English STAAR accelerated instruction, and Writing Workshops for Eanes ISD. With tremendous effort, Valerie also takes the time to support all of our teaching staff outside of the core areas. This year provided a unique challenge for Valerie as our STEM Instructional Partner took another position within our district which left all departments with Valerie. She assumed this new challenge with high levels of grace, appreciation and motivation. Valerie has been on our campus since 1990 as a teacher and then instructional partner. She has won numerous awards at the state and national levels. Congrats on a wonderful year and being selected by our WHS staff for her contributions to our community of learners.
On April 19th, our campus will have the opportunity to hear from Bob Duke. This speaker is part of our campus’ goal of presenting information on a wide variety of topics that can influence daily, healthy decisions. This speaker will be presenting on the impact our thoughts and expectations may have on our happiness in this modern world. Mrs. Valerie Taylor helped find this speaker as part of our Social and Emotional education.
Guest Speaker: Dr. Bob Duke, April 19th
On Thursday, April 19th, we will have a guest speaker for the entire school. Pure junior and senior 1st period classes will report to the PAC right after checking in with their 1st period teachers. All of these teachers will need to accompany their classes to the PAC. All other classes will have the presentation streamed to their classrooms. Below is information about the speaker and his title and topic and the bell schedule for the day. This presentation is aligned with our focus on Social and Emotional Learning for the year.
BIO: Bob Duke is the Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Professor and Head of Music and Human Learning at The University of Texas at Austin, where he is an University of Texas System Distinguished Teaching Professor, Director of the Center for Music Learning, and Clinical Professor in the Dell Medical School. For the past six years, he directed the psychology of learning program at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. Dr. Duke’s research on human learning and behavior spans multiple disciplines, and his most recent work explores the refinement of procedural memories and the analysis of gaze in teacher-learner interactions. A former studio musician and public school music teacher, he has worked closely with children at-risk, both in the public schools and through the juvenile justice system. He is the author of “Scribe 4” behavior analysis software, and his most recent books are Intelligent Music Teaching: Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction, The Habits of Musicianship, which he co-authored with Jim Byo of Louisiana State University, and Brain Briefs, which he co-authored with Art Markman, his co-host on the public radio program and podcast “Two Guys on Your Head”, produced by KUT Radio in Austin.
PROGRAM TITLE: How to make yourself unhappy…
DESCRIPTION: All of us are faced nearly every day with expectations that are defined by others. Combined with the goals we set for ourselves, these expectations can so overcrowd our thinking as to diminish our quality of life, sense of well-being, and joy. We will discuss the relationships among aspirations, feedback, and emotions, and how best to structure a healthy, happy life.
It’s been a good, solid week at WHS. We hope you have a fabulous weekend!
As we all get older, we sometimes may lose our ability to appreciate the smaller but more significant situations that present themselves. Over the last few days, the excitement and youthful exuberance has been seen in many ways.
Last Saturday, my wife and I were going to have to attend and/or coach in 6 events with our daughters. While this is not the normal Saturday for us, many of the parents can relate to a challenging day like this one. After watching Mary play in her first basketball game of the day, Mary and I headed to Honey Ham. As I drove us over, I was thinking of the back to back soccer games I would be coaching for Kate’s team. That would be followed up by two more basketball games for Mary and a soccer game for Reese in Lake Travis. We placed our order and made our way to the drinks. As I was carefully picking my lemons and limes for my water, one of our WHS students exclaimed, “Hey Mr. Ramsey! Hope you are having a great day - I AM! Next week is an early release day followed by a three day weekend!” At least half the establishment cheered on this one statement of truth. It was a unique and entertaining exchange, and it was nice to see folks still appreciating a little time off.
On Monday, our German Club brought in mini-horses as part of an activity to bring some joy on campus and to possibly de-stress some of our campus students. These horses did the trick. The smiles of staff and students were sincere, huge, and contagious. The minis were here just for our lunch periods, but they made an impact for the entire day.
On Wednesday morning, it was a mess with the storms and rain. During second period, I observed Mr. Sifner’s AP Music Theory class. The class was well done, and I was feeling very positive until I walked to the sidewalk by Westbank at the exit of the PAC. Rain, and lots of it. I was reaching for my umbrella when I noticed several students who were enjoying the rain. No Umbrellas. No fancy water proof jackets. Just walking to the PAC enjoying the puddles, cool air, and rain in their faces. I decided not to reach for my umbrella and simply walk back to my office trying to enjoy a rain shower on a Wednesday morning. I may not have enjoyed this time as much as some of our students, but it was a nice moment reflecting on not whining about things we cannot control-like the rain.
We hope you enjoy the long weekend. As I was told by one of our seniors yesterday, it is April when we return. Enjoy one of the last few long weekends with your seniors for we have only 39 school days until they are official WHS graduates.
Our children enter high school making simple, daily decisions to making decisions that may impact the rest of their life in a positive or negative way. Decisions go from deciding on where to eat lunch, the cafeteria or CHAP Court, all the way to where and what I will do after I graduate high school. Along the way, decisions include: what classes do I take, when do I get my driver’s license, should I get a job, should I date, what job/jobs will I pursue, what extracurriculars should I attempt, which restaurant serves the best breakfast tacos, how do I manage social media, and when do I not need a curfew?
Our students are making many decisions in a world where things can change quickly. So the question this week is: how often do we visit with our kids about making decisions? The SEL thought for the last quarter is on decision making. While the Huffington Post article deals with all ages, it is a good read for reminders and thoughts on decision making. From my experience, I believe asking “how” a decision is made can be much more enlightening than the “why” questions. Kids are still learning from our actions and our choices, and the “how” question can be much more challenging and create more dialogue. My advice at times is to always keep on parenting. Parenting will always include questioning. But asking “how” questions about decision making can strengthen your relationship for it can remove the authoritarian tone of disappointment. Ask some questions this weekend, and enjoy the time with your kids and family. I will give you a simple warning however; your kids will return the favor and ask you “how” questions for it is less threatening and more engaging - you gotta hate it when our kids turn the tables! It’s always nice to ponder life with your family……
Man, how has spring break already arrived for our students, staff and parents? The one common theme between our students, parents and staff is how suddenly this break is upon us. The break is here, and it is definitely appreciated by all. We are officially 75% complete with the 17-18 school year. So, let’s do a little math. Our 9th graders are now 3/16 (3 of 16 quarters), or 19% completed with their WHS experience while our sophomores are 7/16, or 44% completed. Our juniors are 68.75% completed while our seniors are 15/16, or 94% completed with their Westlake High School experience. When we return from Spring Break 2018, we will have only 48 school days left! These days will include exams, STAAR Testing, AP Testing, and many activities. The spring will go very quickly and truly be over in exactly 67 calendar days. With all that being mentioned, we hope you will enjoy the next 9 days spending and relaxing with your family and friends. We know many will be relaxing at home, vacationing, making college visits and simply taking time off from our routines.
We are a campus of many traditions. One of our traditions is the Senior Panoramic that took place yesterday morning. While last year I wrote about the reflective and quiet walk down the hill after the picture, this group was definitely a little more rambunctious, less quiet and more spirited. All classes have a unique personality, and this class is doing a wonderful job at WHS as second semester seniors. We have included a video clip to show y’all the process.
We would like to wish our basketball team good luck as they head to the State Basketball Tournament for the first time in Westlake High School History! No matter where you are on Friday evening, the game will be on the CHAP App. The team will have a sendoff from the field house at 9 am on Friday morning. Feel free to stop by and wish them good luck.
The topic of safety in schools has been top of mind recently for all of us - students, staff and parents. Please join us at our PTO General Membership meeting at Noon on Friday, March 23rd where we'll focus on this issue. We will also live-stream the meeting via our Facebook page. In advance of this meeting, please go to Facebook page: Westlake High School PTO and like/follow the page. Our speakers include Deputy Brian Peals, WHS admin, and Leesa Ross, area volunteer for the Be SMART program. The Be SMART campaign was created to bring together all responsible adults to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings that occur when children/teenagers/college students get a hold of an unsecured firearm.
Here are some of the key dates for the rest of the school year:
March 30th and April 30th
April 10th-English 1
April 12th-English 2
May 7th-Algebra 1
May 9th-US History
May 10th- Biology
May 7th- 18th
Have a wonderful break!
Last spring we had the opportunity to hire for an assistant principal position on our campus. With help from parents, students, staff, and the retiring administrators, we were excited to hire Mr. Chad Burnett back to Westlake High School. We wanted to give Mr. Burnett the chance to reflect on his time at WHS upon his return.
My name is Chad Burnett and I am one of the assistant principals at WHS. It has been eight years since I was a member of the staff of Westlake High School as a physics teacher and coach.
It’s great to be back working with the amazing staff and students of WHS. While a lot has stayed the thing, many things have changed. One of the wonderful things about working at Eanes is the attitude that we can always get better. Everyday teachers, students, and the administration is working to better themselves and support each other. Since my return, I have noticed a couple of shifts in our overall approach to teaching and learning that help to ensure our students are successful not only in the classroom, but in the world. First, there is now a school wide effort to not only teach students content, but support them as they make their way through everyday life. We have expanded our support staff, shifted curriculum to include social emotional learning, and we take the time to learn about every student’s situation/needs. Second, the technology usage is amazing. Our current technology not only helps student access the curriculum, it provides real time feedback to our students. We have invested in the tech, training, and support to make it impactful to our community. Finally, collaboration is happening across the board. Every day we see students working together, teachers working in PLC groups, and students providing feedback to their teachers.
I am a proud member of the staff at WHS, and look forward to learning and growing together. - Chad Burnett
Pictured below is Chad and Candice Burnett
Yesterday, we had our annual Spring Pep Rally. This year we honored twenty-seven different groups in front of our student body. These groups included: girls’ soccer, swimming, computer science, speech and debate, track, robotics, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, Featherduster and Final Draft, baseball, Star Steppers and Hyline, softball, Special Olympics, choir, orchestra, one act play/drama, girls’ basketball, HOSA and CERT, film, wrestling, UIL Academic Team, art, Model UN, rugby, boys’ soccer, yearbook, and Boys’ basketball.
We had performances by the following groups as well: EVE-Elite Visual Ensemble, robotics demo, Hyline, push up squad tumbling show, band, and cheer. We had a few games for our students coordinated by our student council. We are very proud of this inclusive Pep Rally that encompasses many student groups with varied interest that all make our campus strong and unique.
During English classes today, our students received a message from RJ Mitty. RJ Mitte is best known as "Walter Jr. aka Flynn" on AMC's Golden Globe and Emmy-Award winning show "Breaking Bad." RJ was recently seen in the feature film "Tiempo Compartido" (Official Selection World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance) and starred in "The Recall" opposite Wesley Snipes. He has also appeared on ABC Family's "Switched at Birth," the IFC film "Dixieland," and the feature film "Who's Driving Doug." He will next be seen in the feature film "Standing Up for Sunny," which he shot in Australia and it will be coming out later this year.
RJ’s message centered on identifying and intervening in bullying and harassment situations. RJ articulated his hope that all people intervene when situations arise where one person is being targeted. While elimination of this behavior is nearly impossible, He believes it is paramount that we get involved with these situations quickly and without fear. RJ discussed the perils of social media and being true to one’s genuine self. He hopes that all students will get involved with their interests and pursue opportunities to help based on their passions. RJ spoke to having connections daily with people who are around you and building relationships with those near you daily.
Following is this week's "Teacher Feature". We hope you will enjoy our spotlight on Katie Owen.
We hope you have a fabulous weekend!
Katie Owen is celebrating a decade of teaching at WHS. She is a proud member of the Special Education Department and currently works with seniors in English 4 and Government/Economics, but she has also taught English 2, English 3, World Geography, and US History. Originally from McAllen, TX (deep South Texas), she is a 5th generation Texan. Katie received her undergraduate degree from UT-Pan American (Anthropology and History). She also expresses her gratitude to the Eanes Education Foundation and the PTEP program for the opportunity to pursue her Master's in Education, which she received from Texas State (Go Bobcats!) in San Marcos. Katie is married to a fellow teacher, Alex Owen, and they have two vehicle-obsessed boys: Will (4) and James (2). Katie is also sponsor for the C.U.T.E. (Clean Up The Environment) club.
When asked about role models and her favorite part of teaching, she said, “My mom was an elementary teacher for over 30 years, so she is my role model in terms of keeping students first and always looking for ways to improve my teaching practice. My favorite part of teaching? Definitely the students! I love watching them build communities, find their voice, and discover their passion.”
Last week Katie was working on a way to make the reading discussion of “The Last Lecture” more interactive. Students were divided into groups based on topics and chapters (e.g. Brick Wall Chapter 11, Carpe Diem Chapter 12-13, Constructive Criticism Chapter 14). Each student within the group was responsible for analyzing definitions, positive and negatives, and examples from the book and beyond:
Throughout my years as a principal at Westlake High School and West Ridge Middle School, I have consistently written about the importance of feedback from our parents and community. As I have explained, we value feedback to evaluate how we are doing as a campus. Feedback is crucial to growth of any organization. Over the last weekend, we received some feedback about our musical, Anything Goes. The feedback centered on concerns about the impact of two characters that were viewed as culturally insensitive by some members of our Asian community. While the feedback came through electronic means by email and social media, we made arrangements to meet with a community member and dialogue about their concerns.
The meeting was a productive one in which both sides listened to each other to understand perspectives. Listening, in my opinion, is an active opportunity to learn, reflect and make decisions. We understand and acknowledge that we could have better helped communicate to our community the context of the historical piece as not to endorse stereotypes while also discussing the historical context of the setting with our students. This feedback will only serve to help our choir directors and all music programs grow. At its best, all art forms lead the creator, participants and the audience to think, feel and grow. Westlake High School continues to grow as a leader in an inclusive community where all students can excel in all programs as seen by the wide range of students who performed over the weekend. Our musical production was superb due to our amazing students and directors, and this feedback will only serve to make us even stronger.
One of our major daily goals is to provide the best experience for our students while also meeting all of our community expectations of excellence. We appreciate the trust placed in us to make sure we meet our shared commitments and to be responsive when feedback is shared with our campus.
The picture above is taken of the new Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon that may be up and running today. The Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB) is located on on Westbank Drive between the Ninth Grade Center Building and our TLC and Tennis-Softball Lot. This PHB is similar to the one by Hill Country Middle School and on Lake Austin Drive by Hula Hut and Mozart’s. I made an announcement to our students about the possibility of it running today as they leave campus. We followed up with an email to each student with instructions this afternoon on how to safely navigate this new PHB. We have attached the same instructions as part of the newsletter. Mr. P, one our security staff, will continue to work this area to ensure the safest conditions during the adjustment period.
We are happy to report that we had a normal and successful day at WHS after the tragedy in Florida. I addressed the students at the beginning of the day to make them aware of the resources available to them today. A main part of the message was our ability as a campus to recognize and report issues. Our students do an amazing job of protecting this campus through reporting concerns that happen on campus and off campus. This mature response can indicate a healthy school culture where students know they will be listened to and have a response.
We hope you have a wonderful weekend. As part of the snow and ice days, this is a reminder that we do indeed have classes on Monday.
Last spring we had the opportunity to hire for an assistant principal position on our campus. With help from parents, students, staff, and the retiring administrators, we were excited to hire Mrs. Lacey Victor back to Westlake High School. We wanted to give Mrs. Victor the chance to reflect on her time at WHS upon her return.
Once a Chap, always a Chap!
My name is Lacey Victor and I am one of the assistant principals at WHS. It has been two years since I was a member of the staff of Westlake High School as a math teacher. When I think back on my time as a teacher, I remember the hussle and bussle of the eight period day, delivering tests to the testing center, and grading papers. That’s all part of a teacher’s normal day, but the special characteristic about WHS is the overall pleasant atmosphere created by students and staff. The memories that highlight my time as a teacher include collaborating with colleagues that were student focused and experts in their field, observing our student leaders work to make WHS a better place for all students, and most importantly, having a captive audience for my “punny” math jokes! The three years I was able to share my love and knowledge of math with students are filled with other fond memories. For example, I was proud (and a little hesitant!) to try flexible furniture in the classroom, and now flexible furniture is in almost half of our classrooms! It is so rewarding to see our teachers facilitating as students collaborate and engage in new topics. As I reflect now, six months into my current role, I am pleased to say the general positive atmosphere of students and staff remains. Although the eight period schedule is still the same, and the hussle and bussle remains, we are fortunate to have educators dedicated to the social and emotional well being of our students. We are fortunate to have groups on campus like Challenge Success, a group that focuses on supporting students as they develop into independent adults, and navigating challenging situations.
I am proud to be a member of the staff at WHS, and look forward to what our students and staff will do to impact the future. - Lacey Victor
Last week, I urged you to root for a former student as he was to play in the Super Bowl. Nick Foles not only exceled on the field, he has captivated a large audience with his thoughts on resiliency, priorities and enjoying the special moments. Nick has represented this community well throughout his time at WHS, college and now in his professional life. As a very humble and genuine man, Nick will always be the first to tell you that he is just one example of all the fine students of the Class of 2007. Our graduates from all graduating classes are doing exceptional things for folks in Austin, the United States, and the world. Our students benefit from nearly 5o years of a community and district committed to providing the best educational experience possible. As I was watching teachers and students buy t-shirts, I asked a couple of teachers if they had Nick in class. They responded “No”, but they were supporting a charity and community that has given so much to them and their students. While we are in a long stretch with activities, flu, allergies, and decisions on course selection and college decisions, it is always a must to reflect on this unique environment. We hope you enjoy the weekend, and please know that in 21 short school days it will be Spring Break 2018!
As I have been visiting English classes over the last few months, I have observed some lessons that have had a deep impact as our teachers try to bring personal relevance into our students’ lives. Today Ms. Stucky was discussing the draft, draft lottery and the history of the Vietnam War as the students are reading The Things They Carry. Students learned of their draft status in the draft lottery based on their birthday and listened to some CCR as they performed Fortunate Son. Ms. Carnes led a discussion on one of Hamlet’s soliloquies as she brought attention to several allusions that are currently relevant. Coach Nowland had a group of juniors working together on poetry about war. Juniors were more than excited to share with me their favorite poems and stanzas. This led to a discussion on imagery and word choice in a poem about the Civil War. Mr. Uhler and Ms. Liefeste created a lesson that included parents as they began studying Romeo and Juliet. The lesson involved parents and students describing their ideal spouse so each group could then compare and contrast their views - the idea being how one would feel in an arranged marriage. I had the chance to listen to original poems versed in iambic pentameter written in a few minutes with Ms. Connell. Mr. Yeoman did a wonderful lesson on transcendentalism with Emerson and Twisted Sister. These are just a few of the examples I see each and every day at Westlake with our creative and thoughtful staff.
Please enjoy the Teacher Feature on Denise Demartino.
Denise DeMartino graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in biochemistry and worked for the Texas Department of health as an analytical chemist for 4 years. She has been teaching chemistry and working with the AP program for the past 20 years here are Westlake High School. Currently she serves as Science Department chair. She also does extensive work for AP Strategies and the National Math and Science Initiative dealing directly with underachieving students by aiding in their AP exam preparation. Her students affectionately refer to her as “DeMo”. Denise works with teachers across the state helping them with vertical alignment in science and with pre-AP and AP program preparation. In addition, she acts as an AP Exam Table Leader and is also contracted by ETS as an outside item writer of AP exam questions.
When asked why she loves Chemistry, she replied, “I'm obsessed with chemistry! When I use a battery or when I cautiously pop open a can of soda that I've dropped or when I ponder what cleaner to use on the grease stained carpet I am thinking about chemistry. I love teaching Chemistry because I get to share my nerdy passion with amazing students who also love to learn new and exciting things. My job is so much fun!”
She is also part of the district’s “League of Innovators” and continues to explore and incorporate new apps and technologies that make the chemistry curriculum more accessible to students. In the pictures below, she is using the Explain Everything app to push the lecture and live notes directly to student iPads. In the other picture, she used the Nearpod app and the PHET simulations to provide students with an interactive molecule.
As a campus we continually look for ways to help our students. We recently began a new program at WHS which will impact a large segment of our students. This year WHS has purchased licenses for Albert.io, a digital test prep tool, for all of our Advanced Placement students as well as all students taking the SAT and ACT this Spring Semester. Students can access the web application from any device to practice thousands of sample questions created by teachers from across the nation. Last week all juniors should have received an email inviting them to the virtual class and will be receiving periodic assignments delivered by our Ed Tech team to help them prepare for the ACT and SAT tests. Our AP teachers have access to setting up classes for their specific subject tests so that students can practice for their Advanced Placement tests. We chose this tool so all students who plan to take the SAT or ACT can have access to a free prep program.
For more information about using or accessing the Albert.io test prep tool please email email@example.com
If you plan on watching the Super Bowl this Sunday, I hope you will root for Nick Foles regardless if you are a Patriots, Cowboys or Texans fan. I have known Nick as a 14 year old teenager all the way through to a grown man who represents this community well every day. Nick is an exceptional son, brother, friend, husband and father who also plays football at a high level. We will conclude this week with ‘Go Eagles!”
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections