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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!”
On our campus, this is one of the busiest times for our extracurricular programs. When you have nearly 90% of your students involved with an extracurricular activity, certain times of the year are packed with opportunities for making great memories. This is the time of year where boys and girls basketball begin planning for the playoffs. We are looking forward to the playoffs this year as both teams are currently undefeated in district. Our wrestling team is focused on district, regional and the state tournaments. Our baseball and softball teams have begun their seasons as well with practices and scrimmaging. Our soccer teams have moved from tournament times to district play. We hope you take the time to take in a soccer match as we have two new head coaches, Darci Carruthers and James Baker, leading our student athletes. Boys and girls track begin their preparations for their seasons officially. Our robotics teams are looking forwards to state and national competitions. Our swim team will soon have their district swim meet as they look to defend or improve their boys’ and girls’ state runner-up finishes from last year. Our lacrosse and rugby clubs are in season as well. Our HST and CERT students are preparing for competition while Model United Nations, DECA and our Debate teams continue to compete and achieve at the highest levels. We currently have over 100 active student clubs at Westlake High School. We appreciate all the help from our parents and community who serve as volunteers, coaches and mentors that benefit our students daily. We also would like to thank our directors, coaches, sponsors and teachers who work so tirelessly to make all of our programs the best they can possibly be - this is a unique Westlake trait.
It’s musical time at Westlake High School. The musical extravaganza at Westlake High School is one of the events that separates our campus from many other campuses in the state. These high quality productions are at the highest levels in singing, dancing, and acting. Our tech theatre crew lights, arranges sound, and will even fly a few actors in this year’s performances. Over the years, we have performed Shrek, Cinderella, Westside Story, Beauty and the Beast, Bye-Bye Birdie, Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, and Mary Poppins. This year we will perform Anything Goes. Our thanks go to our fabulous choir directors: Ed Snouffer, Jenn Goodner, and Steve Sifner. Thanks to David Poole, Jeff Strange, Will Brooks and Michael Essad for their work in this fine production as well. Michael Essad, our new tech theatre teacher, has produced a magnificent set with our students. And we would like to thank all of our fabulous choir parents who put in countless hours to make this such a successful event. Tickets are on sale now!
What an interesting month of school due to our calendar and Mother Nature! Friday, January 26th, will be our first full week of the spring semester. It is difficult to grasp that next week we will be in the month of February. The month of February marks a new milestone for our seniors at WHS. The Class of 2018 is nearly 90% completed with their Westlake experience. This is the second time of the year where our seniors openly discuss the “lasts” they may experience. The latest “last” has been their last snow day. While we all mark dates and memories with events and special interactions, this group of seniors seems to enjoy the passing of certain “lasts “with a sincere nostalgia. It is never a “thank goodness it is over” but more of a reflective passing of a life event that will be remembered in its entirety. After our Senior Parent meeting on Monday evening, it is becoming clearer that this group has less than 80 days left at WHS. This is historically a fabulous time to check in with your senior about how life is going now. No need to discuss colleges and universities, but simply to visit about this weekend. Being mindful of the day to day goes a long way with seniors who constantly hear the mantra of their future endeavors.
One of the more energizing scenes to see on campus every year is the return of students after the Winter Break. There is pure joy in our students' eyes as they welcome each other back into each other’s lives. There are the loud hugs, the cool dude half hugs, the silly handshakes, and even the “run to each other” hug. The smiles are contagious, and it seems to be the one day where our kids are not worried about the normal teenage judgment in their friendship rituals. This day is also special for teachers since they have already developed relationships with our students unlike the first day of school. There are immediate conversations and discussions in the halls and classrooms about many things besides the new learning targets. This excitement is soon eroded by Thursday morning as the third day of getting back into the routine becomes a little laborious for all.
We are including some messaging and opportunities from the district and campus level about one of our main goals - SEL - Social Emotional Learning. We hope you take the time to read and explore the links provided.
Parents of Healthy Students (6-12)
Social-Awareness and caring for others is the EISD SEL focus for the third nine weeks. Empathy is being able to understand and value someone else’s perspective and having compassion for others even when they are different.
One of the ways parents can support their teens with tolerance and acceptance is to continue to have an open dialogue. “Providing messages that promote healthy self-esteem can go a long way to encourage [teens] to embrace differences in [themselves] and others”. We can also support our teens in understanding and accepting others by initiating conversations around relevant current issues. Our teens are watching and listening to how we treat others.
To learn more, read “Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice”.
We hope you have a wonderful three day weekend. Take care.
It is time for a break. Everyone is ready for a rest. Since the fall semester has gone into late December, it has been a long semester for all. We have had a fabulous week at WHS! Our quiet week compounded with a four day exams schedule seems to have been a success. While many may be expecting a traditional message, we are choosing to focus on the New Year since 2018 is only 10 days away! We would like to share some quotes and cartoons on the New Year’s Resolutions process!
The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.
- Melody Beattie
New Year's Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today, carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change. - Sarah Ban Breathnach
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something. - Neil Gaiman
Here’s to a fantastic New Year in 2018! For you senior parents, May will be here shortly. Enjoy the last Winter Break with your WHS student.
Please continue reading to see what stress relievers and new resources our students have been offered by our librarians and Ed Techs:
Last week our school library offered a 12 Days of Stress Relief with a variety of analog activities ranging from bookmark coloring, friendship bracelets, and playdoh to jenga and holiday card making. I decided to add a bullet journal component to the mix.
Students were provided with multiple resources to explore from goal and habit trackers to productivity bingo and a calendex. The calendex seemed to be the big hit.
If you are not familiar with this tool... it is essentially the mash-up of an index and a calendar. It is not meant to be a stand-alone calendar... more to use as a goal setting or goal-tracking tool in conjunction with a planner or bullet journal. All students have to do is create a quick key. For example, one could choose a red dot for days they have an exam, a blue dot for days they have a homework, and a green dot for days they have an after school activity. Linked here is a college student example to give you an idea of how people use these.
I took the liberty to create one for next semester based on our school calendar and have linked it here. The gray cells are days we have no school and the black cells are days that don't exist within the month (as each column has 31 cells but each month doesn't).
Stay tuned in January when we offer more task and time management tools and resources to support students.
Every once in a while things hit just right. Take some time to think back to last week..... remember that wonderful evening of snow? And it was real snow - real snow balls, real snow angels, real snowmen, and real fun. Kids stayed out until late that night, playing after they learned that school was off for the next day. For those who have resided in Austin for a while, it has been years since our kids had the chance to experience snow in their own home and yard. We hope you had the chance to enjoy the time with your family. The snow even made our 17 year old dog, Maggie, act like a puppy for a few minutes. With the long four weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter Break, that snow day day seemed to have the right timing for our community.
From our Ed Techs:
As finals start next week, the Ed Techs here at WHS (Chris Hanson and Lisa Johnson M. E.d.) thought it would be helpful to provide parents and students with some study tips. We sent a survey to both staff and students in regards to best practices for studying and tools that they utilize or offer. The survey results and the complete guide have been added to the Healthy Chaps website in this afternoon's post and includes the PDF version of the graphic below. The Study Tips bundle includes study tips from a variety of content areas. While it is not meant to be prescriptive or exhaustive, it does contain a wealth of best practices that students and parents can review.
We have also ran a webinar on this topic. The archived version can be found here. We are currently scheduling spring webinars. If there are other topics of interest that you would like to see offered, please email us at email@example.com.
We hope everyone has a superb weekend. The phrases I have consistently heard this week from students and staff are: “I cannot believe the semester is over next week”, “this year has flown”, “I can’t wait for the break”, “what you are exempting?”, “I love the cold” and “I hate the cold”. This is always a high energy time at our campus as students somehow begin to rally for the last week of the semester. Their energy is contagious to our staff as they also begin to see the end of a learning experience for our kids that started back in the third week of August. Everyone is looking forward to one more normal day until finals begin next Tuesday. Take care Chaps!
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections