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!”
Steve Ramsey: WHS Principal Blog
Principal's Weekly Reflections