Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Houston City Council Member Jack Christie Visits LMS & KIPP Courage

LMS Principal Luis Pratts, TFA Staff Amanda Hagemann,
LMS Teacher Meredith Cook and Council Member Jack Christie
In classrooms across Houston last week, Teach For America teachers opened their doors to local supporters and elected officials to showcase their work. At Landrum Middle School, 7th grade math teacher Meredith Cook hosted former Spring Branch ISD Board Member and current Houston City Council Member Jack Christie.

Cook, who graduated from Texas A&M and is a first year Teach For America corps member, was teaching a lesson on personal financial literacy. As students worked to plan a mock 4-day Texas vacation within their given budget, Council Member Christie helped feed questions to check students’ understanding of unit concepts.
Council Member Christie questions students during a personal
financial literacy unit in LMS teacher and TFA Corps member
Meredith Cook's 7th grade math class at Landrum MS
Cook is one of six TFA corps members at Landrum Middle School. Landrum Principal Luis Pratts praised his TFA teachers as “an energized group who bring a lot of passion to the job.”

Council Member Jack Christie, who served as President of SBISD’s Board of Trustees, was appointed Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education from 1995-2000 . He is currently Houston’s At-Large Position 5 Council Member.

Earlier this fall, Christie spoke at KIPP Courage at Landrum’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, celebrating the opening of the new charter program. During this visit, he returned to KIPP Courage to see the program in action. Christie also spoke to the Landrum students about the importance of their academic learning and how the skills they are acquiring now will benefit them in the future.

Cook says her teaching experience at Landrum has been very positive. “My first year at Landrum has been so much more than I could have hoped for. I have an incredibly supportive team and students and families who have welcomed me into their lives.” The Teach for America Visit Week gave her the opportunity to celebrate the transformations taking place in her students’ lives every day. “Getting to share that experience with Jack Christie,” Cook said, “was such an honor.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Early College Exposure for LMS & KIPP

On Monday, April 30th, a group of seventh graders from Landrum Middle School and sixth graders from KIPP Courage at Landrum spent the day as prospective college students on a visit to Texas A&M. The visit is part of the mission of both Landrum and KIPP Courage to expose students to college campuses early and give them a taste of what the college experience is like.
Landrum and KIPP Courage students visit Texas A&M

The 91 KIPPsters earned the trip by having demonstrated positive behavior traits that are tracked as part of KIPP’s character education.  The 18 Landrum Students were all pre-AP students and were identified as positive role models in the community. The group also included 7 KIPP teachers, 2 Landrum teachers and chaperones from the KIPP Courage community.

The morning included a tour of the campus, led by a current A&M student, a visit to Kyle Field and a trip through the Memorial Student Center.  Landrum art teacher Andres Bautista arranged for eight of his former Landrum students, all now current students at A&M, to eat lunch with the group and answer any questions they had about the college experience. “I think that by meeting these former students, [our current students] realized they too can to go college,” said Mr. Bautista.
Students view insects in A&M's Entomology Department

Before starting the journey back home, KIPP Courage teacher Jazmin Castillo, an A&M alumna and Entomology major, arranged for the students to tour the Entomology Department. Led by two current doctoral students, the visiting KIPPsters and Landrum Lions were given the opportunity to examine various insects under specialized microscopes.

When asked to reflect on the trip, Landrum 7th grader Anel Sosa noted, “My favorite part of the Texas A&M trip was walking around campus looking at buildings, especially the library. I learned that students over there take everything seriously, especially the tests…they are also very proud of being there, learning as many others learned before them.”

KIPP Courage 6th grader Jabril Diop added, “I learned that it takes hard work and patience to get to college. I would consider attending Texas A&M because it seems like a great place to learn on and off campus.”

KIPP Courage students visited nearby Rice University last fall. In May, they will embark on a three day “Tour de Texas” to visit a selection of colleges and universities in San Antonio and Austin. In March, a group of Landrum students attended Xplore UT, an event which included a tour, a meal at the dining hall and the opportunity to attend a Longhorn football practice and march with the Longhorn band. The trip was offered as part of Landrum’s T-2-4 district initiative.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The NMS & YES Joy Factor

In a field outside of Northbrook Middle School, mixed groups of Northbrook and YES Prep teachers looked out at three wooden platforms and waited for their directions. "Using two 2x4 planks and without anyone touching the ground," they were told, "you must successfully get your team of 8 across three wooden 'islands.' The first team to successfully cross the islands wins!"

Northbrook and YES Prep teachers attempt to successfully
complete the "Island Crossing" challenge.
Immediately, teacher teams began strategizing, brainstorming, hearing each other's tips and tricks for how to successfully complete the challenge. Minutes later, teachers were huddling together to appropriately weigh down one end of a plank, extending an outstretched hand to help a team member in the crossing, or cheering on their teammates as they successfully reached the other side.

"Island Crossing" was one of a series of team-building opportunities that Northbrook Middle School Principal Valerie Johnson and YES Prep Northbrook School Director Cendie Stanford arranged for their sixth joint professional development session. While sessions in the past focused on sharing academic and pedagogical best practices, this one was all about celebrating the "joy factor" and allowing the two teams of staff to come together in a creative and fun setting.

Teachers use each other for support and balance in the
"Surfing" challenge.
At nearby stations, other mixed teams navigated challenges such as the Human Spider Web and the Rope Swing. Teachers laughed over unsuccessful attempts, collaborated to come up with winning strategies and cheered each other across finish lines.

The day ended with a spread of ice cream sundaes served by Northbrook and YES Prep students. Teachers were thanked not only for their efforts out on the fields, but more importantly for their teamwork and dedication in their classrooms each and every day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

YES Prep Northbrook: Redefining Possible

On Tuesday, April 30th, more than 7,000 members of the YES Prep family celebrated their 13th annual Senior Signing Day. Students and staff from all of YES Prep's 11 campuses, along with the families of graduating seniors, YES supporters and community partners gathered in the Toyota Center to witness this year's 298 seniors declare their college acceptance decisions.

YES Prep Northbrook's first class of Rockets fill their section
in the Toyota Center for YES Prep's Senior Signing Day
As the newest YES Prep campus, the 141 Northbrook Rockets kicked off the school roll-call. Led by 6th grade Chris Espino, they chanted, "We are the Northbrook Rockets, we show up every day. We come to learn, we don't come to play!" For a clip and full text of the Rockets' roll call, see below.

YES Prep President Jason Bernal highlighted the accomplishments of the graduating seniors, 90% of whom are first generation college-bound. Combined, the seniors have earned nearly $10 million in scholarship dollars to date.

Keynote speaker Kevin P. Charous, a leader in the national education reform and parental school choice movement, addressed not only the seniors but all of the YES students, reminding them of the importance of service. He asked the students to be driven by their excellence and not misled by their success. "It is not just about you," he declared. "It is about us. Do something."

For the YES Prep Rockets, this was a day to not only celebrate the seniors who have come before them, but also to recognize their place in YES' mission to "Redefine Possible." In 2019, the inaugural YES Prep Northbrook students will prepare to begin their next four years in college. They will be given the opportunity to celebrate their efforts and accomplishments on that very stage, which yesterday felt alive and full of promise.

YES Prep Northbrook Rockets Roll Call Chant:

"We are the Northbrook Rockets, we show up every day,
We come to learn, we don't come to play.
We rep that "Y"
That's why we're so fly.
We're so hip,
We're in the SKY Partnership.
Do whatever it takes, 
We've raised the stakes.
Our vision's so clear,
In 2019, you'll see us here!"

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