Spring 2017

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Page 41 of 43

42 ATPE NEWS continued from page 13 How has playing chess benefited you personally? Most of my life, I've been very quiet, reserved, and shy. But chess has helped me grow my confidence because it's a one-on- one game. You're not really the center of attention. You are fo- cused on your own game and you have time to think. At the same time, you get to enjoy being around people you grow to know. It's really helped my confidence. And it's taught me to never give up. Even if you're getting destroyed in the game, one move can change things from a loss to a win. And with chess, I don't think you really lose, you just learn from it. You just gain information that you can use later so you won't make the same mistakes. Is an individual or team trophy more important? I think individual trophies are important because they help your self-esteem to know that you practiced enough to win. But a team trophy is also important because you win with your teammates. Especially during regionals, to qualify for nationals, it has to be a team effort. Is anyone else in your family involved in chess? My mom was a second-grade teacher and became the sponsor of the chess team. I guess she wanted to look out for me. She was at all of the tournaments I went to and was really involved. She's my biggest fan. My dad knows how to play but never played competitively. When I first started playing, he'd play chess with me. He used to beat me, but now I can easily beat him. My chess coach was Victor Flores, and he married my sister after meeting at nationals. I always tell her that if I hadn't gone into chess, she wouldn't have met Victor. I may not play competitively for the rest of my life, but I'll definitely play as a hobby. I have two nieces and a nephew, and I plan on teaching chess to them. continued from page 19 history through a first-person perspective while learning how to analyze sources. Five hours south in the Rio Grande Valley, an administrator at Sharyland ISD dreamed up the idea of a classroom sage, a student who would plan lessons with the teacher to help sup- port fellow students, especially those who are learning English. The winner of the second Rather Prize was unveiled on March 6 at SXSWedu in Austin. We can't wait to see how students, teachers, and administrators across Texas continue to use their ideas to improve Texas education. To learn about the winning idea of the 2017 Rather Prize, please go to continued from page 23 Pre-K matters. Teachers and principals note the significant differences between students who attended pre-kindergarten and those who did not. Teachers can go further with kindergarten students who have common academic foundations and learning habits, as well as an understanding of basic classroom norms. Pre-K sets up students for success; it is an essential educational foundation. Spend money on materials that teachers need and will use. Instructional materials currently make up a distinct and significant part of a school district's budget, and much of this money is spent on textbooks. Educators said that textbooks occupy a different place in today's classrooms than they did before — they're used far less and are often supplemental compared to other types of lesson materials. Districts need to evaluate their decisions to buy textbooks because they have more spending flexibility than they may realize. Further expanding those spending options would free up districts to spend money on what they really want: people. Texas Educator: "If I could spend the textbook money any- where, I would spend it on people." Ensure schools engage every anti-hunger resource available. Hunger makes it more difficult to learn and focus, and can lead to behavior issues. Most school districts offer a variety of food programs, including breakfast, lunch, snack, and summer meals. However, many do not access the USDA's school supper program and assume it is too costly. It is, in fact, fully subsidized. Districts should pursue this program as another way to address hunger among their students (and it essentially pays for itself ). Texas Educator: "I didn't always know what to do with the hungry students who came to see me later in the day because we're not allowed to give them cafeteria food after the lunch period. There was one young man who came to see me more than a few times a week, so with him I took to us walking back and forth be- tween the main campus and one of the portables in the back. There was a pecan tree there, so we'd walk back and forth and stop so he could pick and eat a few until he felt better." Moving Forward The concerns detailed in this report are just a snapshot of the common issues educators face across HD123. There are, of course, more. What is not in this document are those that may be school district, campus, or classroom specific. It also does not touch on the nuances created by private and charter schools ( both of which I am visiting soon). That said, it is also irrefutable. It outlines what educators be- lieve would make a difference in their everyday work. You don't have to like or agree with what is here, but you would be arguing with what these educators have lived in their classrooms. Let's craft practical, pragmatic policies and shepherd our school finance conversations not based on what we believe to be true or what our parties say, but on the educational environ- ment those decisions will create for our educators and, most importantly, our students. I'd like to thank the educators, parents, and students who took the time to sit down with me, the school districts for their coop- eration and help facilitating the visits, and my staff for their hard work and patience during the duration of the project. As a graduate of public schools, I believe in their purpose and promise. After this exercise, I am now more convinced of that than ever. Let's get to work.

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