NEISD collaboration brings elementary and middle school students togetherPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/17/2020
Ms. Von Buettner’s Kindergarten class is up bright and early.
The class is ready to brush up on reading and spelling.
Today, this Steubing Ranch Elementary class is getting a hand from some special helpers.
The ‘Harris Helpers’ come every Thursday and it’s a great opportunity for the kindergarteners to get to see the older students and interact with them,” Von Buettner said.
The group of student ambassadors is from neighbor Harris Middle School and the dedicated bunch doesn’t let a little rain stop them.
12-year-old Brooke Martinez is a seventh-grader at Harris.
“We help with reading skills, their writing skills, and how to improve to succeed in the class,” Martinez said.
Brooke said she wants to be a pediatrician one day and she’s picking up skills in the classroom that she hopes will help her in the future.
“Communication and how to interact with people; I think that’s really helpful in the long run,” she said.
Ms. Von Buettner has been an educator in NEISD for more than twenty years.
This is her first year at Steubing Ranch and previously taught at Wetmore Elementary, Regency Place Elementary, and Oak Grove Elementary.
“I’ve always wanted to work with kids and I haven’t been disappointed yet. A lot of what keeps me going is my own personal kids and when I’m in my classroom I think ‘how would I want my own kids taught?’ That’s what I have tried to do with all the kids in my classroom; love them like my own and teach them like my own. It’s just a very rewarding job,” she said.
6-year-old Jon Gonzalez is a kindergartener at Steubing Ranch. He said he loves having Ms. Von Buettner as as his teacher.
“It’s because she’s nice,” he said with a smile.
Jon said Steubing Ranch is one of his favorite places because it has his most favorite place of all, the playground.
Ms. Von Buettner said she just loves being a part of the NEISD family.
“Everyone is super supportive and wants to work together and you can just see that on our campus and with the partnership with Harris and the continuation through North East with these families.”
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Elementary all-inclusive cheer squad breaks barriersPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/16/2020
If you’re walking by the gym after school at Camelot Elementary, you’ll find a group of twenty girls who are there to cheer.
The team is led by teachers Stephanie Saenz and Antoinique Charles, who created the cheer club at Camelot two years ago.
“We have a whole diverse squad” Saenz, a fourth-grade teacher, said.
She said they were inspired from everything they took away from cheerleading when they were children themselves.
“Mrs. Charles and I were both cheerleaders in school and we thought about all of the things that cheerleading did for us. We talked about how it builds self-confidence in us and helped us find our voice so that’s what ultimately, we hope we can do for our cheerleading squad,” Saenz added.
Camelot Elementary is a nurturing place and welcomes cheerleaders with all abilities.
“We also have Alternative Learning (ALE) students on our cheer squad as well,” Saenz said.
Ms. Saenz said she loves being a part of a school like Camelot.
“It’s a great community, we have really great students here at Camelot. They are leaders and they work really hard. They don’t always have the opportunity to do things like cheer club outside of school so we give them those opportunities here in school,” she said.
The all-inclusive cheer team is getting noticed. They perform every Friday at synergy assemblies, at campus pep rallies, and recently at the school’s 50th Anniversary celebration.
Ten-year-old Penelope Hernandez is on the cheerleading squad.
“It’s really fun because we all have fun and get along with each other and you can make new friends that aren’t in your grade and meet new people,” the fifth-grader said.
Ms. Saenz hopes the girls take away positive memories and life-long values from their time at Camelot Elementary.
“[That it] gives them that self-confidence that they can stand up in class and participate or they feel confident having conversations with adults because they’ve stood in front of all adults and all the kids at Camelot and performed,” Saenz said.
Penelope said it’s helped her learn more about herself.
“Before I started cheer, I was sort of shy around audiences, but it really helped me because we are in front of the whole school and we are projecting our voices. It’s really fun; it really helped me come out of my comfort zone,” she said.
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'Safe School Ambassadors' make a difference at local middle schoolPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/14/2020
It’s lunch time for a group of students at Jackson Middle School.
For this group though, lunch every other Friday means it’s time to talk safety.
Zelvia Rodriguez has been the school's Family Specialist for fifteen years.
"We’ll talk about things that are going on around campus and things they are worried about,” she said.
The students are part of a nation-wide program called the Safe School Ambassador Program, with training provided by the ‘Community Matters’ organization, and are specially trained to spot bullying and other things happening around campus.
Ms. Rodriguez has been in charge of the program for the last thirteen years.
“There are a lot of things that go around campus, things that are said, things that are done, that we as adults just don’t see or hear. It’s not because we are not vigilant but because we can’t be everywhere all the time. For example, in the restroom, in the locker room, in the back of the classroom and nowadays on social media,” Rodriguez said.
Fifteen to twenty students per grade level act as ambassadors to their peers.
Eighth-grader Leslie Suzeth Vasquez has been a student ambassador for three years.
"I think SSA is a group that brings people together and makes them feel safe, makes them feel comfortable with each other,” the thirteen-year-old said.
"I have seen an increase over the years of the involvement that the Safe School Ambassadors have had with our kids and what they’ve been able to accomplish within their own peers. They know when it’s time to have somebody intervene like myself, one of their teachers, a sponsor, an administrator, and we’ve really been able to know things that are going on before they happen which is the biggest part,” Rodriquez said.
Ms. Rodriguez is accessible and is constantly communicating with her students.
She says being at Jackson Middle School is right where she’s wanted to be from day one.
"Here, we pride ourselves on being very family-oriented. We are a tight knit campus and a tight knit community. When I applied for North East, I specifically asked for Jackson Middle School, number one because that’s where I think so much growth takes place, where you can really make a different in how their life is going to go,” she said.
Leslie Suzeth Vasquez said her friends and teachers have become like family.
“It’s very nice and comfortable to be here; it feels like we are at home but we are actually at school,” she said.
To learn more about the Safe School Ambassador Program or the Community Matters Organization, click here: https://community-matters.org/programs-services/youth-empowerment-programs/safe-school-ambassadors/
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Students take on Aerospace Engineering in NEISDPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/14/2020
When it comes to building model rockets, this Aerospace Engineering class knows how to get it done.
They’re part of the Engineering and Technologies Academy at Roosevelt High School, an innovative college prep magnet program specialized for kids who are interested in engineering and related technologies.
Morgan Lund is the engineering teacher at ETA.
“They really went in depth in their designs,” she said.
Lund teaches engineering math, engineering design, and presentation aerospace engineering on the campus.
“It’s really important for these kids, a lot of the reason they come to school is because of their engineering courses that they love,” Lund said.
She said her students are picking up skills that will help them in college and throughout their career.
“We do a lot of hands-on learning; they get to apply and think critically and put it into perspective. We do a lot of teamwork and they get to practice working with people that maybe they wouldn’t have picked to work with and collaborate in that way,” she added.
Fifteen-year-old Marlist Villegas Verschlyla is a sophomore in the class.
“You get a really good understanding of how it works, just piece by piece and what every individual thing does,” Villegas Verschlyla said.
She hopes to pursue a career in the Aerospace Engineering industry.
Lund challenges students to build, design, and even launch model rockets for competitions like The American Rocketry Challenge and The NASA Student Launch.
Fifteen-year-old Scott Murray is part of Lund’s afterschool Rocketry Club.
“We’re building a rocket for this Team America Rocket Challenge for our Rocketry Club. We have to make the rocket carry two eggs and they can’t break and then we have to launch it and it has to fly 800 feet and there are a few other specifications,” Murray said.
ETA is accessible and has something to offer everyone.
“I think engineering is for everyone. Frankly, even if you aren’t planning on having engineering as a career, the engineering classes teach a lot of things that are applicable to all careers,” Lund said.
Even as a sophomore, Murray said although he is not looking for a career in aerospace engineering, he said the class has been beneficial to him so that he can continue a loved hobby of his.
“I’m part of this class because I really enjoy building model rockets; I’ve been doing it since sixth grade at KSAT,” the sophomore said.
Ms. Lund said she enjoys seeing how much the students grow during their four years on campus.
“So many of them surpass me in knowledge so quickly and that’s my favorite. They know this better than I do and it’s awesome to see.
To learn more about the Engineering & Technologies Academy, click here: https://www.neisd.net/eta
To learn more about KSAT, click here: https://www.neisd.net/ksat
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NEISD student accepted into prestigious U.S Military Academy at West PointPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/10/2020
Eighteen-year-old Calvin Lu is going over the day in the place he’s spent most of his time for the past four years.
“Junior year, I remember getting around three hours of sleep a night just from staying up from all my homework and planning for the next day,” Lu said.
Lu, now a Senior at the STEM Academy on the Legacy of Educational Excellence (LEE) High School campus, is a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel in JROTC.
“As the battalion commander, I oversee the whole battalion so that’s all 120 cadets as well as the company commanders and all the leadership positions as well,” Lu said.
He wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. and heads to school for his morning PT, or physical training. Afterwards, Lu begins a full day of classes.
That’s not where his day ends; because after school, it’s time for drill team practice, until about 6:30 p.m.
Hector Reyes is an Army Instructor and Retired First Sgt. who has worked at LEE for 9 years.
“Watching Calvin grow from a shy Freshman; you could see his determination from the get-go. Right now, he is the highest-ranking cadet we have, a Lieutenant Colonel. He also leads the drill team and he won Cadet of the Year,” 1SG (R) Reyes said.
All of that hard work has paid off because Lu just earned a full-ride to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
"I was super honored! To even be considered for an appointment, first you have to get a nomination. You have to get a nomination from a congressman, a senator, a vice president, or the president himself. I ended up getting the senator nomination from Ted Cruz and the Will Hurd nomination as well,” Lu said.
“To get an academy appointment is just- it’s everything. You’ve got to have the academics; you’ve got the have the physical fitness; you’ve got to have everything, the total package. Calvin has accomplished that,” 1SG (R) Reyes said.
Lu said being a part of both JROTC and STEM helped him discover his path.
“It’s what I love to do. It takes up so much time but I don’t mind it because it’s for the people around me and my cadets. It’s what I love.”
He will be packing his bags and heading to West Point at the end of June.
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Students aim to be one step ahead with NEISD Dual Language programPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/9/2020
In Ms. Mata Castillo’s Kindergarten class at Vineyard Ranch Elementary School, you’ll find a lot of students excited to get talking.
The cool thing is that they are doing it in more than one language!
This is just one of the many dual language classrooms in North East ISD.
The program is offered at 23 campuses in the District.
Yesica Mata Castillo has been teaching Kindergarten for five years.
“I think dual language is a wonderful program that allows kids the opportunity to learn to languages; to be able to not just know the language, but the culture,” she said.
The enrollment window to apply is open until February 28th, 2020, and spots are still available at several campuses.
“I feel the most important thing is to make them feel like they belong. I always tell them that we are always learning. It can be a language; it can be a concept. So, I have children who are learning English and I have children who are learning Spanish and it doesn’t matter because as long as we are learning together and are a team, we make it happen,” Mata Castillo added.
The nurturing environment is what keeps students like ten-year-old Mariana returning to dual language year after year.
Mariana Montemayor is a fifth-grade student who has been in the program at Vineyard Ranch since Kindergarten.
She hopes being bilingual will give her more job opportunities in the future.
“Now I know two languages, right? so that’s really awesome!”
The ten year old hopes to be an environmental engineer one day.
Ms. Mata Castillo said she loves to see how much the children grow from one semester to the next.
“You see that progress all the time. You see the confidence; you see them being proud; you see them always wanting to ask questions. You see the academic growth but you also see the emotional growth and I think that sense of belonging is so important,” she said.
Ms. Mata said she loves teaching at Vineyard Ranch and she said it’s more than just a school, it’s a community.
“I like it because we always come here with a smile. I think that’s what makes Vineyard Ranch very special, that this becomes your second home.”
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The full list of campuses that offer dual language can be found here:
For a map of the Bilingual Clusters, click here: https://www.neisd.net/cms/lib/TX02215...
For more information about the Dual Language Program, click here: https://www.neisd.net/duallanguage
Elementary students kick off new year with healthy habitsPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/8/2020
It was a warm and sunny day at Huebner Elementary School and a group of students started off the new year on the right track.
"We like to do this because it’s entertaining,” 8-year-old Zoey Vance said.
Third-graders Zoey and Lyla are part of the thirty kids enrolled in the after school Cardio Club.
Students in the club are third, fourth and fifth-graders.
"We get a lot of exercise in it and we train for the 5k and fun run which is a big challenge at the end of the year,” 9-year-old Lyla Drayna said.
Special Education Assistant Teacher Harriet Tomes dreamed up the club five years ago as a way to get kids excited about exercise.
"Through research, we’ve discovered that twenty minutes of activity every day helps brain growth, focus, and learning. It also helps you to go to sleep at night. It helps with depression and anxiety so it’s a good outlet for the students,” Tomes said.
The program provides a unique learning experience and students are learning healthy habits while having fun.
"Exercising helps your body fluids move and makes you healthy and strong," Lyla added.
Ms. Tomes said many kids who join a running group in elementary school will often stick with it.
“They continue that cardiovascular even as they get into upper grades rather than just sitting around and not exercising, and many kids don’t; they are with their phones and their iPad. This is a good outlet for them,” she said.
Whether it’s on the track, in the gym, or at home, Ms. Tomes hopes her passion carries on through the students year after year.
“I’ve been running for years and I think it’s wonderful to get young more people into it for the exercise. My husband is an Iron Man; my daughter is actually an Iron Man. We workout in my family so I want to share my passion with a lot of other kids.”
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Student artist beautifies hallway with creative muralsPosted by Ashley Speller on 1/6/2020
At the International School of the Americas, you’ll find a story painted along these walls.
Kyren Stevenson is a junior at ISA.
“It kind of just brightens up the school hallway; it gives students something to look at and just enjoy as they walk down,” the seventeen-year-old said.
With the help of fellow students from the allied campuses of LEE, NESA, STEM Academy, ISA artist Rachel Kamata works on painting a mural inside cubby holes in the language hall.
“I think art reveals a lot about a city or peoples’ culture that you wouldn’t see otherwise. How do people express themselves; what is important to keep as a physical piece or artwork instead of a memory; how do people want to share messages through artwork,” Kamata said.
The seventeen-year-old high school senior said she has always been interested in art and started taking classes in middle school.
“I joined an afterschool art program in the summer of eighth grade and I’m still in that program, it’s called Mosaic through Blue Star Contemporary, she said.
Her mural in the language hall paints a welcoming message.
“As a student at the International School of Americas, we have a sister school in Takayama, Japan and they send exchange students here and students get to go there. I went two years ago during the summer and I had a wonderful experience so this mural is a way to honor the relationship between our two schools,” Kamata added.
She was inspired by that Japanese Exchange program and wants to create an innovative mural to fuse the two cities together.
“Interestingly, the name of the town that they are in is Takayama and I thought well, how can I incorporate San Antonio into that name, so instead of ‘taka’ we have taco. This doll is called ‘sarubobo;’ it’s red. It’s something that has been passed down there that grandparents make for their children and so we are going to have the doll eating the taco. Around that we have different statues from around San Antonio. On the left side, we have symbols from Japan,” Kamata said.
Her younger sister Jane is also helping with the painting project. They work almost every day afterschool on the mural.
“I’ve started to grid lines here and we are going to put writing about the exchange program so that when people come and look at the mural, they don’t just see how pretty it is, they can also see what the meaning behind it is,” Jane Kamata said.
ISA reaches students through a unique learning experience.
Art teacher, Ms. Puentes, said she loves to see Rachel spending her free time beautifying the hallways and engaging her peers.
“Art is really important because for many students, their extracurricular activities are the reason why they come to school. Art, music, and theater, all extracurriculars are a place where students can be themselves. It’s a place where students can work with their peers and express themselves. It’ a place where they can communicate their ideas; it’s a safe space for a lot of kids,” Puentes said.
Students from NHS (National Honor Society) and NAHS (National Art Honor Society) have also come to help with the art project.
Kyren, who is helping with the painting, agrees.
“Having something here that is culturally unique kind of spreads the word about what ISA is all about,” she said.
After high school, Rachel plans to attend a university and double major in International Relations and Art.
To see more of the work from ISA artists, you can find them here on Instagram: @ISA_VISUAL_ARTS.
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NEISD choir students serenade H-E-B shoppersPosted by Ashley Speller on 12/19/2019
What started off as a normal day at the grocery store for some H-E-B shoppers quickly turned musical when students from Harmony Hills Elementary School walked in.
Ten-year-old Benjamin Schweers is a fifth-grade student in Ms. Quintero’s choir class and they came out to sing.
"My favorite part about it is that we get to go places and we get to sing,” the fifth-grade student said.
The Harmony Hills choir travels around the community to spread joy through song.
They even perform at the State Capitol every year.
Michelle Quintero has been the Music Specialist at the school for 24 years.
“Harmony Hills is where my heart is. Teaching elementary children and how they meet those high expectations of learning lots of words, rhythm, pitches, singing and when it all comes together the product is really beautiful,” she said.
Principal Alan Rochkus said Fine Arts is vital.
He’s created a nurturing and welcoming environment at Harmony Hills for students to learn and grow.
“Fine Arts in the elementary schools is extremely important so that all children get that 360 education and all kids find a home at their school,” he said.
"My favorite thing about the school is that it’s a school of leaders and it’s a good school,” Schweers said.
Mr. Rochkus said Harmony Hills is lucky to have someone as experienced as Ms. Quintero leading students through music.
Ms. Quintero has a full list of achievements to her name.
She comes from a family of performers and is a vocalist herself.
She works part-time at Texas State University as a university instructor.
Quintero was also the headliner when Fiesta Texas first opened.
She also has trained many vocalists in her private studio including child mariachi singer Sebastian De La Cruz, whose performance singing the national anthem at the Spurs game went viral.
“A lot of people in our community don’t realize the caliber of teacher we have; Ms. Quintero never brags upon herself,” Rochkus said.
Ms. Quintero said the community and parent involvement play a big role too.
“We are a ‘Leader In Me’ school and I think a lot of that affects our community, they always want to help. We always have lots of volunteers and we try to bring a lot of activities to our school to bring in the community,” she said.
The principal said he hopes the kids take away something positive from their experience at Harmony Hills.
“So many kids have so many gifts that they don’t get to explore unless you have a strong Fine Arts Program. We hope that they leave our school happy and ready to tackle the future both academically but also knowing what their gifts are and going forward with those gifts.”
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NEISD coach brings community together through family traditionPosted by Ashley Speller on 12/18/2019
With more than nineteen years of experience as an educator, it’s easy to see why Matthew Friesenhahn is loved as a coach at Barbara Bush Middle School.
“My passion is being with kids, coaching, and being around the kids. You really get to know them and it brings out the youth in me still,” Friesenhahn said.
Though, many might be surprised to know the unique way he has been bringing ‘Joy to the World.’
Coach Friesenhahn has been turning his home into a winter wonderland for the past fourteen years, but he says the idea started long before that.
“It started thirty years ago, roughly about 1980. My grandpa retired and tried to find a hobby and he always loved Christmas and he built a deer, which is the centerpiece in my yard, and he built that for my grandma. It kind of went from my grandpa to my parents and now I am third generation with the lights,” he said.
It’s also become a family affair.
“My wife is a teacher at Madison; my brother is a teacher and coach at Nimitz Middle School; everybody comes. My parents come and we get involved in setting it up and tearing it down after Christmas time,” he added.
Coach Friesenhahn said their home usually receives roughly five to six thousand people a year, not including the cars that simply drive by to view the lights themselves.
His family set up an outdoor movie, gives out candy canes, home-made hot chocolate, and even has a selfie sled for anyone in the community to enjoy.
The Bush Middle School coach advocates for his students, his school, and the community by bringing them together through his family tradition.
“I just think the unity of being around each other and communicating and talking each other and getting to know each other’s likes and who we are and where we come from, brings more to us. Something like this, with our education, connects each other and brings everybody joy and together as one. I have different pieces in the yard that different people connect to but we are all here for one reason, which is to celebrate and enjoy each other as a community. As an educator as well, that’s what we do,” Friesenhahn said.
Families who would like to visit and enjoy “the full experience" in his yard including homemade hot chocolate, candy canes, and fake snow, may do so starting Friday, Dec. 20 through Wednesday, Dec. 25.
The home is located at 25660 Indian Summer. The hours are from 5:50 p.m. until 11 p.m.
Anyone is welcomed to also drive by to simply check out the lights before New Year’s Eve which is when tear down will begin.
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