Category Archives: I Am HISD

I am HISD: ‘Hidden Genius’ Frank Mann made imprint on aviation

Phyllis Wheatley High School graduate Frank Mann (1908-1992) was just 11 when he met Howard Hughes on a Houston airfield. Mann went on to become a successful aeronautical and aerospace engineer, and worked for Hughes in California. A black child born in 1908 to an unwed mother, he defied the odds to achieve remarkable success in his field. H.T. Bryer, the author of “Hidden Genius: Frank Mann, the Black Engineer Behind Howard Hughes,” knew Mann personally. He and his brother Paul Bryer, who was Mann’s best friend and confidant, spent 20 years researching the book.   Continue reading

I am HISD: Bellaire teacher’s book will likely become a movie 

Bellaire High School English teacher Jennifer Blessington.

Bellaire High School English teacher Jennifer Blessington’s fourth young adult novel, “Moxie,” caught the attention of Amy Poehler, and her production company, Paper Kite, has acquired the film rights. Poehler, 45, is an actress, comedian, director, producer, and writer. She was a cast member of Saturday Night Live from 2001-2008 and the star of Parks and Recreation from 2009-2015. Roaring Brook Press will publish “Moxie” on Sept. 19. Jennifer publishes her novels under the name Jennifer Mathieu.

What grade do you teach?

I have taught sixth, seventh, eighth, and 11th grades. Currently, I teach English II at Bellaire High School.

How long have you been teaching?

I am currently in my 12th year in the classroom.

When did you publish your first book?

My first book, “The Truth About Alice,” was published in the summer of 2014.    Continue reading

I Am HISD: Former Westbury HS football player becomes first African-American stadium director at Butler

George Walker poses for a photograph at Butler Stadium, January 31, 2017.

George Walker Jr. is an accomplished athlete who was All-American and All-State in football at Westbury High School, graduated in 2004, and went on to play for the University of Texas. Now he is back at HISD, where he was recently named stadium director of the Joe Kelly Butler Athletic Complex – the first African American to hold the position. In this edition of I Am HISD, Walker talks about his new role and how he benefitted from participating in sports.  

You grew up in HISD and were a star student athlete at Westbury. What sports did you participate in and what impact did your involvement in sports have on you?
I participated in football, basketball, and track. I was All-American and All-State in football, and was honorable mention in All-State in basketball. I went to the regionals in track. Then I got a scholarship to college for doing something I loved. When you’re involved in sports, you make memories that can get you through tough times, and you learn to fight through things together with your teammates. It also teaches perseverance. You learn never to give up. The sooner you learn that the better off you’ll be going through life. Continue reading

Student transfers analyst moonlights as a beekeeper

Anthony Dickerson poses in his beekeeping suit with a jar of his own honey.

Anthony Dickerson poses in his beekeeping suit with a jar of his own honey.

In this week’s edition of I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, Student Transfers Analyst (and 20-year HISD team member) Anthony Dickerson talks about the buzz over his beekeeping, Colony Collapse Disorder, and advice for new members of Team HISD.

So tell me about the beekeeping. How did it start?

Well it’s kind of complicated. We have a house out in the country, and I noticed there was a buzzing in the walls. We found out there was a colony of bees that had infiltrated the house. I did what most people would do and called an exterminator.

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Payoff for social worker’s career in education: watching students heal

In this week’s “I Am HISD,” which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, Sugar Grove Academy social worker Elba Ruibal talks about why she began working in public schools, what compelled her to move from a high school to a middle school setting, and one of the biggest challenges of serving refugee students.

Let’s start with a little background. How long have you been a social worker, and when did you first join Team HISD?

Elba Ruibal

Elba Ruibal

I’ve been in social work for about 25 years. I started out working with domestic violence victims at the Houston Area Women’s Shelter and was there for two and a half years. I also worked at the Women and Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, in the children’s emergency room. I came to HISD five years ago, and was at Westbury High School for four of those. This is my first year at Sugar Grove.

What made you decide to move into public education?

When I had my own child, I wanted to be with him in the summers. But I also dealt a lot with victims of domestic violence at the hospital, and I had to report abuse to Children’s Protective Services. Once those children left the ER, I never knew what happened to them, and thoughts of their welfare lingered. But in a school setting, I get to see those children every day and know that they’re alive. I get to follow up, make sure they’re safe, and in the best cases, watch them heal.

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Chemistry teacher has a secret alter-ego: professional bowler

In this week’s “I Am HISD,” which features district students, graduates, employees, volunteers, and other team members, Sam Houston Math, Science & Technology Center chemistry teacher Nichole DePaul-Miller talks about how she got involved in the world of professional bowling, what led her to a career in education, and why she still acts as a consultant for various bowling centers.

Nichole DePaul-Miller; Photo credit: Jaime Foster

Nichole DePaul-Miller; Photo credit: Jaime Foster

I hear that you’re a professional bowler, but you’re also teaching pre-Advanced Placement (AP) and AP chemistry at Sam Houston Math, Science & Technology Center. Which came first, the bowling or the chemistry?

Actually, they both kind of happened at the same time. I started bowling when I was three. My mom and dad bowled while they were dating, and I was practically born in a bowling center, so you might say I come from a bowling family. I bowled collegiately at Illinois State, too, while getting my degree in chemistry. Originally, I was going to try to stay in that field and work as an engineer, but the women’s tour disbanded in 2003 due to lack of funding, and I switched from being a chemist working in the bowling industry to an educator who just loves bowling. Continue reading

HISD Student Congress leader advises peers to ‘embrace the uncertain’

Amy Fan

Amy Fan

In this week’s “I Am HISD,” which features district students, graduates, employees, volunteers, and other team members, Bellaire High School senior Amy Fan talks about why she got involved in the HISD Student Congress, what her goals are for this school year, and the biggest hurdle she had to get over in embracing her role as speaker of the congress.

You served as the outreach chair of the Student Congress during its inaugural year of operation. What made you decide to throw your hat in the ring for the top leadership position?

You make me sound like a politician. Actually, I’ve been really interested in education reform for a while, even before the Student Congress was founded (mostly just through reading and watching videos), and I’ve come to embrace its mission. And after being part of the Student Congress Cabinet in its founding year, I learned a lot more about the district, both from a student perspective and an adult perspective, and it seemed logical to run for speaker my senior year. Continue reading

Volunteering duo can’t wait for Read Houston Read to start back up again

In this week’s I Am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, returning volunteer Sharon Plummer discusses how she and her husband first discovered the Read Houston Read program, why they both immediately signed up to participate, and why they can’t wait for this year’s first mentoring sessions to begin.

Sharon Plummer & Chandler Davidson

Sharon Plummer & Chandler Davidson

I understand you and your husband, Chandler Davidson, both volunteer as reading mentors at Burnet Elementary School through Read Houston Read. How did that arrangement come about?

We had actually been looking for an opportunity to read to elementary students for quite some time. Maybe even a couple of years. We had made several inquiries with various organizations, but just could not find a good fit. Then I happened to see this. And I thought, “Oh, my gosh, this is it!”

What is it about reading to young children than appeals to you? Continue reading

Austin High School alumnus now gives back as a teacher

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, José Saenz explains why he just can’t stop coming back to his high school. Saenz attended Austin High School and participated in the school’s teaching program. He graduated in 2003, and is now a teacher there. Given the fact that he also met his wife there in the ninth grade, it is clear that for Saenz, all roads lead to Austin.

Jose Saenz

Jose Saenz

You graduated from Austin HS in 2003, and you have returned as a teacher. What did you do after graduating, and what brought you back?

I had made up my mind to become a teacher towards the end of my senior year. I began attending the University of Houston in the fall of 2003 and majored in history. I went through the education program at UH as well. Students were required to do a set number of observation hours and a semester of student teaching. I requested Austin as the location for both. Since graduating, I was very interested in coming back to Austin to teach and having the opportunity to student-teach there helped me make that decision. I felt that I could connect with the students coming from the same neighborhood and having many of the same life experiences. I began working at Austin in 2008 and even returned to UH while working in 2010 to obtain my master’s in curriculum and instruction in social studies education. Continue reading

Yates HS grad wins her second Daytime Emmy

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, Daytime Emmy winner (and Jack Yates School of Communications Class of 1982 member) Kim Gagne discusses when she realized a career in television was her destiny, how she landed her first job in TV, and the journey that took her from covering crack houses on crime beats to producing “The Steve Harvey Show.”

IAH_KimGagne_HSGrad_200

Kim Gagne as a fresh Yates HS graduate in 1982…

You have been in the television business for more than 20 years and are now the supervising producer of “The Steve Harvey Show.” How did you get your start and how did that lead to where you are now?

Well, after graduating from the University of St. Thomas in ‘86, I got an internship at FOX 26 in the Community Affairs Department. The news director, Will Wright, got sick of me begging him for a job. I literally begged him to put me in the newsroom. Every time I saw him in the cafeteria or anywhere, I would ask him when he was going to put me in the newsroom. Finally, one day he told me he had a spot on the assignment desk and that was my start. I knew I had to get a job in that building and I had to get that job or any job at FOX.

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