Ivan Gonzalez is dressed as his character for the 2016 production of “The Nutcracker” at the Wortham Center, performed by the Houston Ballet.
Editor’s Note: February 27 through March 3 is Texas Public Schools Week, and we are celebrating by sharing personal stories throughout HISD on how public education is helping students succeed. Tweet at us @HoustonISD and share how public education is positive force in you or your student’s life, using the hashtag #PowerofPublic.
“Don’t be nervous, Ivan. Just do your best.”
Ivan Gonzalez was about to perform in Houston Ballet’s 2016 production of “The Nutcracker” at the Wortham Center, and his father was there to calm his nerves.
The “Nutcracker” was not Ivan’s first stage production. In May 2015, the Wainwright Elementary student was selected to participate in Houston Ballet’s “Chance to Dance” program, a series of free ballet classes for first- and second-graders at schools that don’t have a dance program and where 75% or more of the students are economically disadvantaged.
As members of the Thin Blue Line Foundation & Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club roared up to Stevens Elementary, students poured out of the school to welcome them. Last week, the club visited four HISD elementary schools to present 400 bicycles, helmets, and locks to fifth-graders at C. Martinez, Sherman, Stevens, and Wainwright elementary schools. The bikes are awarded to students who have excelled in academics, personal conduct, and attendance.
The Houston Ballet awarded ballet scholarships to six of the 25 Wainwright ES first- and second-graders who were selected to participate in the organization’s “Chance to Dance” program. The ballet provided six weeks of classes, as well as transportation to their Center for Dance in downtown Houston.
HISD is expanding its successful dual language program to 21 more campuses in 2015–2016, launching thousands of additional pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students on the road to learning a second language. Currently, 31 HISD schools offer a Spanish dual language program.
Starting in August, kindergarten students — and pre-kindergarten students, at some schools — will be learning in both English and Spanish. One grade will be added to the program each year until it reaches school-wide.
In this edition of I Am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other members of Team HISD, we talk to Wainwright ES teacher Jennifer Hannah about what got her into the field of education, how the Effective Teacher Fellowship helped prepare her for the classroom, and why she inspires her fourth-graders to engage in “productive struggle” when writing.
You’ve already accomplished a great deal academically and professionally. You’ve earned a master’s degree in creative writing, freelanced as a writer and researcher for McDougal Littell, taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston, and even written a number of children’s books. What inspired you to go into the classroom?
A couple of things. For three years, I taught freshman composition and rhetoric at UH. I really was surprised at how much I liked talking and thinking and learning about writing. Teaching was a way for me to think about writing in a way that I hadn’t before, and I loved that. Then, when my children started going to preschool, I visited a lot of classrooms to find the best schools for them, and I noticed that once I picked their schools and was involved in volunteering, I never wanted to leave. I liked seeing how busy and occupied children could be when they were learning.
Amari Venzor of Cornelius Elementary School took home top honors in the 18th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition sponsored by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP in Houston.
Every year since 1996, fourth- and fifth-graders from two dozen HISD schools have competed in this annual contest, which challenges students to write and present a short original speech on a subject related to the slain civil rights leader. The topic this year was, “If Dr. King were speaking at a March on Washington today, what would he say?”
“If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was speaking at a March on Washington today, he would say: As I consider the past 50 years of progress, I can’t help but wonder if for every two steps we have taken forward, we have taken three steps back,” Amari said. “Have we fought so hard to instill that pride that we fail to include words like integrity, self-respect, and even a simple hi? Have we allowed economic and social status to lull us into a crippling complacency and a sense of entitlement? Simply meaning, are we putting $200 sneakers on our children who can barely read or solve basic mathematical equations rather than teaching them how to invest the same $200 into the actual shoe company? Have we been so busy trying to give our children what we didn’t have that we forgot to give them what we did have?”
Byron Roberson of Dodson ES won second place and Bruce ES student Chrystyna Haywood won third place.
If you’ve never seen the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition sponsored by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP in Houston, you’re in for a treat.
Every year since 1996, fourth- and fifth-graders from two dozen HISD schools have competed in this annual contest, which challenges students to write and present a short original speech on a subject related to the slain civil rights leader. The topic this year is, “If Dr. King were speaking at a March on Washington today, what would he say?”