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The News Gallery

September 2013

View and print a pdf version of this News Gallery.
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Lorena White, Shelly DiCenzo, Tammy Bradford, Linda McKean and Charlene Stringham.

The News Gallery is published monthly with the exception of double issues printed for July/August and December/January. To receive the News Gallery, visit www.tcoe.org/GetTheGallery, or contact Jennifer Fisher at jenniferf@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172.

Meeting the needs of visually-impaired students
Meeting the needs of visually-impaired students
Program joins other Special Services staff at Liberty Center for better collaboration, service

Gloria Martinez is a pretty typical pre-teen. She has plenty to say about her weekend spent swimming at her uncle’s house, about the yellow cake with chocolate frosting she enjoyed and about Justin Timberlake. As she walks along the sidewalk in front of Fairview Elementary, she notes the cars parked beside the curb. “This is a big one,” she says of a silver minivan. Her partner in the walk – Orientation and Mobility Specialist George McKean – agrees. Mr. McKean is working with Gloria, who is blind, on navigating the sidewalk, the school’s driveways and the cross streets.

Meeting the needs of visually-impaired students Around the county, three members of Special Service’s program for the Visually Impaired (VI) work with nearly 90 students. The students range from 3 to 22 years of age and attend regular education classes, mild-to-moderate programs, Special Day Classes and Severely Handicapped Programs. Students also vary in the severity of their impairment – from being classified as low vision to blind.

From their new office at the former Liberty School site in south Visalia, the VI team members work to plan a training conference for teachers who have received visually-impaired students this school year. Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI) Irene Zavala and Fredna Van Dellen, along with George McKean, organize the information and activities they will present to 14 teachers.

At the training the following day, the team blindfolds the participants as they enter the room. Once inside, introductions are made and a video is shown. Afterwards, the teachers are asked to describe the subject of the video. The exercise helped teachers learn what some of their students with visual impairments might experience in class. The theme of the training was “Expectations.” Fredna Van Dellen says that the team chose the theme to emphasize to teachers that visually-impaired students can be expected to excel academically. “With the proper support and opportunities, they will amaze you,” she says.

Meeting the needs of visually-impaired students The VI Program’s relocation to the Liberty Center has provided the team with an increased level of collaboration – between themselves and the other Special Services programs now at the site. Program Manager Tammy Bradford says, “The Liberty Center has not only created a home base for the VI Program, but it provides the team with a place to meet, discuss, and ultimately create individualized educational programs that best meet the needs of all of their students.” Other Special Services programs that now call the Liberty Center home are the Bright Start Parent/Infant program, the Hearing Center (which was previously located at Kohn Elementary in Tulare), the Itinerant Teachers for the Deaf, the Orientation/Mobility Specialists, the Adaptive Physical Education program, the Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy (OT/PT) program, and a number of clinicians from the Behavioral Health Services program.

Teachers Irene Zavala and Fredna Van Dellen share responsibilities for students with visual impairments – splitting the county into north and south coverage areas. Together, they help to translate lessons, deliver daily individualized instruction for students learning Braille, coordinate assistive technology, and work with district aides and teachers to support each student’s learning. For blind students, the team works with the state department of education to obtain the needed textbooks based on the curriculum adopted by each district. If the text book is not available in Braille, the team will have the text transcribed. The same is true for each teacher’s lessons. For blind students, teachers provide their lessons one week in advance and the team has them transcribed into Braille.

Meeting the needs of visually-impaired students A variety of assistive technology devices are used depending on the severity of the visual impairment. For low vision students, classroom curriculum can be accessed through a simple magnifier or a personal computer linked to the teacher's white board or large print books. One of the most sophisticated tools is called BrailleNote. It functions as a personal computer complete with web browser, e-mail and calendar. BrailleNote has a keyboard, known as a visual display, for students reading Braille. The Braille cells (letters or more than 230 contractions) mechanically ascend and descend from the keyboard – line by line – as the student reads. BrailleNote can also read text to the student and translate any assignment the student types in Braille back into English for the teacher to see. “We are constantly working to find the best way for students to use the classroom curriculum,” says Ms. Zavala. “It’s a process that continually evolves as the student matures and their needs change.”

Working alongside Ms. Zavala and Ms. Van Dellen, George McKean helps visually-impaired students develop their mobility skills. On a recent visit to Fairview Elementary with fifth-grader Ivonne Luna, Mr. McKean followed her on a trip off the school property. The pair worked on crossing the street – listening for cars and then proceeding to the other side. Once she is safely on the other side, Mr. McKean quizzes her on the proper way to proceed to the next corner, helping her to orient. “As teachers, our goal is to help our visually-impaired students become fully independent and successful," he says. Part of being independent is developing social skills outside the classroom. Mr. McKean finds that a trip to the store or a restaurant is the perfect laboratory for social skills development. "In a school setting, everyone wants to help our students, but in a store, it's up to the students to ask for help," he says. "We encourage them to find customer service or ask a waitress to help with a menu."

“The VI team does an amazing job of adapting to the needs of our students socially and academically, and they manage to somehow be everywhere, all the time,” says Special Services Assistant Superintendent Linda McKean. For more information about the program for the Visually Impaired, call Tammy Bradford at (559) 730-2910, extension 5128.

Photos above:
~ Teacher Irene Zavala looks on as Gloria Martinez reads a story on a BrailleNote – a personal computer that displays Braille text for her on a set of keys.
~ Fredna Van Dellen works with teachers blindfolded at a recent training to simulate a tactile art project for visually-impaired students.
~ George McKean follows Ivonne Luna as she learns the proper way to cross the street.
~ The VI team, (l-r) Fredna Van Dellen, George McKean and Irene Zavala, meet to prepare a workshop for Tulare County teachers who have received visually-impaired students.

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Teachers to be honored at 20th annual event
Special partnership with Central California Chinese Cultural Center celebrates educators

For 20 years, the Tulare County Office of Education has partnered with the Central California Chinese Cultural Center to honor teachers on the birthday of Chinese philosopher Confucius - an occasion Chinese people around the world use to celebrate great educators. This year, three educators will be recognized at an elegant dinner event at the Cultural Center on September 26. First/second-grade combo teacher Christa Carrasco of Willow Glen Elementary School in Visalia has been selected as the Elementary School Educator of the Year. Joseph Cook, an eighth-grade history/science teacher at Alta Vista School District in Porterville, is the Middle School Educator of the Year, and Brad Robb, a mathematics teacher at El Diamante High School in Visalia, is the High School Educator of the Year. "We are so proud of what we have been able to do over the past two decades through our partnership with the Chinese Cultural Center," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "We have honored over 60 extraordinary educators who have bettered the academic and social lives of thousands of Tulare County students."

Educators of the Year Willow Glen Elementary's Christa Carrasco believes that every child wants to be successful. The key to their success she says, "is building a classroom community where students care about each other's successes." To do this she says, "Before I deliver any curriculum, my students need to understand how much I care for them." Willow Glen Principal Tammy Gonzalez says, "Christa Carrasco is a woman who was born to teach and reach students academically, socially and emotionally. She is a treasure who has forever impacted the lives of countless students, parents and staff members through the love, joy, and cheer she spreads."

The tireless 28-year teaching veteran has been a mentor teacher for Visalia Unified, one of the first teachers in the district to receive Reading Recovery training, and a past member of the district's literacy team. Describing her teaching methods, she says, "I work from positive point of view, reinforcing positive behavior. When the students return from recess, I ask them, 'who noticed someone playing fairly?'" Colleagues and former students call her a "mentor" and "an inspiration." She unselfishly works with other teachers on their lessons, sharing her creative ideas, and inspiring them to "be a better teacher on a daily basis." Ms. Carrasco says humbly, "I'm just a regular teacher, but I have found the perfect job for me."

Educators of the Year Joe Cook found himself working as a substitute teacher while in college. "Several of the teachers I had subbed for liked my rapport with the students and how I taught. They urged me to become a teacher." Colleagues at Alta Vista School District in Porterville appreciate the decision Mr. Cook made to enter the teaching profession. A 25-year veteran at Alta Vista, Joe Cook has taught all subject matters across various grade levels, most often in fourth, seventh and eighth grades. Currently he serves as the school's eighth-grade science and history teacher. "My greatest reward is to hear and see former students' successes in high school and college, and later to know they have been successful in their careers."

Colleagues describe Mr. Cook as dedicated to the well-being of the district and students, equitable to students and staff, and humorous. "I try to make lessons interesting by relating to students' lives, giving analogies that they can relate to, and of course using lots of humor," he says. In a small school setting such as Alta Vista, teachers often have multiple responsibilities. Mr. Cook has been the district's Math Super Bowl coach, director of the Even Start Program, a coach for the basketball and baseball programs, a member of the School Site Council and president of Alta Vista Teachers Association. In the community, Mr. Cook is involved as a coach for the PAAR Center in Porterville, which helps people struggling with addiction, as well as the Food on the Go, Relay for Life and Porterville Reads organizations. He has three times been listed in the "Who's Who of American Teachers."

Educators of the Year Brad Robb teaches AP Calculus and Algebra II at El Diamante High School. A champion for the use of technology in teaching, he is the creator of an online resource known as wowmath.org and the developer of over 600 instructional math videos on YouTube. Mr. Robb delights in seeing his students succeed through the use of technology. "It's rewarding to get a message from a student who has seen one of these video lessons, thanking me for making the concept clearer for them." Mr. Robb says that every week he receives messages from young people around the world who see his videos.

Brad Robb has begun incorporating "flipped" instructional strategies in his classes - using homework time to watch online videos that cover math concepts, while using class time to delve deeper into solving problems. His classroom is a blend of direct instruction, student led groups and whole class participation. As a result, Mr. Robb's students do very well on the state STAR test. El Diamante High School's principal Mike Waters attributes this to Mr. Robb's commitment, stating "Students from all backgrounds enjoy his lessons and they appreciate his genuine concern for their success."

For more information on the Educators of the Year Awards, contact Marlene Moreno at (559) 733-6302.

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Spotlight Itzel Estevez, a student at Tipton School, is pictured receiving a CHARACTER COUNTS! award from Mary and Tony Salierno. Itzel was a finalist in the first annual Provident-Salierno Family Foundation character recognition awards last year. Nominations for the annual Kids of Character recognition program and the Provident-Salierno Family Foundation Awards are being accepted through October 4. Teachers, family and community members may recognize a Tulare County K-12 student for their outstanding character by visiting
www.tcoe.org/KidsofCharacter. Featured students will be announced during CHARACTER COUNTS! week, October 21-26. This year, the Provident-Salierno winners and finalists will be honored in the Education Center beginning at 6:00 p.m. on October 29.

Spotlight Migrant Education Administrator Tony Velásquez is pictured with students who attended the annual Ducor Camp summer program last month. Over a two-week period, students received intensive math, writing and reading instruction, plus daily art activities and a healthy lunch from the Summer Food Service Program. Students also received a book each day to help build their home libraries.

Spotlight The annual College Night will return to the Visalia Convention Center September 10 from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. Representatives from nearly 90 universities and colleges will be in attendance to answer questions about entrance requirements, tuition and housing at their institutions. Visitors can attend two sessions of informational presentations (at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.) on topics ranging from how to write an effective college essay to financial aid.

Spotlight Students from Burton Middle School are pictured participating in last year’s Step Up Youth Challenge. This month, middle and high schools from throughout Tulare County have the opportunity to begin the 2013-14 Youth Challenge. A total of 20 middle school and 15 high school openings are available for the six-month, service learning program designed to create projects which positively impact school culture and community. Participating schools will compete for grants totaling $15,000 in each school category. Reservations are being accepted on a first-come basis prior to the Advisor Training on September 18. Call Allison Pierce at (559) 636-5000 for more information.

Spotlight In August, the Choices Prevention Programs welcomed Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and star Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown to the Visalia Fox Theatre. Mr. Brown spoke about his Amer-I-Can Program, which has been used extensively with gang-involved youth in inner-city Los Angeles and Cleveland.

Spotlight This summer, Educational Resource Services (ERS) welcomed five new instructional consultants/curriculum specialists: (l-r) Kim Webb (mathematics), Alesha Ramirez (English/Language Arts), William Kimbley (technology), Michelle French (STEM) and Jared Marr (STEM).

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Gallery Notes

This month, Educational Resource Services (ERS) is releasing a catalog of its Professional Development (PD) Trainings. Like a college course publication, the ERS PD catalog describes each seminar, any prerequisites, the registration cost, continuing education opportunities and the materials provided. The extensive catalog includes courses covering all areas of school curriculum and technology. It can be found at
www.tcoe.org/ERS/PD and commoncore.tcoe.org and is correlated to the OMS calendar of course offerings. ERS Administrator Charlene Stringham encourages teachers and administrators to contact her at (559) 651-3831 to discuss the various professional development trainings, emphasizing that nearly all sessions can be delivered at individual sites.

The Tulare County Office of Education Red Ribbon Week Committee is pleased to announce the availability of its annual shirt order form at www.tcoe.org/RedRibbon. Red Ribbon Week (October 21-25) is an opportunity for schools to make a stand against drugs, showing their support through the symbol of the red ribbon. This year, the committee has chosen the theme A Healthy Me is Drug Free! Proceeds from the sale of shirts and other items will benefit CASA of Tulare County.

Organizers of the Central Valley Kids Cook-Off are seeking recipes from Tulare County students, ages 6-18, for the annual culinary competition. Students are invited to submit recipes online by September 6 that promote healthy eating habits. From recipes submitted online, 10 finalists will be selected in two age categories (6-12 and 13-18) and invited to compete in a cook-off held before a live audience during the fall Home EXPO at the Visalia Convention Center. To register, visit www.visaliahomeshows.com/kidscookoff.

The Spina Bifida Association of California will hold its inaugural Central California Walk-N-Roll event in Tulare on September 7 at Del Lago Park. The event is designed to raise awareness of Spina Bifida, a birth defect that affects 166,000 Americans, and to raise funds for local programs. The public is welcome to participate in the one-mile walk beginning at 9:00 a.m. For more information, visit www.walknrollforsb.org.

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Jim Vidak, County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
All mail to: P.O. Box 5091, Visalia, CA 93278-5091
Physical address: 6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA 93277
phone: (559) 733-6300 • fax: (559) 627-5219

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