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The News Gallery

October 2016

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, Dianne Shew, Gabriela Porter, Joy Soares, Kris Costa, Kate Stover, Conan Palmer, Alicia Franco, Christine Glass, Jennifer Reimer and Amy King.

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.

Tulare County Poet Project

Poet Project engages students in creative writing and expression
The literary arts are flourishing in Tulare County through addition of new program

Ancient and modern poetry from the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas served to inspire dozens of students who participated in the first annual Tulare County Poet Project. In September, four veteran poets visited select Tulare County schools to provide students with intensive writing instruction. The results included amazing gains in students’ creative writing skills and increased confidence in reciting their original works before audiences.

Three Tulare County poets and John Oliver Simon, president of the California Poets in the Schools (CPitS), worked with students in select classrooms at La Sierra Military Academy, Hurley Elementary, Central Valley Christian and Mission Oak High School for one week – visiting each of the schools two to four times during the week of September 12-16. “After just one visit, teachers were telling us that they were amazed at the amount of writing their students produced and how easy it was to integrate creative writing activities into their instructional day,” said Kate Stover, TCOE’s staff development and curriculum specialist for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Tulare County Poet Project Eighteen months in the planning, the Tulare County Poet Project is a partnership between the Tulare County Office of Education, the Arts Consortium, and CPitS, with partial funding from a Visalia Community Arts grant and the California Arts Council. The partnership recruited three Tulare County poets – Tulare County librarian Erin Grey Elliot, Porterville College literature professor Catherine Abbey Hodges and local storyteller Uncle Bill Warner – to work directly with John Oliver Simon in delivering the CPitS curriculum and encouraging students’ creativity, imagination and intellectual curiosity through the development of their own poetry.

Students harnessed their inner creativity by first studying the works of great poets. The pieces, which spanned over 4000 years of history and included odes, haikus, epics, pantoums, pentameters and other poetic forms, served as guides for students as they wrote their own poetry and shared it with classmates. “I watched as some of my students who struggle the most, who never volunteer to share, who doubt their abilities, came to life and shined,” said Sara Rocha, a fourth-grade teacher at Hurley Elementary in Visalia. “It brings tears to my eyes even now to think how the Poet Project has changed my students’ thoughts about poetry, about expressing themselves and about taking risks.”

Tulare County Poet Project

On Thursday, September 15, students who participated in the Poet Project were invited to read their selections in the Redwood Conference Center. Elementary and high school students eagerly shared their writings before an audience of students, parents, teachers and poets. “The Tulare County Poet Project is a natural extension of our efforts to promote creative writing and recitation,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “It fits nicely with the Poetry Out Loud competition, which we introduced for high school students last year, and the Poetry & Prose program, which we have offered to K-8 students for over 30 years.”

For more information about the Tulare County Poet Project, contact project coordinator Kate Stover at (559) 651-1482.

Photos above:
~ Poet Catherine Abbey Hodges works with cadet Rosie Gutierrez during weeklong instruction at La Sierra Military Academy.
~ Fourth- and fifth-grade students from Hurley Elementary and Central Valley Christian also participated in Poet Project.
~ (l-r) The Tulare County Poet Project team included Caroline Koontz of the Arts Consortium, Kate Stover of TCOE’s Visual and Performing Arts Program, and poets Uncle Bill Warner, Catherine Abbey Hodges, Erin Grey Elliot and John Oliver Simon, president of California Poets in the Schools.

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Avina named KSEE24 Educator of the Week
Parent nominates TCOE teacher for impact made on her son's life

KSEE24's Educator of the Week In the far corner of the play yard of the Woodville Child Development Center, teacher Connie Avina attends to children as they climb and slide and stop to ask her questions. Amid the sea of activity surrounding her on this warm Friday morning, Connie cheerfully speaks to each child who comes to hug her, answering their questions and then sending them on their way with “I love you.”

Unbeknownst to Mrs. Avina, KSEE24 reporter Teresa Sardina was waiting inside the center’s office on September 23 to surprise her with the news that the station had selected her as their Educator of the Week. As Ms. Sardina prepared her camera and microphone, Alicia Franco, family/community partnerships manager for TCOE’s Early Childhood Education Program, rehearsed her announcement that Connie had been selected for the honor.

Together, Ms. Franco and Ms. Sardina walked to the play yard, followed by a group of center staff and Mrs. Avina’s daughter and grandchildren, to share the good news with Connie. Surprised, Connie graciously thanked the station and her coworkers as more children came to see why she was getting so much attention. Among them was Aaron Garcia, a handsome boy with wavy black hair. Aaron’s mother, Josephina Garcia, nominated Connie for the award, having seen an announcement on KSEE24.

“Connie has been Aaron’s teacher for two years now,” said Mrs. Garcia. “When I describe him now to others, they never believe he is the same boy. He now socializes and enjoys the company of his peers and absolutely loves his teacher, Connie. I literally get tears in my eyes everyday as I walk into her class, thinking of how much my beautiful child has grown.”

Aaron Garcia received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2015. When he began attending the Woodville center, he had not received the diagnosis, did not speak and had a difficult time following the schedule. “Not only has teacher Connie changed my son’s life, but our family’s as well,” said Mrs. Garcia “Never once has she demonstrated being overwhelmed by my son’s difficulties. In fact, she has been part of the foundation to Aaron's growth and development. The impact she has made in his developmental milestones are so incredible they leave his speech therapist, occupational therapist and school psychologist speechless.”

Reporter Teresa Sardina shared that Connie’s nomination stood out from a stack of other nominations received from parents and students last week. She also shared that Connie, who has served as a teacher in the Woodville Child Development Center for 16 years, will be invited to attend an Educator of the Week celebration at Fresno State on May 25. Connie will be honored along with 35 other Educators of the Week selected from Central Valley schools during the 2016-17 school year. To see the video of Connie Avina receiving the Educator of the Week award, visit

Photo above:
~ Early Childhood Education teacher Connie Avina was selected as a KSEE24 Educator of the Week.

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Planetarium adds new show on Earth, universe
High-definition program to debut to the public October  21

Planetarium & Science Center On Friday evening, October 21, the Planetarium & Science Center will premiere a new show for the public entitled From Earth to the Universe. The 7:00 p.m. show, which was developed by the European Southern Observatory, tells the story of Man’s quest to comprehend the universe and our place in the vast cosmos.

From Earth to the Universe takes viewers on a journey of celestial discovery, beginning with the theories of ancient Greek astronomers and including the discoveries of today’s scientists using grand telescopes. Within our solar system, audiences will discover the splendor of the various planets and the ferocity of the scorching Sun. From Earth to the Universe then leaves the solar system to explore the colorful birthplaces and burial grounds of stars. Further out – beyond the Milky Way – viewers will witness the unimaginable immensity of a myriad of galaxies. Along the way, From Earth to the Universe presents a history of astronomy and the invention of the telescope, including today’s giant telescopes that allow scientists to continue to probe ever deeper into space.

Tickets to the new high-definition From Earth to the Universe planetarium show will go on sale prior to the October 7 public program, Back to the Moon for Good. Tickets for all scheduled shows are available at the Planetarium office only after 5:00 p.m. on show days. Prices for admission are $4 for adults and $3 for children 11 and under. For information on upcoming programs for students and the public, visit
tcoe.org/planetarium or call (559) 737-6334.

Photo above:
~ An image of the Eagle Nebula from the new planetarium show,
From Earth to the Universe

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Interns assist staff, help students learn science
SCICON welcomes American and international interns for new school year

SCICON Interns

At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, 12 young people became the latest class of interns at the SCICON outdoor education program. Arriving at the school in August to begin working alongside SCICON teachers and naturalists, the American interns, most of whom are recent college graduates, came from the Central Valley and as far as New Jersey. Based on its international reputation, SCICON also welcomed interns from abroad. Young people in this year’s class of interns came from Argentina, Germany and England.

“SCICON is excited at the opportunity this diverse group offers our students,” said Dianne Shew, SCICON administrator. “Learning from these inspiring young naturalists, attending fifth and sixth graders gain an insight into different cultures and ideas for their future, while learning hands-on science.”

Interns augment SCICON’s professional staff of program specialists and naturalists. They rotate through a variety of positions – such as trail guide, museum docent and village coordinator – in order to experience all aspects of the program. Interns often go on to careers in teaching or environmental science. For more information about the SCICON intern program, call Dianne Shew at (559) 539-2642.

Photo above:
~ The 2016-17 SCICON interns include (front row, l-r): Evedicia Martinez (U.C. Merced), Lindsay Hescock (Wharton, NJ), SCICON Administrator Dianne Shew, Renane Rodriguez (College of the Sequoias), Elaine Brown (University of Leeds, UK), and SCICON Lead Teacher Stein Stoddard. (back row, l-r): Vicente Figueroa (College of the Sequoias), Margarita Tapia (CSU Monterey Bay), Francisco Escamilla (Fresno State), Bauti Pangaro (Universidad del Salvador, Argentina), Christin Gunia (Martin Luther Universitat Halle, Germany) and Ana Anglesio (Universidad Favaloro, Argentina)
Not pictured: Catherine Lunewski (UC Santa Cruz), and Mayra Ramos (Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, CA)

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Educators gather to discuss career pathways
Dr. Kevin Fleming advocates preparing students to meet the needs of the economy

TCOE's College and Career Program

Tulare, Kings and Fresno County superintendents, Career Technical Education (CTE) directors, college and career directors, teachers and community college faculty convened in September for a conference hosted by TCOE’s College and Career Readiness program. The purpose of the conference was to continue the regional discussion about the misalignment between education and the demands of the workforce. The audience spanned the educational spectrum, including representatives from elementary (TK-8), secondary (9-12) and post-secondary (community college).

The keynote presentation was delivered by Dr. Kevin Fleming, an author, educator and passionate advocate for the alignment of students’ future careers with their personalities and strengths. Dr. Fleming serves as the principle investigator for the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Supply Chain Automation. He also supports over 40 CTE programs as the dean of instruction at Norco College within the Riverside Community College District. Dr. Fleming’s message centered around 10 reasons why the “university for all” approach will not prepare students to meet the needs of the economy. During his visit, Dr. Fleming encouraged Central Valley educators to rethink their strategies to ensure students are both passionate and informed about the choices they make when pursuing post-secondary and career experiences.

"One of our primary college and career goals is to develop and enhance high quality career pathways in our region,” said Joy Soares, College and Career Readiness director. “Dr. Fleming makes a clear case that academic knowledge and skills are no longer enough for our students to be ready for their future. Our high-quality career pathways will support the development of student technical knowledge and skills, employability skills and life skills."

Following Dr. Fleming’s presentation, elementary participants met with entrepreneur David Darmstandler and Lorinda Forrest of the California Community Colleges Economic and Workforce Development Program to learn more about entrepreneurial opportunities for elementary students. One opportunity was Lemonade Day, a nationwide educational initiative that introduces youth to entrepreneurship and teaches them how to start, own and operate their own business. Elementary participants also visited programs at Sycamore Valley Academy in Visalia and Golden Valley Elementary School in Orosi, both 2016 winners of the California Department of Education’s Gold Ribbon School Award.

Ms. Soares reports that the future focus of career readiness in Tulare and Kings Counties is in the development of articulated CTE pathways, career internships, industry certifications for students and more. At the conference, the secondary and post-secondary attendees collaborated to create the pathways between high school and community college in the fields of agriculture, healthcare and business. “We recognize that our students must be equipped with the technical skills and knowledge to succeed, regardless of the path they choose,” said Kris Costa, TCOE’s career pathways engagement manager. “To make that happen, the partnerships between TK-12, post-secondary and industry are growing. And as they grow, our schools and our teachers are changing to meet the needs of our economy and the students preparing to enter the workforce.”

More information on Dr. Kevin Fleming and his message can be found at
teloses.com. For more information on TCOE’s College and Career efforts, call Joy Soares or Kris Costa at (559) 733-6101.

Photo above:
~ Conference keynote speaker Dr. Kevin Fleming urged educators to focus on building career readiness in students.

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Spotlight on People In September, Donna Hofer (l) and Candy Nowakowski (r) of Assistance League of Visalia (ALV) donated more than 50 backpacks to the Migrant Education Program. Administrator Tony Velásquez (c) reports that the backpacks will be given to migrant students. Countywide, ALV distributed in excess of 800 backpacks to students. Annually, the Assistance League donates clothing sets and hygiene kits to students and offers its Kids on the Block puppet program to address a variety of social/behavioral issues with elementary students. For more information on Assistance League services, call (559) 737-1907.

Spotlight on People This November, the Tulare County History of Farm Labor and Agriculture Museum in Mooney Grove Park will open a new exhibition on the history of Chinese immigrants who settled in Tulare County. The exhibition has been planned to showcase the rich contributions made to local agriculture by Chinese immigrants and their descendants and includes the stories of several Tulare County families. Also included in the exhibition is a video developed by TCOE's Planetarium & Science Center staff on Tulare County's Chinese-Americans. Teachers can arrange a visit to the museum and view the video by calling (559) 733-6616. The exhibition will remain on view through October 2017.

Spotlight on People The public is invited to attend the second annual Cardboard Challenge at TCOE’s Doe Avenue Complex on Saturday, October 8, beginning at 8:00 a.m. Numerous Tulare County schools are planning to bring student cardboard creations. At the free event, children and adults will have the opportunity to design and fabricate their own creations from cardboard and supplies provided. For more information about the Cardboard Challenge, call Paula Terrill at (559) 651-0565.

Spotlight on People Jennifer Reimer, administrator for the Mild to Moderate and the Adapted Physical Education programs, joined the staff of the Special Services Division this summer. Ms. Reimer came to the Tulare County Office of Education from the Tulare Joint Union High School District, where she had been director of Special Education. On October 26, she will oversee the annual College and Career Fair – an event designed to connect high school students with special needs to post-secondary academic and vocational programs. An estimated 350 students are expected to attend the event beginning at 9:30 in the TCOE Redwood Conference Center at 6200 S. Mooney Blvd. For more information about the fair, please call Jennifer Reimer at (559) 730-2910, ext. 5141.

Spotlight on People Ana Flores, a Friday Night Live liaison with the CHOICES Prevention Program, is pictured presenting at the annual T.U.P.E. (Tobacco Use Prevention Education) Leadership Training, held September 20. Nearly 150 middle school students from 16 Tulare County schools participated in the leadership skills development event. Ms. Flores led one of four breakout sessions on the dangers of tobacco and e-smoking devices. Students also received training on the role of a leader, proper character in leadership, team building and bullying prevention in order to implement schoolwide prevention campaigns.

Spotlight on People Three Tulare County teachers were honored at the 23rd Annual Confucius’ Birthday/Educators of the Year event held September 22 at the Central California Chinese Cultural Center. Pictured (l-r) are Educators of the Year AmyRose Lardner, a first-grade teacher at Kohn Elementary in Tulare; Kristy Caesar, a kindergarten learning facilitator at Kennedy Elementary in Lindsay; and John Domingcil, band director at Dinuba High School. To see a video tribute to the winners, visit

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Gallery Notes

Since 1959, the Tulare County Office of Education and the Tulare County Symphony have partnered to bring symphonic music to the students of Tulare County. During the annual Young People's Concerts, students are treated to a live orchestral performance, coupled with lessons in music history and concert etiquette. Over 9000 students from across the area attend each year. Spanning seven separate concerts and three different venues – Visalia, Tulare, and Porterville – the Tulare County Young People's Concerts are one of the oldest and largest youth concert programs in the nation. The Young People's Concerts are open to students in grades 3-8. This year, the symphony will perform a program entitled Rodeos and Roundups with music from composers Elmer Bernstein, John Williams, Aaron Copeland and others. Special classroom curriculum has been created for the program and seats are still available for each venue. For registration information, teachers are encouraged to call Kate Stover at (559) 651-1482.

October 26, the CHOICES Prevention Programs, in partnership with Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency, ProYouth, Family HealthCare Network, the Tulare County Prevention Coalition, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, will hold its annual Tulare County Red Ribbon Week Celebration. The free event, scheduled for 4:00 - 7:00 p.m., will be held at the Visalia Convention Center. Students of all ages are invited to commit to and celebrate the choice to lead lives free of drugs and alcohol. Nearly a dozen student performance groups and interactive resource booths are planned for the event, which carries the theme You Only Live Once: Be Drug Free! For more information about the Tulare County Red Ribbon Week Celebration, contact Al Rodriguez at (559) 651-0155.

Arte Américas, the Fresno museum dedicated to Latino arts of California, the U.S. southwest, Mexico and Central America, will be hosting its first-ever high school art exhibition December 1, 2016 through February 12, 2017. Tulare County high school art teachers are invited to submit up to five pieces of their students’ artwork for review by the exhibition jury – no more than one piece per student will be considered. Digital copies of the students’ work must be sent by November 13 to
visualexplorations2@gmail.com. Teachers of students whose art is accepted for the exhibition, will be notified to bring the pieces to Arte Américas on November 18, 19 or 20. For more information, please contact Adam Mena, Arte Américas curator, at adammena@msfrtsusd.org.

After nearly three years of work, the Library for London Project will hold a grand opening for its new library on October 15 in the Tulare County town of London, located south of Dinuba. The public is invited to join the celebration from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The new library, which will serve the town of 2,100 residents, is located at 5711 Avenue 378 in London. Special guest authors will include Fresno’s Gary Soto and Hanford’s Genevieve Galvan Frenes. For more information, call Robert Isquierdo at (818) 482-8140.

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For a list of upcoming events,
visit our online
Calendar of Events.

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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