The News Gallery
December 2016/ January 2017View and print a pdf version of this News Gallery.
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Lorena White, Gerald Arellano, Dianne Shew, Nancy Bruce, Alisha Montoya, Tony Velásquez, Crystal Barraza, Shelah Feldstein and Caroline Koontz.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 733-6172.
Students gain access with Assistive Technology
Online generation uses technology increasingly to communicate and complete assignments
Last month, Jesse Ruiz, TCOE’s lead assistive technology specialist, paid a visit to Chase Carpenter, a junior at Granite Hills High School. Mr. Ruiz caught up with the young man in his AP Journalism class to assess how he was utilizing a new Bluetooth switch designed to provide increased mobility on his iPad. Mr. Ruiz was hoping that the new smaller switch would help Chase, who has cerebral palsy, better “click” or select items as he browsed the internet. What he discovered was that the switch was not being used at all.
Instead of using the switch, which is tedious for him, Chase prefers to dictate his journalism assignments to his aide, Paul Vera, a behavior intervention specialist with Porterville Unified. Chase recently completed an article about the Porterville Art Walk for the school’s online newspaper, The Daily Roar, by dictating, listening to it read by Mr. Vera and then revising his work.
Observing Chase, Mr. Ruiz noticed that his verbal skills had improved dramatically, which Mr. Vera theorized might be attributed to Chase’s involvement in choir. This led Mr. Ruiz to suggest that Chase try some of the latest “speech to text” applications, such as Talkitt. Chase was very enthusiastic about the idea.
The visit with Chase illustrates the work of the Assistive Technology (AT) team, which is led by Jesse Ruiz and Rachel Weaver, program manager. From research, occasional design input and procurement to training, encouragement and trouble-shooting, the AT team works with students in districts throughout the county to find appropriate devices and technologies so they can better access educational resources. “Providing access to learning for students with special needs underlies all that we do,” said Ms. Weaver. “Whether the disability affects speech, mobility, vision or hearing, we take care of it all in partnership with Tulare County districts.”
Chase, like many students who utilize assistive technology in regular education settings, is leaving his proprietary equipment in favor of off-the-shelf devices such as the iPad. “Students want to utilize what their peers are using,” said Mr. Ruiz. “Our challenge is to provide the applications to make these devices work for them in terms of connectivity. Ultimately, we want our students to be as independent as possible in and out of the classroom.”
In building 21st century learners that have strong collaboration and communication skills, teachers are moving increasingly toward online assignments. Accessing these assignments for students with special needs is a challenge, whether their disability affects vision or motor ability. Mr. Ruiz and Ms. Weaver report that Apple and Google are both making substantial investments in the AT market for older adults who have vision, hearing and dexterity issues. The tech giants’ foray into assistive technology will mean big gains for students with special needs.
TCOE AT works with teachers, and increasingly their district Information Technology personnel, to assess students’ needs. The process usually involves the recommendation of an existing technology or equipment, followed by further assessment. “For some students, I’m able to visit their classroom and observe without their awareness,” said Mr. Ruiz. “This helps me see if the device is effective, or if we need to make modifications.”
Mr. Ruiz and Ms. Weaver continually search the market for new devices and applications, communicating with the engineers and developers to suggest modifications when necessary. While some students need complex AT, others may have their needs met with something as simple as a keyboard with large, 1”x1” letters.
Brody Correia is an active three-year-old who attends the TCOE Sound Beginnings preschool in Tulare. Brody has cochlear implants (CI) and is learning to interpret the sounds he hears. To assist him in focusing on teacher instruction, his teacher, Mary Leal, wears a hearing assistive technology (HAT) device. The device acts as a microphone, sending her voice through an FM channel, directly to Brody’s CI. “While at Sound Beginnings, we’re teaching Brody to rely on his hearing, rather than signing or gestures,” said Ms. Weaver. “As he transitions to kindergarten, his regular education teacher can wear a similar device so that he can focus on her voice over the noise from his classmates.”
At Oak Grove Elementary in Visalia, eighth-grade students Gloria Martinez and Ivonne Luna work on an audio story assignment about outer space. Despite each of their visual impairments, the girls are searching the internet for sound effect files to include in the stories they are writing. Ivonne uses her BrailleNote device, which translates the text on a webpage into braille that she can read on the device’s keys. The BrailleNote can pull information directly from the iPad, wirelessly. It can also connect to other devices, such as a computer. This allows Ivonne to navigate Google Docs, while minimizing the need for additional equipment.
“For Gloria and Ivonne, the experience of exploring the Windows operating system is completely different than it is for the sighted,” said Mr. Ruiz. “But theirs is the online generation. This is where all students get information and communicate with one another. Our role is to support students with special needs by providing an online experience that is as seamless and accessible as possible.” Soon, visually-impaired students will have access to BrailleTouch, an iPad-like device, which creates an electronic braille keyboard on its screen in response to the placement of the user’s fingers.
Back at her desk, Gloria uses her iPad to search the internet for sound effects to insert into her audio story, laughing at the odd sound files she discovers – just like the rest of her classmates sitting around her.
For more information on the Assistive Technology program, contact Rachel Weaver at (559) 730-2910, extension 5146.
~ Brody Correia, a student at TCOE’s Sound Beginnings preschool listens to teacher Mary Leal, who communicates with him using a hearing assistive technology device.
~ Granite Hills High School junior Chase Carpenter is pictured in his AP Journalism class. Chase is working to transition to a “speech to text” application that will interface with his iPad to assist him with his writing assignments.
~ Oak Grove Elementary (Visalia) eighth-grade student Ivonne Luna listens to sound files she found on the internet using her BrailleNote device. She is pictured with her aide, Debra Guenley.
~ The Assistive Technology Program routinely offers device and application trainings to teachers throughout Tulare County. Sharon Kyle Kuhn is a classroom audio consultant with Lightspeed, maker of the Redcat Access audio system. She met with district personnel in November to talk about advances made in her company’s systems to aid teachers with students with hearing impairments.
Stanford's Dr. Jo Boaler to speak at Fox Theater
Leading math education reformer invites parents, teachers to presentation December 5
Tulare County is experiencing a math revolution. Leading the charge is a British-born Stanford University professor named Dr. Jo Boaler. Earlier this year, Dr. Boaler began working in Tulare County as part of a three-year grant partnership with Educational Resource Services (ERS). She and the team of math curriculum specialists from ERS are training 68 fifth-grade teachers from schools within Burton School District, Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified, Dinuba Unified, Exeter Unified, Tulare City School District and Visalia Unified, as well as teachers from Valley Life Charter School and Sycamore Valley Academy.
This month, Dr. Boaler will take her revolutionary message to the masses at a symposium on Monday, December 5 from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m. at the Fox Theater in Visalia. Central Valley parents, students, teachers and administrators are invited to attend the free event. Dr. Boaler will share her research and experiences in classrooms, plus offer advice on how parents can support math learning and advocate for strong math supports in their schools. In addition, teachers are welcome to submit examples of their students’ work to be included in Dr. Boaler’s presentation. For registration and teacher participation details on Dr. Boaler’s Mindset Revolution: Central Valley Parents Night, visit commoncore.tcoe.org/math. The event will be translated into Spanish.
Bridging neuroscience, the psychology of fixed mindsets and educational research, Dr. Boaler and her team are working to help Central Valley students realize their full potential in the study of math. Dr. Boaler’s community presentation on December 5 is designed to reinforce parents’ positive influence in their children’s perception of math.
Dr. Jo Boaler is a leading mathematics education reformer and co-founder of youcubed, a Stanford center that provides mathematics education resources to teachers, students and parents. She is the author of eight books, including Mathematical Mindsets (2016), What’s Math Got To Do With It? (2009), and The Elephant in the Classroom (2010) – each written for teachers and parents with the goal of improving mathematics education in both the United States and Great Britain. Her 1997/2002 book, Experiencing School Mathematics won the "Outstanding Book of the Year" award for education in Britain.
In 1997, Dr. Boaler completed her PhD in mathematics education at Kings College London and won the award for best PhD in education from the British Educational Research Association. In 1998, she became an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University in the Graduate School of Education, gaining tenure in 2001 and becoming a full professor there in 2006.
Dr. Boaler has completed multi-year studies in England and the U.S., finding that students who were actively engaged in mathematics learning, using problem solving and reasoning about their methods, achieved at higher levels and enjoyed math more than those who engaged passively by practicing methods that a teacher had demonstrated. More recently, Dr. Boaler has published research showing the links between timed testing and math anxiety.
In her recent book, Mathematical Mindsets, Dr. Boaler helps U.S. math educators revolutionize their classrooms by addressing the math trauma that has occurred in American classrooms – a trauma that has created generations of individuals who feel they could never be successful in math. “Some believe people are born with an innate ability for achievement in mathematics while others are better suited for more inclusive subjects such as reading or art,” said Shelah Feldstein, ERS mathematics staff development & curriculum specialist. “It is commonly understood that to be successful in a sport, to read well, or to become fluent in another language, one must put forth effort and believe that they are capable of success. In math, however, students do not believe this is true and so they often give up on any hope of learning math at high levels. We see the effect this has on college graduation rates and the number of adults prepared for math- and science-related careers in the American economy.”
For more information about the Central Valley Parents Night, call Shelah Feldstein at (559) 651-2130.
~ Dr. Jo Boaler, a leading math education reformer, will present her research and offer support to relieve math anxiety for parents and educators of Central Valley students December 5 at the Fox Theater.
Theatre Company's Brian Roberts to retire
Fresno Pacific theater director Bethany Rader hired to be program's new lead
In 1998, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak envisioned the Theatre Company – a performing arts program offering students throughout the county a variety of year-round performance and instructional opportunities. The man he hired to implement his vision, Brian Roberts, is retiring from the program this month. In 19 years, Mr. Roberts built the program into a statewide performing arts model.
Beginning with a summer production of Bye, Bye Birdie in 1998, Brian steadily expanded the program’s offerings to three full-scale musical productions each year. In 2009, he created the On Stage program for Tulare County schools – a traveling children’s theatre program that comes complete with props, costumes, sets, musical materials and talented directors – so that any elementary school can enjoy a theatrical production on their own school site in two weeks. In 2010, the Theatre Company debuted an original musical Brian Roberts developed entitled Rancho Tesoro. The musical was critically acclaimed, making The Fresno Bee’s Top 20 Cultural Events of 2010. Over the years, the Theatre Company has offered summer children’s programs, a variety of dance and vocal workshops, set-making opportunities for students and support to Tulare County school productions with set, costume and technical assistance.
“Brian has done a phenomenal job as director of the Theatre Company,” said Mr. Vidak. “He has elevated the level of school theater productions in Tulare County to professional levels and brought the arts to thousands of students. Perhaps most importantly, he’s impacted the lives of hundreds of young people, giving them confidence, communication and dedication skills that will serve them well as adults.”
This month, Bethany Rader will join the Theatre Company staff as its new director. Ms. Rader has worked at Fresno Pacific University for the past nine years, directing their theater program for the past seven. She has also been an assistant director and stage manager for Stage Works Fresno. “A chance to work with the TCOE family is always something I have wanted to do,” she said. “Having grown up seeing the productions and seeing such amazing talent has made the prospect of working with this company very sweet to me."
~ Brian Roberts, founding director of the Theatre Company, will retire this month. He is pictured with his wife Lana at the Excellence in Education Awards where he was honored as a finalist in the administrator of the year category.
~ Bethany Rader has been selected as the new Theatre Company director. For the past seven years, she directed the Fresno Pacific University theater program.
Employees celebrate service milestones
Annual Longevity Awards dinner recognizes 128 employees for over 2,100 years of service
Forty years ago, the Tulare County Office of Education hired its first resource specialists to work with students with special needs who needed additional one-on-one instructional support. Robin Artin was one of the program’s original employees. Since 1976, she has worked with students with special needs, as well as English language learners who need extra help building language arts and math skills.
Since 1981, Ms. Artin has worked happily at Traver School, where she has “been made to feel like a member of the staff.” Over the years, she has accepted additional responsibilities as the school’s photographer and Accelerated Reader/Lexia coordinator. On a daily basis, Robin Artin conducts leveled reading groups for students in grades 6-8. She also oversees math help groups for seventh- and eighth-grade students.
Ms. Artin shared that she loves seeing her students grow academically, particularly in reading and language arts. “It’s rewarding and a little sad to see my students transition to regular education classes,” she reflected. “Two of my students, who were English language learners two years ago, no longer need the support of the leveled-reading group.”
With 40 years of service, Robin Artin was among 128 employees recognized at the annual TCOE Longevity Awards dinner held November 9 in the Redwood Conference Center. The dinner was hosted by the Human Resources Division to honor employees who had 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service to the students of Tulare County. This year, the celebration included employees from the Early Childhood Education Program, which, in years past, had celebrated its employee milestones at its annual fall staff development conference.
In total, the following employees have dedicated an impressive 2,140 years of service to the Tulare County Office of Education.
~ Resource Specialist Robin Artin celebrated her 40th year with the Tulare County Office of Education’s Special Services Division.
~ Thirty-year honors who attended the Longevity Dinner are (l-r) Al Wiley of the Court/Community Schools program, Linda Chester of the Severely Handicapped Programs, Jessie Avila of the Severely Handicapped Programs, and Odilia Linares of the Severely Handicapped Programs.
~ Lorena White, web developer for Information Systems, was one of two 35-year honorees.
On November 4, over 300 educators and community members gathered at the Visalia Convention Center to honor the nominees, finalists and winners in the 22nd Annual Excellence in Education Awards program. The winners in the three awards categories are pictured with Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak (r) and include (l-r) School Employee of the Year Erik Gonzales, a student advocate at J.J. Cairns Continuation High School in Lindsay; Teacher of the Year Stephen Amundson, student activities director and ASB teacher at Tulare Western High School; and Administrator of the Year Luis Cobarruvias, dean of students at Mission Oak High School in Tulare. To see a complete list of the finalists and nominees and to watch the video created in honor of the award winners, visit tcoe.org/ExcellenceinEducation.
Over 700 young women, grades 4-10, attended the annual Expanding Your Horizons conference at College of the Sequoias Visalia (COS) campus on Saturday, November 5. Dr. Thelma Hurd, a surgical oncologist and an associate professor at University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio was the keynote speaker. Attendees also participated in several hands-on breakout sessions conducted by professionals working in STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Dr. Robert Urtecho, COS dean of Science, Engineering & Mathematics, led a group of young women on a tour of the campus greenhouse to examine the nutritional and medicinal uses of plants and trees.
The annual Student Art Exhibition is on display in the lobby of the TCOE Administration Building at 6200 South Mooney Boulevard in Visalia through March 31. Through the end of December, the exhibition features artwork from schools in Tulare County districts A-P, including Roar by Karen Moreno, a senior at Lindsay High School. From January 17 through February 24, visitors will be treated to artwork from schools in Tulare County districts R-W. In March, pieces selected as "Best of Show" from the November-December and January-February exhibitions will be displayed. A public open house honoring the “Best of Show” student artists will be held 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. on March 1 in the lobby. For more information, contact Kate Stover, visual and performing arts special projects coordinator, at (559) 651-1482.
The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) announced that its annual "Meeting Challenges" calendar is available at no cost at the Mooney Boulevard office while supplies last. This year, the organization has chosen to highlight Tulare County families and teachers who mentor, coach and educate students with special needs to promote a sense of competency. The calendar, entitled Promoting a Sense of Belonging and Connection, features 14 Tulare County students with disabilities who are developing a healthy sense of belonging and self-esteem alongside their typically-developing peers while learning, singing, playing sports and participating in a variety of school clubs.
On 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, held its annual Tulare County Red Ribbon Week Celebration. Approximately 1,500 students attended the event at the Visalia Convention Center, pledging to lead their lives free of drugs and alcohol. Attendees also enjoyed student performance groups and interactive resource booths. Among the resource organizations in attendance was Horizon Marketing (pictured), a partner with the CHOICES After School Program’s new Healthy Choices nutrition and fitness program. Students from numerous after school programs, including ProYouth, Visalia Unified’s The PULSE After School Program and the TCOE CHOICES After School Program, attended.
On November 8, the Migrant Education Program took a group of parents from Tulare and Kings counties to visit the University of California, Merced so that they could experience a college campus. Parents were given a campus tour followed by presentations on college financial aid options, admissions, and majors and degrees offered. Parents were also involved in a forum discussion around the question, “How important is it that your son or daughter attend college?” Parents overwhelmingly expressed their desires to see their children pursue a college degree as a means to lead successful, productive lives. They also expressed appreciation for the UC Merced visit, which helped them see how they can best support their children on their educational journeys.
In November, 80 area high school students participated in the annual Circle J/Norris Ranch Field Science Weekend. The students came from seven Tulare County schools to engage in hands-on field science activities with area scientists. Students worked in study teams on topics that included birds and an evaluation of their habitat, using a geographic information system (GIS) to map resources, improving pollinator habitats, grazing management, plant life and soil resilience. Monache High School teacher Amanda Driver and students (pictured) observed the diversity of insects using the plants in the pollinator garden. The group designed a restoration project with plans for four new pollinator gardens at Circle J.
The 2016 Red Ribbon committee is pleased to report that $4,400 was raised from activities held during the annual event in October. Red Ribbon Committee chairperson Jennifer Fisher would like to thank the committee members, generous donors and staff who participated in the week’s activities. The proceeds from the week’s events will be donated to CASA of Tulare County, which advocates for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. More information, including a list of raffle winners, can be found at tcoe.org/RedRibbon.
The Tulare County Farm Bureau has announced A Century of Celebrating the Farmer as the theme of its annual Student Calendar Art Contest. The calendar art theme was chosen to support the Farm Bureau’s centennial anniversary in Tulare County. Students have until February 15 to complete and submit their artwork for the 2017-18 Calendar. Details of the competition are posted on the Bulletin Board section of www.tulcofb.org. The contest is annually sponsored by the Tulare County Farm Bureau and the Tulare County Office of Education.
The Early Childhood Education Program (ECE) has organized a toy drive for Toys for Tots. TCOE employees are encouraged to purchase new, unwrapped toys to be distributed to local children for the holidays. Toys for Tots drop-off boxes are available at the following locations: ECE Main Office (7000 Doe Ave., Suite C, Visalia), Connections for Quality Care (7000 Doe Ave., Suite C/Bldg. 100, Visalia) and the TCOE Administration Building (6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia). Last year, TCOE employees donated 600 toys, which benefitted many children served by the Early Childhood Education Program. This year, toys will be accepted until Friday, December 16. For more information, please contact Alicia Franco at (559) 651-3022.
Human Resources is hosting the Annual Holiday Tea, scheduled for December 8, 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. in Redwood Conference Center rooms E-F in the TCOE Administration Building. Members of the Human Resources Division will present a beautiful array of holiday refreshments and sweets for employees and retirees. Employees who attend the tea are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to donate to Toys for Tots. For more information, contact Ramon Garcia at (559) 733-6322.
The Access to Higher Education Summit is an event designed to encourage foster youth to attend college. Now in its tenth year, Access to Higher Education will be held at the Visalia campus of College of the Sequoias on Saturday, February 4, 2017. High school-age foster youth who attend the event will have the opportunity to speak to former foster youth who are now attending college, complete a career inventory survey, learn about support they can receive while attending college and visit with representatives from area colleges and universities. For more information about Access to Higher Education, call Robert Herman at (559) 733-6606.
On February 9, Educational Resource Services will welcome educational consultant Steve Ventura, founder of Advanced Collaborative Solutions, for a full-day seminar on Visible Learning Instructional Leadership. The seminar, which is designed for administrators, coaches and teacher leaders, will show attendees how they can maintain and monitor quality teaching, maintain high levels of student engagement and create a climate where learning is measured more than teaching. Mr. Ventura is a frequent speaker at state and national conferences, who has contributed to several books focused on teaching, learning and leadership. Attendees who register at tulare.k12oms.org/147-113950 by December 9, are eligible for a $50 discount.
For a list of upcoming events,
visit our Calendar of Events web page.
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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