Springdale Schools Blog
When Bronwyn Bresler was enjoying growing up on the coast of South Africa she had no idea where Springdale Arkansas is. Now a fifth grader at Young Elementary, she is enjoying the change of scenery.
“We lived close to the ocean in South Africa,” said Bresler, who has a sister at Har-Ber High School. “We don’t have the ocean here but Springdale is not a city like where we lived in South Africa. I like things different and I like not living in a big city.”
Bresler’s family moved to Springdale when she was in the third grade. Their grandmother, who lives in Springdale, was ill and required care. Bresler’s aunt moved to Springdale first, then her family came.
“We came to help my grandmother and we are still doing that,” said Bronwyn. “My dad was a pastor in South Africa and he is going to school to be certified to preach here. My mom was a hairdresser in South Africa and is working as a hairdresser here. “
What was such a dramatic move like for Bronwyn?
“At first I was the new kid on the block,” she answered. “It was a hard experience. I had never been the new one before. It was harder for my sister, Robyn, because she was in high school. She is doing fine now.
“At Young all the students and teachers were fascinated by my accent, which is British. They all wanted me to say words that are pronounced differently than they are here.”
She adjusted quickly academically, enjoying science and math.
“I especially like math because of my teacher, Mrs. (Becky) Bowerman,” said Bronwyn. “She makes everything fun. She helps you figure things out.”
What does she miss about South Africa, besides her friends?
“I miss some of the food,” Bronwyn responded. “We had a candy bar called ‘Bar One.’ It was like a combination of a Milky Way and Three Musketeers. I also miss Biltong, which is a dried, cured meat, similar to jerky.
“I also like rugby better than American football and we all wore uniforms to school in South Africa. You didn’t have to spend time choosing clothes to wear to school.”
Bronwyn knows her future opportunities are greater in the United States.
“I want to be a lawyer,” she said. “I always have a reason for arguing right and wrong.”
She wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. In fact, at a recent School Board luncheon at Young, she sang the song, “I’m Proud To Be An American.”
“I heard the song during President Trump’s inauguration and really liked it. I learned it and was happy to be able to sing it to the School Board members.”
Young Elementary students, teachers and staff members are happy the Bresler family moved to Springdale. She is a wonderful example of why Springdale Schools are #THE Choice.
Interning at a news station is rare for college students but interning as a high school student is unheard of Springdale Har-Ber senior, Ashlyn-Grace Brothers doesn’t care about norms. She is currently the only high school intern that has ever been hired in the KNWA sports department.
Brothers is an anchor and reporter for Har-Ber’s television department and decided last year that she wanted a chance to work in a newsroom and learn from the pros. But, she didn’t know that news stations don’t normally utilize high school seniors.
“I was filling out scholarship applications and thought it would be cool to intern at a news station,” said Brothers. “I just decided I was going to make a resume and cover letter, take them to the local news stations and go for it.”
After taking her resume to the local stations, Ashlyn returned home to tell her parents about what she had done and they were surprised but willing to help her make it happen.
“My mom told me about one of her former high school friends that was a reporter in the Fayetteville market at one time and I began talking to her and learning what I needed to do to get stations interested,” said Ashlyn.
Brothers made a resume reel and quickly got in contact with KNWA Sports Director Jason Carroll and things moved quickly.
“After talking with Jason I went to the station and met the team,” said Brothers. “It was just going to be short term deal where I would just shadow the team but I ended up falling in love with it and months later I am still there and my role continues to expand.”
Ashlyn worked with the Razorback Nation crew throughout football season which meant being up close and personal with the Razorback football program, working in the press box, interviewing players throughout the week and helping the Razorback Nation crew with their post game interviews and stories.
All of these things seem like a dream come true for an aspiring journalist, but Ashlyn can tell you she couldn’t have gotten this opportunity without the great teachers and classmates she has had at Har-Ber High School, especially Har-Ber TV professor Travis Sherman.
“Travis Sherman has been the biggest asset in my life,” said Brothers. “There are days when he is frustrated with me or pushes me hard but in the end I know he truly wants me to succeed and is always there for me.”
Ashlyn is currently in the heart of Razorback basketball season and stays busy with the Razorback Nation crew but can’t wait until she can call the U of A her college home next fall. It is no surprise, Brothers plans to study broadcast journalism and hopes to one day be a sideline reporter for ESPN. KNWA’s Carroll thinks that may not be too far-fetched.
“Ashlyn has been a positive addition to our team as an intern, said Carroll. “Her opinions and enthusiasm are rare traits in someone her age. The drive and determination she brings on a daily basis continue to make her an asset to the Razorback Nation. She has a chance with continued focus to be a star in the business.”
Brothers has made an impact at Har-Ber Television winning multiple awards, and she continues to churn out excellent work week after week. What she hopes to leave with her classmates and future students is the realization that they can accomplish anything they desire with hard work.
“I was just a girl with a crazy idea and went and made it happen,” said Brothers. “I have truly been blessed and know that any one of my classmates deserve the same opportunities I have.”
Charged with enhancing reading skills in the second largest district in Arkansas, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction (K-5) and Professional Development Dr. Kathy Morledge and a Reading Task Force started with basics. There are five components of reading that can be developed in the classroom and at home to develop superb reading skills for all students.
“The five basic components of reading are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension,” Morledge said. “We start our district reading initiatives with those components and they are essential for parents to consider when they are supporting their children at home.”
Phonemic awareness involves manipulating sounds. Not all languages have the same sounds, making English a challenge for some students who live in homes where other languages are prevalent. How can parents help?
“Parents should talk with children beginning in infancy,” Morledge explained. “Make eye contact with them. As children grow, parents should continue to talk with them not at them. They should read to their children with expression. It sounds simple but it helps to show children how to hold the book and turn the pages.”
The next step is phonics, which is related to phonemic awareness. This is where children make connections between sounds and letters.
“A good tip here for parents is let their children use refrigerator magnets to sound out letters,” said Morledge. “Ask questions like what does a “B” say, then what does a “D” say. As children advance they can use the magnets to spell words.”
Fluency is next. It is the child’s ability to read with more speed and accuracy and with proper expression.
“Fluency is aided by reading to children with expression and, as they begin to learn to read, asking them to read their take home books to their parents or siblings,” Morledge said. “The more children read, the more fluent they become. In our elementary school classrooms we are increasing the amount of reading our students are doing to enhance fluency.”
Vocabulary, the meaning of words, is the next step. If students are to be able to read with more speed and accuracy, they must understand the meaning of the words they are reading.
“When teachers or parents use words that are new to students, they should help the children know the definition,” Morledge explained. “It’s important to use words that are new to a child when we speak, then either define the word or ask the student to define it using context clues.”
Finally comes comprehension. That is the ability to read, process what has been read and understand it.
“When reading to a child, the teacher or parent should stop periodically and ask the child questions about what is being read,” said Morledge. “It’s okay to ask them to predict what they think will happen.”
With the Arkansas Department of Education launching a Reading Initiative for Student Excellence, Springdale is way ahead of the curve. Morledge and district principals, teachers and staff members have been working on enhancing the reading skills of all district students for years. Parental support is also vital for the district to reach its goal of having all students at proper reading level by the second grade.
For all student teachers in the Springdale School District, balancing time as a college student and teaching in the classroom is a daunting task. However for Sonora Elementary intern Breana Jones, balancing teaching while playing division one athletics has been even more challenging.
Bre as many call her was a four-year letter winner for the Arkansas Razorback volleyball team and saved her best season for her senior campaign. Jones had career highs in nearly every statistical category while spending every weekday at Sonora doing what she loves.
“When I was in volleyball I was focused solely on volleyball and when I was here I was focused solely on just impacting kids and changing their lives through education,” said Jones. “I just had to focus on keeping them separate and worrying about things when they needed to be worried about.”
Bre woke up every day around six to be at Sonora at 7:30 A.M. She would teach until 2:30 P.M. then would race back to the U of A campus to be at volleyball practice by 3.
“After teaching I would practice for three hours and would make time to eat with my teammates or spend time with them to build that bond and then would do homework and prepare to do it all over again the next day.”
Jones has interned in first and fourth grade this school year and calls Sonora, “an awesome place to be.”
“I love the kids here at Sonora,” said Jones. “The staff and leadership team here have been amazing and so accommodating for me.”
Bre is in her final semester as a Razorback and hopes to attend grad school to pursue a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership following her undergrad. Jones aspires to one day be a first grade teacher and would love the Springdale School District to be a place she could be a part of for a long time.
“Springdale is amazing,” said Jones. “Some of the things this district is implementing to get kids engaged aresuper special and something you don’t see in other districts.”
All student teachers are extremely valuable to the district and Bre is a shining example of someone who has balanced her time in college and on the court with spending time with the great students of Springdale and impacting their lives. #THEChoice
Turnbow Elementary second grade teacher Nicole Battjes understands the value of exercise in relation to learning. As a result, she is one of only five elementary teachers in Arkansas to be honored as a Teacher of an Emerging Growing Healthy Classroom by the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention.
As a result of creating a “healthy and safe learning environment for students in their classrooms,” Battjes will receive statewide recognition at the 2017 School Health Conference.
“I’ve used movement in our classroom for several years but a grant provided equipment for us to use this year,” Battjes said. “Concepts are easier for students to learn when you tie those concepts to movement.”
It is too soon to see whether Battjes’ methods will pay off in state testing but she is already seeing scores improve during MAP testing. She noted, “Our students have a 20-minute workout before taking the MAP test. That makes it easier for them to stay seated and complete the test.
Battjes knows how important exercise is. She has plenty of personal experience.
“I run and workout every day,” Battjes said. “We have a workout area in our garage. My husband, Jeremy, works at the University of Arkansas as the director of campus recreation.”
Battjes , who is from Michigan, has taught at Turnbow since it opened. She taught third grade for 10 years and is in her first year of teaching second graders. She had taught three years in Michigan before moving to Arkansas.
“My mom was a teacher and I’ve known I wanted to teach since I was eight years old,” Battjes said. “I like establishing relationships with our students. I like to help them make healthy choices. This is a great opportunity to teach action based learning.”
Much of what Battjes has installed into her classroom this year was learned during the summer. She has shared the concepts with other teachers at Turnbow and she would love to take the concepts to other classrooms in the district.
ArCOP, the organization that awarded Battjes, alongside its state partners and through its workgroup teams, aims to improve the health of all Arkansas communities by increasing physical activity and healthy eating to reduce and prevent obesity. TheArCOP Early Childhood and Schools Team encourages all Arkansas schools and school districts to collaborate with parents and communities to create a unified environment that promotes healthy eating and physical activity for children from birth through 12th grade. #THEChoice
Helen Tyson Middle School art teacher Lori West was recently honored at the Arkansas Declaration of Learning Celebration at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock where her project idea was recognized as “Best of the Best” in the state of Arkansas.
The Declaration of Learning is an initiative signed into legislation by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The idea was for teachers across the United States to have the opportunity to work with historic art and objects from national and state partners to create innovative lessons for their classrooms and school libraries. With partners like Crystal Bridges and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas was the first state to sign on and make this project come to life.
West and a team of teachers from this region sat down at Crystal Bridges in June of 2015 and brainstormed ways to use object-based learning in their classrooms to inspire and engage students.
Each of the participants in the program was asked to select three objects, one from each of the museum collections, Crystal Bridges, the Butler Center and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. West chose “The Anti Slavery Medallion”, Kerry James Marshall’s “Our Town” and “The Little Rock Nine.”
“I chose these pieces because I noticed a common thread in all three and that was that each work was actually outlining a journey of sort and that is where our classroom story began,” said West.
West initiated her lesson by asking students to create a portfolio that showed the theme of civic engagement conveyed in the pieces of art by choosing a cause or issue that was important to them and then visually interpret it.
Once the students came up with their ideas and drawings, West was attracted to one particular idea created by seventh grader A.J. Antibos.
“A.J., a Marshallese student, created a work of art that drew attention to the issues of climate change, and the fact that the rising sea level was quickly eroding his home land and when I saw his idea it gave me chills and I knew that was the direction we were going to head with this project,” said West.
West and her students took A.J.’s idea and ran with it. Lori was given the opportunity to use the 100’ x 16’ storage building on the Helen Tyson Campus for a mural and after a nifty idea of tracing the student’s shadows on the building to represent the Marshallese people, the project was named “Shadow of a Journey.”
“Seeing it all come together was amazing , said West. “The impact on our community has been very powerful.”
The mural the students at Helen Tyson created is proudly on display on the campus and West knows that this project and this journey will stick with her for a lifetime.
“As an educator, this project was an experience of a lifetime,” said West
How did he do it?
“It wasn’t that hard actually,” Wagle said. “It was really exciting to win but they told us the show wouldn’t air until November and we couldn’t tell anyone. The longer it went and as I got into the school year I just put it into the back of my mind.”
Once the show aired, everyone at school and in the community knew about it. Did they treat him differently?
“A lot of students and teachers have congratulated me,” Wagle responded. “In a couple of my classes they have even shown clips from the show.”
Sojas isn’t new to success. Last year he finished third in the National Geographic Bee. Did that experience help him this time?
“It was very different,” Wagle said. “At the National Geographic Bee I was on the stage with nine other contestants. This time it was just the show host (Chris Harrison) and me. At the Bee we were all competing against each other. This time it was the host asking questions for larger amounts of money. I was much more nervous with just the host and me.”
As he continued to answer questions accurately, Sojas reached the question for $250,000. He was relieved when it involved geography. Harrison gave Sojas four statements and asked him which one was correct. He accurately determined that Brazil is larger than Australia.
Ecstatic at being correct and content with his amazing winnings, Sojas declined to attempt the $500,000 question.
“I thought about it but if I didn’t answer correctly I would have lost $200,000,” Wagle explained. “That’s a lot of money. I still would have kept $50,000 but I thought it was better to stop there.”
What does he plan to do with his winnings?
“I really want to travel so this summer I want to go to Europe,” Wagle said. Of course he will take his family, too. Can you imagine being able to pay for a family trip to Europe before you can drive? Sojas just turned 15.
“I will save the rest for college,” added Wagle. He may not need it. By the time he graduates he will likely be able to go to the college of his choice with plenty of scholarships. He already earned a $10,000 college scholarship by finishing third in the National Geographic Bee.
Colleges are already aware of Wagle’s academic prowess. He scored well on his ACT in seventh grade through the Duke Talent Search. In fact, he has been receiving emails from the Duke Talent Search ever since. That’s how he discovered “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” was looking for young contestants.
“It was quite a process to get on the show,” Wagle said. “After I applied, my mom had to write an essay telling them what my qualifications were. Then they did an interview with me on Skype. After the interview they asked sample questions typical of what they would ask on the show. They wanted to see how I would react under pressure. They didn’t make any commitment then but later they contacted me and said I made it.
“They sent an itinerary for my family and me, then brought us to Las Vegas for the show. We were there for a week before I was on. The other students who were selected and I were in a room every day waiting to be called. We weren’t competing against each other so we got along fine. I met students from Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina and the West Coast states.
“Finally they called my name so I went into another room and waited an hour before the contestant before me was finished. I was pretty nervous while I was waiting. I was nervous on the show, too.”
He wasn’t nervous about keeping the secret, though. He never let it slip, maybe because he was so occupied with three Advanced Placement classes (Calculus BC, Biology and World History), being on the Har-Ber debate team and playing the violin. It was a pretty big secret. Now everyone knows. Congratulations, Sojas!
Raciel Oropeza is a model of perseverance. A teacher at Elmdale Elementary, his path to becoming an instructor was far from traditional.
Oropeza’s journey started in Mexico where he went to school to become a teacher. Getting a teaching degree in Mexico is not cheap and requires a person to take a lot of classes and expend a great number of hours. Mr. O, as his students call him, got married and started a family and after working under contracts for many years he decided he wanted to move his family to the United States.
“Working under contracts was difficult and that is one of the reasons I wanted to move to America,” said Oropeza. “The other reason is because my daughter wanted to be a doctor and really wanted to study in the U.S.”
After arriving in the U.S. Mr. O applied to the University of Arkansas and hoped that his credits would transfer and that the process to become a certified teacher in America would be short and simple. That was not the case.
“I took a lot of courses there and did different workshops and none of them counted here,” said Oropeza. “You have to submit all of your information from there but you also have to get information from your previous school in Mexico. The U of A contacted the school back in Mexico but couldn’t get any information because there was nobody who spoke English so all of the information that I submitted that was already translated and everything was not good enough. Therefore I had to start over.”
Hearing the news he had to start completely over was heartbreaking and frustrating for Oropeza, but he didn’t give up. Mr. O is now in his ninth and final year studying at the U of A, a process that has been elongated due to his time spent working as an Instructional Aide at Elmdale Elementary, a place where he feels at home.
“I feel connected with the students here,” said Oropeza. “Working here has been challenging because I had to learn the language and it is not easy when you are 30 something or 40 something years old and I am almost 50 and still learning. The awesome part is that you see the kids grow from basically nothing. I have seen kids who didn’t know any English and grew and become good students and that is the awesome part because I identify with them.”
Mr. O is taking four classes this semester and four classes next semester and then will officially be a licensed teacher in the U.S. While this will be no doubt rewarding, Oropeza’s main goal for his life is for his wife and kids to be happy.
"I have a wonderful family and have been married for almost 28 years and have three daughters and I want to see them graduate and be happy,” said Oropeza. “If I get a job here as teacher I will enjoy it and I won’t be under stress. I have been under a lot of stress this whole time because I have had to work, take classes and take care of my family but being steady and seeing my family happy will make me happy.”
So far, Mr. O’s goals are lining up. His oldest daughter graduated from Springdale High first in her class and is now in her fourth year at UAMS in Little Rock studying to become an OB-GYN. His second daughter is in grad school getting her masters at the U of A to become a teacher and his youngest daughter is a third grader at Elmdale. Elmdale and the entire district is proud of Mr. O, whose perseverance is a model for all the lives he impacts. #THEChoice
What happens to the heat generated when automobiles burn gasoline? Most of the energy is lost. Four universities, including the University of Arkansas, have been given a grant to attempt to discover a way to harness and use this lost energy. The schools needed a partner to pilot the project and the UA staff has selected Hellstern Middle School in Springdale.
“We chose Hellstern for several reasons,” said Dr. Shannon G. Davis, who works in the UA’s Department of Electrical Engineering. “Kathy Prophet, a teacher at Hellstern, was one of the authors of the new national science standards. She and several other Hellstern teachers worked with our faculty this past summer. Kathy is a nationally known teacher and the entire group of teachers is gifted.
“This is also part of our growth concept. You will see engineers and physicists come out of these classrooms.”
I graduated from the University of Arkansas but never had an opportunity in middle school or high school like these students are having,” said Hellstern’s Tammy Guthrie. “They will move on with confidence in their scientific skills.”
What exactly are the Hellstern science class students doing?
“Our staff believes in ‘doing science’ rather than just reading science,” Guthrie said. “Our students are conducting experiments in the area of optimizing power. They are being observed by UA staff members. Eventually a video will be made of our students that will be circulated to schools all over the country as a demonstration of adapting to the new science standards.”
The new science standards don’t officially go into effect in Arkansas until next year but Guthrie noted, “We like to stay on the cutting edge. This group of teachers isn’t afraid to try new things. Kathy Prophet, Cassie Kautzer and Greg Herzig, our science teachers, are finding and creating new opportunities for their students as their content standards are changing.
“At this point they are exploring energy transfer. They will eventually be able to talk about the relationship between temperature or kinetic energy and the total energy in a system.”
Hellstern’s students are doing work similar to that being done by UA students. Guthrie said, “It may look a little different but ultimately we are investigating the same phenomenon. “
Davis added, “We are introducing sixth graders to heat transfer. Eventually we will develop harder projects to be used by high school students. Our ultimate goal is to inspire students to become engineers, scientists and mathematicians.”
“We are honored they chose us,” Guthrie said. “We have incredible teachers and our kids are amazing. Our students are definitely enjoying science.”
Stanford, Illinois and Howard are the other universities involved in this grant project.
In the Springdale School District, students have opportunities to get a great education while also following their post-graduate dreams. Three seniors at Springdale High School are already pursuing their dreams and in the process, are helping the community.
Adrian Ruan, Daniel Rodas and Jesus Rebolledo are members of a car club named Elite Empire. The club started when Daniel and Jesus noticed Adrian’s car around campus and they all bonded over their love of cars.
“We really just started to get to know each other better and it was amazing,” said Jesus.
“We realized that we all loved cars and could each bring something different to the table,” said Rodas.
All three guys have expertise in the world of making a car run and look better and that has given them an opportunity to host car shows around Springdale in order to raise money for local organizations in the community. People who attend the car shows pay an admission fee and get to park their cars alongside Adrian, Daniel and Jesus and show off their wheels to onlookers.
“We have seen the car community grow in Springdale and we want to set an example to the younger generation that if you do positive things and give back to your community, your community will give back to you,” said Ruan.
The group’s name, Elite Empire originally garnered some hesitance from the administration at Springdale High because they were unsure of the group’s motives but once they learned about what they did, the boys had the school’s full trust.
“Once they got to know us, they started to trust us and now they have motivated us to work hard and make our dreams come true,” said Ruan.
Assistant Principal, Don Eichenberger has helped the group set up events and they are currently working on organizing a car show to benefit the family of Kyler Williams. The lessons the students have learned regarding business have been huge for the three but they appreciate the support of the faculty and administration most of all.
“We just appreciate that they got to know us and instead of writing us off as another group, they have supported us and helped us be the best we can be, said Ruan
The goal has always been for the guys to own their own shop and they recently just secured land and a building to make that goal a reality. This will give Elite Empire the chance to serve their community for years to come and be an example to those in Springdale that you can do anything you set your mind to. #THEChoice