(Harris County Department of Education offers free adult learner classes this fall beginning as early as mid-September. More info about registration at http://www.hcde-texas.org/adult-education.) When adult learner Emmanuel Nieves Aviles returned to school 10 years ago, the native Spanish speaker never dreamt he would someday be teaching English as a second language. Aviles moved to Houston from Puerto Rico after teaching there for almost 20 years. In Texas, as he acquired a new language, he discovered his teaching certification didn’t transfer. Bold and bent on providing for his family, he enrolled in basic ESL classes at Harris County Department of Education’s Baytown Learning Center. Several semesters later, he progressed to advanced ESL with teacher Laurie Jensen. The Switch: Student to Teacher Something strange happened one day when his teacher was discussing his academic future. Aviles couldn’t believe his ears when Jensen advised him that he could teach the ESL class himself and was well-equipped with his past teaching experience. HCDE Adult Education Baytown Center Manager Guillermo Medina recalled the day he addressed the accomplishedyet- nervous student in his office. “I called Emmanuel to my office for a brief interview,” said Medina. “I saw his potential, and he’s been with me now for nine years. “I’ve hired many teachers in 17 years as manager, and Emmanuel has been outstanding and one of my best choices.” Recipe for Relating Empathy allows Aviles to relate to his students, as he has traveled the road himself. “Students have many things going on in their lives, worrying about childcare and the money they need,” he said. “I try to keep them on track the best I can.” Sometimes that means phoning disgruntled students whose adult problems get in the way of coming to class. “I can’t lose them,” said Aviles, throwing up his arms in show of mock despair. Aviles packs a punch when he addresses his students. He challenges them by introducing math word problems through everyday situations. A lesson in buying a Lexus includes analyzing whether the used car salesman is offering a bad deal or not. “Is the car affordable?” he asks. Heads nod yes. Throughout the exercise, students are adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing while also being introduced to percentage rates. They get a dose of reality when realizing they can’t afford $2,000 down and 48 payments of $200, plus substantial interest. “Wake up and do the math,” says Aviles, walking students through his own journey of buying a used minivan. “Take the car back.” Heads nod yes again as students understand the rationale of high interest rates. Similar exercises involve measures for recipes. Is there enough milk to make all the meal? Will there be enough for four people? Student Talk Student Jordan McCain, 29, has enrolled in the GED class to take care of his growing family with the addition of a third child this year. “He’s good,” McCain said, pointing at his teacher. “He makes math easy to learn.” Student Jecenia Chavez, 20, works in retail and is pregnant with her third child. In the past, she has suffered with depression. Her children keep her centered. “The only thing that can stop me right now is me, and that’s not going to happen,” she said. Aviles encourages her to believe in herself, she said. “I want to get my certification to be a phlebotomist and get more medical training after that,” Chavez said. To keep himself centered and humbled, Aviles need only to think about the first day he walked into his ESL class with a limited number of English vocabulary words. “As teachers, we need to be facilitators,” he said. “What do I gain if I ignore them? “I’m here to help them overcome their life obstacles.” (HCDE Adult Education is the largest, no-cost adult education program in Texas, with a variety of health care and construction career training options in Harris and Liberty counties. Students may also take English as a second language classes and high school equivalency degree classes simultaneously in a traditional classroom setting or online. For more information, go to http://www.hcde-texas.org/adult-education.) Source: HCDE
Pre-teen Alyssa Perez, a bordering-on-shy, sixth grader who likes to play chess, discovered her voice in the Kindness Academy at Navarro Middle School in Lamar Consolidated Independent School District. Her principal Stephanie McElroy believes what kids have to say is important, and staff listens in order to help build a positive school community. Introduced to the school last year, the Kindness Academy is multi-faceted but thrives on the basic principle of spreading goodness, not bullying. â€œI firmly believe when you focus on the positive traits in people, you will get positive actions in return,â€� said McElroy. â€œWhen you focus on punitive measures, actions do not necessarily change.â€� Harris County Department of Educationâ€™s Center for Safe and Secure Schools works as consultants with Navarro to provide resources for character education through a program called Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices strengthens relationships between individuals and promotes social connections within school communities. School safety and security specialist Janice Owolabi meets with staff at Navarro for trainings on student behavior and de-escalation strategies. The student component focuses on building the momentum of â€œActs of Random Kindnessâ€� or ARK. â€œThe Center for Safe and Secure Schools is excited to work with Navarro to promote safe, structured, nurturing environments for an anti-bullying culture,â€� said Owolabi. The low-income school is 75-80 percent Hispanic, and some of its 500 students come from foster care or group-home backgrounds. Research supports establishing community and respecting student voice to promote the social-emotional development of students. Students and staff each belong to four houses. The goal is to build a family culture within each house. Students earn points for the positives: grades, acts of kindness, effort, campus participation and behavior. â€œThe houses serve as a team for the students and faculty,â€� said McElroy. â€œWe work to build a collective team spirit; uphold the character traits; and build a family culture within the houses.â€� Instead of focusing on anti-bullying education, the goal is to teach children to combat hatred in society. â€œThe best, most impactful way to do that is to teach children compassion, caring, courage and kindness,â€� said McElroy. Giselle Hernandez says the Kindness Academy taught her to reach out to others, like the new girl who had no one to talk to. â€œBefore, she was shy and scared of everyone because she thought they would be rude to her,â€� Hernandez said. â€œNow she knows who she is and is learning to help others.â€� With the introduction of the Kindness Academy, students are not allowed to have cell phones on campus. The overall reaction has been positive, according to Hernandez. â€œI saw other kids bullying using their devices,â€� Hernandez said. â€œNow that they donâ€™t have them, there is no bullying, just positivity.â€� Kindness continues to spread at Navarro.Â Counselor Tanesha Crockett says the school is building a community of support for each other.Â A student steps into her office and she sets aside the mountain of paperwork to ask how the day is going. That student is off to a house pep rally, one of four held during the year to promote a sense of community. The halls are filled with drumbeats, chants and students who have a collective sense of well-being. â€œWith public school days being filled with testing and accountability measures, kids often feel voiceless,â€� Owalabi said. â€œThrough Restorative Discipline, we are allowing our students to have a voice and be heard and not shut down.â€� Perez, 12, hangs out with her siblings and talk to her dogs when sheâ€™s a little sad. Her empathy for others is deep because of the acts of random kindness mentality. She continues to grow her leadership skills in her school. Hernandez is intent on cultivating her kind voice too. â€œI have become a leader because I donâ€™t want bullying to be a thing anymore,â€� she said.Â â€œKids need to have a voice so if something does happen to them, then they know what to say.â€� Videos: Two students at Navarro Middle School, Lamar Consolidated ISD, share their thoughts on Acts of Random Kindness: Alyssa Perez: https://youtu.be/NB1H0TBvgz8 and Giselle Hernandez: https://youtu.be/S9gXnJqMOME About Good News You Can Use: â€œGood News You Can Useâ€� showcases the partnerships betweenÂ Harris County Department of Education and school districts and organizations. Source: HCDE
Human trafficking seems like a foreign concept to many families, but veteran teacher Linette Caroselli provides a cautionary tale of how it happened to her own 19-year-old daughter. The Arizona mother shares her daughterâ€™s story of physical abuse, psychological terror, manipulation, rape and sex trafficking at the Human Trafficking Summit on Nov. 13, from 8:30 a.m.-2:45 p.m. at Harris County Department of Education, 6300 Irvington, Houston, Texas. The event hosted by Children At Risk and HCDEâ€™s Center for Safe and Secure Schools (CSSS) is $20 for adults and $5 for students. Breakfast and lunch are included, and parking is free. Register at https://t.co/Iwh9XOXv91 . â€œThe purpose of the Human Trafficking Summit is to focus on the problem of human trafficking together and find multi-pronged solutions to end it,â€� said Ecomet Burley, director for the CSSS. Presenters include Christina Crenshaw, professor from Baylor University who researches human trafficking prevention education and serves on several state anti-trafficking taskforces. Restorative practices expert Eloise Sepeda talks about helping to heal survivors of violence and exploitation.Â Christopher Greeley of Texas Childrenâ€™s Hospital speaks about child abuse and neglect. Other speakers include HCDEâ€™s David McGeary and Sergeant John Wahl, Houston Police Department. Children At Risk attorney Caroline Roberts shares the following statistics about human trafficking: â€¢ 35,000 Texas children attend school within 1,000 feet of a suspected illegal massage business. â€¢ 900,000 children attend school within a mile of a suspected front for human trafficking. â€¢ 78,996 minor and youth sex trafficking victims were reported in Texas. â€¢ 1 in 5 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2015 were likely sex trafficking victims. â€¢ 75 percent of likely victims were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran. â€¢ Abuse, neglect, interaction with Foster Care or the Juvenile Justice System and substance abuse are risk factors for human trafficking. Source: HCDE
Four men from the community recently gave an hour out of their day to read "How Do Dinosaurs Go to School" to students at the Fifth Ward Head Start Center. These men are part of the REAL SuperMENtors Read program, a mentoring program in which men from the Houston community commit one hour of their time to read, once a month. The program is a part of the ongoing HCDE Head Start Significant Male Initiative formed in 2002 to encourage male involvement throughout the HCDE Head Start centers. The program works by recruiting, selecting and assigning mentors to each school. Mentors commit to at least one hour, once a month between October and May to read to students. During the month of May children celebrate their SuperMENtors. Gary Whitt, Bank of Texas senior vice president, is in his fourth year of participating in the SuperMENtor program and is one of three from the bank to mentor at the Fifth Ward Head Start Center. Bank of Texas also donated to the program this year to supply books. â€œThis is a great opportunity to give back and know the good work that is being done and being able to participate has been rewarding,â€� he said. â€œThe teachers here are amazing and itâ€™s great to see the development of the children from the first time you read to last time, especially the ones that I have seen two years in a row. This is my favorite thing to do each month and I like how the location can be geared towards where we work.â€� Bank of Texas also donated over $7,000 to the program this year to supply books. Urban Enrichment Institute Mentoring Coordinator Michael Scott is in his first year and wanted to continue being a role model to youth after serving as a teacher in Houston ISD. â€œI believe itâ€™s life purpose to serve the youth by empowering and helping them develop,â€� he said. â€œEven though itâ€™s just once a month, you build a relationship with the students and look forward to having that time to come and share something fun with them. The joy that you get in return canâ€™t match the time you put in.â€� SuperMENtor volunteers come from a multitude of businesses and are community members from across the greater Houston area. Additionally, through corporate sponsors, participating students receive a copy of the book read to them each month to grow a home library. Reading dates are the second Thursday of each month beginning in October through May. Each school site will work with its mentor, as needed, for scheduling reading dates. To sign-up to be a mentor, fill out the form at https://bit.ly/2RWAATZ and email to SuperMENtors@hcde-texas.org. For more information on the REAL SuperMENtors Read program at HCDE Head Start, please contact Armando Rodriguez at 713-696-2179 or e-mail SuperMENtors@hcde-texas.org. Source: HCDE
Summer is here, and students and teachers alike will be enjoying the time off. If you’re looking for activities to keep children engaged during the summer, check out this list of free or cheap activities taking place across Houston. Houston on the Cheap provides the ultimate list of free or cheap activities to do during the summer. From summer symphonies to family story time and moonlit movies, this list provides a variety of options for families. View the list here: https://www.houstononthecheap.com/summer-fun-in-houston. Find a comprehensive list of summer events on Houston Family Magazine’s online calendar: https://www.houstonfamilymagazine.com/event-directory/. Strengthen your child’s love of learning this summer with special events taking place at the Children’s Museum of Houston. Children can take illustration lessons, design something new during Innovation Nation WonderWeek and participate in a secret mission to protect the museum! Find more events at https://www.cmhouston.org/calendar.