Tina Fox and Taylor Powers

Within a whirlwind of 24 hours, Cy-Fair ISD graduate Taylor Powers met actors Tina Fey, Rose Byrn and designer Zac Posen.  The young photographer was treated like a celebrity herself at Carnegie Hall as one of eight, $10,000 art portfolio recipients awarded by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards through the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artist & Writers. The Cypress Woods High School student traveled to New York this June with her family and photography teacher Tina Fox for the prestigious national awards ceremony. This year Scholastic recognized 800 teen Gold Medalists selected from more than 340,000 national entries from young artists and writers in grades 7-12. Locally, Taylor’s portfolio was chosen last winter by a panel of art professionals from Harris County Department of Education, regional affiliate of the Awards.
“New York City was like a fairytale to me,” said the 18-year-old. From visiting the Today Show and seeing the Jonas Brothers to getting lost on the subway and experiencing Times Square, the experience mimicked a movie, a dream come true, she said.
Backstage at Carnegie Hall, visiting celebrities greeted the top-award students. Tina Fey posed for a personal photo with Powers, and the Saturday Night Live star even complimented the teen on her dress.

Taylor Powers and Tina Fey

“I was smiling so hard that I could barely get out the words “thank you’,” she said. Photography teacher Fox has been an art teacher for almost 30 years and has been involved with HCDE’s regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for 27 years. Through the validation and recognition students gain from Scholastic, she sees student confidence rise. As Powers began working on her senior photography portfolio this year, her teacher knew it was unique and powerful as she created the body of images. “This is the first time I’ve had a student receive this type of award,” she said. “I know this award has opened opportunities for her that she otherwise might not have had.” HCDE Scholastic Art & Writing Coordinator Andrea Segraves sees the power of expression that Scholastic Art & Writing Awards lends to young student artists and writers as they gain notoriety for their artistic talents. “The Awards have identified and honored so many talented writers and artists over the years like Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Robert Redford, Lena Dunham and Ken Burns,” said Segraves. “To join in those ranks is such an empowerment for these teens.” Powers’ future career plans include attending community college until she hears back from the esteemed Savannah College of Art and Design, her dream college. “I hope to be able to commission art pieces for clients one day and do photo shoots for anybody seeking a photographer with a keen eye,” she said. She is quick to credit her teacher for encouraging and pushing her artistic endeavors while thanking Mom Letitia for influencing her creativity and buying the digital camera to help her forge her artistic pathway. (For information about entering, judging or sponsoring the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards through Regional Affiliate Harris County Department of Education, go to https://hcde-texas.org/scholastic-awards/ or email asegraves@hcde-texas.org.) Source: HCDE
Two Harris County Department of Education Head Start centers (La Porte and Tidwell) are recruiting students ages 3-5 for preschool for the 2019-20 school year. Head Start ensures future success for students both academically and socially and provides comprehensive health, education, nutrition and financial services to the families. Healthy meals and snacks are provided for students during the day. Parent involvement opportunities are provided along with service referrals to meet family needs. Family engagement activities are hallmark to the program. Eligible children are those from low-income families and with disabilities between ages 3-5. Applicants should present the following at registration: • Proof of age- child’s state birth certificate, state birth facts or passport • Proof of address- lease contract, current utility bill, state ID, benefits letter or paycheck stub • Proof of income- current tax form (W-2 or 1040), 12 months of check stubs, child support payment record, verification of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income The centers are located at 927 South 1st St. in La Porte and 8302 John Ralston Rd. in Houston (Tidwell). Other openings may become available at the 15 centers HCDE operates in east and northeast Houston. For more information about registration, call the Head Start main number at 713-672-9343, La Porte Head Start at 713-696-3123, Tidwell Head Start at 713-696-3124 or visit http://www.hcde-texas.org/head-start. Source: HCDE
Have an interest in working with infants to 5-year-olds? Harris County Department of Education is hosting a job interview fair to recruit teachers, teaching assistants, family service providers and cooks to join any of its 15 locations throughout northeast Harris County. The recruitment event will be held Thursday, June 20, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 6300 Irvington Blvd. “We are looking for highly energetic, passionate individuals who enjoy working with young children to join our team,” said HCDE Head Start Senior Director Venetia Peacock. “Our employees help transform lives of children and their families, along with making a difference each day.” Qualifications for Head Start teaching assistant, Early Head Start teacher and Head Start teacher include experience working with young children and an interest in early childhood education. Those who hold child development associate (CDA) degrees are strongly encouraged to apply. Interested candidates can apply online at http://www.hcde-texas.org or call 713-696-8287 for information. HCDE Head Start provides services to facilities in Barrett Station, Baytown, Channelview, Compton, Coolwood, Dogan, Fifth Ward, Fonwood, Humble, J.D. Walker, La Porte, Pugh, San Jacinto, Sheffield and Tidwell. Head Start ensures future success for students both academically and socially and provides comprehensive health, education, nutrition and financial services to families. Find more information on positions available and qualifications, visit: https://bit.ly/2HPXMPJ. Visit http://www.hcde-texas.org/head-start for general information about HCDE Head Start and locations. Source: HCDE
Harris County Department of Education is hosting a job interview fair to recruit teachers, teaching assistants, family service providers and cooks to join any of its 15 locations throughout northeast Harris County. The recruitment event will be held Thursday, June 20, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 6300 Irvington Blvd. Qualifications for Head Start teaching assistant, Early Head Start teacher and Head Start teacher include experience working with young children and an interest in early childhood education. Those who hold child development associate (CDA) degrees are strongly encouraged to apply. Interested candidates can apply online at http://www.hcde-texas.org or call 713-696-8287 for information. HCDE Head Start provides services to facilities in Barrett Station, Baytown, Channelview, Compton, Coolwood, Dogan, Fifth Ward, Fonwood, Humble, J.D. Walker, La Porte, Pugh, San Jacinto, Sheffield and Tidwell. Head Start ensures future success for students both academically and socially and provides comprehensive health, education, nutrition and financial services to families. Find more information on positions available and qualifications, visit: https://bit.ly/2HPXMPJ. Visit http://www.hcde-texas.org/HeadStart for general information about HCDE Head Start and locations. Source: HCDE
Academic and Behavior School West held “Graduation Recognition” on June 5 with 29 students being recognized for their achievements. Twelve students graduated from high school and will go on to job training programs and career opportunities. Other students celebrated their promotions to middle and high school. Achievements, both small and large, are emotional milestones at ABS West, a school for students with behavioral challenges and intellectual disabilities. Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Parker thanked faculty, staff and parents for contributing to the students’ success. A special presentation was given to teacher and coach Tamara Powers, an 18-year employee at ABS West. She thanked her students for giving her almost two decades of personal growth. “We learn so much from them every day,” she said, accepting a special plaque from principal Victor Keys. Senior Andrew Isadore wants to train in the Job Corps so he can work and make money. He aspires to be a car salesman and later attend school to become an engineer. “The school has helped him with his behavior and his attitude towards life and towards helping him achieve his goals,” said his mother Kim Isadore. “His whole attitude and behavior has changed for the best, and I’m happy they have helped him here,” she said. Students ended the afternoon with hugs, tears and graduation cupcakes. A celebratory “Celebrate Good Times” dance provided closure after the turning of the tassels. Source: HCDE
Students and staff at Fortis Academy came together at the end of the school year to celebrate students on their road to recovery and their academic accomplishments. Two students were recognized for completing their course work and graduating from their home campuses at the end of May. Another student was recognized for being sober for five months into sobriety. Harris County Department of Education Superintendent James Colbert spoke to those in attendance about how his vision of Fortis Academy came about. “Society is built around punishing people and somewhere we need to stop this cycle and start helping,” he said. There are people and their families begging for help to get away from addiction, he said. School districts, teachers, counselors and principals want to help someone, but punishment is the only answer. Fortis Academy is symbolic in a sense that it’s trying to change that paradigm and look at things through a different lens, Colbert noted. “I have a vision to go big by having more than one Fortis Academy campus to spark and inspire others to do exactly what we are doing in Harris County,” Colbert said. “Maybe we can even inspire others outside of Texas.” HCDE is positioned uniquely to help because of all the wraparound services it can offer to the community. “We will think of it and don’t care what the obstacles are because we are going to try it and find a way to pull it off,” Colbert said. Colbert said he is extremely proud of principal Anthony Moten and his staff, the parents who let them help their children, and students–especially those who sought out shelter and found it at Fortis Academy. One parent spoke about her daughter going through a lot of changes after starting at Fortis Academy, but they were for the better. The mother never thought she would see her daughter transform in a positive way. Fortis Academy Principal Anthony Moten marveled at the significance of a Fortis student’s pledge to remain sober. Research shows because of environment or friends the risk of relapse is higher when students must return to their pretreatment schools. “Think about the commitment these young people are trying to make for the rest of their lives at 16 or 17 years old,” Moten said. “I’m so very proud of our kids and honored to be your principal, because you are doing something that a lot of people wouldn’t attempt to do.” Source: HCDE
Local afterschool funding for approximately 1,500 students is being provided for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year through $550,787 in afterschool funding supplied through the Partnership Project. The Partnership Project is a 20-year-old program founded by Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids, or CASE for Kids, which fills afterschool funding gaps through a unique collaborative between local, state and federal partners. Partnership Project is a collaboration between HCDE’s CASE for Kids, the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the Texas Workforce Commission and local afterschool sites in which all parties contribute funding. Services will be provided from Oct. 1, 2019 through Aug. 31, 2020 to 25 afterschool sites located in schools throughout Harris County. Awards range from $10,000 to $30,000. Districts include Alief, Houston, Pasadena and Sheldon independent school districts and charter schools the Academy of Accelerated Learning Chimney Rock and Belfort. “The Partnership Project allows us to expand our reach to local families and education communities we serve during times when public school budgets are lean and federal funding for afterschool has lessened,” said CASE for Kids Director Lisa Thompson-Caruthers. CASE for Kids supplies resources, training and funding for students in afterschool programs in schools, childcare families and community centers. In 2017-2018, CASE for Kids served 14,627 students and supported 2,814 educators. The goal of Partnership Project is to provide supplemental funding to comprehensive afterschool programs for disadvantaged students ages 4-12, or children with disabilities up to age 19.  The program promotes social and emotional learning skills and increases support for academic programs which promote math and reading. The Partnership Project fills funding gaps with a variety of resources, including the CASE for Kids lending library which provides curricula, educational games, sporting equipment and STEM-based materials like robotics kits. Afterschool vendors affiliated with CASE for Kids specialize in academic focus areas that highlight math and language and social and emotional learning. For more information, including specific schools and award amounts, visit https://bit.ly/2XlPd5z Source: HCDE
Educator Anae Ntasin juggled school, a full-time teaching job and a large family this year as she attended the Principal Certification Academy at Harris County Department of Education. The Spring Independent School District biology teacher is on track to complete the program and take the principal certification exam by the end of the year. Ntasin and 14 of her fellow classmates recently met to share their research action plans for tackling school issues. The trifold presentations included an oral report which was graded by program coordinator Chaney Ledet, curriculum and compliance officer for HCDE’s Educator Certification and Professional Advancement Division. Ledet reminds students that collaboration in the school community is key to being a great school leader. As coordinator for the Principal Academy, she believes the success of the program is attributed to the program’s hallmarks: flexibility and support. “We have a 99 percent pass rate on the principal and teacher certification exams,” said Lidia Zatopek, director of ECA. “While passing the test is a major focus, we also make sure that we help support students throughout the beginning years of their careers as school leaders.” The Principal Certification Academy is a hybrid program that includes an onsite monthly Saturday seminar, online assignments and plenty of one-on-one support, including mentors. As a rolling cohort, the program allows students to enter classes at any time during the semester. A boot camp helps candidates prepare for the actual exam and to gain experiences by shadowing a principal. Tuition is reasonable, and payment plans are available. To enroll, candidates must have a master’s degree or be enrolled in the final semester of graduate school. Jason Hill, a second-grade teacher at Frost Elementary in Houston ISD, passed his principal exam through the program and is propelled by the self-assurance he gained. “This program has given me the confidence to actually be an instructional leader,” he said. “Not knowing everything a principal does left me skeptical, but now I’m learning about skills I need to have, and I believe I can be a successful school leader.” Dora Garcia is a high school counselor in Deer Park Independent School District. She joined the program to learn about the administrative aspect of being a principal. As a counselor, she already knows how important emotional stability is for student success. “This program has helped me tremendously, preparing me to be hands-on with the budget and everything that goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “As a principal, you must employ equity with your employees, including everybody and equipping them with the necessary resources.” For more information about the principal program, go to https://hcde-texas.org/teach-and-lead/principal-certification/. Source: HCDE
Thirty-two teen writers and artists from Harris County Department of Education’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Regional Affiliate program traveled to New York City to Carnegie Hall June 5-7 to gain national Gold Medals as young writers and artists. Their prestigious, artistic endeavors were selected from 340,000 national entries in 2019. View photos: https://hcdetx.smugmug.com/Scholastic-Art-Writing/Scholastic-NYC-June-2019 (password is hcde1889)

Teen artist Taylor Powers of Cy-Fair ISD and writer Divot Walia of Pearland ISD each earned $10,000 national scholarships as two of 20 recipients national recipients.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recognizes student achievement for grades 7-12 in the visual and literary arts in 29 categories, including editorial cartoon, poetry, graphic design, fashion, science fiction, video game design and more. The Awards offers opportunities for creative teens to earn recognition, exhibition, publication and scholarships. “This experience for students at Carnegie Hall in NYC is indescribable. Having the opportunity to be recognized for their creativity and talent at the highest level is monumental in their lives,” said Andrea Segraves, coordinator for HCDE’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Each year, students are surprised by a guest appearance from a celebrity during the Awards. This year, actor/comedian Tina Fey appeared. Gold Medalists attending the ceremony: Writing: Theiija Balasubramanian, Klein Oak High School, Klein ISD; Lilliana Cadet, Fairmont Junior High School, Deer Park ISD; Sophie Caldwell, Noelle Alexander, Oliver, Adonai Ross, Indrani Maitra and Jack Trent, St. John’s School; Riya Keswani, TH Rogers Middle School, Houston ISD; Emily Lara, Cypress Falls High School, Cy-Fair ISD; Kahani Malhotra, Village School; Yuan Malubay, Krimmel Intermediate School, Klein ISD; Sierra Ondo, Presbyterian School; Zoe Price, Kinkaid School; Hallie Thomson, Langham Creek High School, Cy-Fair ISD; Eliana Veeningen, Veritas Christian Academy; Divjot Walia, Glenda Dawson High, Pearland ISD; Trina Zhang, Killough Middle School, Alief ISD Art: Mary Ayers, Episcopal High School; Axel Maldonado and Mario Barron, Sam Rayburn High, Pasadena ISD; Evieh’biJan Nia Braddy, Nimitz High, Aldine ISD; Rachel Chang, Cypress Ridge High, Cy-Fair ISD; Sophia Early, Stratford High, Spring Branch ISD; Sophia Fu, Pearland Junior High West, Pearland ISD; Colby Gregory, Cypress Woods High, Cy-Fair ISD;; Hattie Meehan, St. Agnes Academy,; Chloe Pertuit, Clear Falls High, Clear Creek ISD; Taylor Powers, Cypress Woods High School, Cy-Fair ISD; Austin Reppert, Episcopal High; Jordan Smith, Carver High, Aldine ISD The regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards begins the 2020 awards in the fall of 2019. For more information about judging, sponsoring or entering, go to http://www.hcde-texas.org/scholastic-awards. Source: HCDE
Soft-spoken teacher LanVy Tran’s classroom runs like a well-oiled machine. Students transition from one workstation to another with confidence, trading iPads for pencils and papers where students can use virtual manipulatives. Like runners stretching, fourth-grade minds warm up as Tran asks for predictions as numbers are placed on a grid. In the classroom of 21 at Burbank Elementary in Houston ISD, no one is redirected or reprimanded by the second-year teacher. All are engaged on the math and science front. Tran was enrolled in Harris County Department of Education’s teacher alternative certification program for seven to 10 months in pre-service training, taking teacher preparation courses. The next 12 months were spent teaching and taking additional courses. Mentors such as HCDE’s Director of Math Curriculum Nicole Shanahan helped her along the way and are still here for her today. “I was with HCDE for about two years and they gave me plenty of tools and advice to prepare for teaching,” Tran said. Since 2007, HCDE’s Educator Certification and Advancement (ECA) Division has helped college graduates and second-career seekers to transition into teaching. For the past seven year the teacher preparation program reports a 99 percent pass rate for students completing courses and taking the certification exams, according to Lidia Zatopek, director for HCDE’s ECA. The division also trains and prepares principals for certification. Recently it added the Superintendent Certification Institute to help further elevate school leaders. Tran is confident, well-organized and patient, three traits that go a long way in the teaching profession, said Shanahan. Even though some of a good teacher’s traits are inherent, most are learned. “I had amazing mentors at HCDE whom I still lean on for support,” Tran said. “My mentor Ms. Shanahan has been wonderful and taught me a lot about engaging activities and classroom instruction. I go to her math workshops and enjoy making workstations for my students, and they enjoy the activities.” The best part of teaching, Tran said, are the “ah-ha” moments when her students make connections between theory and practice. “Then they say, oh, I see now Ms. Tran,” she said. HCDE is recruiting teachers for its Teacher Alternative Certification Program. For more information, go to http://www.hcde-texas.org/teacher-and-lead . (LanVy Tran was recently nominated for the Texas Alternative Certification Association Intern of the Year Award. Winners will be announced this summer.) Source: HCDE