First Person

This week's healthy schools highlights

Healthy schools champions sought

Did you know that Colorado Action for Healthy Kids has a School Champion Program?  The goal is to recruit, build, and train a statewide network of designated school wellness advocates to serve as Action for Healthy Kids liaisons in their school districts, to engage and mentor other parents, and to share information about school wellness issues and opportunities. To learn more, visit this web page or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Playworks reinvents recess

With childhood obesity weighing heavily on the minds of parents, teachers and policymakers, anationalnonprofit is providing safe, healthy and inclusive play to local schools. Recently, Denver’s 7News showed how Denver’s Johnson Elementary School got kids moving (and reduced playground fighting) by incorporating Playworks into its curriculum. Playworks, with local support from the Colorado Health Foundation, also received national attention from ABC’s Good Morning America.

Legacy Foundation announces healthy schools grants

The Colorado Legacy Foundation is releasing a new round of competitive grants to be awarded to Colorado K-12 school districts, Colorado BOCES and charter schools to advance best practices in health and wellness as an evidence-based strategy to improve student and school climate outcomes. The grant guidelines and application are available on the Colorado Legacy Foundation’s website. Grant proposals that most closely align goals and objectives with the Colorado Legacy Foundation’s Health and Wellness Best Practices Guide for Colorado School Districts will be more favorably considered.

Putting Policy into Practice for Healthy Colorado School Districts Grants will provide:

  • Funding of $10,000/year for two years is available to at least six schools districts, BOCES or charter schools to put policy informed by the Colorado Legacy Foundation’s Health and Wellness Best Practices Guide for Colorado School Districts into practice.
  • The awards will cover a two-year grant cycle (July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013).
  • In order to qualify for the two years of funding, organizations must address two or more of the following areas: comprehensive health education, nutrition, physical activity, school health services, and workplace wellness.
  • Only one proposal will be considered per applicant organization.

Grant Submissions must  be received by 5 p.m. April 15. Applications can be submitted by mail, e-mail or hand delivery to: Stephanie Wasserman, director of Health and Wellness for the Colorado Legacy Foundation, 1660 Lincoln St., Suite 1680, Denver, Colo. 80263 or [email protected].

Dist. 6 School Wellness Policy Committee seeks members

The District 6 Nutrition Services department invites Greeley and Evans community members to contribute to the development, implementation and evaluation of the district’s school wellness policy by serving on the School Wellness Policy Committee.

This committee is charged with ensuring that the district’s school wellness policy addresses nutrition and physical activity recommendations and requirements, and that the policy is implemented and adhered to. Currently, the committee has a focus on the return to scratch cooking for school meal programs.

The committee is currently seeking additional parents, students, community residents, and District 6 staff members to serve on the committee. This committee meets on a quarterly basis, and each committee member is asked to serve for at least one year.

Applicants will be selected by the current School Wellness Policy Committee members. For an application, contact [email protected]. Applications are due by March 11.

Weld County Schools earn national well workplace award

Greeley’s District 6 has been listed among America’s healthiest organizations as a result of winning a Silver Standard Award from the Wellness Councils of America.

District 6 is part of a larger community initiative involving many businesses in Greeley working toward a Well City designation. The primary requirement for achieving this designation is about 20 percent of the community’s working population must be employed by a designated “Well Workplace” award-winning company.

Among the activities that helped District 6 earn the award are annual blood screenings, the yearly Great Holiday Weigh contest, annual flu shot clinics, efforts to provide healthier alternatives in vending machines, health information programs, and securing grant funding to provide services. Read more about the district’s wellness policy.

Healthy Kids to benefit from grant

The Colorado Health Foundation has awarded Boulder County $371,470 to increase children’s and families’ access to public health insurance. Boulder County officials said the grant, to be paid over the coming two years, will benefit the Boulder County Healthy Kids initiative, which enrolls pregnant women and eligible children and their families in Medicaid and the Child Health Plan Plus. Read more in the Longmont Times-Call.

Four more Denver high schools to get new fitness centers

Denver Public Schools has selected four high schools to receive state-of-the-art fitness centers, thanks to a grant from The Colorado Health Foundation.

The district currently has four Sound Body Sound Mind fitness centers at four different Denver high schools across the city, and thanks to a $495,455 grant from The Colorado Health Foundation, there will be eight fitness centers total to provide staff and community members with a low-cost, convenient way to exercise in the afternoons and evenings.

The following sites were chosen for the new fitness centers:

  • John F. Kennedy High School, located in Southwest Denver
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College, located in Far Northeast Denver
  • North High School, located in Northwest Denver
  • West High School, located in Central Denver

Boy lifting weights in DPS fitness center.Construction on the new fitness centers will begin in June. All fitness centers are expected to be open to the public by the time school begins in August. The district’s Sound Body Sound Mind fitness centers directly support the newly approved health goals in the DPS Health Agenda 2015. The cost of the fitness centers is $10 per semester for DPS staff and $15 per semester for parents and community members. Students are not charged a fee to use the fitness centers. Adults must have a physician release prior to using the fitness centers.

The state-of-the-art fitness centers include Matrix and SPRI fitness equipment. Personal trainers with the American College of Sports Medicine certification are also on site to prescribe exercise for adults with medical issues.

Aurora PE teacher honored

Aurora West College Preparatory Academy’s Andrea McCarthy will be honored as the Central District Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education at its national convention in San Diego, Calif., March 29-April 1.

McCarthyThe Central District represents a nine-state area from Colorado to Minnesota. The award is given in recognition of outstanding teaching performance at the middle school level and the ability to motivate today’s youth to participate in a lifetime of physical activity.

McCarthy, a physical education teacher for 17 years, nine at Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, will vie with three other district winners for the National Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award at this year’s convention.

McCarthy’s physical education program focuses on a pilot program she learned from professional fitness trainer, Chad Jones and the Sport Xcel Foundation called the Sport Xcel Fitness Model – engaging students in different warm-up routines, dynamic stretches and exercises with or without equipment. Under this model, McCarthy looks to infuse fitness into skill development.

School clinic gives kids healthy dose of services

When Laredo Elementary School fourth-grader Carlos Estrada had pink eye, his parents didn’t have to miss work and drive him miles away to the doctor. Carlos merely walked down the hall of his school for help at the new low-cost, school-based health clinic. Staffers there gave him some medicine. Read more in the Denver Post.

First Person

To close out teacher appreciation week, meet the educators whose voices help shape the education conversation

From designing puzzles to get kids fired up about French to being christened “school mama” by students, teachers go above and beyond to make a difference. Chalkbeat is honored to celebrate Teacher Appreciation week with stories of the innovation, determination, and patience it takes to teach.  
Check out a few of the educator perspectives below and submit your own here.

  1. First Person: When talking about race in classrooms, disagreement is OK — hatred is not by David McGuire, principal at Tindley Accelerated Schools and previously a teacher in Pike Township. McGuire is also a co-founder of a group called Educate ME.  
  2. First Person: What my Bronx students think about passing through scanners at school by Christine Montera, a teacher at East Bronx Academy for the Future in the Bronx. She is also a member of Educators 4 Excellence-New York.  
  3. First Person: What 100 ninth graders told me about why they don’t read by Jarred Amato, High School English teacher and founder of ProjectLITCommunity.
  4. This fourth-grade teacher doesn’t take away recess or use points to manage the class. Instead she’s built a culture of respect by Liz Fitzgerald, a fourth-grade teacher at Sagebrush Elementary and Colorado Teaching Policy fellow.
  5. First Person: Why I decided to come out to my second-grade students by Michael Patrick a second grade teacher at AF North Brooklyn Prep Elementary.
  6. Meet the teacher who helped organize the Women’s March on Denver, a profile of Cheetah McClellan, Lead Math Fellow at Denver Public Schools.
  7. First Person: At my school, we let students group themselves by race to talk about race — and it works, by Dave Mortimer, and educator at Bank Street School for Children.
  8. What Trump’s inauguration means for one undocumented Nashville student-turned-teacher a profile of Carlos Ruiz, a Spanish teacher at STRIVE Prep Excel and Teach for America fellow.
  9. First Person: ‘I was the kid who didn’t speak English’ by Mariangely Solis Cervera, the founding Spanish teacher at Achievement First East Brooklyn High School.
  10. First Person: Why recruiting more men of color isn’t enough to solve our teacher diversity problem by Beau Lancaster, a student advocate at the Harlem Children’s Zone and  Global Kids trainer teaching, writing, and developing a civic engagement and emotional development curriculum.
  11. Sign of the times: Teacher whose classroom-door sign went viral explains his message a profile of Eric Eisenstad, physics and biology teacher at Manhattan Hunter Science High School.
  12. First Person: How teachers should navigate the classroom debate during a polarizing election year  by Kent Willmann, an instructor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. He previously taught high school social studies in Longmont for 32 years.
  13. First Person: I teach students of color, and I see fear every day. Our job now is to model bravery by Rousseau Mieze, a history teacher at Achievement First Bushwick charter middle school.
  14. Pumpkin pie with a side of exhaustion: Why late fall is such a tough time to be a teacher by Amanda Gonzales, a high school special education teacher in Commerce City, Colorado.
  15. This teacher was a ‘class terrorist’ as a child. Now he uses that to understand his students by Andrew Pillow a technology and social issues teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle.
  16. What this teacher learned when her discipline system went awry — for all the right reasons by Trilce Marquez, a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 11 in Chelsea.
  17. Here’s what one Tennessee teacher will be listening for in Haslam’s State of the State address by Erin Glenn, a U.S. history teacher at East Lake Academy of Fine Arts and Tennessee Educator Fellow with the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
  18. An earth science teacher talks about the lesson that’s a point of pride — and pain a profile of Cheryl Mosier, a science teacher at Columbine High School.
  19. A national teacher of the year on her most radical teaching practice: trusting kids to handle their bathroom business by Shanna Peeples, secondary English language arts curriculum specialist for Amarillo ISD.
  20. How this teacher went from so nervous her “voice was cracking” to a policy advocate by Jean Russell, a literacy coach at Haverhill Elementary School,  2016 Indiana Teacher of the Year and TeachPlus statewide policy fellow.

First Person

I’m a black man raised on the mistaken idea that education could keep me safe. Here’s what I teach my students in the age of Jordan Edwards

The author, Fredrick Scott Salyers.

This piece is presented in partnership with The Marshall Project

I worry a lot about the students in the high school where I teach. One, in particular, is bright but struggles in class. He rarely ever smiles and he acts out, going so far recently as to threaten another teacher. As a black, male teacher — one of too few in the profession — I feel especially compelled to help this young black man reach his potential. Part of that work is teaching him the dangers that might exist for him, including the police.

The killing of Texas teenager Jordan Edwards proves, though, that it’s not just black boys with behavior issues who are in danger. Jordan — a high school freshman, star athlete and honor student — was shot dead by a police officer last month while leaving a house party. As he rode away from the party in a car driven by his older brother, officers who’d been called to the scene fired multiple rifle rounds at the car. One bullet went through the passenger window, striking Jordan in the head. Murder charges have since been filed against the officer who fired the fatal shot.

It’s a near impossible task to educate black children in a society that constantly interrupts that work with such violence. Still, it’s incumbent on educators like me to guide our students through the moment we’re living in — even when we can’t answer all their questions, and even if we’re sometimes confused ourselves.

I began teaching in 2014, the year the police killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice dominated headlines. The tragedies have piled on, a new one seeming to occur every month since I first stepped into a classroom. I currently teach ninth-graders at a predominantly black charter school in Brooklyn, and I often find myself struggling to make sense of the events for my students.

I’ve shown them clips from popular films like “Selma” and “Fruitvale Station” and prepared lessons on the civil rights movement, and I’ve done my best to ground it all in the subjects I was hired to teach — American history, composition, and college readiness. My hope is that these films will encourage my students to connect today’s police violence to our nation’s history of racial injustice. And, because there are no easy answers, they’ll simply be encouraged by the perseverance of those who came before them.

I can’t help but worry I’m sending them mixed messages, however, teaching them lessons on resistance while also policing their conduct day to day. As an administrator and one of few black male teachers in my school, I’m often charged with disciplining students. I find myself having a familiar talk with many of them: “get good grades,” “respect authority,” “keep your nose clean.”

It’s instruction and advice that can feel pointless when a “good kid” like Jordan Edwards can have his life cut short by those sworn to serve and protect him. Still, I try in hopes that good grades and polite behavior will insulate my students from some of society’s dangers, if not all of them.

The Monday after police killed Edwards, I asked the students in my college readiness class to watch a news clip about the shooting and write out their feelings, or sit in silence and reflect. Many of them were already aware of what happened. I was proud that so many of them were abreast of the news but saddened by their reflections. At just 14 and 15 years old, many of them have already come to accept deaths like Jordan’s as the norm, and readily expect that any one of them could be next. “Will this police officer even be fired?” one asked. “Was the cop white?”

The young man I worry about the most was more talkative than usual that day. During the class discussion, he shared his guilt of being the only one of his friends who “made it” — making it meaning being alive, still, and free. The guilt sometimes cripples him, he said, and high-profile police killings like Jordan’s compound that guilt with a feeling of hopelessness. They make him think he will die in the streets one way or another.

I didn’t know what to say then, and I still don’t have a response for him. I’ve always taught students that earning an education might exempt them from the perils of being black in America, or at least give them a chance at something more. I was raised on that notion and believed it so much that I became an educator. But deaths like Jordan’s leave me choking on the reality that nothing I can teach will shield my students from becoming the next hashtag.

In lieu of protection, I offer what I can. I provide a space for my students to express their feelings. I offer love and consideration in our day-to-day interactions and do my best to make them feel seen and, hopefully, safe for a few hours each day.

Fredrick Scott Salyers teaches at a charter high school in Brooklyn. He began his career in education as a resident director at Morehouse College. Find more of his work here.