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Sunday , October 21 2018
Home | Tag Archives: EPISD

Tag Archives: EPISD

Op-Ed: Why Don’t You Help Parents with Ed Tech?

I recently was asked to answer a questions for a tv report about edtech in the classroom.  My answer was never used in the report, so I thought I would share it with you.

“Do you provide classes or help for parents who are not comfortable with technology?”

Our district has been moving steadily towards more and more digital tools. The implication of the question, at least in my mind, was that the technology was difficult to understand, and the school district should provide some kind of training for parents so that they could work with their children.

It sounds like a great idea. At least at first.

I got to thinking about the question a lot. I tried to think of another area in school where parents might be given instruction about how to use the tools their children are being asked to use. I could not think of a single one, although I am sure they are out there somewhere.

For instance, suppose my child is in marching band. Do we teach parents how to play the trumpet so that they can help their children during practice?

Do we give parents lessons on modern dance to help their children with a complex dance routine? No.

Even more basically, do we do this type of thing for basic academic topics? Do we tutor parents on Algebra, American Government, Calculus, or Physics? No, we do not.

Would ed tech training even be helpful for parents? I don’t think so. Here is why: Student use all kinds of technology to get to a single answer. For instance they might solve a Algebra homework question by using Wolfram Alpha, or Khan Academy, or The list is endless.

There is no way a school could say to a parent “here is the only way to help your child with this Algebra problem.” It would be a useless exercise. The better exercise would be to teach students how to search properly for help, how to collaborate on questions, and how to use tools like Skype toward together after hours.

Then explain to their parents WHAT students will be expected to do, how to monitor them online, and how to set expectations for technology use at home.

I know that some school districts and even schools by themselves, give “parent training” on the basics of technology. Usually, these classes center around how to use a computer, how to surf the internet, how to fill out online forms, etc. They are meant to help non-technical parents function at a low level in a technical workforce.

However, I don’t think that these are all that useful for parents to work with their children unless the lessons given to the parents are directly tied to the lessons the students are learning in the classroom. In most cases, they are not. They are simply the basics of technology use.

The children probably have a greater understanding of the technology just by what they use in the classroom and with their peers.

Now to be fair, our district does provide videos for students on how to use the very basics of the technology they are getting. And parents could easily access those videos. And we help parents with topics like cybersafety.

But how to use devices in class?  Not now, not yet.

I think that this type of question is part of a larger issue: People still do not see technology as an integrated piece of the learning culture, but rather an add on. Therefore, tech is something of an afterthought.

Instead of that laptop being an extension tool like a pen or a pencil, to is something ADDITIONAL to the learning experience, not included in the learning experience.

I hope that mindset changes in the very near future.


Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

Teachers Awarded $17K in Grants Thanks to EPISD Foundation

The EPISD Education Foundation board surprised 20 teachers this fall with a little extra cash to do some innovative projects in their classroom this school year.

Nearly $17,000 in Classroom Impact Grants was awarded for grants ranging from STEAM projects to fine arts, college readiness and career and technology.

“The EPISD Education Foundation is proud to fund classroom grants to provide resources for our teachers to do special projects that make a difference in the education of our students,” said Russell Wiggs, foundation president.  “The look on the teachers’ faces when we call their name during our surprise visits is priceless. It makes it all worth it knowing we can make a difference even if it is small.”

The EPISD Education Foundation awarded more than $160,000 back to EPISD in 2018 through scholarships for graduating seniors, classroom grants and campus grants.

“It means a lot to us as teachers that we have supporters like the foundation that are here to help us to get,” said Sonja Quintero, an Irvin food science teacher. “It’s a community. It takes a lot of all of us together to make kids successful. And so without this, it would be that much harder for all of us to be successful.”

Quintero is one of the 20 teachers receiving grants this fall from the foundation. She’ll be using the funds to purchase materials for a food science project. Teachers can apply for a 2019 classroom grant for up to $1,000 beginning in March.

“I always try to find community resources and whatever I can, I get donations, but when there’s grants like this available, it makes it so much nicer for a teacher just to request things,” Quintero said. “I know there’s so many wonderful projects out there but a lot of teachers get discouraged because they don’t have the supplies. This is a wonderful program to be able to tap into.”

Story by Reneé de Santos |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

EPISD’s Cabrera Finalist for Urban Superintendent of the Year Award

EPISD Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera is a finalist for the Council of the Great City School’s urban superintendent of the year title that recognizes excellence among educational leaders in school districts that serve large cities in the United States.

“Mr. Cabrera has helped transform EPISD into a District of Innovation that is recognized nation-wide as a place where forward-thinking teaching and learning are a priority,” said EPISD Board President Trent Hatch. “Under his leadership, we have seen unprecedented growth in student performance and we are on a clear path to modernize not just instruction but also our facilities.”

The Council named Cabrera among one of nine finalists for the Green-Garner Award, which is the organization’s highest recognitions for urban school superintendents.

Cabrera is vying for the award along with superintendents from Denver; Miami-Dade, Fla.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Pittsburg, Pa.; Dallas; Memphis, Tenn.; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; and New York City.

The Council acknowledged Cabrera’s role in improving student performance over his tenure in EPISD.  Cabrera was a driving force in introducing the popular New Tech Network of project-based instruction into the District and helped expand the rigorous International Baccalaureate program from one high school to three other campuses – including the first middle school IB programs in the county.

This year, the Texas Education Agency’s state accountability standards showed the District is top in Region 19 and third in Texas for the number of high-performing schools.

“We are building the best EPISD in the history of El Paso, and I am honored to be part of the team that is making this happen,” Cabrera said. “All this success would not be possible without exemplary teachers and an outstanding staff who care deeply about the children of our city.”

A winner will be announced during the Council’s annual fall conference on October 25 in Baltimore, Md.

EPISD Students to Present at TEDxElPaso

Six EPISD students will share the stage with local and national leaders to share their ideas and present their platforms during the 2018 TEDxElPaso conference Saturday at the El Paso Museum of Art.

The six students, who earned their spot on the conference by presenting their ideas before a panel earlier in year, will share the stage with well-known speakers like Congressman Will Hurd, advertising executive Leslie Wingo and muralist Cimi Alvarado.

Representing EPISD at TEDxElPaso are:

  • Abigail Carrasco, Dia Ganjegunte and Lilly Luttrell from Brown Middle School;
  • Alyssa Quesada from Burges High School; and
  • Mia Milliorn and Kiyoshi Ito from Coldwell Elementary School.

The students are part of EPISD’s emerging TED Ed Clubs, which help prepare students to become public speakers and present ideas in the style of the world-famous TED Talks.

“Our objective for TEDxElPaso is not only to contribute to the global clearinghouse of free knowledge, but also to inspire you to make a dent in the universe and leave your own unique footprint,” said curator David Michael Jerome, who called the event a day that is devoted to ideas.

On Saturday, EPISD students will speak on a range of topics that include the role bees play in our environment, the importance of listening to children and happiness in our lives.

“My TED Talk is going to be about how I feel about the disadvantages and advantages about me personally being the middle child,” Coldwell’s Kiyoshi Ito said. “So it’s sort of like I’m interviewing myself and I’m telling it to other people. I learned how to be a more fluent speaker.  Being in TED Ed has also helped me to get over stage fright and be able to talk in front of a big crowd.”

The TED Talk Club also taught his classmate, Mia, how to project her voice and become a better speaker.

“I’m going to be talking about the voice of the young and how politicians or even your mom or dad should be listening to what you have to say because we are part of this world for a reason,” said Mia, also a Connections student at Coldwell.

Her talk required some research and practice to ensure her voice could be heard.

“When I got into it I didn’t really know much about it so I watched the news and I looked at websites,” she said. “I was really shy and I would talk like really whispery. To practice, they had the class stand in the back of the room so I had to be louder and show my voice because my TED Talk is about my voice.”

Mia and Kiyoshi’s teacher Christina Mier has seen how much the students have grown from participating in TED Talks.

“The program provides them a platform. These students have stories to tell and it is amazing how they really do want their voices to be heard,” Mier said. “Programs like TED Talks develop their presentation literacy and gives them that opportunity to just organize themselves, improve their skills and really just put it all on the stage.”

EPISD started the TED Ed Clubs in 2016. In 2017, 13 campuses from elementary through high school participated in the program with the eventual goal of establishing a club at every EPISD campus.

“The TED Ed Club curriculum matches components of the Active Learning Framework and New Tech,” said Esther Hughes, a facilitator for innovation who also coordinates the clubs. “It inspires members to work together to discuss and celebrate creative ideas.”

Last May, the students in the clubs presented their TED-style talk in front of a crowd and were rated on a variety of categories including delivery, idea, enthusiasm and audience awareness by representatives from TEDxElPaso. The top presentations were selected for this week’s talks.

“We are so grateful to TEDxElPaso for this partnership,” Hughes said. “Students who are selected to present are given coaching opportunities on how to present their talks.  They are exposed to influential civic- and business-minded leaders in the community who, in turn, always express what amazing students we have here at EPISD.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

El Paso ISD’s PSAT/SAT Day Looks to Help Students be College Ready

On Wednesday, high school students and eighth-graders throughout EPISD will participate in SAT School Day, a District initiative to create more pathways to college.

“The SAT School Day initiative is vital to our students in grades 8 through 12 because it allows them to practice and maximize their score on exams that can help open up a world of collegiate and financial aid opportunities,” said Richard Couder, College Readiness facilitator.

All seniors will be taking the SAT while students in the eighth-grade, freshmen, sophomores and juniors will take the PSAT. All testing will happen at the students’ home campuses.

“This year, our superintendent challenged all of our high school students to spend a minimum of eight hours practicing on Khan Academy prior to the SAT School Day,” Couder said. “Research shows that just eight hours of practice can raise student scores by 90 points on average. ”

The test for eighth graders and freshman (PSAT 8/9) differs from that of the sophomores and juniors. While the test itself for 10th and 11th are the same, the juniors’ test is the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test) to determine National Merit Scholars.

Students have been preparing for the exam by logging on to the Khan Academy for tips and practice questions.

For those taking the test on Wednesday, EPISD provides the following tips to prepare for the test, courtesy of Khan Academy:

The Night Before:

  • Relax!There are a lot of good reasons NOT to study the night before Test Day. Marathoners don’t go for a run before Race Day, and mental marathoners like you shouldn’t study for more than an hour on the day before you take the SAT. Your brain needs to rest in order to do its best. Read a book or hang out with a friend or two.
  • Avoid screen time.You’re going to need to get a good night’s sleep, and bright screens (televisions, phones, movies) will wake up your brain and make it more difficult to drift off at an early hour.
  • Have a healthy dinner.Drink lots of water and load up with complex carbohydrates, just like marathon runners do: potatoes, pasta and rice are good choices here, as well as protein and vegetables.
  • Organize your bag for Test Day.The night before is the time to put your ID, admission ticket, pencils, calculator, batteries and other gear in a bag by the door.

Test Morning:

  • Wake up early and have a healthy breakfast. Here are a few good choices: eggs, toast, cereal, bagel, fruit, juice, cheese, milk.
  • If you drink coffee or tea, then stick to your routine. If you don’t drink a caffeinated beverage every day, though, Test Day isn’t the time to start. You need calm, slow-burning, consistent energy today.
Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Graphic by Martín A. López  – EPISD

El Paso ISD Student Artists to Show Surrealist Work Through October 27

The EPISD Fine Arts Department presented the K-12 Student Art Exhibit “Dream a Little Dream” Surrealist Expressions, opening Thursday night at the International Art Museum. The opening was attended by hundreds of people.

All EPISD students were encouraged to participate in this art show and share their surrealist stories and dream-like imagery with their peers and with our community.

The art show currently displays close to 300 pieces in all mediums and categories: drawings, paintings, sculptures, prints and collage.

In addition to the student art exhibit, our young artists who attended the opening reception received the opportunity to enter an art supply raffle where many of them won color pencils, acrylic paints, drawing pencil sets, paper tablets, pastels and much more.

“The Surrealist exhibition is one of our most popular events due to the fact that student get a chance to “dream” and produce magical artwork to share with our community. Surrealist expressions went beyond the walls of the art museum the day of the opening,” said Fine Arts Visual Arts facilitator Rosa Aguilar.

Teachers, students and staff attended the opening reception dressed in their dream like or surrealist attire to support the young artists.

“The art exhibit shows a chronological order from elementary to high school level work. The audience is able to view the growth not only in technique and skill but also in the complex storytelling and concept of surrealism. I encourage all of our community to stop by and view the incredible creativity of our students, the quality and craftsmanship of this art show has set the tone for the rest of our EPISD art exhibits,” Aguilar said.

The exhibit will be on display from October 4-27, 2018 at the International Art Museum, located at 1211 Montana Avenue.

Story and photo by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Story in Many Pics: Irvin Flies Past El Paso High 49-35

In an EPISD battle between Central and the Northeast, the Irvin Rockets hosted the El Paso High Tigers Friday night.

The visiting Tigers did their best to overtake Irvin, but in the end, the Rockets soared, downing El Paso High 49-35

Our very own  Johnny Yturales was there and brings you his view of the game in this “Story in Many Pics”

EPISD Students get Nuggets of Wisdom From Chick-fil-A Leadership Program

For Chick-fil-A, it’s not all about cooking chicken. The fast food franchise has teamed up with area high schools to serve up some nuggets of wisdom through its Leader Academy.

The nationwide Chick-fil-A Leader Academy engages students in monthly Leader Labs with a focus on important leadership skills that they will use to create student-led community impact projects.

Franchise owners throughout El Paso have adopted neighboring campuses to offer the Leader Academy. Burges, Silva Health Magnet, Coronado, Franklin, El Paso, Chapin and Andress are among the high schools sponsored by an area Chick-fil-A in EPISD.

“Our vision at Chick-fil-A is to make a positive impact on the lives of others and so we believe that our youth are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Joy Martinez, who owns the Airway location with her husband Anthony Martinez. “It is important to invest our time and energy so that we can give them the tools that they will need to be better equipped for the world tomorrow.”

The Martinez’s kicked off the 2018-19 Leader Academy at Burges High School on Friday with 30 students at an orientation for the year-long program. The day began with some ice breakers, an introduction to the curriculum, a boxed lunch with the famous Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a visit from Cow, the restaurant’s mascot.

The curriculum taught in the academy focuses on servant leadership – a style deeply rooted in the Chick-fil-A organization and modeled by its founder, the late S. Truett Cathy.

“Our servant-leader spirit, in which we put others first, really comes from a sense of mission to serve others with compassion dignity and respect,” Joy Martinez said. “The same compassion dignity and respect that we would want others to offer us. We want to encourage all Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students and help them in any way that we can because Anthony and I had many mentors, family members, friends who encouraged us and believed in us and helped us in our journey.”

Last year, Burges’ project created a more inclusive environment for special education students in the Community Readiness Classroom (CRC), nicknaming them “the cool kids.”

“I think this year we will just make a larger impact and keep growing the relationships we already have,” said senior Lailani Chehedeh. “I’m really excited to see the way the new students start and the way they end. Last year, even for myself, just being able to see the way I grew and began understanding different types of people and just growing relationships was really a unique experience.”

Student Activities Manager Ruth Bohlin saw the leader academy as a great opportunity for Burges students to develop virtue and civic responsibility.

“While we have our leader academy kids go through the curriculum, they also have an opportunity to build relationships with our CRC kids,” Bohlin said. “And that in itself was a wonderful opportunity for each of them – both enriching for the CRC kids and the leader academy kids.”

Joy Martinez saw first-hand how successful the program was at Burges last year.

“What I noticed was that the energy, the spirit and enthusiasm was just remarkable – truly remarkable,” she said. “Seeing the cool kids just have so much fun and feel the love was just so heartwarming. You saw all these students come together and bring a ray of sunshine to the lives of kids.”

Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Video+Story: ‘Make Your Move El Paso’ Offers Free Health, Meditation Classes

Two of EPISD’s premiere middle-school programs are joining forces to create a one-of-a-kind mental and physical health expo aimed at helping students and adults exercise both the body and the mind.

Ross Middle School exercise program Rossfit, along with Henderson Middle School’s nationally-recognized chess team will put together the first Make Your Move El Paso Fitness Festival from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 29, at Chapin High School, located at 7000 Dyer Street.

Free classes in yoga, weightlifting, nutrition, dance and meditation will be offered throughout the day by area fitness experts and local gyms.  The event also will feature chess classes and a chess tournament featuring the nationally-ranked Henderson chess team.

“This is a great opportunity for the community to learn more about living healthier lives while getting a taste of the different exercise options available in our city,” said Bobby Macias, Make your Move El Paso coordinator. “We are encouraging parents and students to join us to experience this workout of the mind, body and soul.”

Among the gyms offering classes: RKU Athletics, Peak Fitness, Casa de Yoga, Get Lifted, CrossFit 915 and Push Fitness.

Participants are asked to sign up online and once there, searching for Make Your Move El Paso classes.

To view a poster with more information on the event, click here.

Author: Reneé de Santos  |  Photo courtesy of Rossfit – EPISD

Video+Story: El Paso ISD Students Try Exotic Fruits, Veggies During Farmer’s Markets

Students of all grades — and some teachers and parents, as well — had their palates tempted with exotic fruits and veggies that were rich in colors and taste last week during one of EPISD’s Farmers Market activities.

While the Clardy cafeteria served some tasty baked chicken nuggets, officials from Labbatt Food Services handed out trays of an array of what seemed like strange produce, including stringy and salty sea beans, bright-red dragon fruit and colorful purple cauliflower.

Labbatt, a food distributor for EPISD, sent representatives from San Antonio to explain the origin of the delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables.

“I think this opens their eyes to new items and allows them to learn about new cultures and what other countries eat as far as fruits and vegetables,” said Eireanne Robertson, produce specialist with Labbatt.

The Farmer’s Market visited Clardy, Burleson and parents at Aoy elementary schools.  The program is part of EPISD’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program, which offers healthful snacks to students in selected schools twice a week in their classroom.

The taste of the tiny South African pineapple was familiar to them but paled in comparison to the size of the fruit easily found in local grocery stores.

Orange, purple and green cauliflower seemed unusual but the texture and flavor appeared not so different.

“I thought I wasn’t going to like it but tried it and it was delicious,” said second grader Abigail Valles, who initially thought the green cauliflower was broccoli.

Many students ate up all the samples while others left a few bites. One first grader, his mouth still tinted red and purple from the passion fruit sample, cleaned his plate.

“I like this one,” he said with the string of sea beans hanging from his mouth.

When asked if there anything he didn’t like, he responded with a smile: “¡Me gusto todo!” (I liked everything!).”

Robertson found that most kids enjoyed trying the sea beans.

“They’re very salty and that’s why I think the kids liked them so much,” she said.

Labbatt’s samples sat among a display of even more unfamiliar fruits to give students a visual appreciation for produce such star fruit, kumquats, passion fruit and colored carrots.

“We really want to expose them to new items,” Robertson said. “I think they’re excited to see the other varieties that we brought to show them like the star fruit and the different colored carrots because they look cool.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  |  Video by Raymond Jackson – EPISD

Video+Story: EPISD’s ‘Sensory Rooms’ help Autism Spectrum Students Get Ready to Learn

Students on the autism spectrum at Lincoln and several other EPISD schools can now benefit from research-based sensory rooms — converted classroom spaces that feature sound, light and tactic devices that provide comfort and lead to more effective learning.

The rooms are available for students on an as-needed basis and can be used whenever teachers sense a trigger that may impact learning in a student.

Autism researchers say rooms with these features, which include swings, light shows, sound machines and other tools proven to relax students in the spectrum, provide students with a safe haven.

“It helps them to calm down before a behavior escalates,” said teacher Katonna Lagua. “We have the lights off and we have the disco ball and the little stars will come out. It just gives them a sense of calm.”

Students typically stay in the room, which is limited to two students at a time, for 15-30 minutes based on the need of the child. The various stations offer areas representing motion, sound, visual and feel/touch to feed the child’s sensory diet.

“Before re-entering the classroom, we want to make sure that the child is calm,” Lagua said.

Lincoln is one of five campuses that have sensory rooms to benefit students with autism. Newman, Herrera and Moreno elementary schools have a similar space while Richardson Middle and Guerrero Elementary are building theirs now.

“This specific equipment and tools in this room really help our students to self-regulate, self-modulate, organize their brain and what’s going on within their sensory system in order to be a lot more productive in the classroom and increase their attention to task,” said occupational therapist Ivette Benore, who has trained teachers on the equipment.

“This is what we call a sensory diet, which is activities that are needed throughout the day to keep them in the just right level of alertness in order to be able to learn in the classroom,” she added.

Initially, teachers guide students to the equipment until they figure out by themselves the stations that meet their sensory needs. Some students might climb on the giant swing for linear or circular motions, while others might jump on a special beanbag or crawl under it.

One Lincoln student last week made his way to the corner of the room and hunched over a platform offering a slight vibration. He gazed at the bubbling tower surrounded by mirrors, watching it change colors while listening to the subtle sounds of the bubbles.

“Autism is very broad and no one’s autism looks the same, so what may be a sensory need for one child may be different from another,” Lagua said. “Investing in a sensory room like this at the schools that have autistic children is a wonderful.”

The room is designed specifically for students in autism units and access to it is outlined in each child’s Individualized Education Plan. Other special-education students may use the room as well if their education plan calls for it.

Teachers can control the different sound effects and visuals on the wall, with oceans and the rainforest being the most popular.

“Our kids have a sensitivity that is at a different intensity than a typical student,” Benore said.  “It is a different perception and interpretation of their own system and how it is working in relationship to the sensory stimulus in their environment.”

Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy | Video by Angel Dominguez/EPISD

EPISD’s Rivera Elementary Honored as One of ‘America’s Healthiest Schools’

This week, El Paso ISD’s Rivera Elementary was named one of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for Healthier Generation in recognition of the campus’ commitment to student well-being.

Not only was Rivera one of only 461 schools in all of the United States that were selected to the list, the elementary is the only El Paso County school to be named to the list.

“Serving the children of our community goes beyond providing quality teaching and learning in the classroom,” Principal Cindy Contreras said. “Rivera has made health a priority for every student because we know that a successful student is one that thrives academically and in life through healthful choices.”

The honor was based on a rigorous set of criteria that includes the availability of nutritious foods and access to quality and innovative physical-education opportunities.

Rivera was recognized for the following criteria:

  • Meeting or exceeding federal nutrition standards for school meals and snacks.
  • Offering daily breakfast.
  • Implementing district wellness policies and updating progress annually; and
  • Providing students with at least 60 minutes of physical education per week to ensure physical activity throughout the school day.

“The Healthy Schools Program has served over 42,000 schools. Each one recognizes the academic, social and behavioral benefits of prioritizing student health,” said Brian Weaver, Chief Programming Officer at the Alliance for Healthier Generation. “We are proud to recognize the exceptional efforts of Rivera Elementary School for serving as a best-in-class example of what it means to create healthier environments for both students and staff.”

Rivera is one of more than 40,000 schools in the United States that participates in the Healthy Generation’s Healthy Schools Program.  The no-cost service provides training, resources and technical assistance to schools that wish to have a positive impact on their students’ health.

Story by Gustavo Reveles Acosta – EPISD

EPISD Day School for the Deaf Offering Adult American Sign Language Classes

Inside the parent engagement room at Hillside Elementary School a few parents gathered to hone their skills in sign language. They reviewed common signs for foods and a rather important word to remember: coffee.

The parents, who are among the 35 families with children enrolled in the Regional Day School for the Deaf at Hillside, smiled as they motioned coffee – which uses both hands together to look like an old coffee grinder with the top hand making a cranking motion.

Teaching sign language to parents and the community has become extension of the service they provide to support the education and culture of the deaf community.

Free sign language classes are offered at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays in the Hillside cafeteria.

“We’ve been providing the free sign language class for over 20 years here in our community,” said Jason Lilly, Regional Day School coordinator. “You have people that may have lost their hearing that are attending the class to learn sign language for themselves. We have parents, aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters that come to the class because they have a family member who’s deaf or hard of hearing. Some come just because they want to learn sign language.”

April Finlay wants to become more proficient in signing to help her daughter Ashley, who is new at the Hillside the Regional Day School for the Deaf.

Photo courtesy EPISD

“I want to be able to stay ahead of my daughter in learning sign language,” said the mother of the 3-year-old student. “I’ve heard that like if you don’t start taking sign language classes, that your kids will surpass you and then you’re going to fall back on ways to communicate. She wears hearing aids but if the hearing aids go out, I want another way to communicate with her.”

Finlay’s in-laws also are deaf, which gives her another reason to learn sign language.

“I think it’s fascinating to learn another language,” she said. “I want to keep learning more languages and this is one of them.”

Nearly 80 families are part of the Regional Day School for the Deaf at four campuses, Hillside and Bonham elementary schools, Ross Middle and Burges High.

Lilly encourages parents and other family members to join the free hour-long class, which is offered for both intermediate and beginners. The drop-in classes are free and participants can attend the Monday classes at their leisure.

“The language does progress and builds on itself so consistency is important,” Lilly said. “It’s so important for their families to learn sign language for their child’s development. Think about all the things that happen outside of school and all the language that occurs at home and out in the community. If that grandparents or other family member signs, then it gives that child a better chance of really understanding what’s going on.”

Finlay has enjoyed learning sign language simultaneously with her young daughter.

“It’s just been such an eye opener and it’s opened a lot of doors for my daughter,” she said. “Sign language has actually given words meaning to her.  I see that her speech is developing along with the sign language. I want to keep up with her, to be able to keep that communication going.”

For more information on the American Sign Language classes for adults, please contact the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf at EPISD at 915-230-2842 or email them at

Three EPISD Seniors Named Semifinalists for National Merit Scholarship

Three of the four National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists in El Paso County announced this week are EPISD seniors.

“The National Merit Scholarship Program has for decades exemplified academic excellence and college readiness among high-school students,” said EPISD Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “We are proud that Melchor, Malcolm and David are continuing the long-standing tradition of excellence EPISD has had in producing semifinalists and scholars in this very selective program.”

The National Merit Scholarship organization, which manages this prestigious and sought-after program, said around 16,000 students throughout the country were named semifinalists and are vying for more than $31 million in college funding.

The EPISD seniors who were named finalists this week are:

  • Melchor Herrera from Franklin High School
  • Malcolm Lyn from Coronado High School
  • David Mullings from El Paso High School.

To qualify for this honor, students must score in the top 1 percent of students in their state on the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which measures a person’s abilities in critical reading, math problem solving and writing rather than their existing knowledge.

More than 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.

Story by Reneé de Santos | Graphic by Martín A. López – EPISD

EPISD Focuses on Dad’s Role in Education via “Take Your Dad to School Day”

In a scene to be repeated throughout EPISD this week, students walked hand and hand with their dads down the halls at Logan Elementary to give their fathers a glimpse of their daily lessons and routines.

The students brought their fathers with them to school for the Strong Father “Take Your Dad to School Day” initiative.

Elementary campuses throughout EPISD will be participating in a similar event, which begins with classroom time and ends with a group activity for the dads.

At Logan, prekindergarten and kinder students sat eating breakfast with their dads before going to class while older students lined up with dad on the blacktop.

“This is my dad,” Joshua Ellis Jr. said, tugging his dad’s fingers. “My dad gets to stay with me today.”

Dad Joshua Ellis’ twin pre-k boys enjoyed seeing him at their school and especially in their classroom.

“This is my spot,” little Joshua told his dad before the announcements and National Anthem began.

The soldier dads watched their little ones carefully during the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, some guiding them to make sure their right hand was correctly placed on their heart.

“I think it’s great that they get to see their dads are here to support them in their education,” Ellis said. “I was glad to see them interacting with their classmates and teachers. I want to be able to help them improve and know what they are doing.”

At PE, dads and kindergarten students gathered in the multipurpose room to play with beanbags – a lesson in coordination and motor skills. The coach gave instructions to the little ones to toss the beanbags in the air, clap, catching it with another hand.  The dads stood next to their kids guiding them, smiling, playing a little catch and posing for selfies to mark the occasion.

Brian Ault stood back watching his son Steven, who is in the kindergarten collaborative, toss the beanbag amid dozens of his peers.

“I haven’t been very active in his school I’ve just been picking him and dropping him off so this gives me a chance to see him interact with other kids instead of relying on what the teacher says,” Ault said. “I want to have an understanding of what my son is doing and see if there are any issues we need to address at home.”

Alfredo Chavez, who teaches prekindergarten dual language for the 3-year-olds, gathered parents outside his class to talk about his classroom rules and routines.

“It’s important that parents feel comfortable with the school,” Chavez said. “We want to build structure and bond from the beginning to build trust with the parents.

Chavez and the other early childhood teachers have been working on rituals and routines for the little learners since school began last month. “We want them to know we are not a day care. We are an academic settings and we have rules and structures that need to be followed and even rules for the parents to follow.”

Fathers posting photos during “Take your Dad to School Day” this week are encouraged to use #episddads.

Story by Reneé de Santos |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD