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Home | Tag Archives: tom lea elementary

Tag Archives: tom lea elementary

Traveling to El Paso to deliver love

Chris Lowe felt a gravitational pull to El Paso as she drove her Fall Forward Across America RV throughout the southern portion of the United States.

The trip, which hopes to instill a desire in people to perform 22 random act of kindness, began on July 26 and took a detour toward the Sun City after the attack on the El Paso Walmart on August 3.

“This RV is about kindness and the energy behind it,” she said. “I felt compelled to come here knowing that this town needed to know there are kind people in the world thinking about them. Everything just brought me here.”

Lowe, a Florida native, chose the number 22 for the acts of kindness even before the attack in El Paso which killed 22 people. The 22 represents the age her son would have been when she began her mission to spread love throughout the country.

Inspired by media reports of two EPISD teachers who asked strangers from throughout the world to show kindness to their students by sending them notes of support via mail,  Lowe drove into Tom Lea Elementary on Friday.

She was joined by Tara Ijai of Love Glasses Revolution, who donated hundreds of heart-shaped sunglasses to students at Tom Lea and Hillside Elementary.

Tom Lea fourth-grade teacher Teresa Garrett had partnered with Hillside Elementary teacher Elvira Flores on the notes of love project, which has continued to draw thousands of letters from across the globe to the school.

Both Lowe and Ijai had already visited Hillside. Lowe challenged students to do random acts of kindness – big or small – and explained how this movement can have a ripple effect throughout the community.

“When you’re kind to other people — no matter what is happening in the world — you can change someone’s life,” Lowe said, echoing the message she shared with the students. “You could change someone’s day or change someone’s thoughts. Just one little kind gesture or comment can really change someone’s whole life.”

Benefactors of her cross-country trek have gotten a full tank of gas, gift cards, coffee, lottery tickets and simple gestures of opening the door, smiling, compliments and kind words. She gave students headbands and wrist bands as reminders of her visit and challenge to do at least one act of kindness a day.

“If you think about what you could do for others, it makes your problems seem less significant,”  said Lowe, who began her journey in her home state of Florida. “The more you do it, the more you inspire others to do it and it becomes a wave of kindness.”

Along her journey through Arizona, she met Ijai who spreads love through her heart-shaped sunglasses. Ijai had only traveled throughout her state of Arizona gifting her sunglasses but felt a call to El Paso knowing the city craved her message.

“We want to show solidarity, love and support for those who need it,” she said, smiling at the sea of students sporting the heart-shaped glasses. “The teachers were asking for postcards but we felt we could do more.”

A few minutes before Lowe arrived, students received their glasses and quickly put them on — a reminder of their kindness and perfect shade from the hot summer sun. Ijai’s husband Adnane Ijai designed all the glasses and created selections in different colors and themes –all shaped in their signature heart frame.

“We are going to consistently rebel against hate and negativity,” Tara Ijai said. “Someone drove hours to deliver hate. We felt the natural antidote was to drive hours to El Paso to deliver love.”

The students gathered for photos showing off their new shades – the tag still hanging from most.

“These are the best glasses in the world,” said fourth-grader Kai. “They’re cool.”

His classmates appreciated the gesture and knowing people care about them and their city.

“I think it’s nice because of what happened in our city,” said Madison Miller, a fourth-grader. “It makes me feel protected in the United States of America. It makes me feel happy. I like the glasses a lot.”

Garrett is grateful for the Ijais and Lowe visit and the response the school has received from throughout the world. She spends hours every night reading and categorizing postcards and messages before sharing with students.

“You can’t put it into words,” she said. “The children are thrilled every single day and they are paying it forward. It’s been such an outpouring of love. Good people are truly still here. They outnumber the bad people and I think we’ve seen that.”

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

El Paso ISD unveils new Bond 2016-funded safety and security programs

Visitors to any El Paso Independent School District elementary campus will have to go through an extra layer of security before even setting foot inside the front office, all thanks to newly safety and security equipment that is part of the EPISD Bond 2016 modernization program.

The new Secure Entry system requires that all visitors use a camera by the front door of each school to show their identification card and state the purpose of their visit. Once a District employee determines the visitor has legitimate business on campus, he or she will be allowed into the front office where their identification card will be checked against a sex-offender registry database.

The Bond 2016-funded upgrades are part of the District’s continued efforts to create safe spaces for learning.

“Parents expect us to provide safe and secure environments for their children, and thanks to the Bond have one of the best systems available at our elementary schools,” said Manny Chavira, EPISD’s Safe and Secure Schools Manager. “By providing these extra layers of security, we allow our employees to challenge any visitor that has no reason to be on our campus.”

Any visitor deemed ineligible to visit a school will be met by an administrator to determine further action.  The new system also works in conjunction with the EPISD Police and systems being used by other regional law-enforcement agencies, who can respond to a call if needed.

“This is the fabric of society now and we have to take these extra measures to make sure that we are ensuring the safety and security of our students and the faculty,” Chavira said.

Tom Lea principal Michelle Casillas likes security the new system gives staff and parents.

“We know exactly who is in the building at all times,” she said. “It gives our parents that sense of security in knowing that our kids are safe, that there isn’t anyone not authorized to be on campus. If we need to, we can call or text police services for assistance. They respond very quickly and been very supportive.”

At Tom Lea, parents arriving on campus pulled as they approached the cameras, ready for when the staff would ask.

“I like fact no one can get into my daughter’s school without proper identification,” said Ramon Reyes. “It makes you feel a lot more secure about my daughter.

Reyes finds the process to enter easy for parents but might not so easy for someone who doesn’t belong.

“It’s not a hassle to get your ID out. It’s for a better piece of mind,” he said.

The new system is part of the $750,000 voters approved for safety and security measures in the Bond 2016 modernization program.  All elementary schools have the new Secure Entry system, and the District is now working on expanding it to middle and high schools.

EPISD Police also provided tours of its new mobile command center during the demonstration.  The former bookmobile turned police station on wheels is equipped with phones, workspace and computers that can tap into the campus security cameras during emergencies. Giant screens lining the wall showed areas of the campus captured from the cameras in and outside the school and on the mobile unit and the blueprint of the building.

“The mobile unit gives us a place where all of our public safety partners can come in to create a unified command establish from beginning to end of an emergency incident,” Chavira said. “The security upgrades and the new mobile command center are all tools we have to ensure that we keep our students and staff safe and secure and can act quickly in the event of an emergency.

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

Tom Lea Students Get Lessons From EPISD Maintenance Pros

Electricians, plumbers and maintenance workers from the El Paso Independent School District brought their insight and knowledge to the pre-kindergarten classrooms of this Northeast elementary school for a neat show-and-tell presentation.

Tom Lea teachers said the school often welcomes soldiers, lawyers and other professionals to speak to classes, but to their recollection this is the first time students get a glimpse into the crucial jobs these dedicated employees do.

“We want them to visually see the people in action and see what they can inform them about their job. It’s hard for them to visualize what an electrician is or what a plumber does and then if they come in and tell us about their trade they’ll be able to understand it better,” teacher Shawn Weigartz said. “I hope that they understand what their job is and why it’s important for our community. They may understand that firemen and police officers are not the only jobs out there because that is what they think right now.”

To help with the presentation, the teachers enlisted the help of nearly 40 fifth-grade campus student ambassadors.

Electrician Demetrio “Meter” Vargas, a 3-year employee with the district, brought in some visuals to show the students the different types of light switches and the light bulbs he uses. He also gave them a brief history lesson by telling the students that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in the 1870s.

“Maybe there’s a future electrician,” Vargas said after speaking with the young students. “There’s this misunderstanding that this field is just for men, but it’s becoming more common to see women electricians.”

Dual Pre-K teacher Angie Gonzalez wanted to make sure that the students see district workers as community helpers the same way students see law enforcement or first responders.

“When we talk about community helpers the first thing that comes to their mind is police officers, firefighters, soldiers so we wanted to bring actual employees from the district that actually help the community, help the schools,” she said. “Usually we see them here in the campus and we let them know who they are, but we just see them working and we really don’t get to interact with them.”

Gonzalez added: “By them coming into the classroom and bringing their stuff the the students are able to visualize it and get a broader, bigger idea of what it is that their jobs entail. Usually we only look for them when things are not working.”

Fifth-grade student and campus ambassador Mercedes Talamantes assisted the teachers with the students.

“It was very interesting, and I think it was quite important because the students actually learned something new about light switches,” she said. “They don’t know stuff like that so it was a new experience for them.”

Sergio Lujan, an HVAC foreman for EPISD, said he enjoyed the chance to speak with students.

“I really take pride in my work. I love to give the schools my priority, so I can give them air conditioning, heating and cooling,” he said. “I like to provide a nice clean environment for them so they can have a good learning experience and be comfortable and let them concentrate on their studies.”

Story by Leonel Monroy  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Tom Lea Elementary Celebrates Namesake with Art Contest

Tom Lea is world-renown El Paso artist, novelist and historian whose work still graces the walls of federal buildings and art museums. But to students at the school that bears his name, Tom Lea can often times just be a name on marquee.

That’s why, during the local celebration of October as Tom Lea Month, the Tom Lea Elementary School PTA decided to host an art competition that honors the artist’s legacy.

“It’s important for the students to know who Tom Lea was and what his background was, so they can be proud of their school,” PTA co-vice president Lorraine Armengol said.

The competition, which was open to the whole school, focused on the theme “Lea’s Bulls at the Pumpkin Patch.”

Winners will be announced next Thursday and will receive an art kit to continue cultivating their creative endeavors.

“The bull is not only our mascot, but bulls are so indicative of Tom Lea because of the novel ‘The Brave Bulls,’ which he wrote and illustrated,” Armengol said.

Art teacher Yuvia Rodriguez had the students focus on use of color in their creations. Some students used a bull template to create their artwork, while other students made their drawings from scratch.

“I have been teaching them about warm colors since it’s fall, so they used a lot of red, orange and yellow,” Rodriguez said.

The art competition goes hand-in-hand with the annual celebration in October, which has been designated Tom Lea Month for more than 10 years. The month-long festivities included art exhibits, walking tours and other educational events.

Adair Margo, the First Lady of El Paso and a local expert on Tom Lea, wrote a column in the El Paso Times outlining the importance of the artist for our community.

“As the president and founder of the Tom Lea Institute and someone who had the pleasure of getting to know Tom, I am delighted to see our community carry on his tradition of celebrating our heritage,” she wrote. “Tom captured the many traditions that came together to form our unique border region.”

Author: Alicia Chumley | Photos by Leonel Monroy/EPISD

New Principals for Brown Middle, Lea Elementary Announced

The El Paso Independent School District today announced the appointment of two experienced educators to lead Brown Middle School and Tom Lea Elementary School as new principals.

Michelle Casillas will begin her tenure as principal at Tom Lea starting on Monday, Feb. 6., Laurie Enloe will take over at Brown starting on Thursday, Feb. 9.

“Ms. Casillas and Ms. Enloe are joining the ranks of wonderful principals here at EPISD and we couldn’t be happier,” said Superintendent Juan Cabrera. “They both bring a wealth of experience as teachers and administrators, and I know they will be part of the efforts to make EPISD a premier school district in the state and the country.”

Casillas currently serves as the assistant principal of Ascarate Elementary School in the Ysleta Independent School District. She was a classroom teacher at Scotsdale and Capistrano elementary schools. Casillas earned education degrees from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Enloe is currently the assistant principal for guidance and instruction at Burges High School.

She’s previously taught special education and was a diagnostician in both Ysleta and EPISD. Enloe has a bachelor’s in business administration from New Mexico State University and a master’s from UTEP.

Pen Pals: Andress, Tom Lea Students meet after Months of Correspondence

National Honor Society students from Andress High and fourth-grade students from Tom Lea Elementary met for the first time today after four months of being each other’s pen pals.

The pen pal partnership was started as a project to fulfill National Honor Society (NHS) requirements, but it has become much more than a project for both the high school and elementary students.

“We thought this would be a nice way to bridge the gap between Andress and a feeder school. With so many choices in schools this offers the students a glimpse of what our school is all about,” NHS advisor Marlana Hohnholt said.

news_2420_mAndress students lined up side by side at Sandstone Ranch Park near the elementary to wait for their pen pals, holding up signs bearing each of their names.

Senior Xavier Haynes couldn’t wait to meet his pen pal Leo, with whom he shares the love of reading and the color yellow.

“This is good. I like being a role model, and he can look up to me,” Haynes said. “It has been really interesting finding out about each other. This is going to help out with college applications, but the best part about this is giving back to the kids.”

When the fourth graders arrived, Hohnholt led them in a fun cheer to help break the ice before they all paired up to do a fun activity.

Lowe’s donated 100 Build and Grow kits, so the students were able to assemble a wooden race car together.

Tom Lea Elementary School teacher Crystal Johnston was happy to see the partnership come to fruition, especially after all the excitement she saw in her classroom every time they received mail from the Andress students.

“This was an excellent opportunity for the children to collaborate within our feeder pattern. It is great for them to see the qualities of these future leaders in our high school campuses,” Johnston said. “They were absolutely thrilled when they would receive their letters, and they put forth a lot of effort in their own letters to impress their mentors.”

The letters not only helped unite these two schools, but also help the students focus on their writing skills.

“This was great for my students because it is a very fun approach to writing,” Johnston said.
These were not your standard letters either. The students shared fun messages by creating magic books, fortunetellers and even picture puzzles.

Fourth grader Kaelynn Guerrero especially liked the magic book, which she created for her pen pal Kaitlyn Null.

“Writing the letters we got to do a lot of projects. My favorite was the magic book because it was something different,” Kaelynn said. “I was really excited when they picked our class because I love writing, and I knew this would be really fun.”

The girls not only share names that start with K, but also their deep love of animals.

“I have four dogs. Their names are Winnie, Chewy, Penelope and Zooey,” Kaelynn said. “She has two dogs named Nemo and Emma.”

After making their race cars, the students enjoyed some downtime at the park, playing ball and throwing flying discs.

Despite the age difference between the fourth graders and the high school students, everyone connected in one way or another.

Andress senior Alyssa Maynes and her pen pal Madison like sports and flowers. Although she has younger siblings, she feels like this experience will help with her future plans to become a social worker.

“I like little kids. This is a great way to relate to them,” Maynes said. “It feels great to connect with someone and be able to help them.”

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