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Home | Tag Archives: Ysleta Independent School District (YISD)

Tag Archives: Ysleta Independent School District (YISD)

UTEP Occupational Therapy Students Teach Children Mindful Ways to Ease Stress

Instead of dribbling basketballs or running drills, 40 third graders at Robbin E.L. Washington Elementary School in the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) quietly practiced yoga’s mountain pose in the school’s gymnasium.

Light instrumental music played in the background as students stood still, their feet firmly planted on the floor and their heads tilted toward the ceiling.

The gym reached a quiet lull with students focused on their breathing.

“Sometimes when you’re having a really bad day and you just took a test, it’s good to just calm down, stand firm like a mountain, put your hands to your heart and just take some breaths,” said Jasmine Flores, a student in the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program at The University of Texas at El Paso.

Flores joined 23 of her classmates at the elementary school in east El Paso on Feb. 13, 2019. They taught mindfulness techniques that calm the body and mind to kindergarten through fourth-grade students.

More than 200 children ages 5-10 years old practiced yoga, meditation and sensory strategies to help them manage stress, ease test anxiety and focus on their schoolwork. Mindfulness training has been to shown to reduce stress and improve mental health issues in children.

“Students stress out about the STAR (Standardized Test for the Assessment of Reading) test, or a game they’re going to play in or before a performance,” said Cecilia Fierro, OTD, the MOT co-director and clinical assistant professor. Her son is a fourth grader at the school. “The more nervous and jittery they get can affect their grades, well-being and self-image. We’re here to give them some strategies to help them calm down and feel more focused and relaxed.”

Minding Children’s Mental Health

A group of students ages 8 and 9 crowded around Lilia Favela as she demonstrated how to make a sensory bottle, a calming tool to help children soothe anxiety. The children poured clear glue and purple glitter into travel-size shampoo bottles. After shaking out their frustrations, they calmly watched the glitter settle at the bottom of the bottle.

“I have one of these at home and when I get frustrated or something upsets me, I take a little break and shake it up,” Favela, an MOT major, told the students. “I like to watch the glitter fall. And you know what that does? It distracts me and takes away all that frustrated feeling that I have.”

MOT students Clarissa Medrano and Dominique Arroyos developed the mindfulness program last summer to promote children’s mental health and wellness. They designed it to encourage middle school and high school students to turn off their electronic devices and tune into their feelings. Under the guidance of occupational therapy faculty members, the two classmates adapted the program for elementary school children.

“Being a mom of a 3-year-old, I see the stress placed on (children) at such a young age to excel at school, and they’re forgetting the play component,” Arroyos said. “(Stress) takes a toll on their mental health. That’s why we’re doing this with younger kids because it’s extremely important that these kids have fun.”

Their goal is to help children cultivate healthy coping skills to manage stress and anxiety and prevent mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders and maladaptive behaviors from developing as they get older.

“The younger they start learning these coping mechanisms, the bigger the impact we can have on their mental health,” said Medrano, a former yoga instructor who developed the kid-friendly yoga sequence.

According to a study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, 7.7 million children with a mental health disorder in the United States were left untreated.

Mei-Ling Lin, Ph.D., a UTEP occupational therapy assistant professor, said the mindfulness program was an opportunity to prepare MOT students to provide much-needed mental health services to an entire student population, not just children with diagnosed mental health disorders.

“(Occupational therapists) can be involved in more prevention and public health initiatives,” Lin said. “That’s the reason I want to incorporate students in providing schoolwide interventions that are more preventive. We don’t want to wait until a mental health disorder happens. We want to be more proactive.”

Keep Calm and Carry On

Gabriel Medrano, a counselor at REL Washington Elementary School, said mindfulness training fits into YISD’s Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) curriculum, which teaches kindness and infuses social and emotional competence in children.

REL Washington implements a lesson once a week during the school’s Power Wednesdays.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to collaborate with (UTEP) is because this is a needed skill,” Medrano said. “We’re teaching the students life skills. So not only are we exposing them to careers, but also presentations like this where they’re able to take those skills with them and hopefully apply them in real life.”

UTEP occupational therapy students also offered a mindfulness session to teachers at the school in December 2018. Teachers learned coping techniques to help them and their students manage stress and stay focused in class.

They received sensory bins that included noise canceling headphones, fidget toys and other supplies to help students focus, and sensory boards with different textures and scents like cinnamon to help students nodding off in class become more alert.

Some children expressed their gratitude for the training on response cards. A fourth grader wrote about being mad all the time but that the yoga and meditation techniques helped very much.

“This is just a small population that we’re doing this with,” said Medrano, who hopes that schools will implement mindfulness education into their curriculums. “Can you imagine the bigger impact we can have if other schools did this?”

 Author – Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

UTEP’s Bus Tour of YISD Provides Valuable Insights

The University of Texas at El Paso’s Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education, came to UTEP in July 2018 with a mission to enhance the impact of the college and its graduates among the regional school districts and the surrounding community. He took a big step in that effort just last month.

Tanabe and a cohort of 20 college staff and faculty members toured six Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) campuses to observe, listen and learn more about the district, its employees, and the students they serve. Tanabe said it is important for area educators to work together because of the “closed loop” where the University teaches 80 percent of the region’s students, including the majority of the region’s teachers who prepare future UTEP students.

His objective is to start conversations among elementary, secondary and higher education peers that could lead to a greater understanding of the region’s needs, which will lead to directed research, better teacher preparation and superior education outcomes throughout the borderland and beyond.

“We need to experience what happens in the schools and we need to recognize it in our work,” Tanabe said the next day. “We want to understand the real issues they face so we can work with our PreK-12 partners to find real solutions. We want to find the collaborative sweet spot where the districts and college can work together in ways that benefit both as well as the community.”

Tanabe called the bus tour a great first step. He said the discussions with district personnel at the schools, their central offices and aboard the district’s yellow school buses “frank and illuminating.” The topics included curriculum, student learning environments and human resources.

He wants to absorb the general and unique issues each faces and then, with the help of his district colleagues, tailor courses and research to answer those needs and enrich the college’s teacher preparation program. He plans to schedule similar tours with some of the region’s other school districts during the spring 2019 semester.

Tanabe said he would meet with the UTEP tour participants the week of Dec. 10, 2018, to discuss their observations and ideas they might want to integrate into their curriculum. He mentioned being impressed with YISD’s sophisticated use of data to create individual student learning programs. He wants to investigate how to incorporate that concept into today’s teacher preparation curriculum.

The college leader said he plans to invite some YISD administrators to UTEP in February 2019 to talk about possible research partnerships.

These types of collaborations are critical, said Abigail Tarango, YISD director of special projects and strategic initiatives. She said that it is vital for institutions of higher education, especially those that prepare future educators and administrators, to understand the issues that PreK-12 teachers and administrators face every day.

“When research and practice truly influence policy, we all succeed,” Tarango said.

Back to School

The UTEP educators split into two teams for the tours. Tanabe’s group visited Ramona Elementary School, Bel Air High School and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA). The other UTEP team stopped at Ysleta Elementary School, Ysleta High School and the Eastwood Knolls International School. Members of both teams said they witnessed students involved in a lot of project-based/group-based work that was hands-on and outcome-focused.

YWLA Principal Malinda Villalobos, who earned her M.Ed. in educational administration from UTEP in the late 1990s, was excited about the potential partnerships between her district and her alma mater. She said such collaborations would bridge and align the needs of school districts with the college.

Villalobos welcomed the University contingent to her Lower Valley school and invited the educators into the school’s library for a brief PowerPoint presentation about the campus, which is part of a public-private national network of all-girl college preparatory schools. The curriculum’s focus is science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, along with leadership and wellness skills. It opened in 2016 and currently enrolls 390 girls from around the county in grades 6 to 9. The school eventually will go up to the 12th grade. After the presentation, she led them on visits to a sixth-grade math class and a seventh-grade language arts class.

“I think this (bus tour) was ingenious,” Villalobos said. “We work in each other’s back yards. Both sides need to tap into each other’s needs.”

Touching Base

Beverly Argus-Calvo, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Services, said she participated in the tour to get a broader view of what happens on a district campus. She was especially interested in what the schools expected from their new teachers.

Argus-Calvo, who also is the college’s associate dean of graduate studies, said she was encouraged by the excitement of the teachers and the level of collaboration they demonstrated. She said it was important that today’s students who want to be teachers understand the levels of teamwork involved as professionals.

“(Collaboration) is what we do as teachers,” said UTEP alumna Victoria Chavez, who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2017 in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in mathematics grades 4-8. She teaches 6th grade pre-advanced placement math at YWLA.

Chavez, who greeted one of her former professors with a big hug, said her 18 months as a teacher has given her a few ideas of how UTEP could enhance its teacher preparation programs in the areas of lesson plans, communication with parents of students, and a focus on teamwork. She hoped to share that message with her classroom guests.

Tanabe said he welcomed that feedback, adding that another goal of the tour was to visit UTEP graduates who serve as campus administrators, teachers, counselors and diagnosticians. He mentioned that he met Miner alumni from the 1970s through the 2010s.

“They are part of our extended family and we wanted to touch base with them,” he said.

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

Ysleta ISD Expands “Supper Program” To 8 Schools Starting Monday

As part of its continuing efforts to support the wellness, health, and development of students, the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) will expand its after-school “supper program” to eight campuses in the 2018-19 school year, beginning Monday, September 10.

Via a news release, YISD officials say, “Given the numerous high-school students who stay on campus after school for sports, theater, band, or other clubs, the supper program gives students access to a nutritional meal in the cafeteria before rehearsal or practice.”

The supper program, which provides free and nutritious meals to active students who remain on campus after school for extracurricular activities, will be offered at the following campuses:

Bel Air High School
Del Valle High School
Hanks High School
Parkland High School
Riverside High School
Ysleta High School
Eastwood Middle School
Young Women’s Leadership Academy

The supper meals are being offered at various times depending on the campus, but generally begin about 4 p.m. The meals are free of charge to children 18 years and younger, and are available for purchase by adults.

The supper program was first piloted in January 2017 at Ysleta High School, and expanded to include four schools by September 2017.

This program is part of YISD’s overall efforts to increase student access to healthy meals – this includes free breakfast for all students at all YISD campuses throughout the year.

The supper program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Ysleta ISD Names Celina Muñoz as New Director of Guidance and Counseling

On Thursday, officials with Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) announced the appointment of Celina Muñoz as the new Director of Guidance and Counseling.

Via a news release, YISD officials shared, “Muñoz’s immeasurable knowledge in guidance and counseling, social emotional development, and course catalog – among other vital attributes – will help her lead YISD’s Guidance and Counseling Department toward a higher level of success.”

Muñoz, an assistant principal at Eastwood Middle School, began her career in education in 1999 as a teacher at YISD’s Scotsdale Elementary School. She later went on to serve as an elementary school counselor, as well as an assistant principal at the elementary-, middle-, and high-school levels.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), where she also earned the required hours for certification in Educational Administration.

Muñoz new position is effective Monday, September 3.

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