Floral Design Program in Full Bloom at Rudder & Bryan High

Heading into the thick of spring, Rudder and Bryan High students are developing their creativity and career prospects through floral design.

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FINAL FITTING – A floral design student makes last minute changes to her floral arrangement.

Part of FFA, floral design classes teach students skills they can use in a florist shop, a hobby business and many other industries.

Rebecca Casey Ortiz, Rudder junior, is taking floral design classes for the first time this year and was recently offered a job with an event planning business arranging flowers for smaller events and dinners.

“The things I’m learning in floral design, I’m able to apply in my job,” Ortiz said.

Evolving Program

GREEN THUMB – Floral design students learn about all aspects of the plants they arrange.

Michelle Knox, Ortiz’s floral design teacher at Rudder, said she is “out-shined” all the time by her students, which is something she loves. She said she is constantly reminded how students are growing in their skills. Knox started teaching floral design at Rudder in 2014, but she said the program has really “taken off” the last two years.

“On days that projects are finished you see kids throughout the hallway with their arrangements and it’s like walking advertisements to take floral design,” Knox said. “For those who can’t take floral design, we do seasonal Pinterest nights where anyone can come and make the project of the month with all supplies provided and help offered for a small fee.”

Next school year, advanced floral design classes will be offered at Rudder and Bryan High, bringing increased certification and competition opportunities and a possible floral club at Rudder. Barbara Volk-Tunnell, Bryan High floral design teacher, said students could get a high school floral certification or an art certification through floral design.

“This gives them the opportunity to get a foot in the door to get a job over someone that doesn’t have a certification,” Volk-Tunnell said. “They might get paid more or be able to be a little more hands-on. Even if they’re not going to go into as a career, it looks good on their resume.”

Seizing Opportunity

FOCUSED PRECISION – A floral design student trims a plant to get the right fit for her arrangement.

Her students have traveled all over the state for competitions related to horticulture and floral arrangements. Kamryn, Frenzel, one of Volk-Tunnel’s sophomore students, recently earned second place in the “Dining with a Texas Flair” competition at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and walked away with $750 to use as she sees fit.

“I didn’t know that I would be good at floral design,” Frenzel said. “I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t have any experience. I just learned a lot in this class and it’s very helpful.”

Ola Thornhill, Bryan High sophomore, signed up for floral design because she wanted to learn something new. She quickly learned that the class involved more than she expected.

“You have to know a lot personally about plants,” Thornhill said. “You have to learn about the different types of arrangements. It’s not just putting plants together. You have to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”

Children First. Always.

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Bryan International Baccalaureate Student Creates & Leads After-School Music Program

Teaching Students
CIRCLE OF MUSIC – Bach leader & organizer Laura Gonzalez, Bryan High junior, leads her students through a song.

Playing the violin is her passion. Teaching it gives her joy. Seeing a kid smile when they learn a new song, get something right or learn how to hold a bow puts a smile on her face.

She’s played music most of her life, but Laura Gonzalez, Bryan High junior, never realized its true impact until November when she formed the Bach String Academy for Bryan ISD elementary students. The student-led program, which offers violin lessons every Monday to elementary school students all over Bryan, blossomed out of an idea Gonzalez had for an International Baccalaureate, IB, service project.

Creativity, activity, service, or CAS, are core requirements of the IB program Gonzales is enrolled in at Bryan High. Students have the option to choose how they will fulfill the requirements.

Gonzalez took part in a free employee-led after-school string program when she was in elementary school, discovering its value. After a conversation about her idea with John Lemons, Bryan High orchestra director, Gonzalez gained confidence in her ability to organize a similar program. She approached a few of her fellow Bryan High orchestra students about helping her lead the program. Eventually, seven other violin students and a cello student joined her as volunteers.

Students Teaching Students

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STUDENT TEACHER – A Bryan High orchestra student teaches the fundamentals of the violin.

At the beginning of the school year, Gonzalez sent flyers home to elementary parents advertising free weekly string lessons. They didn’t know what to expect. Gonzalez said she expected to hear from a few parents who might be interested. However, when she arrived at the academy’s first information meeting on Oct. 24 a room full of eager parents and students greeted her.

“At the beginning, we were just thinking maybe 15 kids, but overall we have around 33 kids,” Gonzalez said.

To accommodate all of the students, Bach organizers divided the groups between “older and younger” students and made use of additional orchestra rooms.

Interest spread quickly, and it didn’t take long for the elementary students to get excited about the program. When talking about the excitement that came with the first time she played a song Lydia Frei, Bonham third-grade student, said, “It made me feel pretty accomplished in my life. It was one of the biggest things I’ve ever done.”

Affordable Lessons

Students like Frei can get lessons from Bach String Academy for free. All they have to do is bring an instrument, which can be rented at local stores for a reasonable price.

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THE JOY OF MUSIC – A Bach String Academy student loves her violin.

Frei’s mother Ashley said she was a little hesitant about her daughter getting music lessons because she didn’t want to commit to the money and extra time required without knowing if her daughter really interested. She’s since found out through the academy that her daughter is genuinely interested in playing the violin and she’s thankful for the opportunity.

“Bach was able to give our family an opportunity to have music lessons and definitely not break the bank,” Ashley said.

She’s thankful that the student organizers spend their free time to “give back.” Many of the organizers like Tomasita Ponce, Bryan High junior, are just as thankful to the elementary students for what they provide in return.

“It makes me really happy when they’re excited,” Ponce said. “I get excited for them too. It’s like oh my gosh we learned a new song.”

When her elementary students struggle, Ponce said she tries to understand what they’re struggling with and talk to them in a way they helped her understand when she was their age.

Improving Together

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ATTENTIVE PLAYING – A Bach String student focuses intently on practicing her cello.

Samantha Cruz, Bryan High junior, said the students developed a lot since the time they joined the academy. She said the students had to be taught the fundamentals, such as how to hold an instrument, know the parts of an instrument and read music.

“It’s nice seeing everything come together,” Cruz said. “Most of the time the kids comprehend with us, and we’re just going with the flow, so it’s nice.”

As everything comes together with the Bach program, the student organizers’ orchestra director John Lemons said the Bryan High orchestra is benefiting as well.

“Anytime that you explain your art or whatever your passion is, it helps,” Lemons said. “It reminds you of your own fundamentals, and you’ve got to keep on top of what you’re teaching.”

Lemons said that he is proud of Gonzalez and all the other students that are helping her. Both of them plan to keep the student-led program going for many years to come.

“I plan to continue doing this,” Gonzalez said. “After I graduate, I want kids from the orchestra to stand up and take the lead in the string academy and continue on.”

Children First. Always.

Additional Information:

If you are interested in signing your child up for the Bach String Academy next year, there will be a parent information meeting in the fall where you can register your child. The time, date and location of the information meeting are not scheduled yet.

For More Information about the Bach String Academy:

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Fluent in Six Languages, Bryan Collegiate Student Will ‘Never Stop Learning’

A modern-day renaissance man walks through the halls of Bryan Collegiate. His friends know him as Eduardo Pecina.

The Bryan Collegiate senior is fluent in English, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, French and Italian, is ranked 13 in his class with a 4.31 GPA, plays piano and recently designed a video game.

When asked about his motivation, Pecina said, “I will never stop wanting to learn.” However, his quest for knowledge wasn’t always apparent.

Learning New Languages

Eduardo Studying
STUDYING HARD – Concentrating on finishing his last semester at Bryan Collegiate, Pecina is looking forward to attending Texas A&M University after graduation.

When Pecina was in the third grade, his mom received a letter from his teacher saying Pecina was acting up in class and telling too many jokes. His mom wasn’t happy but soon realized his behavior was the result of being bored by lessons he previously learned at home. Pecina’s teacher recommended he learn something new after school to take his mind off of the work he sped through easily in school. His mom thought Chinese would be the perfect distraction.

“I hated it,” Pecina said. “I was like, ‘What is this for?’, ‘I don’t even think I’ll ever use this in the future.’ But then, as the years went by, I got better and better at it. I actually learned to love the language.”

Pecina eventually gained the opportunity to travel to China last summer for the Texas A&M Confucius Institute’s Discovering China program. He developed several close friendships. Staying in contact with his Chinese friends also gives him the ability to practice speaking and writing their language.

Chinese is actually the third language Pecina learned because he grew up in a multilingual home as a child of Mexican immigrants. His home life allowed him to learn English and Spanish at the same time in developing his first languages. Then, after he “climbed the steep hill” of learning Chinese, Pecina said other languages seem easier for him to start learning. Something that he is still passionate about doing because of the opportunities learning a new language opens.

Studying at Bryan Collegiate

Bryan Collegiate Dean of Students Tommy Roberts said that learning foreign languages is a graduation requirement at any public high school, but he said the extent to which Pecina has “exceeded the requirements” by learning several additional languages is a testament to the kind of student he is.

“It seems like he knows a little bit about everything,” Roberts said. “He can talk to anyone about anything.”

The feeling about Bryan Collegiate is mutual as Pecina said he loves how the school is a “small, close-knit community.” He said he built strong friendships at the school that will last forever.

“The biggest thing that separates Bryan Collegiate from any other school is that at Bryan Collegiate you can get to know your teachers and the staff, everybody on campus, even the students, you can know them on a personal level.”

Volunteering Through Language

Bryan Collegiate requires 100 volunteer service hours to graduate, but Pecina said that’s not a problem for most students because they possess a built-in mentality to want to help.

“People don’t even look at the fact that you need 100 hours to graduate,” Pecina said. “People think you get to volunteer for 100 hours at least and eventually you’ll just get carried away and do 200, 300, 400 or 500.”

A man of many skills, Pecina chooses to use his language abilities to serve other by volunteering after school at the Bryan Adult Learning Center and Bryan Oak Grove United Methodist Church’s English as a Second Language program. Pecina said he helps people in all the languages he can. He’s helped people from Mexico, Spain, Brazil, China, Italy and he even helped someone from Russia learn Italian.

“You get to teach someone that’s almost at a level of zero, and you can watch them evolve with the language,” Pecina said. “You see this person [that you tutored] at a supermarket and then you just sit there in awe because they can command the language so well from what you’ve taught them. If you can teach them the grammar rules, they just pick up the vocabulary themselves. It’s just amazing.”

Designing Video Games

Pecina playing the video game he created
GAME MAKER – Pecina concentrates on playing a video game that he created. He coded the game, designed the graphics, created the music and voiced dialog.

Pecina said he’s learned that you have to be a good student to be a good teacher. When he was in the eighth grade, he taught himself to code. Something that started as a challenge to his algebra teacher, when Pecina asked him what would happen if he got his calculator to solve a test itself. The teacher told Pecina that if he could do that it would mean he’s a good student and he wouldn’t care if he used a calculator on the test.

“So that got me interested in it and I began to learn how to program TI-83 calculators,” Pecina said. “After I made a small Pacman game in it, I moved on to the next level.”

Eventually, Pecina began practicing coding in the game Minecraft and participating in computer science UIL competitions. Recently, he created a full-length history-based video game called “A Finish Fable” that he said his little brother is addicted to. In designing the game Pecina had to combine several of his skills, including his dialect skills for the voice work, playing piano for the game’s music and creating graphics that he thinks gives the game a “retro” feel.

Planning for the Future

Additionally, Pecina repairs electronic items and participates in school organizations, including serving as president of the National Honors Society at Bryan Collegiate. In September, he was selected as a National Merit Commended Student, meaning he was among the top five percent of more than 1.6 million students in the nation up for the honor.

“A good planner” is the item Pecina said is the secret to balancing his busy schedule. Every night before he goes to sleep he plans out the day ahead of him. Pecina said his schedule can be exhausting at times when he doesn’t plan right, which leads to him “not sleeping well or eating well.” But, he said it gets better once you learn how to plan.

“The key really is time management,” Pecina said. “You don’t just split everything out in your day. You have to plan out every week. I want to make sure I get everything done that I need to and have space for things that I want to.”

After graduation, Pecina will enroll in the Honors Program at Texas A&M University, where plans on majoring in aerospace engineering. Because he attended summer school classes, Pecina will enter Texas A&M with more than the allotted 60 college credits students can earn at Bryan Collegiate in the fall and spring semesters through its partnership with Blinn College. As with all other aspects of his life, Pecina has a plan for post-secondary success.

“After I finish my bachelor’s and master’s degrees I plan on starting my own company and continuing on to expand my knowledge,” Pecina said.

Children First. Always.

About Bryan Collegiate

Bryan Collegiate High School is a dual credit high school that partners with Blinn College to allow students the opportunity to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. Students select a university major they are interested in pursuing and follow a specific degree plan as they select Blinn courses. Students can earn an associate’s degree at the same time they earn their high school diploma. There are no fees associated with Bryan Collegiate, as Bryan ISD and Blinn College cover the full cost of Blinn tuition and books.

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Bryan ISD Kickstart Kids Achieve Success Physically & Mentally

If Briana Gonzalez receives a new belt at Davila Middle School’s Kickstart Kids belt ceremony 6 p.m. Dec. 14, it will be a proud moment for her and her family. However, the Davila Middle School seventh-grader said a new belt would only be an added benefit to what she has already gained from the Kickstart Kids program.

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING – Davila Middle School students practice kicking techniques.

Gonzalez is currently participating in her second year of the non-profit in-school martial arts program that a group including Chuck Norris started in 1990. She said it provides her with the discipline necessary to respond to conflict. Something she said she struggled with in the past.

Additionally, Gonzalez said the martial arts class increased her confidence and her grades. She credits her success to techniques taught in the class as well as guidance from Michael Cooper, Davila Middle School Kickstart Kids Instructor, who she said is willing to help her and her classmates with their problems.

Persistent Achievement

Cooper is one of two Bryan ISD Kickstart Kids instructors along with Teddy Coleman at Jane Long Middle School. Kickstart Kids arrived at Bryan ISD in 2010 at Davila under former instructor Rommel Gargoles. Coleman arrived the following year when Kickstart Kids came to Jane Long. Over the last six years, Coleman believes he has taught over 1,000 students. He is currently in charge of 256 students, and he said the program is still growing. Jane Long’s belt ceremony will be 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Jane Long big gym.

Many students join the program to learn martial arts techniques, but Cooper said they come out learning much more.

“Punching and kicking is one thing, but the real structure of the family and the personality and self-esteem, that’s what we’re aiming for,” Cooper said.

Comprehensive Development

Nick Rudd
REACHING GOALS – Nicholas Rudd displays his black belt plaque with his instructors Teddy Coleman, Michael Cooper and Benjamin Mendez.

Like Gonzalez, Jesse Rakowitz, Davila eighth-grader, said he struggled with anger issues before learning martial arts. He used to get into several fights before joining Kickstart Kids. Rakowitz said the program has helped him relax and deal with stress. Rackowitz currently has a blue belt and said he wants to advance all the way to 10th-degree black belt before he’s done, the highest martial arts rank.

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ACHIEVING DREAMS – Zachary Yeomans proudly holds a plaque commemorating black belt status with his instructor Michael Cooper.

Last school year, two Bryan ISD students achieved the coveted rank of first-degree black belt. Nicholas Rudd, Bryan High 10th-grader, and Zachary Yeomans, Bryan High 11th-grader, stood before their peers at last year’s belt ceremony and received embroidered belts, new uniforms and plaques signed by Chuck Norris.

By earning their black belts, Rudd and Yeomans earned the chance to compete with other Kickstart Kids students, perform on demonstration teams throughout Texas and mentor younger students as they become more advanced in the system.

Encouraging Reaction

Kickstart Kids is an officially recognized program by the Texas Education Agency and teaches thousands of students at over 50 public schools in Texas. Coleman said the benefits of his program extend beyond his classroom, as he’s received positive feedback from parents and teachers about changes in the attitude and work ethic of students who enroll in his class.

FOCUSED DETERMINATION – Davila eighth-grader Jesse Rakowitz practices punching techniques in his Kickstart Kids class.

“I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of great things,” Coleman said. “I know students are being a little bit better with the attitude and behavior. I know students are getting some work turned in on time when they’ve had issues with that before. Parents are letting me know their child has changed some behaviors at home as well as at school.”

As parents and teachers observe great strides in students that go through the martial arts program, students recognize growth in themselves. Jane Long eighth-grader Gabby Saenz said she gained many benefits from being in the program.

“I’d recommend Kickstart to anyone thinking of joining because it not only gives you physical health but also mental health,” Saenz said. “Self-respect and self-discipline are highlighted in posters on our wall, and we learn all those traits.

Bryan ISD
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Bryan ISD is Building the Future, as Construction Takes Shape

Fruits of the $132 million bond election passed in November 2014, are developing around the district. Construction projects are on time and will be ready for the 2017-2018 school year, when a historic grade realignment is set to take place.

Hammer, backhoe and drill sounds can be found all around Bryan ISD as building projects are coming together.

The new press box at Merrill Green Stadium has been delighting fans during regular season games and playoff games. Sul Ross Elementary students, teachers and staff are enjoying the food coming out of their recently remodeled kitchen. And, SFA student-athletes are excelling in their newly refurbished gym.

Additionally, the new Bryan ISD Performing Arts Center (PAC), once called the Bryan Civic Auditorium, opens at 6 p.m. tonight for a free grand-reopening performance at the historic building.

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GRAND REOPENING – Bryan ISD’s Performing Arts Center reopens at 6 p.m. tonight, celebrating a landmark new chapter for the old Bryan Civic Auditorium.

Upcoming projects to be completed in the spring include building additions and renovations at Henderson, Crockett, and Ross Elementary that are ahead of schedule. The quick progress will allow staff to begin moving in furniture to their new space in May before the projects are scheduled to be complete in the summer. Additionally, SFA Middle school staff are scheduled to start moving in their instructional materials in June.

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MOVING UP – Workers carefully construct a new section of Ross Elementary. Progressing quickly, the school looks different every day.

Renovations at Rudder High School and classroom additions to Jane Long and Sam Rayburn Middle School were granted at the Oct. 17 board meeting. Those projects should progress on time if they follow the lead of all the other projects in the November 2014 bond election. That’s music to the ears of Jeff Windsor, director of construction.

“Right now we’re rocking and rolling on everything we have,” Windsor said.

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Rudder FFA’s Fazzino Sisters Head to Nationals

She walked in not knowing what to expect. She’s been to competitions all her life, but this wasn’t like the rest. This was different. There’s no preparation for the feeling of being surrounded by 63,000 people.

At least her sister Rosemary was there for support. Family is something she can always count on. Just when nerves were about to get the best of her, family came through. Overcome by anxiety, she remembered her mom’s advice. She clung to the words of “The worst you could do is be 12th best in the nation, and that doesn’t sound so bad.”

Successful Sisters

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HAPPY WINNERS – Olivia Fazzino, left, and Katherine Fazzino proudly display their State Fair of Texas Agricultural Science Fair Champion ribbons.

Katherine Fazzino, Rudder High School senior, was not 12th in the nation. She earned second place in her category at the 2015 National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, and now she’s hungry for more. Headed back to the national convention for the second straight year Oct. 19-22 in Indianapolis, Fazzino hopes to earn first place in the environmental and natural resources division. And she’s not alone. Her little sister Olivia, Rudder High sophomore, will be competing in the “greenhand” division, qualifying as a freshman during the July state convention in the plant systems category. Going to Indianapolis together excites both sisters almost as much as going to the national convention.

“I’m really excited about going to nationals,” Olivia said. “But going with my sister makes the experience 10 times better.”

Katherine said she was more nervous more about whether Olivia would get to go than she was herself because she feels being at the national convention is an experience that she wants everyone on her FFA team to experience. When talking about Olivia’s progression in the FFA program, she said it was similar to the maturation she experienced learning from her older sisters.

“Knowing Olivia is coming, and kind of following in my footsteps is really exciting,” Katherine said. “You can see the way she loves her project. And it’s a really special feeling because you can see her passion now.”

Olivia has three more years in Rudder FFA and she plans on cherishing every minute of it.

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ORGANIC SUCCESS – Olivia Fazzino stands next to her winning science fair project.

“My favorite thing about Rudder FFA is all the people because they are all so fun and they believe in the things I believe in,” Olivia said.

A Fazzino doing well in FFA is not an uncommon site. There are five Fazzino sisters and all of them experienced success with Rudder FFA. Larry White, agriculture teacher at Rudder, said there’s a reason for their success.

“They’re an outstanding family,” White said. “It goes back not just to their mom and their dad, but to their grandparents as well. It’s one big family. When you get one of those five girls, you get the whole family.”

Intentional Service

Like many Rudder FFA alumni, Fazzino girls who graduate come back to support the program. Because the program is entrenched in the Brazos Valley community, it’s easy to find an event where they are serving.

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PROUD DAD – From left, Katherine Fazzino, Olivia Fazzino, Anna Marie (Fazzino) Drymalla, MaryFrances Fazzino and Rosemary Fazzino stand above their dad Lee Fazzino, Jr.

From working with children at the Twin City Mission to participating in the KBTX Food for Families drive, as well as many other events, Rudder FFA students, sponsors and family members are a common site in Bryan and surrounding areas. This community service helped the chapter place third out of 1038 active FFA Chapters in the state of Texas at this year’s state convention earning the chapter a “Golden Horizon” award for total involvement in the school and community. In a press release, the FFA said it considers its Golden Horizon award “the highest state rating to be bestowed on an FFA chapter.” Also at the state convention, Rudder FFA placed eighth in the state as an overall chapter to win the Gold Emblem National Chapter Rating and advance to nationals to be judged in the National FFA Chapter Contest.

Lasting Tradition

Rudder FFA started with just 39 students when the school opened in 2008. It has grown to a chapter of over 400 students. Katherine said there’s a reason the program is so successful.

“Our teachers help us develop our own passion for FFA,” Katherine said. “None of our teachers tell us what we have to do. They lay the foundation by helping us find our passion. We take what they give us and run with it.”

In preparation for nationals, Katherine and Olivia aren’t slowing down. They recently earned first place in their divisions at the State Fair of Texas’ 4-H/FFA Agricultural Science Fair. The prizes came complete with a $1,000 scholarship for each sister.

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SOIL POWER – Katherine Fazzino shows off her State Fair award-winning science fair project.

Scholarships are something the sisters have become accustomed to earning. As a senior, college is on the horizon for Katherine, and she’s very appreciative of opportunity scholarships bring. Olivia and her are planning to attend Texas A&M to join their sisters MaryFrances and Rosemary who are currently attending the university. Anna Marie Drymalla, the oldest Fazzino sister, graduated from Texas A&M and is working as a teacher in the area.

Katherine, who wants to major in agribusiness and minor in economics, said FFA prepares students for all walks of life. Once called Future Farmers of America, the official name of the organization is now the National FFA Organization, welcoming members who aspire to be teachers, doctors, scientists and many other professions. Katherine said skills gained in FFA like interviewing will be invaluable to whatever career she chooses. But those thoughts are for the future. Right now Katherine is focused on the task at hand – nationals.

“Winning would be really exciting because that would mean that all my hard work these past three years is finally coming together,” Katherine said.

She added that she’d love to bring back the top spot at nationals because then their chapter would “be known at the national level.”

“I really want people to know about Rudder FFA because Rudder FFA is such an important part of my entire life,” Katherine said.

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Welcome to Our New Look!

Change is in the air at Bryan ISD. A new school year has started, construction projects are all around and bryanisd.org has a new look!

We hope you like our new design. It was born out of the desire to create a website that would better serve your needs.

The New Bryanisd.org Is:

  • Adaptable – Our new website is a Adobe Spark (87)“responsively-designed website.” This fancy term means our layout will automatically adjust when you access our site from your smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.
  • Accessible – Each scrolling photo at the top of our website is connected to a featured story from our news section, blog page or a video from our YouTube page. Additionally, items from other outlets may be in this space. Just click on the photo or the caption, and you can instantly access the best of what Bryan ISD has to offer.
  • Clear – The new, clean design is organized, simplified and features the pages and menus that you visit the most. The introduction of infographic-style icons allows you to scan quickly through our homepage to find what you need. If what you’re looking for lies outside the boundaries of Parents/Student, Employees or Schools, it is likely located in the “MORE” tab. If you ever have trouble finding something on our website, simply use the magnifying glass search icon on the top right of bryanisd.org to arrive at your destination quickly.
  • Social – You might notice that there’re a few more buttons at the bottom right. Bryan ISD now has a presence on the social media channels of Instagram and LinkedIn, in addition to our established outlets of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As mentioned before, we also have a new district blog. Finally, if you haven’t discovered the Bryan ISD App, now’s the time. It’s available for download on your Apple and Android devices.

Thanks for your continued support of our district. We hope you like the new bryanisd.org.

Children First. Always.

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Bryan High School Auto Program Earns National Honor

Car trouble isn’t a good excuse for students in Bryan High School’s automotive technology program. These students are already becoming experts in the field. Their program will be honored at the Bryan ISD Board meeting Monday.

FOCUSED PRECISION – Bryan High auto tech students work under the hood of a vehicle during class.

At the end of last school year, the automotive training program received accreditation by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation in the categories of maintenance and repair.

The honor is the culmination of a rigorous evaluation by the foundation. The group performed a two-day evaluation based on hundreds of standards and curriculum measures. With the accreditation of an automotive training program comes credibility, prestige and recognition.

Hard Work

Nathan McCann, Bryan High School automotive technology instructor, has always spent his time ensuring the program improves, before accreditation and after.

Preparation for the evaluation started at the beginning of last school year and continued until the foundation’s evaluation team visited the school in the spring. McCann constantly goes through a self-evaluation checklist to make sure his students follow procedure.

Local Support

David Reynolds, Bryan ISD career & technical education director, was confident the automotive program was ready for the challenge of evaluation. He helped McCann bring in local industry experts to guarantee the program met the latest industry standards.

“Input from people who work in the auto field every day was invaluable,” Reynolds said. “It gave students real-world knowledge and helped prepare them for the strict standards of evaluation.”

HELPING HAND – Nathan McCann, automotive teacher, helps Bryan High senior Westen Weathers operate a tire changing machine.

Atkinson Toyota, Sterling Auto Group, Aggieland Automotive, Advanced Auto Repair, Tom Light Chevrolet and Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge all provided support to Bryan High’s auto program. Atkinson Toyota went so far as to supply parts for the program and aligned its knowledge with the curriculum Toyota uses to train its technicians.

Reynolds said industry support from around the community was vital to the program’s success. He said the auto program’s accredited status means many local shop owners will be assured of quality job applicants in the coming years.

Bright Future

Former National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation Chair Donald Seyfer agreed with Reynolds assessment. His organization is a non-profit, independent organization that evaluates and accredits entry-level technician training programs against standards developed by the automotive industry.

“As a result of the quality education provided by Bryan ISD, the motoring public will benefit since better repair technicians will join the workforce,” Seyfer said.

In addition to the program’s national accreditation, auto tech students had the opportunity to earn ASE Student Certification. An achievement that gives Westen Weathers, Bryan High senior, confidence about his future.

“Being certified will help me get a job because it will look good on my resume,” Weathers said. “Shops are looking for people who are already certified and know what they are doing.”

Children First. Always.

About Bryan ISD Career and Technical Education:

Bryan High School’s automotive technology program is a division of Bryan ISD’s career and technical education department (CTE). By blending hands-on experience with rigorous academics, CTE prepares Bryan ISD students for an emerging global marketplace. The challenging courses help students identify career goals, determines the education necessary to achieve their pursuits and acquires marketable skills for post-graduation.

For more information about the Bryan ISD CTE Department, click here.

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Six Bryan ISD Schools Earn Coveted Energy Certification

Lights are burning clean and bright at Bryan ISD, as six schools achieved Energy Star status.

SHINNING BRIGHT – Energy Star was introduced by the EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency.

Johnson Elementary, Neal Elementary, Rayburn Middle School and Long Middle School recently joined the list of Bryan ISD schools to achieve the prestigious Environmental Protection Agency certification. Houston Elementary and Navarro Elementary previously achieved Energy Star certification.

The honor means these schools are among the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA. All of these energy achievements occurred since Bryan ISD placed Paul Buckner in the newly created position of Energy & Sustainability Specialist two years ago. A job he takes pride in.

“We’ve made great strides in energy efficiency the last few years,” Buckner said. “We don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”

In addition to creating positive environmental impact, the new energy efficient measures have lowered energy costs. Buckner said Bryan ISD’s commitment to energy efficiency has helped the district have an avoided energy cost of $228,650 over the last two years. Money that can be used in the classroom and to improve the learning experience of Bryan ISD students.

The lights themselves have provided a better learning environment according to Buckner.

“Our volleyball and gymnastics programs have already commented on how the new lights in their gyms have created a better gym for them to play in,” Buckner said. “Teachers and students are also starting to get much better lighting in classrooms and hallways.”

TREND SETTERS – Neal Elementary is one of six Bryan ISD schools to achieve Energy Star status.

Energy Star commercial buildings, including schools, use an average of 35 percent less energy than typical buildings and also release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Bryan ISD improved its energy performance by managing energy strategically across the entire school district and by making cost-effective improvements to its buildings. In turn, the school district prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the electricity use of 324 households per year.

Buckner will present the district’s latest energy efficiency developments at the Sept. 19 Board meeting. He said the results are clear, and Bryan ISD’s commitment to energy efficiency serves as an example for Bryan-College Station and surrounding communities.

“The six Energy Star schools have accomplished something few schools the Brazos Valley have achieved,” Buckner said. “We’re proud to lead the way through our lasting commitment to energy efficiency.”

Children First. Always.

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Flip Flippen Visits Johnson Elementary

Johnson Elementary welcomed a prestigious guest this morning. Flip Flippen, founder and chair of the Flippen Group, visited one of his company’s 11 Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools.

FUNNY READER – Flippen reads Johnson students a funny story. His visit to the school coincidentally coincided with International Literacy Day.

The Flippen Group is a professional development organization that works with school districts, Fortune 500 companies, governments, sports teams and non-profit companies. Capturing Kids’ Hearts is the Flippen Group’s education extension that according to its website aims to “turn struggling schools around and make high-performing schools even better.”

Flippen estimated his organization goes on 500 school visits a week around the nation. Out of these schools, Johnson Elementary was chosen as one of the top 11 schools in the nation by the Flippen Group. When Flippen entered Johnson this morning, he walked by a banner profiling its Showcase Schools award from last year, but the banner also left plenty of room for awards in future years.

It was clear to Flippen upon entering that the school doesn’t intend to slow down on implementing his education philosophies anytime soon.

“Within the first 30 seconds I walked to the school, all I got was happiness,” Flippen said. “There were social contracts on the wall every classroom I went to. The kids love their teachers. I mean they really love their teachers.”

HANDS HELD HIGH – Flippen observed Jaime Mosqueda using music to teach Spanish to his bilingual class at Johnson.

The appreciation went both ways. Amy Newbold, principal of Johnson Elementary, was thankful Flippen took the time to observe Johnson’s innovative learning styles.

“It is a huge honor for him to come to Johnson,” Newbold said. “He has such a busy schedule worldwide, and he is taking time to come to our school in Bryan, Texas.”

Real Relationships

Newbold said winning the award served as an affirmation of all the hard work her staff put in to keep “a positive culture at Johnson. She said it has also provided talking points for students and parents.

Flip Flippen Ballons
BALLOON SEARCH – Johnson Assistant Principal Amy Thomman, left, and Principal Amy Newbold pose with balloon wielding Flip Flippen, founder and chairman of the Flippen Group. Balloons served as parting gifts for each of Flippen’s classroom visits at Johnson. Each balloon came with a clue that led him to his next class. At the end of the day, he almost had enough balloons to reenact the movie Up. :)

“Our families now have a better understanding of why we do what we do,” Newbold said. “Some of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts structures and processes have crossed over to the homes of our students.”

All of Johnson’s teachers and staff are trained according to Newbold and are using the procedures every day in their classrooms. She says that there is “100 percent buy-in” to the value of the program. Third-grade teacher Aubrey Rives agrees with Newbold’s assessment.

“Our teachers show genuine love for our Johnson families with their hearts,” Rives said. “And in turn, our students and parents trust us with their hearts.”

Daily Commitment

It’s the relationships formed and a commitment to the Capturing Kids’ Hearts process, that Flippen believes is the reason for Johnson’s success. When asked what a school that wants to be a Showcase School should do, Flippen said they should start by stopping by Johnson Elementary to observe its process techniques in action. He went so far to say that Johnson Elementary is “among the best on the planet” at instituting the process of learning.

Assistant Principal Amy Thomman said that Johnson’s success means they are embracing Bryan ISD’s vision of “Children First. Always.” She went on to say that Capturing Kids’ Hearts is here to stay at Johnson Elementary.

“We believe in Capturing Kids’ Hearts and live it,” Thomman said. “It’s not a program or a checklist. It’s our way of life.”

Bryan ISD
Children First. Always.


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