Monday, October 1, 2012

Meet Queen Jeanne

Queen Jeanne reading to students at Wright Elementary.For over thirty years, Jeanne Heaslett has played various roles at TUSD – office manager, library clerk, and volunteer, just to name a few. But today, she decided to take on a new role as she read the classic, “Sleeping Beauty” aloud to students in the library at Wright Elementary School.  Today, she came to Wright dressed as the fairy tale princess, but instead of Sleeping Beauty, the students called her Queen Jeanne.

Queen Jeanne got the idea of dressing up for her students after hearing author and educator Ron Clark speak at TUSD’s All Staff Back to School Assembly during the first week of school in August.

“He said one of the ways he got his kids excited about learning was by dressing up, so I thought I’d give it a try,” said Jeanne.  “Seeing me in costume has gotten their attention and I think the kids are definitely going to remember what they learned today.”

Students getting the royal service checking out books from Queen Jeanne at the Wright Elementary Library.
Wright Elementary Principal Maria Marin met Jeanne seven years ago when she was the Office Manager at Roskruge K-8.  Jeanne worked for Marin for two years before she retired.  When Marin started working at Wright, Jeanne was quick to follow.  At the time, Wright was transitioning between office managers, so Jeanne stepped in to volunteer in the office.  Not long after she began volunteering at Wright, Jeanne was hired part-time as a library clerk for the school.

“Jeanne is great. She keeps everything looking clean and sharp and the kids love her!” noted Marin.

These days, Jeanne is back to volunteering, only this time around she is providing more direct services for students and coordinating additional volunteers for the school – even Jeanne’s husband can be found helping students check out books in the library!

“I was an office manager for 27 years, but I always wanted to be a teacher,” Jeanne explains. “Now I spend six hours a day, five days a week reading stories and teaching students.  I think I get more from the students than what I give.”

Approximately 40,000 volunteers provide over 270,000 hours of service to TUSD schools each year.  For more information on how to volunteer at Wright or any other TUSD school, contact the principal where you'd like to volunteer.  A directory of TUSD schools can be found at

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Orientation & Mobility Training in TUSD

Harry and Dr. Bil When Harry Shiff, a first grader at Myers-Ganoung Elementary School, got his own manual wheelchair at the age of four, he was taken under the wing of TUSD Orientation & Mobility Specialist Dr. Bil Hawkins. Harry has multiple disabilities and has been enrolled in TUSD for over three years.  According to Anne Shiff, Harry's mother, one of the many assets they have found through TUSD is the Orientation & Mobility training that Harry receives through Hawkins, who goes by Dr. Bil.

“Due to Dr. Bil's keen understanding of Harry’s emerging speech, limited vision, and eagerness to learn, both have grown to love their outings that combine education, fun, and friendship,” notes Shiff.
Hawkins began his Orientation & Mobility training in 1973 and has been teaching children who are blind or visually impaired since then.  His work with Harry entails teaching him language, navigation, control of his chair, and more effective use of his vision.  During most school days, Harry spends part of his day in a self-contained classroom and part of his day mainstreamed.  Twice a month, however, Harry and Dr. Bil go out into the community to learn about maneuvering his wheelchair through locations such as grocery stores, shopping centers, sidewalks and crosswalks.

“Harry has a very unique way of viewing and dealing with the world,” explains Hawkins.  “Orientation & Mobility is one of the tools that will give Harry greater access to the world and the people and opportunities in it.”

Orientation & Mobility training is a service provided by TUSD’s Exceptional Education Department.  For more information about Orientation & Mobility training or other services offered by TUSD’s Exceptional Education Department, call (520) 225-6610.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Magee Middle School Students Create Mural for Arizona Centennial

In celebration of the Arizona Centennial in February and Autism Awareness Month in April, students and staff from Magee Middle School's Autism Program designed and painted a mural in the school's cafeteria.

"It looks a lot nicer," says one of the student artists, describing the new decor of the cafeteria. The students painted a desert scene with a roadrunner (which happens to be the school mascot), a cactus wren and saguaros. A map of Arizona with a portrait of William Taft (who was president when Arizona became a state in 1912) and the Arizona star also decorate the walls.

The mural is dedicated to Magee's first principal, Mr. Gordon Overstreet, and the cafeteria has been named "The Overstreet Cafe."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pueblo High Science Teacher Wins National Biotechnology Award

Pueblo Magnet High School science teacher Dr. Andrew Lettes received the Ron Mardigian Memorial Biotechnology Explorer Award, as part of the National Science Teachers Association (NTSA) 2012 Teacher Awards Program.

Lettes has brought biotechnology into the classroom for over ten of his eighteen years as a teacher. When TUSD's Career and Technical Education Program decided to offer a bioscience curriculum, Lettes was one of the first teachers onboard. At the time, he was teaching an AP Biology class but only six students were enrolled. He wanted to go beyond traditional topics to get more students engaged in science, particularly those students who might not see themselves as "scientists."

"I noticed that the students who were enthusiastic about heart dissections were even more enthusiastic about DNA fingerprinting," Lettes recalls. "Biotechnology jobs are on the rise in Tucson and I want to prepare my students for those jobs; so I developed a Biotechnology curriculum."

The Biotechnology Explorer Award recognizes teachers who have made biotechnology learning accessible to students and Lettes' curriculum has done just that. Pueblo serves a predominantly low-income Hispanic population – a population that is typically underrepresented in science, engineering, and technology fields.

"This program opens up doors to careers in science that students didn't realize had been closed to them," Lettes noted. "Students that were not interested in upper level science classes before are now lining up to take Biotechnology."

There are currently 105 students enrolled in the program with 140 interested in enrolling next year.

Dr. Lettes' former students have gone on to pursue degrees in neuroscience, molecular biology, and science education. Students who have gone on to pursue degrees in other areas have said that Lettes' class provided them with a strong foundation for their college science course requirements, and for the overall expectation of college studies.

As the recipient of the Biotechnology Explorer Award, Lettes received a $250 monetary gift, a $500 certificate for Bio-Rad products for his classroom, and a trip to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Indianapolis last month. Interesting tidbit: While at the conference, Lettes had the opportunity, among other things, to meet and talk science with television actress Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience both on TV and in real life. Bialik and Lettes both received their doctorates from UCLA.

For more information on Career and Technical Education Programs offered in TUSD, visit the Career and Technical Education Program Web site.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Utterback's Bullying Prevention Student Ambassadors honored by Mayor Rothschild and Tucson City Council

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild proclaimed April 22 through 28 "Bullying Prevention Week" at the Mayor and Council Meeting on April 24, 2012. Bullying Prevention Student Ambassadors from Utterback Middle Magnet School were invited to the meeting to discuss their bullying prevention efforts and received certificates for their commitment to the Tucson community.

Seventh grader Tahmia Waggoner wants the community to know that students at Utterback are serious about preventing bullying. "We read articles in the newspaper or hear stories on TV news programs about students who have suffered great physical and emotional pain because they have been victims of bullying at school," Tahmia noted in a speech she prepared for the Mayor and Council. "We at Utterback Middle School want to take a stand against bullying."

According to Tahmia, the Bullying Prevention Student Ambassadors at Utterback are doing quite a bit to create a caring community that does not tolerate bullying. In addition to pledging to prevent bullying, students have also been trained on how to recognize bullying situations and provide help to victims of bullying.

"Research shows the power to stop bullying lies with the bystanders," said Qamar Sabtow, another Student Ambassador from Utterback. "Be a bystander that cares. Take a stand against bullying. Each and every one of us can help to stop it."

At the end of the evening, eighth grader Guadalupe Romero invited the Bullying Prevention Student Ambassadors to join her in reciting the Student Bullying Prevention Pledge that over 200 Utterback students have already taken and signed:

Student Bullying Prevention Pledge
  1. I will not bully other students.
  2. I will help students who are being bullied by speaking out and by getting adult help.
  3. I will use extra effort to include all students in activities at our school
  4. I will report any bullying I know about or see.
For more information on the Bullying Prevention Ambassadors at Utterback Middle School, contact, Mary Culin, Learning Supports Coordinator at Utterback Middle Magnet School, (520) 225-3519,