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Community and Student Engagement

Each week, an RISD campus program or department is featured in an article in The Rockdale Reporter.  You can view the past articles here.
 

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2020 Mar 18: RIS GT students attend symphony

During this unusual week at Rockdale ISD, we do have highlights we would like to share. Our Rockdale Intermediate School’s Gifted and Talented students had the opportunity to experience, enjoy and in the process, learn by attending a symphony orchestra. Ms. Kathy Pelzel, RIS Principal has more information for you.

Generations of children have unknowingly been exposed to classical music by the cartoons they watch or video games they play.  Research shows that exposure to music accelerates the brain development in young children.

Some RIS students recently had the opportunity to attend the presentation of Peter and the Wolf by the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra.  In order to prepare for this performance, Gifted and Talented (GT) students researched the composer, symphony instruments, and learned symphony etiquette.

The benefits of exposing children to music are endless. Teaching students to love music is also inspiring them to have fun with it. GT students had the privilege to have violinist Morgan Lopez as a guest. Students were able to listen to the violin and were given a hands on opportunity to play it themselves. Students were laughing and having fun, as they watched each other try to play the violin. They all developed a greater appreciation for the instrument and recognized the time and complexity of playing the music.

What is giftedness? Children are often considered gifted when their abilities are above average for their age. However, giftedness may manifest itself in many ways.  Some students exhibit intellectual and specific academic giftedness. Others may demonstrate giftedness through creative artistic measures or through leadership qualities.

In April, RIS will be accepting nominations for admission to the GT program. Teachers and parents have the opportunity to nominate individuals for testing. RIS remains committed to addressing students needs, challenging students, and providing enrichment opportunities. These opportunities continue to enable our students to progress and excel.

2020 Mar 4: Rockdale Elementary School’s Pre-Kindergarten

Rockdale ISD has a great team of Pre-K school teachers, and coming from a former elementary school P.E. teacher, I fully understand how important it is to have a strong group of teachers for these students. This week our Pre-K teachers have a wealth of information regarding their Roundup this Spring, and the program they have in place to teach their students.

Rockdale Elementary School would like to tell you about an exciting event that we are offering this year to all incoming Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students.  We will have our annual Roundup at the Rockdale Elementary Cafeteria. The big event will be Tuesday, April 28th from 3:45-5:45. Pre-Kindergarten is open to all qualifying and tuition-based children. Children that will be four years old on or before September 1, 2020 will be eligible to register for Pre-Kindergarten, and all children that will be five years old before September 1, 2020 will be able to register for Kindergarten.  

To register, you must present:

*an official Birth Certificate

*Social Security Card

*Immunization Record

*Proof of Residency (utility bill)

*Parent Driver’s License

*Proof of Income (Pre-K students only)

This will be a great opportunity for your little ones to meet their teachers and aides, and start to become familiar with our school.  We will have ESL services, transportation, food service, and the Health Department in attendance to help with any questions or concerns.   

We have an amazing Pre-Kindergarten program at Rockdale Elementary.  Our curriculum is aligned with the Prekindergarten Guidelines, we increased prekindergarten teacher training and/or qualifications, implemented student progress monitoring, provided kindergarten readiness results, and developed quality family engagement plans. Our teachers have worked very hard this year planning and training, attending professional development, and progress monitoring our children every six weeks.  In addition to these things, our students have benefitted from having technology access through IPAD’s for the classroom, as well as the addition of educational software and programs. Our teachers have also worked on several parent and community engagement pieces including a Seesaw app which connects parents to student learning immediately. It also provides a digital portfolio which monitors student progress. It is another opportunity for parents to see the wonderful things that our teachers are doing to help our kids and to see what our students are learning.  

The mission of the Pre-K program is to empower, motivate and encourage life-long learners by providing a foundation that nurtures the student’s social, emotional and academic needs. Pre-K is an excellent opportunity for our young learners. Having an extra year to develop a foundation and learn about school is a powerful opportunity for students.  It is our goal to provide a challenging and engaging curriculum for all students in our Pre-K program. A high-quality pre-kindergarten program impacts the education of four and five year old children in many positive ways.  Research has shown that Pre-K impacts the lives of our students in these ways:  it improves the overall educational outcomes for a community, helps children to learn and read on grade-level, makes them less likely to fall behind their classmates in academics, and drastically improves the likelihood that they will graduate high school and attend college.

Our Pre-Kindergarten program embraces and celebrates the diversity of our youngest learners through a variety of hands-on extracurricular activities.  To date, some of these activities include the annual Thanksgiving Extravaganza, STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math integrated activities), community field trips, and various family involvement projects.  In the near future, the students will participate in the annual QU wedding, Field Day, trip to Crowe’s Nest Farm, and our end of year Awards Ceremony.   

Our Pre-K students and teachers celebrate personal and academic milestones, such as birthdays and the 100th days of school.  Our students and teachers work collaboratively to set academic and social goals and to celebrate individual and class successes.   

We would like to invite you to come visit our campus for a tour of our Pre-K classrooms.  I think you will be impressed with the quality of instruction and the nurturing environment that our teachers provide for our students.  I would like to encourage all parents of children ages 4 and 5 to stop by and pre-register during this exciting Round Up event and start your child on the path to success!  We hope to see you all there! 

2020 Feb 26: RHS prepares for 2020-21 school year

Rockdale ISD is extremely fortunate to have the quality of Counselors we have on each of our campuses. They work extremely hard handling a multitude of responsibilities, and are always willing to help students, staff and parents any way they can. This week Mrs. Kelly Windham, Rockdale High School Counselor, has some very important information regarding student registration this Spring that will assist both students and parents as they prepare for next year.

Spring is a very busy time for Rockdale High School students. There are lots of sports, academic competitions, and FFA shows students will participate in. It is also the time where the counselors meet individually with incoming freshman and the current high school students to register them for the next school year. 

  The state of Texas has 3 different graduation plans. The Foundation High School Program, the Foundation High School Program with Endorsements, and the Distinguished Foundation High School Program with Endorsements. The different graduation programs have different options attached to them. The goal for all of the plans is to help students determine their interests and plans for their postsecondary training and education.  

As incoming freshman students are required to complete a Personal Graduation Plan and choose an endorsement, which is reviewed every year. This plan is a guide for students, parents, and counselors to use throughout their high school years and is updated each year during registration. The endorsements offered at Rockdale High School are the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Business and Industry, Public Service, Arts and Humanities, and a Mulit-Disciplinary Studies endorsements. Students may earn more than 1 endorsement. 

Each endorsement has several different programs of studies attached. These programs of study are comprised of the elective courses the students get to register for. Students register for specific elective courses based on the students interests and availability at the high school. In addition to the elective courses students get to choose, they must take standard core classes such as English, math, science and social studies.  At RHS we offer regular, Pre-AP, and Advanced Placement classes for most core courses. The students choose which level they would like to take based on their future plan. 

Each year registration is a time for students to review their Personal Graduation Plan and reevaluate the plan to ensure they are taking courses that fit their interests and will help them be successful in the future, whether their future includes a postsecondary training/education or they plan to go straight into the workforce.  

2020 Feb 19: RHS ACE iTigers Update

Rockdale High School’s first year iTigers Coordinator Karen Langford has and update for us regarding current and upcoming program activities at the high school.

Tiger University is our afterschool program at Rockdale High School.  We are funded by 21st Century Community Learning Center grants.  This money covers everything from teacher extra duty pay for tutorials to supplies for cooking class, crafts activities, game room, and other enrichment classes. Field trips, parent classes, and community activities are also covered.  Community, family, staff, and student involvement and feedback are encouraged to help keep this grant available in our schools.

Keeping students safe and giving them a place to go after school to be with friends, mentors, and explore interests are key factors of Tiger University.  There are tutorials for all core subjects and some electives, staff and peer homework assistance, recreation, and enrichment classes. Spring session examples also include Drivers Education taught by Region 6 Education Service Center, Job seeking skills and more by Texas Workforce Solutions, Food Handlers Safety certification by A&M AgriLife Milam County Extension, Video Game Club, Graphic Design, Knitting, Cooking, Crafts, Strategy Games, Recreation, Drama, and more.  This month we are going to Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown to reward students for good grades and Tiger University attendance. A collaboration between the high school and the elementary school will allow a joint reading program to encourage leadership skills in high schoolers, and also word fluency, comprehension, and social skills for all involved.

One of our goals is to provide our parents free or low cost opportunities for work training, earning certifications, and special classes for family strengthening.  Austin Community College, Texas Workforce Solutions, and A&M AgriLife are a few of the organizations that we are partnering with this year to make that happen. All iTiger families in our community are encouraged to take part and benefit from these opportunities.

Community plays a big part in the ITiger program.  Business owners, city leaders, and employees in different positions are encouraged to schedule a time to visit with students about unique details and answer questions about your role in the community.  This helps our students prepare for community involvement as they mature and develop their own skills to give back to the community in their own way. Currently, students enjoy helping cook meals once a month for the Senior Center.  We are also planning a volunteer day at the Rockdale Animal Shelter and participating in the Chamber of Commerce Community Easter Egg Hunt. We are always looking for new ways to serve in the community outside of school hours. Please contact Karen Langford, High School iTiger Coordinator at klangford@rockdaleisd.net to volunteer or learn more about Tiger University.

2020 Feb 12: CTE Month

Career and Technical Education Month celebrates value of CTE programs


Rockdale ISD’s Career and Technical Education Director Mrs. Britina Pesak has the spotlight this week, and February is a very special month for her department.

Nearly 100% of Rockdale ISD students enroll in at least one Career and Technical Education (CTE) course during their high school career. A coherent sequence of CTE courses in a student’s schedule plays a powerful role in preventing students from dropping out of school and provides a wide variety of opportunities for postsecondary success and employment.

February is Career and Technical Education Month®, which celebrates the value of CTE and the achievements and accomplishments of CTE programs across Texas and the nation.

Students who are actively involved in CTE have a higher graduation rate and see higher earnings, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

The theme for CTE Month is Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!  This month provides CTE programs an opportunity to demonstrate how CTE makes students college, career, and military ready and prepares them for high-demand career fields.

CTE in Texas embraces the needs of business and industry through the development of the foundational knowledge and skills aligned to the Texas workforce.

The strategic vision for Texas Education is that each child will be prepared for success in college, a career, or the military. CTE classes play an important role in helping the state meet that goal by making sure students are prepared for postsecondary success – whether that be entering the workforce, obtaining an industry-recognized certificate or attending a two-year or four-year college.

Texas has 14 Career Clusters for students to choose from, and there are 52 Career Cluster Pathways.

During this year, Rockdale students have already earned over 75 industry certifications school-wide through a combination of qualifications in Welding (AWS D9.1, D1.1, ASME IX), Construction (NCCER), Professional Communication (Southwest), and Computer Applications (Microsoft Specialist).

Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) enhance this instruction by offering opportunities to apply what is learned in a variety of ways, interact with adults in their selected Career Pathway, develop leadership and employability skills and address community issues through in-depth projects. Rockdale students excel in career development events through FFA, HOSA, SkillsUSA and certification programs like the Texas High School Welding Series.

Nationally, CTE encompasses 94 percent of high school students and 8.4 million people seeking postsecondary certificates and associate degrees in CTE fields, according to ACTE. Also, taking one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of students dropping out of high school.

Please contact Britina Pesak, Director of CTE (Career and Technical Education) at bpesak@rockdaleisd.net or 512-430-6140, ext. 1021 if you would like to find out more about any of the CTE programs available at Rockdale ISD!

2020 Feb 5: RJH HERO

This week Principal Kelly Blair has a special new program being used on her campus this year, and she would like to provide you with information on how it is working at RJH.

Rockdale Junior High is excited to share a few of the positive impacts the HERO K12 program is bringing to campus this year.  We are consistently utilizing Hero to yield greater impacts on in the classroom and campus-wide. In just our first year of implementation, 100% of teachers and majority of support staff are accessing Hero to recognize positive behaviors in students. In fact, according to Hero data, Rockdale Junior High has recognized an average of almost 460 positive behaviors PER STUDENT this year, striving to engage in positive and meaningful interactions regularly and with all students. Teachers are also able to document in-class discipline issues to help hold students accountable, and intervene early when necessary to help support students and lead them to success. Rockdale Junior High is also engaging parents with automatic email notifications to alert parents when discipline issues arise, but also to celebrate their students' success. Parents and students can also create their own accounts in which they can view their behavior history, upcoming detentions or tutorials, and even their point totals that they have earned for positive behavior. Students can then go spend their Hero points at the school's pop-up store. Popular incentives included ice cream coupons, big ticket raffle items, tickets to extra-curricular events, and affirmations delivered by administration.


As a result of our documented success, our campus administration team will present our accomplishments at the annual TASSP conference (Texas Association of Secondary School Principals) in Dallas this summer.  We look forward to continuing our efforts to improve school climate and culture through empowering teachers and improving student behavior.  

2020 Jan 29: Compassion Movement at Rockdale Intermediate

Rockdale Intermediate School’s Principal Mrs. Kathy Pelzel has a very interesting topic this week, and I think we can all benefit from the importance of this topic.

As we begin a new year with our coworkers, students, parents, and community members we often find ourselves reflecting on the previous year. Reflecting on what went well, what could have been done better, and what to look forward to in the upcoming year. 

Teachers and students often use the Holiday Break as a great reset for everyone to come back refreshed and ready to tackle the new year and our spring semester of instruction, assessments, and campus activities. With this being said we look at the opportunity for students to use their interaction to support others. 

Our campus participated in lessons on compassion prior to the Christmas break. We practiced how to identify when someone is struggling on the inside or the outside. This is often observed by a peer’s body language, verbal tones, or general disposition. 

Students were encouraged to identify areas of support for others who were struggling. These lessons and activities spurred positive behavior across the campus that included increased levels of sharing, including others, positive words with peers, and supporting students and staff during a challenging time of the year. 

Our student organizations increased their involvement by helping with Christmas Roundup, increasing campus donations, and volunteering with local animal shelters. This included Student Council, GT, Leadership Club, and EAFK Rotary Club. We have seen the concept of compassion begin to grow within our students and it has become contagious. Students make it a point to include others sitting alone at lunch, class interactions are more positive, and teachers are increasing their involvement in the campus compassion movement as well. 

At RIS we look forward to the compassion movement growing as the new year presents many opportunities for positive growth. We challenge the community to jump on board with us as we grow in our compassion for others. 

2020 Jan 22: Kindergarten News

This week Rockdale Elementary School has the spotlight, and RES Principal has given the Kindergarten teachers the opportunity to share what is going on with their students this year.

Although kindergarten is commonplace today, the important role kindergarten plays for a student’s long term educational success is often misunderstood.  Kindergarten is the place where we develop and foster a child’s love for learning, as well as where they develop the necessary knowledge and skills to set them up for future academic success.  During this vital year of a child’s education, we learn and practice essential social, emotional, problem-solving and study skills children will use throughout their schooling. Kindergarten in 2020 is not the kindergarten that many of us remember— it is no longer a time of free play, learning colors and shapes, and naptime.  Although we are integrating children into the school setting and teaching important social and emotional skills, the academic expectations are extremely high and ever-increasing with each passing year. Kindergarten students are expected to be able to read, write complete sentences, add and subtract, and understand a variety of science concepts.  Each morning we hit the ground running and have a schedule jam-packed with learning. Here is an example of our kindergarten schedule:


7:50-8:10: Unpack & Morning Message

8:10-8:30: Breakfast

8:30-9:15: Phonics

9:15-10:40: Reading/Writing 

10:40-11:50: Math

11:50-12:24: Lunch

12:35-12:55: Recess

12:55-1:25: Tiger Time/Intervention

1:25-2:00: Science & Social Studies

2:00-2:45: Specials (PE, Fine Arts & Library)

2:45-3:15: Snack, Pack Up, & Reflection


As you can see we are working on academic skills all day while meeting their physical, social, and emotional needs.  Without a solid foundation from their kindergarten year, students will have a difficult time being successful in subsequent years when the rigor and academic demands increase.

You may be wondering about the kindergarten team at RES.  Our kindergarten team is comprised of great teachers with varied backgrounds and many years of experience, but we cannot do it all on our own.  There are many things that you can do at home that will increase your child’s chances of success. Most importantly, read to or with your child.  The most important activity for preparing your child to succeed as a reader than reading aloud together.  This can begin when your child is just an infant, but does not need to stop once your child begins learning to read.  You should continue to read to your child, have them read to you or even share the reading as they become a reader. As you read, make sure that you are having conversations with your child about what you read and ask them questions which makes them recall facts, deepen their understanding of new vocabulary, and problem solve by inferring things that may not be directly stated.  

Along with reading to your child, it is also important that you give your child a sense of independence. Even though they are only 5 years old, kids can be given simple tasks like picking out their clothes, setting the table, or matching socks.  These small tasks foster a child’s sense of independence, boost their confidence in their abilities, and give them an edge when they come to school and face the many demands and academic tasks.  

Lastly, make school a priority in your home.  It is very important for children to have a positive image of school.  This includes making sure that your child gets a good night's sleep so they are prepared for their day.  Also, talk to your child about what they are learning and look at the items that come home. If your child has homework, make its completion a priority.  We don’t send homework to just give kids something to do, but rather to practice and hone the skills they have previously learned. We are so appreciative of all the support that we are given by our awesome parents!!

Even though our priority is teaching the whole child the skills they need for future success, that does not come without some fun!  Many of our daily activities are hands-on that keep our kids moving and engaged. We also enjoy special days to extend our learning like Thanksgiving & Christmas rotations, Polar Express Day, the 100th day of school, Easter egg hunt, and Earth Day activities.  In addition, some of our best memories come from our school-wide Field Day in the spring where we get to participate in ball races, relays, and a ton of other fun activities and our annual field trip to the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco! This year we are starting a new tradition and our students will be performing in a program, “Once Upon a Time in Kindergarten” filled with scenes from some of our favorite fairy tales.  We hope you will all be able to attend.

We are looking forward to an amazing second semester in kindergarten!

2020 Jan 15: Rockdale High School's New Principal

This week Rockdale High School’s “New” Principal, Mr. Brent Hasselbach would like to share some thoughts and ideas regarding his tenure as Rockdale High School Principal.

Many of the students have already been asking which rules I am going to remove.  Others have been offering ideas as to what I can add or change. What they don’t realize is that many of the policies have been in place since I first started teaching in Rockdale nearly sixteen years ago.  So what can they expect?

As part of the transition process, I am going to evaluate what we are currently doing.  I am going to visit with teachers and students to get their input and review our systems and policies.  I expect this to take some time but will ultimately reveal the direction we need to go.

So the answer is no, there will not be any major changes right away.  However, I hope to start changing the culture and attitude on the campus.  I am going to focus on four principles that I believe will create a championship culture at Rockdale High School: build relationships, maintain high expectations, be accountable to self and others and take care of the little things.  

What exactly does this mean?

It is the relationships we build at RHS that we will remember the most.  I hope that we can all have positive relationships that will last far beyond graduation.  Relationships built out of caring for each other will only develop with the understanding that we are all different and we are all valuable.

Staff members should expect our students to perform at a high level.  They are capable and we can’t sell them short. Students need to set goals and believe they can take on any challenge without the fear of failing.   

Staff members and students have to be accountable for what the students take away when they graduate.  Are we giving our best effort each day?  

Finally, sometimes we focus on one thing that makes it seem like a task is impossible.  When you look at all of the little things and take care of the little things you can control, the big things will take care of themselves.

When we focus on these principles, there is no limit to what we can do.  By building a championship culture, we will prepare our students to be successful now and after they graduate.  

2019 Nov 27: First Grade News

Rockdale Elementary School continues to provide a strong foundations for our student in their early years of education. This week our First Grade Teacher would like to share what is going on in their classes. 

Written by our Fabulous First Grade Team of: Lorrie Birkhead, Jenae Byrd, Sharon McDaniel, Valarie Willingham, Julia Wulff

It is hard to believe that our first graders have already completed the first two six weeks at Rockdale Elementary School! The year began with reviewing school rules, creating classroom social contracts, and learning to become responsible for our own behavior. Each class spent time reviewing letters, sounds, and sight words, but now our students are focused on the process of learning to read.  First grade is an exciting year that will show so much growth. Students start out knowing basic sight words, but become reading machines by the time they head to second grade!

First grade is also where students are first introduced to the Accelerated Reading Program.  Students are able to earn points by taking quizzes on their library books and books they have read with their teachers. The most important thing you can do to help your child is to practice reading every night at home. By meeting their reading goal, students will be able to attend A.R. parties at the end of each six weeks. This is such a motivator for beginning readers. We will also honor our top readers at the end of the year.  We cannot wait to see who will have the most A.R. points!

Although reading is a very important part of first grade, our students still focus on Math, Science, Social Studies, and Writing. We learn about place value, skip counting, addition, subtraction, and even money. Much of this is learned through activities and games in the classroom, but parents can help by practicing weekly math facts at home. Our students have also participated in several science experiments this year.  We enjoyed making homemade playdough and building ice castles and watching them melt! 

Our first graders will also be able to attend two field trips near the end of the year.  A favorite trip is to the Mayborn Museum in Waco, Texas. The museum offers many exploratory rooms for the children: the sound room, the water room complete with giant bubbles, the weather room, and many more.  This year the special program will be The Lion King Exhibit so the students are in for a day of science and fun! We will also travel to our city park and meet our community leaders, such as firemen, police officers, and EMS workers.

One of the most memorable highlights of First Grade is our Texas Program.  It has been a long-held tradition for our students to share songs, symbols, and traditions of Texas with our parents and friends at school.  It is always a fun time for everyone and a great way to end the school year!

2019 Nov 13: RHS Senior Year Tips

The last year of high school can be a year filled with excitement, nervousness and reflection. This week RHS Principal Tiffany Whitsel has some important points for students during their Senior year of high school.

This is the time of year that I hear from many senior parents and students that this is the last time for… as many wrap up their last year of high school here are some tips as you progress through senior year:

Embrace the rekindling of old friendships, but remember your real friends. Senior year starts, and suddenly part of your old group from elementary school is trying to be friends with you again. Sure, you’re wary at first and unsure of their intentions. But, they’re simply aching for acceptance and missing their friends that graduated in the years prior to this one, just like you. But by no means should you ignore your underclassmen friends just because Miss Popularity that ditched you in middle school decides she wants to hang again. Find a way to balance your new friendships with your “old” friends, but don’t leave your real besties behind.

Spend time with your teachers.  What?! You don’t want to be a teacher’s pet during your senior year? It’s important to remember that the bonds you make with your teachers now are ones that could last a lifetime. By spending a little extra time getting to know them while also getting homework help or a quick study session in, you’re creating an opportunity for them to become your mentors for life. Friendships with teachers or other adults that you can look up may often last longer than the friendships you form with your high school friends.

Be nice to your family. This was one of the biggest things I struggled with during my senior year. My relationship with my parents was difficult as we began coping with the fact that I was experiencing things for the last time. But, you have to remember that you’re graduating, not leaving forever, and you’ll continue having new experiences for the rest of your life! Talk about problems that you’re facing with your family, and spend a little extra time with grandma and grandpa or your aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and cousins they are also coping with the fact that change is about to happen too. You might be going to school nearby or six hours away next year, but either way, you’ll appreciate the bonds you’ve formed and begin to recognize the support system you’ll always have waiting for you in your hometown.

Don’t forget to have fun and try something new. Take pictures, de-stress, binge a little Netflix, and celebrate your lasts instead of dreading them or being sad about it. Your senior nights should not be spent crying! Leave that to your friends that won’t get to see you play or perform next year. You should be having fun, being proud of your accomplishments in the last four years, and thinking about leaving it all out on the court or field.  If you haven’t been involved with many things throughout high school, then senior year is your last chance to do it! Join that club you’ve been eyeing for years or convince your friends to do some community service! This is your last chance to experience many traditional high school rites of passage, so don’t skip out on sporting events, activities, or prom. 

Take the pictures and smile.  Be patient when mom, grandma, and every person you know begs for one more picture.  I remind you of this as you head into the “last” game, prom, and graduation. Take a few extra minutes and pose with family and friends. Most of you Snapchat throughout the day so you have practiced poses and can handle the family’s picture request. We may not be on Snapchat but we still like to brag about you the old fashioned way on Facebook.  As I get older I have truly cherished the pictures of family and friends that are no longer with us and feel bad at all the time I rolled my eyes and made fun of my mom as I ran off to my friends during pictures.

Get involved, and make some new memories before it’s all said and done.  

2019 Oct 30: CTE Teacher shares experience and passion for graphic design

Career and Technical Education can impact students in many different ways, and can reach students who don’t always “fit the mold”. This week Mrs. Britina Pesak, RISD CTE Director, has a great example of just how important CTE classes are at Rockdale ISD, and how a passion can be developed into a career. 

Rockdale ISD Graphic Design Teacher Gimel Peterman has a lot of valuable experience to draw upon to prepare his students for the future. Art was a part of his life from an early age and as a senior in high school, Peterman had his own art gallery. During his service in the Military, he did mural work (pro bono, of course!) and his other work included t-shirt designs and art classes. At one point, he worked for the Killeen Daily Herald as a page-layout designer and owned his own caricature business called Artistic Sarcasm. During his last year in college as a part of his internship where he designed children’s activity books, he wrote, designed, and published a children’s book on Amazon.

Teachers like Peterman, or Mr. Mel, as the students have come to know him, are critical for helping the district ensure that the CTE courses being offered are both rigorous and relevant. The Graphics Design program of study prepares students to be proficient in industry-preferred software such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, AfterEffects, and Premiere. Students are also introduced to similar programs that can be used online and with comparable features to work on transferrable skills. The goal is for students interested in careers in Graphic Design like Logo or Character Design, Video Game Design, Ad Marketing, etc. to have the certifications and enduring knowledge to be ready for the next level.

All CTE programs focus on employability skills, and Graphic Design is no exception. This year, Peterman is focusing on the need for artists to have the ability to listen, draw, collaborate, and problem-solve. Certainly, technical skills are always in demand, but Google and YouTube can solve that problem in a pinch. The true skills are those that require students to build over time and the tenacity to do so.

Student testimonials, along with enrollment numbers, reflect students’ positive attitudes towards the district’s growing Graphic Design program. Most of that can be attributed to Mr. Mel’s passion for the subject.

“I have always loved to draw,” said 16-year-old Emma Mirales, who is a Junior at Rockdale High School. She’s taken Principles of Arts, Audio-Visual Technology and Communications, and Graphic Design I. She is currently enrolled in Graphic Design II. “I just finished a describe and draw project and I am amazed at how far my skills have come. Mr. Mel has really pushed me to become a better artist and designer.”

What does the future of the industry look like for the world of graphic designers? Peterman says, “The world will always need the graphic designer. The Graphic Designer is one of the jobs that support and bring to life ideas, businesses, communities, and laws. The core of Graphic Design is to create awareness and provoke action. In the city of Austin alone, the industry is thriving.”

Mr. Peterman is in his second year of teaching at Rockdale High School and has made a positive impact on the lives of students. He says, “I’m really grateful and honored for the opportunity to share my passion as a teacher at RHS.” 

Please contact Britina Pesak, Director of CTE (Career and Technical Education) at bpesak@rockdaleisd.net or 512-430-6140, ext. 1021 if you would like to find out more about any of the CTE programs available at Rockdale ISD!

2019 Oct 16: Second Grade Happenings

Rockdale Elementary’s Super Second Grade Teachers, Jenah Campsey, Erin Countryman, Jana Dood, Whitney Pounders, and Melanie Moody wrote the column for Rockdale Elementary this week.  So, enjoy hearing about all of the fun learning opportunities that Second Grade has in store for our students.  

Second grade is an exciting time to be a Rockdale Tiger!  You finally get to be the leaders of the campus.  No more tiger tails and bubbles, now it’s time for A.R. parties, programs, and the famous tug-of-war battle during field day.  Check out all the fun we have to offer right here at Rockdale Elementary School in second grade.

With the first six weeks already finished, your child’s classrooms are already deep into instruction.  Our mathematicians are busy representing numbers, up to 1200, various ways.  Students use many strategies to compare, order, and build numbers.  Place value is the foundation of math so our students are busy building a strong foundation for success the rest of the year! 

Our scientists have been busy exploring matter and various forms of matter.  What is matter?  Well just about everything! Ask your young scientist to make you a root beer float and explain not only the 3 types of matter, but how matter changes.  In second grade we not only read, and discuss science, we get to be real scientists as we work through the inquiry process and conduct experiments.  

Our campus implemented a new character education program called, “Capturing Kids Hearts.”  This new program has gone hand in hand with our beginning of the year social studies curriculum as we learn about good citizenship.  Each classroom has built and implemented a social contract.  Your child is learning life skills as they greet their teacher and classmates each morning with a handshake and a smile.  Students are learning how to be responsible for their actions and attitudes, as well as how to affirm each other.  

One of the favorite parts of second grade is the Accelerated Reading program.  Our students are transitioning from learning how to read, to reading to learn.  What a powerful time!  Each six weeks students are able to attend an A.R. party if they reach their goal. Students love being able to check out books on their reading level and monitor their progress toward each goal.  At the end of the year our top readers are recognized with medals for earning 100 A.R. points.  

It wouldn’t be elementary school without field trips and programs.  In second grade we are lucky to have two of each.  We will take one out of town field trip and one in town field trip.  We have our famous Christmas program in December, as well as the “American History Program” in May.  

Perhaps the most favorite part of second grade is our field day.  This is because every year we end our fabulous field day with a little friendly tug-o-war competition.  The winning second grade class gets the famous trophy until next year!  

2019 Oct 2: Student Attendance -- First Key to Success

For your child to gain the greatest benefit from his/her education, good attendance is necessary.  Rockdale ISD can provide assistance, answer questions and connect you with resources that can help your child avoid excessive, unexcused absences and tardies. We have some effective tips for parents to help improve their child’s attendance. First, reinforce the value and importance of good attendance from the time your child enrolls in school. Encourage and help your child prepare for school each evening.  Packing backpacks, preparing lunch and selecting clothes the night before can reduce morning stress. Designate an appropriate bedtime for your child and be consistent. Praise your child when he/she exhibits good attendance and promptness. Perfect attendance is one way to help insure student success.  When a student is absent s/he misses vital instruction time, however we understand that students, due to illness or emergencies, will miss school from time to time. During these circumstances, please be sure to follow these important steps:

  1. Call the school to let them know your child will be absent.
  2. If your child is absent due to illness and visits the doctor, remember to ask for a physician statement.  This excuse should state the child was too ill to attend school.   
  3. Many times children will “forget” to turn in the doctor’s statement once they return to school.  Please check to see if your child did turn the note in to he/she teacher or the school office.
  4. If your child must miss school due to a dental/orthodontist appointment, please turn in the statement from the dentist/orthodontist so this may be an excused absence.
  5. If your child is tardy (arriving late, leaving early or returning to school after an appointment) an adult must sign him/her in/out at the school office. 
  6. A written explanation of an absence is required upon the student’s return to school.  

Parents must always be willing to encourage proper attendance, and help manage their children’s time and their understanding of good attendance. Please keep the Student Handbook in a safe place, so you may refer to it throughout the year.  This handbook is very helpful to clarify attendance issues and questions that may arise regarding other school district policies.

2019 Sept 25: RISD Career and Technical Educational Students Prepare for College and Career

Planning for the future is always a challenge, so it is very important that our students are exposed to a variety of interests and opportunities. The Rockdale ISD Career and Technical Education Department fully understands this need, and works very hard to determine student interests, and provide support and skill training to help prepare our students for their future. This week CTE Director Britina Pesak has the opportunity to give some insight to this vital program at Rockdale ISD. 

With the rapidly changing job market, we cannot prepare students for the jobs that exist today. Occupations that exist today may not exist tomorrow and the jobs that today’s elementary students may one day thrive in have not even been thought of yet. To best prepare our students, this year’s graduating class of 2020 will be entering the workforce throughout the next 5 years armed with a set of employability skills covering academic knowledge, technical expertise, and effective workplace relationships. All industries want to put forth a quality product. In K-12 education, the end goal is producing students that are “ready.” But what does that even mean?

The industry has been talking about the technical skills gap for the last decade or so, and have more recently begun to discuss the soft skills that are equally as important. Rick Stephens, Senior Vice President of the Boeing Corporation famously says, “We hire for hard skills. We fire for soft skills.” Employers want workers who can show up on time, follow instructions, problem-solve, work effectively with a team, and independently. These are just some of the many employability skills that students in Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses are focusing on to become highly-sought after employees and career-minded individuals. Students with employability skills are Career Ready. But is that all it takes?

Dr. David T. Conley is considered one of the leading authors on College and Career Readiness (CCR). He defines CCR as the ability to “qualify for and succeed in entry-level, credit bearing college courses leading to a baccalaureate or certificate, or career pathway-oriented training programs without the need for remedial or developmental coursework” (Conley, 2012). Within this definition, we still have room for improvement to ensure all students are College Ready. However, he highlights that not every student excels in every area, so a single cut score on a test is not the best measure of CCR. Student success should be measured in their chosen field of study.

Many key elements of both college and career readiness are the same: time management, perseverance, critical thinking. Support at the collegiate level to help students with these skills is often overwhelmingly available, but the student does have to accept the help. The difference is that for young men and women entering the workforce, the support system in career systems is a much smaller net.

While the programs of study offered through the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department at Rockdale ISD train students to be prepared for all levels of postsecondary education, ultimately, employers will be looking for both the technical (hard) skills and employability (soft) skills to fill those empty positions of the future, and our Tiger graduates will be READY!

Please contact Britina Pesak, Director of CTE (Career and Technical Education) at r or 512-430-6140, ext. 1021 if you would like to find out more about any of the CTE programs available at Rockdale ISD!