Happy Administrative Professionals’ Day

Today is Administrative Professionals’ day and we are celebrating it in different places.  Today is a day that under normal circumstances my admin assistant would have showed up to school to be welcomed with flowers, cards, and a pretty awesome lunch of some kind just to show her how much I love and appreciate her.  This will happen when we all get to get back together, but in the mean time I wanted to show all of our admin assistants at Coppell High School a little bit of love.

Veena Bhat- I begin this shout out with you, my friend, because without you, I would not be able to do any part of my job.  As the Admin Assistant to the Associate Principals at CHS, you take on so much that not a lot of people will ever see.  You are the gatekeeper of all things for Sean and I and for that I thank you.  But beyond just taking care of me professionally, you also take care of me at a personal level too.  Thank you for loving my child as much as I love her.  Thank you for being invested in her success and for always being there to give me mom advice.  Thank you for always being a positive role model for all of Coppell High School.  Thank you for always choosing your attitude and for always making my day.  You, Veena, are a true example of Cowboy GRIT and I am so thankful that I was blessed to have you move into this position this year to support. both Sean and I as our assistant.  Love you, Veena.  Thank you for being you!

Amy Stroh- We have travelled all over this building together from the office down in Southfork, to Student Services North, and now to the front Principal’s office, I could not be any happier to be by your side.  Your passion for Coppell High School, our kids, and our staff is one that knows no bounds.  I am so thankful that we have grown together in our journey.  I am thankful that you let me steal all your cinnamon candy.  Thank you for always having cinnamon candy for me to steal.  I am thankful for our long chats and for your personal investment in my life and my family.  I am thankful for your leadership.  You have stepped into the role of the Principal’s Assistant and taken over ensuring all our paras are supported.  I cannot think of anyone who loves more deeply than you do, Amy Stroh.  Thank you for reminding us to have fun from time to time and to Play.  Love you, Amy.  Thank you for being you.

Patcee Becerra- Patcee, you are the glue that holds Coppell High School together.  The knowledge you have about everything from how to make my computer work again to all things financial, you know it all!  I am so thankful for your continued support and mentorship of our new data entry assistant.  I love listening in from the office next door to you coach her through how to do something new.  Thank you for ensuring financially we are good to go.  Mr. Jasso once told me that the most important person you can ever hire is a good financial secretary.  Well, you are THE BEST and I am so thankful you are at Coppell High School.  Love you, Patcee.  Thank you for being you.

Julie Wilson– You are the first person that anyone sees when they enter the main entrance of our building and I cannot think of anyone I would rather have sitting behind that window.  You are kind.  You are a problem solver.  You treat every single person who enters our building with grace and love.  I cannot tell you how many times I have come into the building and you have changed the trajectory of my attitude with just a simple smile and a good morning.  Thank you Julie for always being a ray of sunshine on a dark day.  Thank you for loving all our kids as much as you do.  Thank you for being the face of CHS.  Thank you for always looking out for all of us!   Love you, Julie.  Thank you for being you.

Michelle Garcia– Every morning I look forward to hearing “Good Morning, Melissa” from your attendance window!  I look forward to our chats and to hearing all about your kids and Pete!  I love your love for your family and I am so thankful you let me be a part of that with you!  Thank you for your organization and for always making sure our kids’ are taken care of.  I have always appreciated your investigative skills to snoop out the notes that are not on the up and up and for your initiative to confirm their authenticity.   Thank you for being there for all of us each and every day.  You bring positive joy to my day each day.  Love you, Michelle.  Thank you for being you.

Linda Adams- I’m not really sure how we would every function without you, Linda.  You run Student Services North like a well oiled machine.  I have been in your office area numerous times and counted an insane amount of people just standing waiting for appointments.  As you help others, I will go around and ask if I can help anyone and they all always say that you have already welcomed them and taken care of them.  Your ability to manage and organize in the most stressful of situations is something that I will forever be thankful for.  I know that we can always count on you to step up and help wherever it is needed.  Thank you for being such a team player and for always being available to take on my crazy “can you call down 50 kids next period” tasks.  Thank you for making a difference in everyone’s day each and every day.  Love you, Linda.  Thank you for being you.

Kim Dicken– It never ceases to amaze me that you are able to organize and support four Assistant Principals every day especially because you are working with Gollner! 🙂 (Just kidding Chris).  Whenever I walk into your office area, I am impressed with how efficient it runs. it is not easy to coordinate all you have to coordinate each and every day, but you do it with grace and make it look like it is the easiest thing in the world.  Thank you for always being the calm when there are storms all around you.  Thank you for caring deeply for our APs and for taking care of each of them.  Thank you for watching over our kids and for always sharing a smile.   Love you, Kim.  Thank you for being you.

Anne Ruedi- I remember when I was in the classroom thinking that your kids were some of the best kids I have ever had the pleasure of teaching in my English class.  Meeting you when you were hired as our counseling assistant, I understand why your children are so awesome.  Your attention to detail, your desire to understand processes so you can better explain them, and your support to all of our counselors are just a few things I appreciate about you.  Thank you for loving our kids and for helping them during stressful times whether it be college admissions time or emotional break downs, you are always there for our kids.   Love you, Anne.  Thank you for being you.

Erin Kelly- You are amazing at what you do for us at Coppell High School.  I love that I can call you and randomly say, “Erin, can you get me data that will include…..” and you never hesitate to say “I’ll figure out how”.  It never fails that I have the data within the hour and it is always awesome and sometimes even more than I expected.  Thank you for taking on communication with teachers in such a fun uplifting way.  I look forward to seeing what meme will accompany your e-mails when it is time for grades.  I love your humor.  Thank you for always being willing to learn and for taking time to work with Patcee to ensure all processes run smooth. I am so thankful you joined our CHS family this year.   Love you, Erin. Thank you for being you.

Kristi Carroll- Kristi you are the type of person who I think can literally do any job she puts her mind to and do it in a way that makes it look flawless.  You took our sub system at CHS and turned it into a system that is so much more than just a system.  I’m not even sure I can find the words to describe how amazing you set things up.  Then you transitioned into the registrar position and learned an entire system in less than a week.  Thank you for your organization, your attention to detail, and your support in all things at CHS.  You are a great team player and someone I am very grateful to know.  Love you, Kristi.  Thank you for being you.

Renee Zettle- I have always loved working with you at East on those days that I was lucky enough to sub over there last year.  Your upbeat and positive attitude always made me feel welcome.  When you joined us this year at CHS to help out in our library I was very excited to hear you were coming over.  In the time we have been able to work together on a day to day basis I can’t thank you enough for making me and all who enter the library feel like part of your family.  You help to spread joy to everyone who enters and it is hard not to let this joy be contagious when they leave.  I cannot wait to continue working beside you for years to come!  Love you, Renee.  Thank you for being you.

Kathy Peck- I am so thankful you joined our team this semester as our substitute coordinator.  This position is a very stressful position, but you have stepped in and taken charge even giving up your own time to go into a classroom when there was not a sub available at the moment we needed coverage.  Thank you for your organization and for being a team player.  We are so thankful you have joined our Coppell High School family as a member of our team.  Love you, Kathy.  Thank you for being you.

Janet Ritchie- I have never been so excited to tell someone welcome home than I was this year when you returned back to us at Coppell High School.  Thank you for jumping right in to help support us with our 504 needs.  I have always appreciated your warm welcomes, your positive attitude, and your willingness to jump in and help at a moments notice.  I cannot wait to continue working with you in the future.  Love you, Janet.  Thank you for being you.

Today is National Administrative Professionals’ Day.  I am so sad that we are not at school to celebrate with our amazing people.  I do know that when we get back we are going to have one heck of a luncheon to celebrate all we have missed.  Thank you, Administrative Assistants at CHS for all you do for us!  We love each and every one of you! Thank you for all you do.


Current Situation Moments of Reflection…

I have so many thoughts and I do not really know where to start with all of them.  I have encouraged other people to write their feelings down and to record what is happening so one day when younger generations ask about the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 people can hand over journals, blogs, and random reflections for them to read.  I wish I had done this in the days that followed 9-11-2001 for Makayla to read when she learned about that part of our history. Yet,  I find myself going through these moments that will one day be just part of our history and I am struggling with what to write down.  I start writing and I go blank, so I just pray because I don’t know what else to do.  That was until one of my friends sent me a meme that was meant to make me giggle and ended up unblocking my writer’s block.  I will admit it did make me giggle, but I cannot get it off my mind.  The more I think about it the more irritated I get with people.  I’ll share that meme here for all of you to reflect on before I continue on with my moments of reflection today.

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My husband and I were just talking about how he had heard rumors that there might not be a college football season next year.  I am not a huge sports person, so I’ll admit I don’t truly worry about no sports next year.  In fact, I would rather read a book than watch college football, but sports are super important to my husband, so I sat and listened to him and said all the things that supportive spouses are supposed to say in that moment while in the back of my mind I’m thinking, there is no way college football will not happen in the fall.  However, the reality is this is a true reality because PEOPLE WILL NOT STAY HOME and are continuing to put themselves and those around them in danger of catching a virus we truly do not know a lot about beyond that it is taking over our lives.  Thinking about college football led to me to think about things I was looking forward to that have a serious possibility of not happening anymore because PEOPLE WILL NOT STAY HOME!

I Miss School

 I first want to say that my district is totally ROCKING this distance learning thing.  At the beginning of March, I sat in a meeting with a few people from my district and a neighboring district who is currently doing a virtual option for high school.  That leader told us it would take us a solid 18 months to be able to consider correctly doing virtual learning if we were to ever consider looking at a program like their program.  Well…I say it took us 7 days to accomplish what would take most a year.  Is it perfect? Is anything really perfect?  Does our learning management system work all the time?  No, but when the entire nation is doing online learning should it work all the time?  Are we accomplishing what we need to get accomplished?  Yes.  Our kids are engaged in learning which will help them to learn the essential standards still left this year to prepare them for a return to school this year or next year should the need to extend the break continue passed our current return date.   We are three weeks in (two with actual learning in place) and I have to say we are stronger teachers and leaders because of this.  I am reminded daily why I got into education.  I am thankful for a district who recognizes relationships are part of our core values.  I am thankful for a district who puts people first and who makes tough grading decisions to support ALL students.  This experience has reenforced that you can’t make everyone happy, but it has also reenforced that this is about the well being of ALL our kids.

I miss our kids.  I miss walking the hallways.  I miss the conversations.  I miss giving gigantic hugs to those who come running up saying, “Mrs. Arnold!  I did it! I got in to the college of my dreams.”  I miss the teachers.  I miss my morning walks down a random hall to check in and see if they need anything.  I miss visiting the ROC and seeing the IC’s.  I miss my secretary.   I MISS COPPELL HIGH SCHOOL.  PEOPLE STAY HOME SO WE CAN GO BACK TO SCHOOL!

Tonight would have been prom.  We had to cancel prom this year and my heart is broken for kids.  I can’t think of it without it feeling like someone is squeezing the bottom of my heart.  The class of 2020 is special to me and I am just sad.  I wish people WOULD STAY AT HOME so we could get back to school.

Will we miss Hamilton?

MJ, my daughter, is a HUGE fan of Hamilton.  We missed them last year when they were in Dallas and she was so sad.  So this year, my mom surprised her with an early birthday present and we have tickets to go see Hamilton this June in Fort Worth.  As of now, this experience is still on track to happen, but I know it will probably get canceled.  It will be okay if it does, because her health and the health of those around us are much more important than watching a musical, but it is disappointing none the less.  Her joy when she opened the tickets is something I will never forget.  I hope we get to experience this in person, but if not this year one day we will.  I wish people would stay home…

The Farm…

If you know me, you know the farm is my happy place.  When all this started I made a joke that I would just weather this storm with my parents on the farm.  Well, that can’t happen because what if I have been infected.  It has been over three weeks since my last spring break shenanigan (an Art exhibit in Dallas), but I still worry I have germs I could pass on to others and I just cannot bring myself to go home.  I cannot be the reason someone down there is exposed, so my family chooses to stay home.  We choose to not go to the farm and possibly infect my favorite people.  I wish more people had these thoughts.  Stay at Home.

Reconnecting, Simplifying, Rediscovering

The last few weeks as my family has chosen to stay home unless leaving was something that could not be helped, I have discovered a few things.  We have used this time to reconnect, simplify life, and rediscover things we had put on the back burner when life got hectic.  I LOVE my family.  I love my husband and to be honest I am very thankful for this…  I met Blake in 2002 and we have been best friends since that second (well maybe third) date.  I cannot imagine having to be stuck in this house with a husband I do not like.  I know there are people out there in homes right now with families who are struggling.  My heart is breaking thinking about this….

Our daughter, MJ, is 11 and full of sass and joy.  She just wants to go and play with the kids in the neighborhood and I won’t let her.  We must obey the leaders of our county and stay at home and limit our interactions when possible.  This “stay at home” has been hard on us and we are a STRONG family unit.   My heart breaks for those families who are not as strong or functional as ours.  Being in education, I see it all and my heart feels that same tug when I think of the kids who I know are not okay right now on an emotional level.  The kids who do not have the family support that MJ has.  I pray every day for these kids and these families.  I hope if you are reading my blog you will add these families to your prayers as well.  I also hope YOU WILL STAY AT HOME so we can soon get to get back to the new normal whatever it will look like when these shelter in place orders are lifted.

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I reshare the following meme again because it is the meme that pushed me over the edge.  The truth is if we do not stay home and take this serious life will not get back to normal.  School will not resume.  Vacations will not happen.  Musicals will be missed.  Families will either get stronger or fall apart.  People will die.  The truth of this moment is the next steps which depend on you.  Are you going to add to the possibility that life will not return to normal or are you going to follow the rules and STAY AT HOME?

I cannot end this blog without giving a shout out to my sister-in-law Hayley and every other hard working health care professional I know.  Hayley is one of the strongest people I know who is fighting this fight from a hospital in Dallas surrounded by others doing the same thing.  If you staying at home will help her be safer, why would you not?  She has to go to work.  It is not an option for her.  We need to stay at home so she can limit the number of lives she has to help save because of this virus.  So much of the time we forget to check on those who are leading through the fight, so thank you Hayley.  We love you and are here to help you however we can.  We will start that by continuing to STAYING AT HOME.





Evening Reflections…

Today started as it normally would with me hollering at my daughter to hurry up because we were going to be late out the door.  If we don’t leave the house by 6:45 we cannot guarantee we will not sit in more traffic than normal and this sweet child of mine started her day by not actually getting out of bed until 6:23.  My level of frustration at 6:46 was extremely high as I ushered her to the car after having to run back in for the car keys I left hanging on the nail in the laundry room.  It was now 6:48 and I was beyond frazzled.

I am a creature of habit, so as I lowered the garage door, I grabbed the cell to plug in my work location into WAZE hoping to outsmart some of my fellow commuters when a text message from one of my best friends (a retired admin I used to work with) came through sharing some news of a former student who had been tragically killed in a motorcycle accident last night.  In that moment time stood still and it didn’t seem to matter anymore that we were running behind.  This news hit me hard and made me go back in time to when I was a brand new AP.

This particular kid was the first kid I think I worked with when I became an administrator in August of 2013.  He was a kid administrators never forget as he was not the easiest kid to get a long with, but man this kid had potential.  I remember telling him over and over and over “you have so much life to live and I KNOW you can be a game changer for many…”  I’m not sure if I really made that much of a difference in his life as we all know first year administrators make mistake after mistake, but this kid changed my life.  This kid made me want to work with kids who had challenges at times.  This kid made me want to be the best I could be for each and every kid.  This kid made me work for it.  He made me collaborate with some of the best people I know to ensure he had the best supports we could offer.  He made me realize you should never give up on anyone because EVERYONE deserves people cheering them on.  This kid grew me and believe it or not he continues to grow me today.

I spent some time today on social media and I am sad that I lost touch with this kid.  He turned out to be exactly the type of young man I told him he would be one day.  He appeared to be living the dream be told me he would one day live, working around the motorcycles he always talked about in my office and in the halls of my school.  The love and sadness expressed on social media from those close to him further shows me that he truly lived life to its fullest and he touched many in ways I doubt he ever knew.  This news I received this morning has caused me many moments of devastatingly sad emotions today and has made me reflect on my practices as an administrator.

I wish I could tell him how he changed me as an administrator and as a person.  I wish he knew that seven years later I still think about the conversations we had all those years ago. I hope he knew he had people in his corner cheering for his successes long after he graduated high school.  I hope he knew we were proud of him and that he was indeed a game changer for many.

I started my day today hollering at my daughter because she didn’t get out of bed when she told me she was up and getting ready.  I am ending my day holding her a little tighter because today has reminded me that we are not promised tomorrow. Life is too short to start the day frustrated.   I will strive to live each and every day from now on showing my daughter and my kids at school that they mean the world to me and that I am proud of them.  I hope to never go to sleep again wondering if I made a big enough difference in the lives of those who have made a difference in mine.

Eternally Grateful

Four years ago this month, Mike Jasso offered me the opportunity to transition from a classroom teacher to a member of his administrative team at Coppell High School.  Over the course of the next 48 months the leadership experiences he would offer me would alter the course of my life forever.  I will be eternally grateful for his guidance, his patience, and his trust in me.  I am excited to share with you a bit about what I have learned from one of the greatest leaders I have ever known as he leaves us to continue his journey.

Things I have learned from Mike Jasso:

  • “Jassoing” 
    • When I think of Mike Jasso I think of the unique leadership style he has called “Jassoing”.  I cannot count the number of times I have come to Mike with a problem I needed guidance on.  I would present the problem and he would come back with something like “Well, what do you think?” or “Tell me a bit more about what you would do…”  Mike never flat out told you the solution to your answer.  He always guided you to your own conclusion.
    •  The best form of Jassoing was non-prompted.  I would be standing in the hallway and he would walk up to me, ask a question, and walk away only to return to the question the next time he saw me as he asked for my answer.  The question could be simple like “Have you ever thought”… or complex like, “When you have your own building, will you….”  These conversations have grown me so much as a leader and for this I will be eternally grateful.
  • The Importance of a Good Book
    • Mike didn’t really teach me the importance of a good book because I LOVE READING, but he did teach me that good leaders learn from others. He introduced me to one of my all time favorite leadership authors, Patrick Lencioni, and his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  This lead me to read his book The Advantage .  He gave our entire team John Miller’s QBQ for Christmas one year.  This was my FAVORITE gift that Christmas as it changed my world.  This year when we needed energy as a team, he rolled out a book study of John Gordon’s The Energy Bus  AND then every time I felt I was going a bit Energy Vampirish he would kindly remind me in a “Jassoing” way to bring the energy back up and not focus on the negative.  Reading is a big part of me.  It is a passion, a stress relief, a way that I reconnect with life and to have a mentor who supported and grew this part of me is something that I will be eternally grateful.
  • Embrace your introvert
    • Mike has taught me that it is okay to be an introverted leader.  It is okay to take time to quietly recharge away from others. Be true to who you are as a leader and do not try to be anyone that you are not.  Building relationships is key to being a successful leader, but this looks different for those leaders who are introverted.  Take the time to go door to door in the morning to ask about weekends or to check in on new grand-babies.  Take the time to connect with kids before school, to wave at parents as they drop their kids off in the morning, and take the time to reflect on the relationships.  Jasso encouraged me to embrace who I am and to be true to who I am.  He never asked me to change and for this I will be eternally grateful.
  • Remember who you are and where you came from
    • One of my most favorite memories is standing at AT&T Stadium one evening during football playoffs staring up at the stadium.  Mike looked at me and said “Did you ever think one day you would be here, an administrator at one of the best 6A high schools in the state of Texas?”  Mike and I come from similar backgrounds.  We both grew up small town country.  I look up to him for all he has accomplished in his career, how far he has come, and how many lives he has changed.  I especially admire that he never forgets where he came from and the importance of family.  This is something that I hold close to my heart and these lessons and reflections are something that I am eternally grateful.
  • Pay it forward
    • Mike Jasso has grown me, taught me, challenged me, given me freedom to mess up and correct on my own, provided me with opportunities for reflection, and offered praise and support throughout the last four years of my administrative career.  He has mentored me through good times and challenging times.  He has been and will continue no matter where he is to be an amazing mentor to me as I continue on with my journey.  It is my hope that one day, I will hire on a brand new straight out of the classroom AP and that I can take what I have learned and pass it on to that person so he or she can be as eternally grateful as I am.

Mr. Jasso, I wish you the best of luck on this next stage of your journey.  Your new district has no idea how blessed they are to learn from you, to be “Jassoed” by you, to grow with you.  Thank you for the difference you have made in my life.  For you, I will be forever eternally be grateful.



Blessed to Lead

This year, I have the honor of being the Dean of the math department at Coppell High School.  I get the opportunity to lead 28 educators as they facilitate learning for over 3,000 learners.  I get the opportunity to lead 28 educators while they dive into data to make informed decisions as they design learning experiences in collaborative teams.  I get the opportunity to lead 28 educators who are passionate about their content, passionate about kids, and passionate about helping learners who struggle to be successful.  I get to be a small part of the world of the most amazing 28 math educators you will ever meet.  As I reflect back on this year, I have lots to be thankful for and would like to spend a few moments sharing my thanks with all of you.

To Melissa Allen:  Thank you for the support you give our Alg 1 and Geometry teachers as you co-teach and facilitate math to learners who struggle more than others.  Thank you for the foundation you build and for cheering people on.  Thank you.

To James Behlen:  Thank you for taking the time to build relationships with all of your learners and making the time to ensure each and every learner knows you care.  Thank you.

To Michelle Bellish: Thank you for designing learning experiences centered around the needs of your learners and for giving them the opportunity to have a voice. Thank you.

To Nate Blackwell: Thank you for pushing your learners to dig deep and analyze as you provide them the support their need to be successful. Thank you.

To Jan Bourg: Thank you for your positive support and encouragement.  Thank you for believing in your kids and always encouraging them even when they feel they are falling behind. Thank you.

To Carra Brown: Thank you for never giving up on our learners who struggle the most!  Your never ending support is changing the lives of so many.  Thank you.

To Jessica Caviness: Thank you for your vision and always challenging your learners in a way that makes learning real world.  I love following #cavgeom on Twitter. Thank you.

To Dana DeLoach: Thank you for your passion and for the environment you create for your learners.  I always feel right at home when I step in your room.  Thank you.

To Eve Engelbrite: Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone and being willing to redesign experiences to support all your learners.  I am excited to see what’s next!  Thank you.

To Colleen Fex: Thank you for embracing all your learners and for making them feel welcome in your room even when they are no longer taking your class.  You care deeply and your relationships with our learners are game changers for many of them.  Thank you.

To Michael Fields: Thank you for challenging your learners and for always being available to support present and past learners.  Thank you.

To Jennifer Flores: Thank you for jumping right back in after maternity leave was up and for allowing your learners to understand you too are human.  Your connections you made on day one are connections that built some of the strongest relationships I have seen yet.  Thank you.

To Marie Flynn:  Thank you for coming back to CHS!  Your passion, drive, and design vision takes our department to the next level.  So excited to continue watching you grow into a seasoned educator.  Thank you.

To Lowell Johnson: Thank you for your purposeful lesson design which challenges some of our most challenging learners.  Your vision for what can be accomplished is never wavering as you push learners through their limits and beyond.  Thank you.

To Don Kemp: Thank you for your positive outlook on everything and the motivation you bring to learners and other members of our department.  Thank you.

To Karie Kosh:  Thank you for always smiling and for the encouragement and support you offer all your learners.  Your ability to conference with all to see how you can individually support everyone warms my heart.  Thank you.

To Blaine McBride:  Thank you for working closely with our learners who struggle in math.  Thank you for being an additional person they can lean on as you work to co-teach math.  Your support to all learners is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

To Tom Portteus: Thank you for challenging your learners to think at a deeper level while providing them with opportunities to support each other through collaborative work and reelection.  Thank you.

To Ivan Rasch: Thank you for taking the time to learn the stories of those learners who struggle the most.  I love the resources you have worked hard to ensure they have access to and the support you offer as early as 6:30 AM.  Thank you.

To Kirk Richardson:  Thank you for being our instructional coach and for helping all of us without a moment’s notice all while supporting your BC Calculus learners as well.  You unwavering support is noticed by all.  Thank you.

To Regan Richmond:  Thank you for your dedication to our learners and for investing in their futures.  Your support of me and my need for feedback is very appreciated as well. Thank you.

To Aylor Rix: Thank you for your creativity and willingness to grow.  Your dedication to your craft both in and out of the classroom is inspirational.  Thank you.

To Suzanne Shearin:  Thank you for being you!  Your authentic personality reaches so many learners and educators and makes us all want to try harder.  I appreciate always knowing you will offer legit feedback that helps me and others grow. Thank you.

To Ginger Smith: Thank you for showing your learners there is more than one way to learn math.  Allowing them the opportunities to show you how to learn is something that I will always appreciate.  Thank you.

To Ian VanderSchee:  Thank you for your vision and passion to support different levels of understanding through your flipped model.  Thank you.

To John Watkins:  Thank you for your leadership and for stepping up to support two of our new teachers to CHS.  The relationships you focus on both with your learners and with your colleagues is something that is noticed by all.  Thank you.

To Mary Jo Wilt: Thank you for finding ways to reach every single learner despite the barriers that are in place.  Your use of Google Translate still makes me smile. You are amazing!  Thank you.

To Michle Zugaro: Thank you for always being positive no matter the situation.  Your positive attitude rubs off on everyone around you and your learners gain confidence because of it.  Thank you.

I would be remiss to forget to thank our Director of Math Mathematics so to Mary Kemper: Thank you for offering me feedback as I learn the world of math and for answering my silly questions.  Your support to our department means so much to us.  Thank you.

My department is amazing and I am so blessed that Mr. Jasso gave me the opportunity to lead this amazing group of mathematic leaders!


reachI had SO much fun today kicking off our first session of R.E.A.C.H.  (Reflective Educators Achieve Connections Here).  REACH is a spinoff of iLead ,a PLC for team leads, focused on building leadership capacity at CHS.  This year, I was charged with taking the concept behind iLead and revamping it to focus beyond just team leads by creating PL for all aspiring leaders centered around building leadership capacity.  Once I sat down, it became apparent that there was already a framework to work with as our district has designed a Leadership Framework, complete with tenets and practices we believe all leaders should exemplify.  So REACH was born, and today we began diving into the leadership framework as we all strive to grow as leaders through reflection.

Sixteen educators ( first year to been here a while) came together for an hour and had authentic conversations about leadership and what characteristics make a good leader.  We started off our conversations with the following question.

  • Outside of this building, Who is a leader you consider to be one of the best?

Each REACH participant had the opportunity to share the story behind who they picked and the reason behind the choice.  Some of the people that were shared were family members who have solid emotional connections, questioning instead of ordering, guiding instead of pulling, consistent with beliefs and loyal.  John and Kevin talked about Southwest Airline bosses and how they challenge employees to excel never asking their employees to do something they would not do themselves.  The word selfless leadership was used numerous times by numerous people.  Teachers were mentioned including our very own (no longer in the building) John Robinson and his quote of “You can spiral people up or spiral people down” reminding us to not let your attitude bring people down.  Two of our math educators talked about administration at different schools.  Discussing leaders who takes time to get to know all staff and the ability to really LISTEN, showing they truly care about all.  Katiness Everdeen was discussed with her ability for people to naturally follow her even though she did not seek to be a leader and Martin Luther King Jr with his vision for the future.  Our conversation was wrapped up with Scott Shelby shouting out Adrian Beltre, the Texas Ranger’s 3rd baseman who creates an atmosphere where people can enjoy themselves while pushing for results.  The neatest thing about this conversation is all of the characteristics that we discussed are all a part of our CISD Leadership Framework.

The second part of our session allowed us to dig deep into the six tenets of the CISD Leadership Framework.  We discussed the tenets of Attitude and Responsibility, Mutual Respect, Communication, Growth Mindset, Knowledge and Skills, and Building Capacity and the descriptors that go with them.  We also identified leaders in our building who exude these tenets and what they stand for.

HUGE SHOUT OUT to ALL the Current CHS Educators we discussed.  Thank you for leading CHS.

The conversation we had reenforced to me why I want to continue to grow leaders!  Hearing about the amazing things happening at CHS reminds me why I am blessed to work with the best.

Finishing up our meeting, we all committed to growing in Leadership this year. My notes are really messy, so some of these are my own words from what I can decipher.

  • Melissa (That’s Me) committed to Cultivating Leadership in Others
  • Sandy committed to accepting the things she cannot change and being vulnerable and open.
  • John committed to selfless service
  • Kevin committed to understanding and buying into the common vision
  • Sorelle committed to facilitating growth in choppy seas
  • Holly committed to mutual respect, letting go and growing
  • Donna committed to cultivating the potential in others
  • Jessica committed to getting to know people
  • Aylor committed to taking opportunities to lead by serving others
  • Brooke committed to remain goal oriented while being flexible
  • Carra committed to better communication
  • Amanda committed to taking initiative in her team’s “we should do that” list
  • Clara committed to servant leadership by choice not accident
  • Scott committed to cultivating student leadership
  • Linda committed to cultivating the leadership of others specifically our work-based learners
  • Mike (the boss) committed to establishing a clear vision and increasing leadership in others.

All in All…REACH Session one was a success!  I am looking forward to cultivating leadership in others by holding them accountable for growth in the areas they are committed to growing in.  Join us for our next REACH session on October 12th as we dive into the first few practices of the Leadership Framework.

My Bigmama

This week, I received news I knew has been coming since January.  News that my Bigmama (my dad’s mom) is in the final stages of her life.  She has dementia and it is time.  Hospice comes every day now and on Tuesday they told us probably 48 hours.  When the 48 hours was up they told us “Probably by the end of the week.”  Well, it is now Sunday, the start of the new week and here we sit.  Waiting.  Waiting for the inevitable.  Waiting for my Bigmama to join my Bigdaddy and to never feel the pain she is currently feeling ever again.  Waiting and wondering why the person who I love more than pretty much anything in this world is lying there just waiting.  The person, I named my only child after, is dying and nothing can be done.  And to me, someone who seeks answers to everything, I am struggling to understand that medicine cannot fix this horrific disease.  Being seven hours away from home during a time like this is probably the hardest thing I have had to endure.   Hearing that my family is gathering to share memories and comfort each other and knowing that I am here is hard.  My husband, my daughter, and my close friends know my struggles, but the rest of the world just hears “my grandmother is dying” because this is how I have to deal with my grief so I don’t fall  a part.  So, since I cannot fix this and I must focus on something positive, I reflect.  I reflect on the memories that I have so I can remember her beyond what is her current reality.  And I want to reflect today on my Blog because I want others to know who my Bigmama is to me.

My Bigmama loves deeply.   She is probably the most loyal person I have ever met.  She would give the coat off of her back to someone in need without a second thought.  She loves her family and she will not ever let you leave her home or get off the phone without knowing how she felt.  I can feel her arms around me squeezing and telling me “I love you so much.  You will never know how much.”  The last time I was home and she was in and out of clear understanding, I told her I loved her and she smiled and whispered, “You will never know how much.”  What a gift that was to me.  One final understanding that no matter what this disease is doing to her she knows her love for me.

My Bigmama was a cooker.  Man could that woman cook.  One of my favorite smells will always be walking into my Bigmama’s house because you could always guarantee that she was cooking something.  Her sugar cookies cannot be beat.   I have tried!  Her pinto beans are amazing and no matter how hard I try, I cannot make mine come out like hers.  Her chili, her enchiladas, her biscuits…  Oh those biscuits.  When she started getting sick, Bigdaddy took over making of the biscuits and whereas they were good too, they were not quite as amazing as hers even though I would never tell him that.

My Bigmama could sing.  Some of my favorite memories were of Sunday Morning, when we would sing from that Red Baptist Hymnal book.  I get great comfort in knowing that soon she will be reunited with MaryAnn,  Arlene, and Mrs. Kelly up in heaven and they will be singing with Angels.  I can’t wait for Jesus to hear them belt out “In the Garden” and “The Old Rugged Cross”.  One day…I will hear that again and that brings me comfort.

My Bigmama was home.  Living down the hill from your grandparents allows for a second home anytime you wanted it.  My Bigdaddy and Bigmama’s house was my home too.  If I wasn’t at home, the first place my parents looked was their house.  Usually you could find me in the kitchen talking or helping her cook.  Sometimes I would sit and watch her iron my Bigadaddy’s shirts and the sheets.  Why did she iron sheets?  I still don’t know the answer to this, but she did.

My Bigmama Loved MJ.  I will never forget when I told her I was pregnant and let her know that I would be naming her after her.  I knew MJ would be a girl because I wanted a girl to be her namesake.  When I was pregnant with MJ and she was so tiny and not growing, my Bigmama spent hours in prayer praying for her and worried…Man that woman could worry for those she loved.  One of my favorite memories is one of the last memories I have where she was not showing any signs of declining.  MJ was a toddler and we went home to visit.  Bigmama climbed in the floor with her and held a baby doll to her chest.  She asked MJ “Do you want my baby.”  She played with my baby like she played with me.


Reflecting on my moments with my Bigmama brings me comfort.  Knowing that soon she will join my Bigdaddy and sing to Jesus brings me comfort.  Pepsi brings me comfort because it was my Bigdaddy’s favorite coke to drink.  Close up toothpaste and all it’s nastiness brings me comfort because it is the toothpaste Bigmama used.  Freedent gum, the smell of that purple bottled perfume, aquanet hairspray, and the smell of clothes freshly dry from being hung on the close line all bring me comfort.

One of my co-workers once told me that those who go before us live through us.  I hope and pray that I will make my Bigdaddy and my Bigmama proud by living life the way they did.  Devoting my life to others, loving my family, and never wavering from my faith.

Bigmama and I do not say goodbye.  We say “See you later.”  So I end this post by saying thanks for reading my blog and allowing me to share with you a little about the person I love more than anything.

“See you later.”

This Week Choose Joy


It’s that time of the year again…Time for the next round of EOC testing.  Instead of being reflective of the week after the fact, I thought I would take a moment to write a post that can maybe help you frame your take on this week.  In true EOC blog fashion here are a few numbers to look forward to for this week.

This week we will do the following:

  • Test 2,294 learners over the course of 2 days for the STAAR EOC
  • Fill 215 Proctor slots over the course of 2 days  (more once we figure out the make up sessions) for the STAAR EOC
  • Support 3,228 as we continue school despite it being a testing week

As I look at those numbers that are ahead of me this week, I can’t deny that it makes me break out into a cold sweat.  That is a lot of pressure for one 5’2 (and 3 quarters) AP to handle!  Then…I tell myself, “Self!  (ha)  You don’t have to do this alone.  You have the BEST team in the world to support you!”  So here I am, at 9:21 on a Sunday night writing to you, a pep blog.  A blog that is going to “Pump You UP”.  A blog that is going to make you So excited to be a part of my week that you cannot wait to get to school on Monday.  A blog that is going to beg you to remind me that this week, WE CHOOSE JOY no matter what circumstance might arise.

My favorite quote of all times is”Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”  I can’t help but think as we approach this week, how this quote is appropriate.  This week has potential to try our patience.  It has potential to make us grumpy.  It has potential to stress us out. But on the flip side of this, it also has potential to be fun.  It has potential to allow you the opportunity to support.  To support your kids.  To support your fellow teachers.  To support me.  This week you get to choose.  Are you going to allow this week to make you grumpy or are you going to allow this week to be outstanding?

For me….. joy  Will you join me?

Thank you in advance for your support, for your positiveness, for your willingness to jump in and help us out!  I look forward to a week of joy and seeing how you bring joy to not only each other, but to your students as well.

Love my CHS Family!





Thank you for being Part of my Village

My good friend, Michelle Kellen, once said “It takes a village to test EOC exams at CHS”.  At the time, I was sitting in the lecture hall as a member of the English department not truly understanding exactly how big of a village it took to successfully organize, administer, and pack up the EOC exams at CHS.   Now, as the Assistant Principal in charge of the EOC tests, I look forward to painting a clearer picture to those of you who have chosen to read my blog.  I must pause here to apologize to my dear friend, Anthony Poullard, as I have seriously failed at his blogging challenge.  If you read my one and only other blog this apology will make sense.  Sorry, Anthony.  Life got in the way.  No excuse, but it is the only one I have at this moment.  Now, back to my village!

Here are a few numbers that I have compiled for your reading pleasure.  Over the last week, while successfully keeping those who were not testing on a normal school day schedule,  CHS administered the English 1 and English 2 Staar EOC exam.  During this time we did the following:

  • 1,739 Learners tested
  • 1,711 took a paper version of the test
  • 28 Learners took an online version of the test
  • 167 proctor slots were filled over the course of two days ensuring that the 1:30 ratio was met at all times
  • 105 hall monitors monitored the testing areas during their Team or conference period
  • 7 Assistant Principals, 1 Associate Principal, 1 Principal, and 9 counselors gave up huge blocks of their day to ensure the testing environment was secure and this very tired testing coordinator could breathe a little easier
  • 1 Principal (I know I mentioned him already, but this warrants a bullet point of its own) STOLE MY KEYS! More to come on this later…
  • An entire school searched desperately for said keys for over 4 hours
  • 1 AMAZING Director of Advanced Academics and liaison to CHS continued to be a hands on supporter of our school and my person
  • 1 understanding Director of Assessment was always available to help in a moments notice
  • 1 awesome secretary kept me sane
  • 1 Adorable little girl and 1 understanding husband supported me through my crazy organization, late nights, little sleep, and overall grumpiness when things got challenging.

Now is the part of the blog where I show gratitude to all the people mentioned in the above list because without these people I would not have a village.

To the best administration team I have ever had the privilege of working with: Thank you for all of your support.  Thank you, Sean Bagley, for giving up time with your family to come up and help me on the weekend and for being the first one on the radio in the morning to see where I needed you.  Thank you, Ryan Lam, for ROCKING the organization of the gym set up and taking the stress of that completely off of me! Thank you, Anthony Poullard, for doing that crazy displaced list for the upstairs D hall teachers.  Thank you, Jeremy and Jamila, for taking on the task of proctoring oral administration and for taking care of my small group area.  Thank you,Sherri Hankins, for being my person!  Thank you, Kayla Parker, for being available and for always offering to bring me coffee in the morning.  Thank you, Mike Jasso, for keeping my keys safe while the whole school (you included) searched frantically for them! 🙂  I’ll quit using it against you now.  Thank you all for all you do!  #CHSweareone

To the amazing counselors at CHS: Thank you for dropping everything at a moments notice when I realized I forgot to have people in the testing areas to verify documents and booklets when testing was complete.  Thank you for organizing the answer documents and the booklets after testing was complete.  Thank you for overseeing the testing environments to ensure all was smooth.  Thank you for all you do!  #CHSweareone

To the administrative assistant staff at CHS: Thank you for always being a radio call away for help!  Thank you, Patcee, for organizing subs so we could have teachers proctor.  Thank you, Carol Green, (even though you are not at CHS) for being a phone call away when I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on with Excel.  Amy Stroh, words cannot ever express my gratitude for you.  You are AMAZING and I am so glad that I am blessed to have you as my assistant.  Thank you thank you thank you for just being you!   And thank you all for dropping everything and helping me retrace my steps a million times searching for my keys Jasso was taking care of for me.  (last time I swear…)  Thank you for all you do!  #CHSweareone

To Deana Harrell, Director of Advanced Academics and Liaison to CHS:  I have no words for what you do for us.  All I can say is you showed up when we needed you the most and you always wore such amazing shoes!  Thank you for being my person and for always being there when anyone at CHS needs you.  When I grow up, I want to be just like you!  Thank you for all you do! #CHSweareone

To Debbie Youngs, Director of Assessment for CISD:  Thank you for your organization which makes my life so much easier.  Thank you for always being a phone call away.  Thank you for allowing me to vent when I thought the new system was going to make me do more than just throw an eraser and cuss.  #bringbackpearson should be a real thing…I’m just saying.  Thank you for all you do! #CHSweareone

To Cathy Johnson, Arresha Robinson, Tammy Goolsby and Shauna Carter: Thank you.  Thank you from the  bottom of my heart… THANK YOU!  #CHSweareone

To Blake and Makayla Arnold: Y’all are my rock.  Without your support all the above mentioned would not happen.  I love you both with all my heart.  MJ…Thank you for helping with pencils!  I put this in there to place an adorable picture of my daughter for all of you to see.MJ helping

Finally…I thank the best staff a girl could ever have the honor of working beside.

Thank you CHS Educators for all of your efforts in ensuring this testing session was as smooth as it could be.  Thank you for proctoring, for actively monitoring and for the pep talks you gave the kids. Thank you for your patience with me over the last two weeks.  Thank you for always being there to have my back when I needed the support even if it was without a moments notice.  Thank you for the kind words you would shower me with when you saw me in the halls.  Thank you for being my village.  Thank you for ALL that you do! #CHSweareone

Our theme this year at CHS is CHS: One School One Family.  As I was cleaning up the testing room this afternoon, I could not help but reflect on how true this theme is for us.  Family drops whatever they are doing when a member of that family is in need.  Family listens when a member needs to throw things and scream because the system is down the day before the test and the tickets have not been printed for the sessions.  Family searches when one of their own loses something.  🙂  Family brings food, Sonic, and Starbucks during go time to ensure everyone is full and hydrated.  Family loves big.  Thank you for being a part of my family!  I LOVE my family.

If you made it all the way to the end of this blog I am crazy impressed!  Until next time…THANK YOU!














My Moments…

Welcome to my blog!  I am excited about the journey my good friend, Anthony Poullard, has challenged our entire administration staff to begin this year.  My hope is that I will have several moments to share with anyone who is interested in learning from the moments I have available to reflect and post.  This first post that I am publishing is going to be the who am I post so you see a bit into my reality.

I am blessed to be part of the lives of my two favorite people in the world.  My husband, Blake and my daughter, Makayla Joyce (MJ)  mean the world to me. I wake up every day ready to take on the world in hopes of making it a better place for MJ to grow up in.  MJ keeps me on my toes and I predict a few blog posts in her honor soon.

I am a believer and will always believe in the love Jesus gives us.  I raise my daughter up to believe the same and I must say, MJ loves Jesus and she is not ashamed to show it.  This makes me feel like I have done at least one thing right in this crazy world we live in.

I am loyal to a fault.  I love with all my heart and soul.  My family and friends mean the world to me and I will do anything in order to protect them.

I am dedicated to growth.  This year marks my eleventh year in education.  I have been blessed with amazing opportunities to grow in my profession which has taken me from a classroom educator to an Assistant Principal.  I believe in life long learning and putting in the time to grow as I look forward to the challenges which are ahead.

I am quiet in many different settings.  I am not quiet because I am not listening and I am not quiet because I am not a nice person.   It is just the opposite actually.  By nature, I am introverted and I prefer to stay back and observe.  When I speak it is usually after spending much time reflecting and thinking through my reflections numerous times.  It is uncomfortable to me when I am in the an unfamiliar place to be the center of attention.

I am a reader.  If I had to choose between  reading a good book and doing anything else, I can guarantee I would choose the  book.  This might be the introvert in me coming out.

I am a big dork when it comes to pretty much anything education related.  I LOVE MY JOB!  I love being around teenagers and helping make a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.  I love the smell of school supplies.  I love the sound of the music in the halls as kids hurry to their next class.  I look forward to spreading my love of education with many people over the course of my career and I hope in turn I will inspire some to become educators themselves so they can continue on this journey that I am traveling.

I am a country girl living in the big cityI was raised on an alfalfa and cattle farm in New Mexico where my dad taught us the value of hard work and family.  Without the lessons he instilled in me from an early age, I do not believe I would be here today.  I will cherish the memories I have from when I was living on the farm forever and I love the moments I can spend there now teaching MJ how to get dirty and have fun country style.

I am excited to keep adding to this blog as moments become available which need the attention of a blog post.  I hope you enjoy reading moments on fire with Melissa.