By: Erica Fatima
Benjamin Song! “Ben,” as his friends call him, appeared unflappable as he spelled “V-I-G-I-L-A-N-T-E” and secured the victory after nine harrowing rounds of spelling. Ben, a fifth grader at Brandon ES, will represent Atlanta Public Schools in the District 4 Bee, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 27, at North Atlanta High School.
Upon being declared the winner, Ben exclaimed, “This is great! I can’t believe I won! At first I wasn’t going to participate in the Bee, but my teacher, Ms. Brown, said that I should try; so I did and I won. Wow!”
When asked how he practiced, Ben stated, “I see the words in my head. I visualize them and then spell them in my hand before I spell them out loud. I can actually see [words] them.”
More than 35 schools were represented at APS’ 55th Annual Spelling Bee, including several APS charter schools. The event took place Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the Lester W. Butts Auditorium at Frederick Douglass High School.
“I am so proud of Ben and all of my students,” Brandon ES teacher, Ms. Brown said. “I assigned the spelling list to the entire class as homework for the week, no exceptions. Ben initially didn’t want to participate, but once he started practicing he began to show real interest; and now here we are—he’s representing the entire system! I’m so proud of him!”
Maya Ratchev, from Jackson ES, was named the second-place finalist; showing great spelling prowess as she advanced to the final round.
Spelling the words kabuki, juggernaut, vulnerable and triumvirate, the top four APS spelling champions: Harris Romas Tsiotras, Morningside ES; Timothy Salter Sliger, Springdale Park ES, will also attend the District 4 Bee. Kayla Mickens, Long MS will serve as the alternate.
Bee winners, left to right: Harris Romas Tsiotras, Morningside ES; Timothy Salter Sliger, Spingdale Park ES; Maya Ratchev, Jackson ES; Benjamin Song, Brandon ES
Dr. Zackory Kirk, APS Literacy Coordinator for grades 6-12, and this year’s spelling bee coordinator stated,“The spelling bee is a great opportunity to recognize some of our most studious learners. It also builds community within classrooms and schools while incorporating the family and community into the work of educating the whole child.”
Special thanks to this year’s distinguished judges:
- Bee Master-Dr. Deborah Stephens-Lattimore (APS Speech Pathologist);
- Head Judge-Cheryl Collier (President, Atlanta Association of Black Journalist);
- Dictionary Judge-Natasha Daniels (Senior Council Aide at City of Atlanta);
- Listening Judge-Dr. Aleigha Henderson-Rosser (APS Executive Director, Instructional Technology);
- Scoring Judge-Melissa Davis (APS Science Coordinator, K-5);
- Recording Judge-Marcus Bivines, Esq. (APS HR Training & Communications Specialist).
“Congratulations to all of our spelling juggernauts. We wish Ben and our four APS Bee winners great success in the next competition,” -Atlanta Public Schools.
The top two finalists from District 4 will advance to the state spelling bee, which will be held on Monday, March 18, at Zoo Atlanta. The state winner will then advance to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C., which began in 1925.
Contributing writer: Alicia Sands Lurry
By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Imagine visiting the Galapagos Islands, the rainforests of South America, the canals in Italy, and the surface of Mars – all in one afternoon.
That is exactly what 120 third, fourth, and fifth graders from John Hope-Charles Walter Hill Elementary School experienced on Friday, Feb. 5. The students “traveled” to various field trips around the world – thanks to the Expeditions Pioneer Program, a virtual reality platform built for the classroom and designed to be incorporated with teachers’ lesson plans. Powered by Google, the app-based program immerses students in entirely new experiences through cardboard viewers. With the use of a tablet, teachers serve as virtual tour guides to take their students on journeys.
Hope-Hill Elementary was among the first schools in Atlanta to unveil the technology to students and teachers. In addition to students, teachers and Google representatives, State Superintendent Richard Woods and his staff also stopped by to see the demonstration.
Fourth graders like Mikayla Westbrook and Ashara Parker couldn’t wait to take an expedition. The two girls spent most their time peering wide-eyed through the cardboard viewers, which resembled goggles, while they viewed images of natures, as well as the moon’s surface.
“I was on the moon,” 9-year-old Ashara squealed with delight. “It was fun and creepy at the same time.”
“I saw two people standing behind me,” Mikayla, 10, said in disbelief. “It was creepy because they were staring at me.”
Their classmate, Jennifer Ramirez, was mesmerized by the experience.
“It’s fun,” said the 9-year-old fourth grader, while viewing the busy streets of New York City. “You get to be on the moon and go other places, too.”
Hope-Hill Principal Maureen Wheeler was just as excited.
“This is huge,” Wheeler said of the Expeditions program. “It exposes kids to things they may not see in their lifetime. The great thing about it is they don’t realize they’re learning. What I love is that it takes learning to a new level. It makes school fun and engaging.”
During the demonstration, fifth-grade teacher Monica Jones guided her class through expeditions, where they viewed everything from coral reefs, sharks and jelly fish, to volcanoes, land forms, and New York City.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to explore and feel like they’ve actually been to these places,” Jones said of the demonstration. “As a teacher, it allows me to tailor a lesson they can learn from and enjoy, and does my heart good to know they love it.”
State Superintendent Woods said he hopes to use the technology as a tool to advance and support student learning throughout grades K-12.
“There’s so much we can expose students to, and this technology opens a whole new world to them,” Woods said. “It actually goes beyond the classrooms, and proves that you don’t have to have four walls for kids to learn. It’s wonderful to see this level of excitement and engagement.”
For John Childs, a former Hope-Hill Elementary teacher, the program has endless possibilities.
“Students are getting virtual field trips to places they may not normally see,” said Childs, whose afterschool program, Mental Fitness, works with Hope-Hill and other Atlanta Public Schools to provide students with science technology, engineering, art and mathematics activities. “This is standards-based, visual learning that helps students learn even more. This should be a staple in every school, at every grade level.”
Black History Month remains an important time to honor the heritage of African-Americans; and APS has some significant connections with the civil rights movement. Atlanta Public Schools has had many famous students, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lena Horne, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Nipsey Russell and others.
The district’s Museum Curator, Cathy Loving, sat down with us to give us a small glimpse into some of the connections that APS has with the civil rights movement in this video.
Maynard H. Jackson Principal Named Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals’ “Principal of the Year”
The Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP) announced Monday that Stephanie Johnson, principal of Maynard H. Jackson High School in Atlanta Public Schools, has been named “Principal of the Year.” Johnson was surprised with the news on Monday from GASSP and APS leaders.
“School administrators in Georgia, as well as the entire nation are extremely proud of Stephanie’s accomplishments at Maynard H. Jackson High School,” said Melton Callahan, executive director of GASSP. “On behalf of Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti from the National Association of Secondary School Principals and GASSP, we are pleased to recognize outstanding school principals like Stephanie who personify excellence in providing quality leadership to their school communities.”
The honor recognizes principals who excel in educational leadership; while resolving complex problems, developing self and others and providing community service.
“A respected neighborhood high school like Maynard H. Jackson High School demands the leadership of an exciting, dynamic educator at the helm,” said Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D. “With Principal Stephanie Johnson, this school has such a leader many times over. And, I am thrilled that Principal Johnson is getting the recognition that she deserves, so we salute her for this deserving honor from the state.”
Johnson has been a high school principal for 10 years, including four at Maynard H. Jackson. She will represent Georgia for the National School Principal of the Year award during a ceremony this September in Washington, DC.
“It is a great honor to be recognized by GASSP as Principal of the Year,” said Johnson. “The strength of education comes from strong leadership. I appreciate the opportunity to have such a great career where I can grow as a leader and help give students an opportunity to transform their lives and become successful adults.”
In addition to the state Principal of the Year honor, Jackson has recently received the following awards: Georgia State Principal Center’s 2015 Joe Richardson Principal of the Year; 2014-15 Principal of the Year for Atlanta Families’ Excellence in Education Awards; and 2015 Office of the Secretary of Defense Leadership Award for Employer Supporter of the Guard and Reserve.
Johnson was surprised with the announcement by her family, Superintendent Carstarphen and a host of colleagues and friends.
By Seth Coleman
It’s Super Bowl Weekend and in honor of the 50th anniversary of the big game, the National Football League has created an initiative in which any player who has ever participated in a Super Bowl can request a “golden football” to present to his former high school: the NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll.
Over the last half century, Atlanta Public Schools has been well represented in the Super Bowl. Sylvan High School alum William Judson played with the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowls XVII (1983) and XIX (1985). However, Sylvan no longer exists as a high school (it is now a middle school); therefore on Friday, he presented his NFL Golden Football to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen. It will be placed in the district’s trophy case.
“The lessons I learned from my mother, a teacher in APS, and all of my teachers and coaches prepared me for success,” Judson said during his presentation in the Center for Learning and Leadership auditorium. “My high school is no longer there, so I wanted to present my Golden Football to the whole school district.”
During the presentation, Judson thanked and honored his former classmates and teammates, many of whom were in the audience, as well as his youth football coach, Charles Rambo, and his coach at Sylvan, Willie Hunter – a legendary coach and teacher who help desegregate intramural sports at Sylvan in the early 1970s.
Along with presenting the Golden Football to APS, Judson has submitted a grant to the NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll grant program, which gives $500 to $5,000 gifts to local high schools on behalf of former Super Bowl participants. Grant winners will be announced in the coming weeks.
Other APS Super Bowl alums acknowledged during the presentation include:
Richard Dent, Murphy High School (now Crim High School), Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX (20)
Bucky Dilts, Dykes High School (now Sutton Middle School), Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XII (12)
Jamal Lewis, Douglass High School, Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl XXXV (35)
Earthwind Moreland, Grady High School, New England Patriots, XXXIV (34)
Frank Pitts, Archer High School (now the Archer Transition Building), Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl I (1) and Super Bowl IV (4)
Reggie Wilkes, Southwest High School (now Jean Childs Young Middle School), Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl XV (15)
Carlton Williamson, Brown High School (now Brown Middle School), San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XVI (16) and Super Bowl XIX (19)
Sam Wyche, North Fulton High School (now North Atlanta High School), Washington Redskins (Player), Super Bowl VII (7); Cincinnati Bengals (Coach), Super Bowl XXIII (23)
“We are so grateful to William Judson for this special honor, and for his loyalty, devotion and love of Atlanta Public Schools,” APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen said. “He and all of these men are fine representatives of Atlanta Public Schools, and provide great examples for our young men to follow.”