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Primaries Demystified Page 17

spring 2012 |

ATPE answers your voting questions—and introduces the ultimate voting resource,



A heads up on new contract language Page 15 • 2012 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Stephanie Stoebe Page 24

Introducing the ATPE Mobile App! Take ATPE with you wherever you go

Stay up-to-date on education news • Carry your mobile membership card • Access ATPE’s valuable services and discounts • And more!

ATPE leaders—the app features exclusive content just for you! • Monthly checklists for local unit management • Forms for requesting Speakers Bureau presentations, reordering materials, submitting officer lists and more • The latest issue of ATPE Leader

Download the ATPE Mobile App for FREE through iTunes or the Android Market. Have another type of smartphone? Point your browser to to access our new mobile site.

Primaries S p r i n g

2 0 1 2


3 2



24 17 features

special sections

17  The primaries

34  Celebrating the Whole Educator

Heads up on new contract language Page 15 • 2012 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Stephanie Stoebe Page 24


 The saga of Texas’ primaries—delayed

Cover illustration and stoebe photo by john kilpper; learning in transit photo courtesy of bill griffin


elections, conflicting district maps, court hearings, partisan vitriol—is a muddled mess. ATPE sorts through the confusion and answers your questions. Plus: ATPE introduces, the ultimate resource for Texas voters who prioritize education.

at the ATPE Summit Join us July 14–16 for professional learning, ATPE leader training and the annual meeting of the ATPE House of Delegates. Featured speakers include Food Network personality Chef Jeff Henderson and Drs. Harry and Rosemary Wong. 36 Your Association Meet the Extreme Classroom Makeover winners · 29-year staff member retires · Save on spring break · Plan for your future with insurance products · ATPE Foundation news · ATPE tenet focus: Member-owned, member-governed · Kudos · Family Album · ATPE-PAC Honor Roll

24 Plus est en vous  “ There is more in you.” The words of Stephanie Stoebe’s sixth-grade teacher continue to inspire the Round Rock ATPE member as she advocates for educators as the 2012 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.

departments 4 President’s Message

10 In the Classroom

5 Web Bytes

13 Para-educators’ Place

7 Calendar

14 Tech Support

8 News Briefs

47 Snip-its

30 Learning in transit

spring 2012

I t’s one thing to read about the Battle of the Alamo; it’s another to walk the same ground as Davy Crockett and William B. Travis. Stanton ATPE member Bill Griffin has realized his longtime goal of founding a nonprofit that facilitates learning beyond the classroom.

columns 15  Legal Opinions A heads up on new contract language 16 Capitol Comment It's time to Teach the Vote | 3

president’s message

The official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators


As I write this, we don’t YET know when the 2012 Texas primaries will take place. They’re currently scheduled for April 3, but voter registrars and your ATPE Governmental Relations team aren’t holding their breath. (Should a more certain date be set before you receive this magazine, ATPE will have spread the word.) The messy redistricting process—in which both sides have been accused of drawing lines to partisan advantage—has nearly derailed this election cycle. As I follow redistricting, I’m struck by the relevance of ATPE’s approach. It’s hard to characterize these battles as anything but partisan, and ATPE has always advocated for moving past partisanship and focusing on the issues. One of our tenets is issues-oriented advocacy. We don’t care whether there’s a D, R, L, G or I after your name as long as you are willing to listen to educator input and place student needs first. We just endured one legislative session in which school funding was slashed; how much more can we take? We must seek and support pro-public education candidates. To that end, ATPE proudly introduces, a website where any Texas voter can research candidates’ education stances. ATPE has compiled a profile page for each known candidate using responses to ATPE’s candidate surveys, voting records and other public information. ATPE does not endorse candidates, so you won’t find endorsements on the site, but you will find information about the issues of consequence to Texas educators as well as ATPE’s positions on those issues. Please review the candidates in your area thoroughly and determine who you think will prioritize public education. I encourage you to share with your families, friends and colleagues. I also ask that you share this magazine with those who don’t work in public education. It contains two stories of extraordinary educators—professionals who, like you, are dedicated to the ultimately nonpartisan endeavor of helping students succeed. Stanton ATPE member Bill Griffin has realized his longtime dream of founding a nonprofit that facilitates educational experiences beyond the classroom. Round Rock ATPE member Stephanie Stoebe, Texas’ 2012 Secondary Teacher of the Year, has turned a career as an Army interrogator into a life dedicated to working with at-risk students. (Also, check out Be Proud, Texas! at ATPE is involved with this campaign to publicize success in Texas public schools.) Bill, Stephanie, you, me: We all deserve lawmakers who respect our work and recognize how critical it is to our state’s future. The only way we can achieve that goal is by telling the amazing success stories of our public schools—and persuading others to cast votes that support public education.

Cheryl Buchanan, ATPE State President 4 |

Cheryl Buchanan Deann Lee Ginger Franks Richard Wiggins David de la Garza

President, Ballinger (15) Vice President, Paris (8) Secretary, Nacogdoches Co. (7) Treasurer, Boerne (20) Past President, Northside (20)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Amancio Garza Edinburg (1) Jackie Hannebaum Corpus Christi (2) Jan Womack Goliad (3) Ann Petrillo Houston (4) Bill Moye Warren (5) Brenda Lynch Huntsville (6) Vacant Vacant (7) Rita Long Mount Vernon (8) Kristi Daws Jacksboro (9) Dab Johnson Mesquite (10) David Williams Keller (11) Julleen Bottoms Corsicana (12) Greg Vidal Pflugerville (13) Marsha Exum Abilene (14) Sarah Beal Coleman County (15) Shane Whitten Amarillo (16) Lynette Ginn Hale Center (17) Teresa Griffin Stanton (18) Socorro Lopez San Elizario (19) Sandra de Leon Northside (20)


Doug Rogers Executive Director Alan Bookman Deputy Executive Director Laura Sheridan Associate Executive Director


Doug Rogers Executive Editor Kate Johanns Communications Manager/ Editor John Kilpper Senior Graphic Designer Mandy Curtis Senior Copy Editor/Writer Erica Fos Graphic Designer/ Advertising Coordinator Tacy Stephens Copy Editor/Writer Cam Todd Multimedia Designer ATPE News (ISSN 0279-6260) is published quarterly in fall, winter, spring and summer. Subscription rates: for members of the association, $3.32 per year (included in membership dues); non-members, $10 per year. Extra copies $1.25 each. Published by the Association of Texas Professional Educators, 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin, TX, 78752-3792. Periodical Postage Paid at Austin, Texas and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to ATPE News, 305 E. Huntland Dr., #300, Austin, TX, 78752-3792. Advertising rates may be obtained by sending a written request to the above address. Opinions expressed in this publication represent the attitude of the contributor whose name appears with the article and are not necessarily the official policy of ATPE. ATPE reserves the right to refuse advertising contrary to its purpose. Copyright 2012 in USA by the Association of Texas Professional Educators ISSN © ATPE 2012 0279-6260 USPS 578-050

web bytes

ATPE provides job-related information at

© Teacher with papers/Comstock/Thinkstock; Sign Here/iStockphoto/Thinkstock; Janitor posing with mop/; computer monitor/istockphoto/Thinkstock

Planning and prep According to Texas law, all classroom teachers are entitled to at least 450 minutes every two weeks for instructional preparation, which includes conducting parentteacher conferences, evaluating students’ work and planning lessons. When it comes to teacher planning and preparation time, make sure you know your rights.

Para-educator privileges

Contract basics

The rights of support personnel can differ greatly from those of certified employees. Read up on the employment rights for support personnel protected by the national Fair Labor Standards Act.

An educator’s contract is the single most important determiner of rights within employment; learn how contracts govern and define what an educator can expect or demand from his district and what his district can expect or demand from him.

Request help Have a question for the ATPE Member Legal Services Department? Eligible ATPE members can request assistance through the online Member Legal Services Intake System (MLSIS).

T h e

ATPE Vision

spring 2012

ATPE is the preeminent public educator association in Texas and makes a difference in the lives of educators and schoolchildren. In partnership with all stakeholders, we are committed to providing every child an equal opportunity to receive an exemplary public education. | 5


Thinking of Buying a Home? The Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation offers two programs to help first-time homebuyers become homeowners. The Professional Educators Home Loan Program provides a 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan to eligible firsttime homebuyers* and a grant for down payment and closing cost assistance. The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Program provides eligible first-time homebuyers* with an annual tax credit. The qualified homebuyer is eligible to take a portion of the annual interest they paid on the mortgage as a special tax credit of up to $2,000 each year they occupy the home as their principal residence. The MCC Program has the potential of saving the homebuyer thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

*To find out if you’re eligible for either program, please visit or contact Paige McGilloway at or 1-888-638-3555 ext. 3561.

Join the

ATPE Book Circle

Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth challenges us to rethink our assumptions about the costs and benefits of homework. Beginning May 4, join the homework debate as part of the ATPE Book Circle. You’ll earn continuing professional education (CPE) credit and connect with Texas educators.

Learn more about the ATPE Book Circle by joining the ATPE Idea Exchange at



5 Nomination/entry deadline for the Ben Shilcutt Plus Club, Educator of the Year, Local Unit of the Year, Campus Representative of the Year and the Sam Houston Award for Political Involvement; Region 9 convention (Bowie)

5–9 Texas Public Schools Week 7 TCEA webinar—Safe Social Networking for Students (free for ATPE members) Register for the free TCEA webinars listed here. ProfessionalDevelopment

24 Region 1 convention (McAllen)

15 State officer nominations and proposed bylaws amendments and resolutions due in state office Celebrate with this year’s theme: “You Belong @ Your Library.”

© Doctor listening to heart with stethoscope/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock; asian boy with stack of books/iStockphoto/Thinkstock; Teacher with student/Comstock/Thinkstock

31 Region 10 meeting (Garland)

April 8–14 National Library Week conferencesevents/ celebrationweeks/ natlibraryweek

14 Region 3 convention (Victoria); Region 4 spring assembly (Houston)

11 TCEA webinar—Web 2.0 Tools for Everyone (free for ATPE members) Volunteer for 2012-13 state committee service by July 16.

27 ATPE Political Action Committee meeting 28 ATPE Bylaws, Legislative, Public Information and Resolutions committee meetings CommitteeService/ cmteService.aspx


1 ATPE-PAC donation deadline for William B. Travis and Stephen F. Austin honors and the Davy Crockett Fundraising Challenge

5 Region 20 meeting (San Antonio); Region 16 meeting (TBD)

Find resources and learn what it’s like to be a school nurse.

7–11 Teacher Appreciation Week 9 Texas Public School Paraprofessional Day; National School Nurse Day 18–19 ATPE Board of Directors meeting 23 TCEA webinar—Apps for Elementary Students (free for ATPE members)

June Learn more about this event for pre-K through fifth-grade educators. convene/tots

1 Entry deadline for ATPE Newsletter Award and Fred Wiesner Educational Excellence and Barbara Jordan Memorial scholarships

9 Region 10 convention (Rockwall) 10–12 TCEA Summer Conference “Tots and Technology” 16 Region 1 Leader Lab (McAllen) 18 ATPE Summit delegate certification/preregistration deadline

Check out 2012’s incredible agenda.

call (800) 777-ATPE to be put in touch with your region officers red dates indicate atpe deadlines

spring 2012 | 7

news briefs

by Tacy Stephens, copy editor/writer

TRS goes social

Thinking by hand

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) recently joined several social media sites to promote transparency and accessibility among stakeholders and allow educators to stay up-to-date on TRS news.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neurologists have identified a unique relationship between the hand and the brain. Writing by hand—in addition to helping students develop fine motor skills and learn shapes and letters—can improve the way students comprehend and compose thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says these MRIs illustrate that sequential finger movements activate the large areas of the brain required for thinking, processing language and memory.

The new TRS presence on Facebook and LinkedIn allows current and future retirees to interact and discuss TRS’ pension plan and health benefit programs, as well as learn about its administration and operations. TRS’ Wikipedia page and Youtube channel offer information and instructional videos on legislative developments, actuarial valuations and other topics that affect retirement security. Stakeholders can also view live and archived webcasts of TRS board meetings at TRS is Texas’ largest public retirement system in membership and assets and serves more than 1.3 million active and retired educators.

Word processors and email allow us to record and communicate thought as efficiently as ever, but evidence suggests there are cognitive benefits to drawing out symbols and letters rather than striking a keyboard. Another study found that second-, fourth- and sixth-grade students who wrote by hand instead of typing on a keyboard expressed more ideas and recorded more words at a faster rate. Writing by hand might also help high school students and adults learn new, graphically unique languages; improve people’s ability to manipulate the symbols used in math, chemistry and music; and provide doctors with a tool to diagnose and treat patients with neurological disorders, including dementia. Source: The Wall Street Journal

TRS advises that its social media presence “is not intended to be a general public forum” nor a venue in which to “discuss individual member or annuitantspecific information.”

Experiences outside the classroom are critical for early literacy More time reading means more words read, which translates into greater reading skill. Greater reading skill leads, in turn, to more reading practice. Researchers have coined it “The Matthew Effect” after the Book of Matthew 25:29: “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away,” which is often paraphrased “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” The phenomenon is demonstrated by a number of studies, including one that found that students scoring at the 50th percentile on reading assessments read less than five minutes a day outside of school assignments (approximately 282,000 words per year), but students scoring at the 90th percentile read about 20 minutes a day outside of school work (roughly 1.8 million words per year). Other research shows that literacy development is connected to early experiences of oral language; a child’s capacity to decode printed language partly depends on the amount and type of her exposure to spoken words and sentences. And a major study found significant “language gaps” among children from families of different incomes. By age 3, children from families relying on government assistance heard a complete vocabulary of 10 million words. Children from working-class and professional families heard a total vocabulary of 20 million and 30 million words, respectively. Source: The American Educational Research Association,

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atpe news

Empathy gives educators and students an edge in the classroom How we understand the motivations, thoughts and feelings of other people is important for moral development and social skills, but could it actually lead to better grades? Combining research on social perspective-taking (SPT), student motivation and classroom environments, Harvard educational psychologist Hunter Gehlbach has demonstrated that students who perform better academically “tend to be more motivated and more accurate” in adopting other people’s perspectives. After investigating the motivations of professionals who are experienced at SPT, such as actors, police detectives, trial lawyers and interrogators, Gehlbach suggests that the role a person takes in a specific situation determines how effectively he engages in SPT. His research also indicates that we are more likely to engage in SPT when people or situations are more interesting to us. By creating situations that trigger SPT, educators can, Gehlbach believes, develop more effective lesson plans, facilitate peer-learning activities and extend classroom conversations. He argues that SPT—despite often being an invisible aspect of classroom experience—is critical to learning languages, the humanities and the social sciences and for adapting to the demands of a global society.

© stacked books/digital vision/thinkstock; girl writing/digital vision/thinkstock; globe/istockphoto/thinkstock; star/hemera/thinkstock

Source: Useable Knowledge, news-impact/category/usable-knowledge

Wikipedia’s teachable moments Twenty million articles, 365 million readers worldwide and an estimated 2.7 billion page views in the U.S. alone. Regardless of whether you’ve endorsed Wikipedia for school use, the nonprofit, open source online encyclopedia is perhaps the world’s most widely used reference for students and laypeople. In one recent survey, nearly 75 percent of students said they refer to Wikipedia for school assignments after reading course materials and consulting their teachers. As recently as five years ago, Wikipedia was denounced by many as “irresponsible scholarship.” But, in a growing trend, many educators have decided to use Wikipedia as a tool for teaching students at every level about research habits and critical thinking in the digital age, including how to evaluate website and authorial credibility, decipher opinion from fact, and cite and use primary and secondary sources. Some school libraries are even beginning to offer courses on these skills. To make the site a more credible teaching tool worldwide, the Wikimedia Foundation has expanded its new Wikipedia Global Education Program, which allows teams of educators and students from Brazil, Canada, India and the U.S. to collaborate in a multilingual forum to edit and add citations to existing wiki articles as part of their coursework. More than 10,000 students are projected to enroll by 2013. Sources: Ed. Magazine, news-impact/category/ed-magazine, and Wikipedia Education Program, wiki/Wikipedia_Education_Program spring 2012

STAAR resources This spring, despite a $5.4 billion cut to public education, Texas educators will implement the first round of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), the series of standardized tests that has replaced the Texas Assessments of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Although STAAR will continue to support and measure the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), it institutes longer, more frequent assessments for most grade levels and in most subjects as well as new high school standards, including 12 endof-course tests in specific subjects. If you’re wondering how else the new test differs from the old and what adjustments you, your students and their parents might have to make, you can visit the Texas Education Agency’s STAAR Resources Web page ( assessment/staar/), which includes the following information: • A side-by-side comparison of STAAR and TAKS with explanations of new content. • Blueprints and sample test questions in English and Spanish for third- through eighth-grade reading, writing, math and science, as well as high school English, reading, writing, algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry, physics, geography, and U.S. and world history. • Testing day requirements. • Bilingual guides to STAAR. • Resources for teachers of special education students and English language learners. | 9

in the classroom

by Tacy Stephens, copy editor/writer

Teaching dollars and sense Financial literacy: A beacon for a tougher century

Four out of five teenagers say the U.S. recession has made them curious about money management and that the best time to learn about it is during the K-12 years, according to a Junior Achievement (JA) “Teen and Personal Finance” student poll. The survey also shows that though nearly half of teenagers are unsure of how to use a credit card responsibly, half of them believe they should have one during or before high school. And in spite of a flagging and unpredictable economy, 89 percent of teens believe they’ll be as financially secure as their parents.

avoid credit card debt, buy a home and plan for retirement—an ambitious list, to be sure. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) currently only requires instruction in personal financial literacy in a high school economics or social studies course. During its January meeting, the State Board of Education entertained a brief discussion of proposed TEKS revisions— some of which were proposed by the Council for Economic Education—that would “include language” related to personal financial literacy in K–8 curriculum in order to comply with Senate Bill 290. However, these rather general revisions have yet to be defined and implemented. In 2007, eight out of 10 educators said it was important to teach financial literacy in U.S. classrooms, despite the fact that only about half of K–12

educators said they taught it in some form, according to a survey by the Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University. Many educators surveyed did not rate their personal knowledge of the subject highly, citing lack of time and clear objectives, professional development resources and grade- and subject-appropriate teaching materials as the main reasons for not teaching financial literacy. Today, the subject is in much higher demand, and educators have more with which to work. • Jump $tart, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit with a Texas chapter, outlines clear financial literacy objectives for educators and provides curriculum guidance for kindergarten through college lessons. The nonprofit’s website,, offers free lesson plans and teaching tips

Texas Administrative Code (TAC) 118.4 defines financial literacy as becoming a “self-supporting adult who can make informed decisions relating to personal financial matters.” Per the TAC, this includes everything from balancing a checkbook to understanding the terms of an insurance policy as well as how to invest in the stock and financial markets,

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atpe news

© Counting money/iStockphoto/Thinkstock


ne day soon, whether she knows it, a seventh-grade student in Houston might find herself competing for the same job as a well-educated student from Hong Kong or Mumbai. And if global competition in a knowledgebased economy isn’t challenging enough, college tuition has become prohibitively expensive for many families, and unemployment hovers stubbornly at around 8 percent. The path from school to work, financial security and a family-sustaining income is anything but straightforward. But educators at every grade level can give their students an indispensable tool that will help them seize their futures: financial literacy.

on topics such as prioritizing needs and wants, saving and investing, career and income planning, evaluating financial information, risk management, and consumer credit. Students can also complete a “reality check” quiz that calculates the personal income required to sustain their lifestyle preferences and aspirations. • The Council for Economic Education’s (CEE) offers personal finance and economics resources for every age group. It’s especially useful for educators who are looking for ways to incorporate financial literacy into individual subject areas. The site offers more than 700 free lesson plans, games and online tutorials—everything from basic consumer skills (grades K–5) to financing further education and understanding mortgages (grades 9–12). There are a number of modules in which students are thrust into socalled “harsh reality” exercises and hypothetical decision-making situations, including a simulation of the economic conditions leading to the Boston Tea Party (K–2 and 3–5). For gifted-andtalented students interested in current events, there are lessons on the financial crisis and U.S. recession, the role of federal policy in the business sector and even the economics of a pro football franchise. Finally, CEE offers extensive online teacher training and professional development for teaching financial literacy.

Inspiring a workforce Given that “career and college readiness” is a taller order than it once might have been, exposing students at every age to potential careers might be the most important lesson in financial literacy educators can offer: Economists at Georgetown University estimate that twothirds of available jobs in 2018 will require some form of postsecondary education, up from three in 10 jobs in 2008 (as recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

spring 2012

Book review:

Rethinking homework “It’s worth asking not only whether there are good reasons to support the nearly universal practice of assigning homework, but also why that practice is so often taken for granted—even by the vast numbers of parents or teachers who are troubled by its impact on children.” In his book The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn presents a variety of research illustrating that the practice of assigning homework— especially homework assigned to children in primary grades— has continued to increase despite little evidence that it is academically beneficial. He argues that in a school culture in which students experience tremendous competitive pressure to complete many hours of homework every night after long school days, kids can suffer from a “loss of cheer, loss of selfconfidence, loss of sleep [and] in extreme cases, over time, the loss of childhood.” The Homework Myth portrays the practice of assigning excessive amounts of homework as a burden on both children and parents and offers new ways educators and parents can “rethink homework.” To assign or not to assign homework is an important question and a topic attracting the attention of many in the education community today. What’s your opinion? Beginning May 4, discuss the book with other educators in the ATPE Book Circle. Complete this professional learning experience, and you’ll earn seven hours of continuing professional education (CPE) credit. To view previous ATPE Book Circle discussions, share lessons and ideas, and network with other Texas educators, join the ATPE Idea Exchange at —ATPE Professional Development Coordinator Kris Woodcock | 11

in the classroom

Junior Achievement (JA), an international nonprofit with 27 Texas offices, represents a direct response to this real demand. JA works with schools across the state to provide in-school and after-school programs focused on work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. According to JA, eight of 10 program alumni across the U.S. say JA “enabled them to connect what they learned in the classroom to real life” and “reinforced the importance of staying in school.” JA’s nearly 400,000 volunteers reach millions of students worldwide by delivering classroom lessons on financial concepts and skills and sharing personal stories about their professional experiences. Volunteers are trained to present their message in terms of each educator’s existing curriculum and classroom objectives. Students can also use the online JA Student Center to explore careers, browse job shadowing opportunities, and search for colleges and scholarships. In principle, JA mirrors a practice embraced in several European countries where academic attainment is high and youth unemployment is low. Germany, Austria, Switzerland and several Nordic countries each maintain comprehensive youth policies and workforce development programs that

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More financial literacy resources: Jobs for the Future ( works with high school students from low-income families to help them gain access to postsecondary education and/ or meaningful workforce training. The Texas Council on Economic Education ( and the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas each support extracurricular youth outreach programs throughout the year. The National Financial Capability Challenge is a national awards program for students ages 13 to 19 that is designed to help them take control of their financial futures. It’s simple: Register your class at, download the Educator’s Toolkit, and administer a 30-minute online exam between March 12 and April 13. Take Charge America is a national nonprofit credit counseling outreach program that maintains an educator’s database of key financial literacy concepts, lesson design ideas and teaching tips at www.

link students to local companies and firms that eventually employ them. These partnerships successfully integrate schooling with on-site occupational training, apprenticeships and professional mentoring that allow students to explore careers and develop exactly the skills they’ll need to enter the professions they choose.

Cultivating new skills and instincts Just as important as facility with language and a mastery of STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math) is the ability to apply these skills in the 21st-century workplace. Yet, at a time when millions of people are looking for jobs, more than half of U.S. companies report trouble recruiting employees with the higher-order skills they need, such as critical thinking, creativity, leadership and professionalism. These are the

new prerequisites for what President Barack Obama called “an economy built to last, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded,” in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Financial literacy is a broad subject and comprises a range of life lessons and intangible sensibilities. But students need and want to learn it, and the opportunities for teaching it in engaging ways are ample. If you teach middle- or high-school English, for example, you might design an assignment in which each of your students researches employment opportunities on job search engines, chooses one and writes an essay about why she wants the job, where it will take her, and how what she learns in school will prepare her for it. No matter whom or what you teach, resources are at your disposal for teaching skills we can no longer afford to leave untaught.A

atpe news

© Stack of Coins/iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It’s a staggering irony, therefore, that one-third of U.S. high school dropouts decide to leave school to financially support themselves or their families, according to a 2006 Gates Foundation survey. Of those surveyed, 81 percent said they would’ve benefited from more experiential learning and from seeing more connections between school and getting a job. This alone suggests that teaching financial literacy in a single course during the senior year of high school isn’t nearly enough.

by Paul Tapp, ATPE Member Legal Services managing attorney

para-educators’ place

RIFs: What do they mean for para-educators? Knowing what to expect puts you in a better position to make decisions for your future


eduction in force, or RIF: This term has been around for decades, but it’s been in use far too frequently this past year because of the decrease in districts’ financial resources. ATPE and other entities have written extensively about RIFs, but most of the information has been related specifically to classroom teachers. There are significant differences in how a RIF affects teachers and how one affects support staff.

© Man mopping floor/iStockphoto/Thinkstock

At this point, we do not know whether there will be additional staff reductions this year or how widespread they might be, but because the Legislature did not increase funding levels (and some currently available funding sources might not be available next year), further reductions are possible. Although ATPE hopes that no additional positions are cut, we want to provide this information so that our para-educator members can approach the future informed.

Contracts vs. at-will employment

What about due process?

Changes to benefits and assignment

The biggest difference between a paraeducator’s and a teacher’s employment is the teacher’s employment contract. The law requires districts to enter into employment contracts with all classroom teachers, but because no such provision exists for para-educators, it is rare that para-educators will have contracts with their employing districts. Employment without a contract is called “at-will” employment and allows both the district and the para-educator to terminate the employment relationship at any time for almost any reason. “Almost any reason” means just that—and actually includes “no reason whatsoever”; the phrase that Texas courts regularly use to describe the “almost any reason” standard is “for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all.” The only restriction is that at-will employment cannot be terminated for a provably illegal reason, such as racial or gender discrimination, or for provable retaliation related to the exercise of a protected right.

Because a para-educator has no contract that requires the district to prove that it has a good reason to terminate employment, no particular “due process” is required other than the para-educator’s right to file a grievance if he is terminated. The complex RIF policy that usually governs how a district must select the specific educator targeted for a RIF does not apply to para-educators. The district, therefore, has much more discretion, and campus administrators are generally left to decide whose positions will be eliminated.

Districts also sometimes try to reduce expenditures by reducing compensation. Again, because so few rules exist when there is no employment contract, the administration has a great deal of latitude to make changes without notice.

With so few rules, the administrator making the decision is free to base the decision on any legal basis. Performance is often a critical consideration, but, unfortunately, because there is no requirement for proof, individual attitudes can also be very important. The only real limitation is that the administrator cannot make decisions based on provably illegal factors such as the discrimination or retaliation noted earlier.

In addition, the administration can easily reassign support staff due to the elimination of positions. The administration can eliminate one position but actually RIF a para-educator in another position and then shuffle the staff to fill that vacancy. These changes can also legally result in reductions in salary—even without notice. Again, the only real legal limitation is provable discrimination or provable illegal retaliation for the exercise of a protected right. This information is not uplifting, but it’s always better to be in the position of knowing your rights under the law. And, as a citizen and an educator, you can get involved in working to elect lawmakers who will increase funding for public schools.A

The legal information provided in ATPE News is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers should consult directly with an attorney. ATPE members should call (800) 777-ATPE or access the Member Legal Services Intake System (MLSIS) at

spring 2012 | 13

tech support

by Mandy Curtis, senior copy editor/writer

The rise of the hashtag Twitter searches provide a wealth of educational information In the Fall 2009 ATPE News, we explained the basics of using the social media service Twitter in the classroom and on school campuses. In the two years since that article was published, Twitter’s educational uses have grown. Not only is the website being used for classroom applications and communication between schools and parents, but also it is home to professional learning opportunities for educators. Twitter has become a place to converse with peers.

Finding your niche In June 2011, a reported 200 million tweets were being sent each day, which equates to a lot of “what I had for breakfast” or “I’ve just posted on my blog” posts to sort through. That’s where the hashtag (see Tech Term below) comes in handy. Performing a search on Twitter is easy if you know what specific information you’re seeking. The many educational hashtags in use enable you to quickly find relevant posts. Are you an elementary school teacher looking for age-appropriate ideas? Search #elementary. (Please excuse the few Sherlock Holmes tweets you might find among the educational information.) Perhaps you teach special education. Search #sped. Recently, education newspaper Education Week (@educationweek) started a conversation about educator salaries using #TeacherSalary. If you’re interested in discussion about the education community as a whole, search #education or #edchat to bring up more general or all-encompassing tweets. And no, you don’t need a Twitter account to perform these searches. Simply visit and enter a hashtag into the search box at the top of the page. Not sure what you’re looking for? Two comprehensive lists of education hashtags can be found on the HP Teacher Exchange at and at

Tech Term

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Twetiquette (Twitter etiquette) It’s not enough just to know how to use Twitter; it’s also important to know how to use Twitter appropriately. The following are 10 guidelines to keep in mind when tweeting. 1. Create a Twitter name (or handle) that’s recognizable and short. 2. Don’t start your tweets with “I am …” Fragments are OK on Twitter because space is limited. 3. That said, use proper punctuation and grammar, and avoid text abbreviations such as UR (you are) and B4 (before). 4. Complete your profile with a photo and a bio. This can help people find you and help the people you follow realize you’re not a spammer. 5. When joining a Twitter chat or group conversation, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself. 6. Let your followers know if you’re going to be tweeting more often than normal for a specific time (such as during a chat). 7. Be sure to check people’s profiles before automatically following them. 8. Beware of tweeting too much personal information, and try not to let a thought continue across multiple tweets. Keep your thoughts within the 140-character limit. 9. Be nice. Just as you might tell your students, don’t yell, and don’t start fights. 10. Say thank you when someone retweets one of your posts. More tips can be found at: • http://grammar.quickanddirtytips. com/twitter-style-guide.aspx • •

Hashtag: A tag or label used in tweets that makes those tweets searchable. atpe news

by Paul Tapp, ATPE Member Legal Services managing attorney

legal opinions

Read before you sign New contract language makes age-old advice even more relevant

We have recently seen new terms in the contracts selected by some districts that could make significant differences to your school year. One of the biggest changes makes it easier for districts to require extra work after normal work hours and on nonstandard workdays.

’Tis the season for contracts—the time of year when certified educators receive employment contracts for the upcoming school year. Many experienced educators likely give little attention to a contract’s language before signing on the dotted line. This approach—whether through trust or indifference— has never been a good one. The contract represents a legally binding agreement between you and the district and determines many important rights and responsibilities. It’s easy to see, however, why so many educators have adopted this attitude; for years, even though every district in the state adopted its own contract each year, the contracts have generally been about the same. But this is no longer true. The ATPE Member Legal Services Department has recently seen new terms in the contracts selected by some districts that could make significant differences to your school year. One of the biggest changes makes it easier for districts to require extra work after normal work hours and on nonstandard workdays.

After-hours obligations Hardly anyone enters the education profession thinking it is a nine-to-five job, and if someone does, that misperception is quickly corrected. Work after hours—grading papers, preparing lessons and calling parents—is and always will be part of the profession. But thanks to the increased pressure created by accountability measures, districts have created more extended-learning programs that require teachers to work at set times outside of regular work hours or on nonstandard workdays, such as Saturdays. The employment contract is the document that governs whether a district can require such work, and several separate contract provisions determine the answer. First, a contract states what the work schedule will be. For some years, employment contracts had become less specific about the hours and days the educator has contracted, or agreed, to work. Older contracts specified 187 days; newer ones, 10 months. The most common contracts in recent use state that the educator has agreed to work according to dates and hours as set or amended by the district. This has been generally understood to mean that

the work schedule is determined by the school board-adopted school calendar. It has also been understood to give the district some flexibility to make limited changes to the days and hours of work. But that flexibility was historically limited because a school board vote was required to make any change. Also, whether workdays could be added was an open question, subject to legal challenge. Second, contracts have customarily included an “additional duties” clause. This term is ambiguous but is generally understood to mean that an educator should expect to do the kinds of tasks that educators historically do—particularly what they have done in the contracting district. On the basis of expectations and history, the additional duties clause could require some after-hours work; again, all educators know that they are not in a nine-to-five profession. But “additional duties” was not meant to be used to add significant new job responsibilities. However, in some new contracts, these provisions have been changed in an attempt to remove all limitations on the district’s ability to change or add to the work schedule. These new contracts vary. Some specifically state that the educator agrees that any “supervisor” can assign any work at any time. Other contracts eliminate the reference to the calendar or any other limitation but are otherwise silent on the work schedule. If a contract does not include any limitations, it might represent a legally binding agreement by the educator to work whenever called upon. In theory, such a contract could require work seven days a week for the full term of the contract. We certainly do not expect any district to go this far, but these new contracts purport to give them that legal right.

Extra work, extra pay—right? Extra pay for extra work serves two purposes. First, of course, it is a reward to the educator for putting in extra time and effort. Second, it acts as a “reality check” on the district. If a cost exists, so does a question: “Is this worth the cost?” The cost provides an incentive to the district to make sure an educational benefit is expected. Continued on page 45

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capitol comment

by Brock Gregg, ATPE Governmental Relations director

It’s time to Teach the Vote Let’s do what we do best—educate

If ATPE gives educators the facts, then they will surely master the test as they have time and again. This time, the “TEKS” will just be the truth, straight from the mouths of the candidates, and ATPE members will use that truth to Teach the Vote.

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Quit hemming and hawing and get to the facts. That’s an accurate description of the goals for, ATPE’s new website designed to educate voters about the upcoming 2012 primary and general elections and then motivate them to take action. The point is this: Educators and the citizenry we serve need a one-stop shop where they can find the facts about candidates’ views and voting records on public education. combines candidate profile information with analysis of education issues and political action resources. The website offers tools to everyone from the uninitiated voter to the expert advocate. It’s time for us to pick up the tools and get to work.

The whys behind the website It is no secret that the most recent legislative session and the past few years of decisions at the State Board of Education (SBOE) have not been kind to public education, students or educators. We all know what “they” did, but do we know who “they” are, why they say they did it and what they plan to do about public education in the future? We want you to know, and we want you and the general public to feel confident in the information. We needed a way to educate the electorate and to do so quickly; the primaries are right around the corner, and, as you have read elsewhere in this magazine, the primaries are where the action is in this election. Hence, ATPE does not endorse candidates, but we also know that many members of the education community have an intense desire to vote for pro-public education candidates for SBOE and the Legislature. These same advocates express the desire for a method of informing their local community members of the truth about education from the educators’ point of view. Our discussions about providing for these needs and serving our members led us back to what educators do best: teach. If ATPE gives educators the facts, then they will surely master the test as they have time and again. This time, the “TEKS” will just be the truth, straight from the mouths of the candidates, and ATPE members will use that truth to Teach the Vote.

The lesson plan Get out there, and teach. Go to the website to find candidates in your district. Ask questions, and get answers. If a candidate who interests you did not answer our survey, use the candidate’s contact information in his candidate profile to ask him why. Attend candidate forums, or even plan candidate forums. Many ATPE local units have used our resources this election cycle to hold candidate forums for the public, and many more are being planned ahead of the primaries. Spread the word about in every venue to every educator and retired educator. Send the message through Facebook and Twitter. Make sure every educator knows the candidates in the SBOE races across the state. Pro-public education candidates are running in every SBOE race—many of them educators, some of them even ATPE members. Hold a voter registration drive on your campus. Find a fun way to encourage voting. For instance, ask colleagues to place their “I Voted” stickers on a poster in the workroom. Set a goal for how many stickers you collect, and then celebrate reaching that goal by bringing in breakfast tacos. Just Teach the Vote to everyone who will listen. 

When you need inspiration That’s a long list of to-dos, and educators’ plates are already full. But when you think it has gotten to be too much, think about the students who could just make it over the hump with a little extra tutoring—the tutoring that won’t take place for one reason only: an elected Legislature full of politicians with the wrong priorities and the wrong solutions. As ATPE State President Cheryl Buchanan says in the Teach the Vote home page video: “Talk is cheap. It is time to use our voting power to take action and fill our statehouse with elected officials who truly understand the importance of public education.” A contains political advertising paid for by the Association of Texas Professional Educators. Educators are prohibited from using school district resources to produce or distribute political advertising. Please use personal resources to print or copy information from the website.

atpe news

Primaries Demystified ATPE answers your voting questions—and introduces the ultimate voting resource,

By Kate Johanns and the AT P E Gover nmental Relations team

spring 2012 | 17


y the time you receive this magazine, we might know when Texas’ primary elections will occur. We might know our legislative districts, and our county voter registrars might have been able to mail our voter registration cards. Maybe. The saga

of Texas’ primaries—delayed elections, conflicting district maps, court hearings, partisan vitriol— is a muddled mess. It’s tempting for each of us to throw our hands up in the air and say, “Forget it—I’ll just vote in November.” But we can’t. The stakes are too high. The people we elect to the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education (SBOE) determine not only what educators teach each student but also how much money is spent on each student’s learning. And because the redistricting process maximizes partisanship, any candidate not from the predominant party in a district faces an uphill battle. Maps are drawn so as to elect a certain number of Democrats and Republicans. In fact—of the 181 districts drawn by the Legislature in 2011—only 10 have a voting population that isn’t at least 65 percent Democratic or Republican. (These are the maps being contested in court.) Whoever wins the primary will likely win the general election. That means November is far too late to truly be heard through your vote. Pro-public education candidates, regardless of party affiliation, need our support during the primaries. Whether the primaries are in April, May or June, we need to be prepared. The following pages contain information to help every voter—from the just-registered to the candidate confidante—participate with power in the primaries. If your question isn’t answered here, contact ATPE Governmental Relations at (800) 777-ATPE or

Voting 101

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve never voted before—not even in the general election. Where do I begin?

Take advantage of early voting so you won’t miss going to the polls. During the two-week early voting period, you can vote at any early voting location in your county, whereas the day of the primary, you must vote in your precinct. Early voting typically takes place at convenient locations, such as shopping malls. Check your local newspaper or contact your county voter registrar’s office for information about early voting locations and hours. Find a list of county election officials at

It’s never too late to start! Remember that to vote in any election, you must be registered to vote 30 days prior to the election. Learn more and register at, a Texas Secretary of State website. Now’s the hour to register; if the primaries take place April 3, you will need to be registered to vote March 5. (That’s the first business day after the statutory deadline.)

I’ve seen a lot of headlines that reference “Voter ID,” but I must admit I haven’t followed the issue that closely. What do I need to know before I go to the polls?

Tuesdays are really crazy for my family. On top of work and school, we’ve got soccer practice and piano lessons. I’m not sure I will be able to make it to the polls the day of the primaries. Any advice?

The Texas Legislature passed a law creating new photo identification requirements for Texas voters. The law is currently under court review for possible violations of the federal Voting Rights Act. Voter ID is a highly divisive,

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atpe news

complex issue. But to be on the safe side and ensure that you will be allowed to vote when you arrive at the polls, make sure to bring your ID with you. Acceptable forms of ID include a valid Texas driver license, a Texas Department of Public Safetyissued ID card or a U.S. passport. Learn more about voter ID requirements at I’m an independent. I don’t want to call myself Republican or Democrat. This means I can’t vote in the primary, right? OR I’m a Democrat through and through. But there isn’t even a Democrat running for the Texas House in my district. Does this mean I can’t have an impact during the primaries? OR I’m a Republican to the core. But the race for my House seat will be decided in the Democratic primary. I’m out of luck, right? Actually, no. Texas is an open primary state. You don’t have to declare a party in order to participate in the primary, and you can choose to vote in either primary during an election cycle. Because of the partisan redistricting plan, many—if not most—races for the Texas Legislature and SBOE will be decided during the primary elections. Redistricting tends to favor the incumbents—at this time, the Republicans, who hold the majority in both the Texas House and Senate. In many races, the Republican primary winner will not face a Democratic opponent; in others, the district has such a predominantly Republican voter base that any Democratic candidate faces an uphill battle in the general election. At first glance, it would appear that Republican voters are in the driver’s seat— however, because Texas voters are free to vote in whichever primary they choose without declaring a party, Democrats and independent voters can exercise considerable electoral power. ATPE is a nonpartisan organization with a pro-public education agenda, so we strongly encourage pro-public education voters to look at all candidates in both primaries and consider “crossing over” to vote strategically and attempt to send as many pro-public education candidates as possible—from both parties—to the general election in November. Taking time to investigate candidates in both primaries is extremely important this election cycle: Many races, especially in the Republican primary, feature at least one candidate with a public school background who makes education a priority versus candidates who prioritize other issues. Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat or rock-solid Republican, it might be worth your time to swallow hard and consider crossing over. Remember: No matter which primary you choose in the spring, you can vote for any candidate in the November general election.


Teach the Vote At, ATPE’s newest election resource, Texas voters can research candidates’ education stances. You won’t find endorsements, but you will find solid information from Texas’ preeminent educators’ association. Use this information to select the candidates you believe will make public education their top priority.

Teach the Vote contains political advertising paid for by the Association of Texas Professional Educators. Educators are prohibited from using school district resources to produce or distribute political advertising. Please use personal resources to print or copy information from the website.

Issues 202

I receive so much hyperbole-filled election mail. I don’t have the time or the will to sort through it. How can I efficiently research candidates? We hear you. That’s why ATPE has long surveyed candidates on their education stances and shared candidates’ answers with members. But this year, with so much on the line, we decided that we needed to find a new medium for our survey project that would allow us to share the information with a wider audience. That’s why we have created, a website where any Texas voter can research candidates for the Texas Legislature and the SBOE. Each known Republican

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and Democratic candidate has a Teach the Vote profile page that contains contact information; survey answers, if provided; and voting history, if available. The site also includes analysis of the top education issues in the 2012 elections and information about getting more involved in the campaign process. Teach the Vote sounds really useful. Is it all right if I share the site with my family, friends and colleagues? Of course! However, please be aware that Teach the Vote contains political advertising paid for by ATPE. State law prohibits educators from using school district resources to produce or distribute political advertising, so don’t use a school printer or copy machine to share something from Teach the Vote. What questions did you ask the candidates for Teach the Vote? We had a separate set of questions for legislative and SBOE candidates. The following is a list of the issues our questions covered and ATPE’s positions on them. ATPE’s positions are derived from the ATPE Legislative Program, a member-written-and-approved document that lists ATPE’s stances on education issues.

Public education funding

We asked all legislative candidates: “Is there a need to increase funding to meet the needs of our student population, and if so, how would you recommend raising more revenue for public education?” Funding determines everything in our public schools. If policymakers do not allocate the resources necessary for the next generation to meet future challenges, then they have done a disservice to Texas children. It is the responsibility of voters in every community to hold officials accountable. We all want the best education possible for our children and the best economic environment to foster quality job growth. We can only achieve the best by setting high but reasonable standards and providing educators with the funding to achieve the task at hand. In 2011, more than $5.4 billion was cut from the public education budget. In districts across the state, per-pupil funding ranges from less than $5,000 per student to more than $12,000. It is believed that for the first time in history the Legislature has failed to fund enrollment growth. The cuts forced many school districts to lay off employees and eliminate student programs. Against this backdrop, Texas is facing its second set of major school funding lawsuits in 10 years. The lawsuits claim the Legislature has not performed its constitutional duty to provide an efficient system of public, free education. The lawsuits have always centered on providing equitable funding and taxation and, more recently, providing adequate levels of funding to meet state academic goals. In 2005, courts found the system to be unconstitutional, and the Legislature was given a mandate to either close down the schools or find a solution. ATPE’s position: ATPE supports a fully funded state and federal public education system for every student. We believe that the state should enhance the revenue dedicated to public education

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in order to create a more stable funding structure for schools. We strongly support efforts to increase funding levels to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and changing population and to increase funding equity for all students. Texas’ current system for funding public education does not generate sufficient revenue to meet the state’s educational needs, goals or standards. One reason: An ever-increasing structural deficit exists in our state budget. It’s caused by a faulty business tax and a tax system that can’t adequately support our current state-mandated educational goals. During the 2011 legislative session, when a $27 billion budget deficit was the driving force behind nearly all legislation, ATPE advocated for a balanced approach to addressing the deficit. We advocated for three options: cutting spending, tapping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund (RDF) and restructuring fees and taxes. Although the Legislature and governor did agree to spend $3.2 billion from the RDF to shore up a hole in the budget from the previous biennium, they focused entirely on cuts when it came to approving a new budget and left almost $7 billion in the RDF (which was originally created to fund public education and other vital services in tough economic times). Formula funding for public education was cut by approximately $4 billion, and another $1.4 billion in grant money was lost (“Defining the Funding Cuts of the 82nd Legislative Session,”, Sept. 27, 2011).

Private school vouchers

We asked all legislative candidates: “Would you vote to spend public tax dollars on a voucher, tax credit or scholarship that allows students to attend non-public schools in grades K–12? Why or why not?” Private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and similar programs seek to direct public funds to private, home or for-profit schools. • Proponents of vouchers believe they promote choice in education and that free market forces will improve schools through competition by allowing taxpayers to direct per-pupil funding to any school they desire, including home schools. • Opponents (including ATPE) counter that vouchers eliminate accountability. They force taxpayers to support two school systems: one public and one private, the latter of which is not held accountable to the taxpayers supporting it. Private schools are exempt from most requirements mandated by law for public school students. Vouchers channel tax dollars into private schools that do not face state-approved academic standards, do not publicly report on student achievement and are not required to make their budgets and operations transparent. Private schools also do not face the public accountability requirements contained in state and federal laws, including special education, health and safety laws. Most of all, unlike public schools, private schools are not required to accept all students, thus substantially limiting those who might benefit from a tuition tax credit or voucher to those students from wealthier families who can afford to pay supplemental tuition or meet private school eligibility requirements.

atpe news

ATPE’s position: ATPE strongly opposes private school vouchers of any sort, especially at a time when public education resources are so scarce.

Teacher Retirement System (TRS)

We asked all legislative candidates: “Do you believe the Teacher Retirement System should be maintained as a defined-benefit pension plan for all future, current and retired educators, or would you vote to convert it to a defined-contribution plan that is more like a 401(k)? Why or why not?” The TRS pension fund is one of the most stable and wellpositioned funds in the nation. The benefit package available to educators, though not rich, is a major recruitment and retention tool and entices qualified individuals to enter and remain in public education. The system is also a robust economic engine. It affects more than one in every 20 Texans, generates $13.5 billion for the Texas economy, and creates and sustains more than 91,500 jobs (“The Teacher Retirement System of Texas: A Great Value for all Texans,” January 2011). TRS members contribute 6.4 percent of their salaries to the TRS pension fund, and the average TRS pension received is approximately $1,900 per month. The retirement system is well-run, stable, reasonable and cost-effective—in other words, what every Texan should expect from the management of state funds. ATPE’s position: ATPE strongly believes that the state should maintain the existing defined-benefit pension structure provided to all current and future retirees. (TRS members contribute a defined amount—6.4 percent—from every paycheck and receive a formula-driven annuity based on experience and final average salary.) ATPE supports maintaining the pension fund’s actuarial soundness using contributions from the state and from educators who are system members. Doing so will improve and preserve benefits for active and retired TRS members, as well as retain control of TRS funds at the state level.


We asked all legislative candidates: “What is the appropriate use of student scores on state standardized tests (e.g., measuring individual student progress, assigning accountability ratings to campuses or districts, deciding if students should be promoted to the next grade level, evaluating teacher effectiveness, determining teacher pay or employment status, holding educator preparation programs accountable, etc.)?” Standardized testing and ranking schools, educators and students based on standardized test scores has become the primary state and federal mandate in public education and drives spending, learning and behavior in public schools. • Proponents of high-stakes testing and accountability systems believe the data generated from the tests should be used to punish and reward, and they favor having a standard measure to gauge the value of the public education system.

spring 2012

• Opponents generally believe that the high-stakes nature of testing and the amount of time devoted to it narrow the curriculum and the educational experience and detract from a skills-based, well-rounded education. Attempts to measure educators’ effectiveness based on student test scores are also troublesome because approximately 70 percent of all teachers teach a subject or grade level in which there is no state standardized test (“University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs’ Project on Educator Effectiveness and Quality,” June 2011). ATPE’s position: ATPE supports a testing and accountability system developed with educator input but opposes the recent trend of using high-stakes standardized test scores as the primary determinant for student achievement, educator compensation and effectiveness, and campus and district accountability.

Class-size limits

We asked all legislative candidates: “Would you vote to maintain a hard cap on the number of students per class, or should school administrators be given more flexibility to increase class sizes?” Class-size limits are a watershed issue for educators. The majority of research shows small classes to be extremely beneficial. These benefits include increased individual student/teacher interaction, fewer discipline issues, improved classroom management, improved teacher morale and improved educational outcomes for students. An excellent teacher of a small class—working under great campus leadership and given access to adequate resources—will produce positive, often dramatic educational outcomes. Currently, Texas law imposes a cap of 22 students per teacher in grades K–4 but allows schools to obtain a waiver from the mandate, a step many schools routinely take. The substantial benefits achieved through statutory class-size limits do come at a price because maintaining smaller classes requires employing additional teaching staff and requires additional space. • Candidates who prioritize public education and maximizing students’ educational opportunities will support limiting class sizes. • Candidates who prioritize cost cutting typically will not support limiting class size and will favor allowing districts full flexibility to determine class sizes without limitation. ATPE’s position: ATPE supports mandatory class-size limits that are enforced by the state for all grade levels and instructional settings to allow for optimal learning environments. We believe class-size waivers should be limited and fully disclosed to the public.

Well-rounded education

We asked all candidates: “Do you believe the Texas public school system currently provides a good balance between the four core subject areas (which require standardized testing) and the concept of a ‘well-rounded education’?” The advent of standardized testing and a mandated four-yearsby-four-subjects (4x4) graduation requirement in high school | 21

has focused public education funding and attention on the four core subject areas of math, science, social studies and English language arts/reading. Students must take the four core subjects and some mandated electives and pass an exit-level exam for each course in order to graduate from high school. In many school districts, the result has been fewer offerings in subjects and career choices outside of those core areas. Such courses are receiving less funding and attention. Students are finding it increasingly difficult to pursue their interests in fine arts, extracurricular activities, career and technology courses, and other school activities that provide important social and real-world skills. In addition, teachers have fewer opportunities to work with individual students and classes to develop important communication and technical skills that are critical for successful citizenship. ATPE’s position: ATPE supports comprehensive instruction in all grade levels that prepares Texas students for success throughout their public school years as well as in higher education, career and technology opportunities. ATPE members believe that graduation requirements adopted at the state level should reflect the need for a well-rounded curriculum and student choice.

Educators’ role in State Board of Education (SBOE) policymaking

We asked all State Board of Education (SBOE) candidates: “What role should educators and educator groups play in policy decisions made by the SBOE?” Every SBOE responsibility—from developing curriculum standards and adopting textbooks to authorizing charter schools, ratifying State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) decisions and overseeing the Permanent School Fund—is directly linked to the health and operation of the Texas education system. Educators and the groups that represent them should play a major role in informing and, in many instances, shaping the board’s decisions affecting education policy and educational outcomes for students and classrooms. After all, educators are both the practitioners of and primary experts in education. ATPE’s position: ATPE specifically believes SBOE should incorporate educator input whenever the curriculum standards or graduation requirements are revised.

Curriculum standards

We asked all SBOE candidates: “Would you recommend any changes to the process for adopting and revising the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards?” Texas maintains curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Adopting and revising the TEKS is one of the most important functions overseen by the SBOE. The TEKS determine what is taught and tested in Texas public schools, and the curriculum has a dramatic impact on what is included in textbooks used both inside and outside of the state. The TEKS revision process has become extremely contro-

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versial in recent years and marked by ideological conflicts among board members, leaving little time to fix perceived structural problems with the TEKS, such as excessive length and complexity of the standards. The more individual standards that are required to be taught in a subject or grade, the less time that can be devoted to any one of them. The more specific the standards are, the less flexibility there is for a teacher to individualize lessons to fit each class and student. ATPE’s position: ATPE believes that SBOE members should create a framework for TEKS development and set expectations for the breadth, depth and specificity to be covered by the TEKS. Once a framework is in place, board members should rely on true experts in the field with subject-matter expertise to create the actual content of the TEKS. As an elected board, it is impossible for SBOE members to have the requisite knowledge and experience to be considered experts in every TEKS subject. (ATPE supports maintaining the SBOE as an elected board but recommends that members have public education experience.) In the TEKS review process, the board should continue to appoint writing teams primarily composed of K–12 classroom teachers. Review teams of industry and academic experts should review the work of the writing teams. Currently, the SBOE appoints expert reviewers, but the board has not assigned legitimate qualifications for serving as an expert, which is an area of needed improvement. Once the TEKS content has been produced, the board should only look to see that there are no factual errors and that the TEKS fit into the board’s established framework. Any needed modifications should be the responsibility of the writing teams. Under no circumstances should the board directly produce, modify or amend the content of the TEKS.


We asked all State Board of Education (SBOE) candidates: “Under what circumstances should the SBOE be able to reject a textbook?” Under current law, the SBOE may not prohibit a school district from purchasing a textbook for use by its students. The law places a duty on the board to determine whether publishers of textbooks for use in Texas have produced a book that meets applicable physical specifications—i.e., the book is not of poor construction, covers at least half of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for its subject and is free from factual errors. Any textbook meeting this specification must be placed on a list of books approved by the SBOE. (School districts are no longer required to purchase books from this list, nor are they penalized for not purchasing books from this list.) Additionally, the board must determine what percentage of the TEKS each textbook covers and publish that information for the benefit of school districts. In the past, some SBOE members have attempted to further their personal ideology by rejecting otherwise qualified textbooks that contained content with which they personally disagreed. ATPE’s position: ATPE is hopeful that new laws pertaining to textbooks will help prevent future abuses of the adoption process.

atpe news

Charter schools

We asked all SBOE candidates: “Do you believe charter schools in Texas have been largely successful and should be expanded? Why or why not?”

Writing letters to the editor is an effective way to convey your message to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Follow these tips to give your letter a strong chance of being printed:

Charter schools are public schools run by private operators that are allowed to operate with fewer regulatory constraints than traditional public schools. The charter school movement is premised on giving schools the freedom to experiment with innovative teaching methods to foster success. Some charter schools in Texas and elsewhere have been extremely successful. However, research shows that charter schools generally do not educate students any better than traditional neighborhood public schools and in many cases not as well. Research also shows that Texas charter schools collectively perform worse than charter schools do nationally. (For more information, review the Center for Research on Education Outcomes’ Multiple Choice: Charter School Study in 16 States and Charter School Performance in Texas.) Despite these statistics, many policymakers continue to argue for the expansion and increased funding of charter schools.

• Check the newspaper’s opinion page or website for submission guidelines. Most newspapers prefer electronic submissions.

ATPE’s position: ATPE recommends that the state adhere to a rigorous authorization process when granting charters and require charter schools to meet appropriate financial accountability and academic performance standards before allowing them to continue or expand. ATPE also supports employees of charter schools having applicable certification requirements, standards, rights and benefits commensurate with employees of traditional public schools.

• Have a friend proofread your letter before you send it.

Political Involvement 303 I strongly support one of the legislative candidates in my district. If I offer to help her campaign, what might I be asked to do? Volunteering for a campaign is a great way to develop a relationship with a candidate. Just call the candidate’s office to offer your help. You might be asked to: • Put out yard signs, canvass or “block-walk,” which is when volunteers visit local neighborhoods to have brief, targeted, oneon-one conversations with voters. The campaign should provide you with address lists and talking points. • Participate in a phone bank, which is when volunteers make targeted, scripted calls to voters during reasonable hours. Often, you can do this from your own home with campaign-provided call lists and scripts. • Offer administrative assistance. You might stuff envelopes, answer phones, etc. I would like to show my support for a pro-public education candidate by writing a letter to the editor. Do you have any tips?

spring 2012

• Type or write your letter legibly if you are using snail mail. • Include your name, address and phone number. Newspapers generally verify authorship and do not print anonymous letters. • Write about current issues, not old news. Respond promptly to stories damaging to public education or to pending legislation. • Be brief. Try to limit your letter to no more than 125 words. • Be specific. State your purpose in the opening paragraph, and stick to it. If your letter responds to a specific article, identify it. • Include the facts. Don’t make statements you can’t back up with facts or figures, and avoid personal attacks and insults. But don’t overdo it. Don’t let your message get lost in a sea of figures. I’m the president of my ATPE local unit, and my fellow leaders and I are interested in organizing a candidate forum. Where can we get some assistance? Kudos to you! When you invite candidates to participate in candidate forums, you give voters an opportunity to hear directly from candidates about their public education views. ATPE leaders may log in to Leader Central to view the candidate forum tips available under Local Unit Advocacy. You may also contact ATPE Governmental Relations at or (800) 777-ATPE for tips and a list of sample questions. Every four years I watch my party’s national convention, and I’m interested in getting involved in my party. What’s the first step I need to take? Each of the delegates to the Republican or Democratic national convention began his journey at his local precinct convention. The parties each hold convention at every precinct after the polls close the day of the primary and the general election. During the precinct convention, participants adopt resolutions that help determine each party’s platform, as well as select delegates to attend the party’s county and senatorial conventions. In order to participate in a party’s precinct convention, you must vote in that party’s primary. The precinct convention is where you can start to influence your party’s platform. For instance, you can take a resolution to your party’s convention stating opposition to private school vouchers. If the resolution is adopted, you will have taken the first step toward affecting your party’s platform. Contact ATPE Governmental Relations at or (800) 777-ATPE to learn more about precinct conventions and the parties’ resolution adoption processes. A | 23

Plus est

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en vous 2012 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Stephanie Stoebe helps her students realize the “more” within Inter view by Mandy Curtis | Photos by John Kilpper

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tephanie Stoebe was in sixth grade when she first heard the phrase “Plus est en vous.” She learned it from her sixth-grade English teacher, Rosella Davis. Stoebe had answered a question in class— correctly—but davis reprimanded Stoebe for doing only the minimum required. “Plus est en vous,” Davis had told her; “more is in you.”

“When I teach,” Stoebe wrote in her application for Texas Teacher of the Year, “I thank Mrs. Davis for my early lesson in honest and hard effort. It is because of her that I became a teacher.” ATPE sat down with the 2012 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year— a Round Rock ATPE member—in January to discuss her unconventional path to the classroom and the lessons she’s learned along the way. ATPE: How did your foreign education— living in Germany and attending three separate schools there—affect your views on education? STOEBE: I spoke German, but I didn’t speak college, preparatory German. I spoke casually with my mom; my mom’s German. It was actually my first language, at home with her. But when I went to school, I learned English, and eventually the German faded. I went to school in Germany, and there I was as a ninth-grader, thrust into a class, and I’m having to learn physics. I could order in a restaurant, I could mail a package, I could go to a doctor and say “this and this hurts,” but I couldn’t keep up with the note-taking and the professional academic vocabulary in physics or in biology. It didn’t make sense to me. I was always behind. It was so frustrating because I knew I was smart and I knew I was capable of it, but I didn’t have all of the tools to be successful in that environment. There were no accommodations, there was no help … The level of help on the basis of the schooling at the time was, “Hey, can someone give Stephanie their notes?” When I started working with kids here in Texas, with all of the different languages they speak, I remembered what it felt

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Stephanie Stoebe English/language arts instructional coach ATPE member Cedar Ridge High School, Round Rock

like—being lost and knowing that I had potential but not being able to demonstrate that potential to others. ATPE: What brought you to Texas? STOEBE: I met my husband when we were both in the Army, and at one point he was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base as an instructor. For 15 years, my husband said, “When I retire from the Army, you can pick where we’re going to retire. I will have dragged you all around the world; you can pick.” I said, “I’m going back to Texas.” ATPE: Were you born here? STOEBE: No, I wasn’t born here. I was born in Las Vegas. I just had good feelings with

Before becoming a classroom educator, Stoebe graduated from the University of Nevada with a bachelor’s degree in German and a minor in French. After graduating, she joined the Army and became a translator and interrogator in South Korea. Later, she was the director of educational services in the Texas regional probation department. In that role she discovered her true love—education.

Texas. I attended Angelo State University and got my master’s degree from there. My son’s godparents live here … What’s that old bumper sticker? “I’m not a native Texan, but I got here as fast as I could”? ATPE: After your experience with a college professor who told you that you weren’t “grad school material,” what led you to the Army? STOEBE: I think it was desperation. Here I was graduating with a German major and a French minor. I was one of the first people in America to be a Fulbright [Scholar] as an undergraduate. I had accomplished these major things, and for this guy to say, “No, you’re not graduate school material,” I went “Oh, my gosh.”

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I just flipped and went entirely 180. I thought to myself, “I know the Army needs translators. I’m going to join the Army.” It was just a response—totally not thought out. ATPE: So you went in as a German and French translator? STOEBE: Actually, when I went in, I thought: “Well, I don’t need to learn a language. I speak German and French and Slovak, and they can use me as a translator in that.” So I go through basic training, and they said, “You know what? You’re really good with languages. We’re going to send you to language school.” I got to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., and they said, “You’re going to learn Korean.” And I said, “This isn’t what … this wasn’t in my life plan!” But Uncle Sam had a different life plan. So I learned Korean—it was eight hours a day for 63 weeks. It was very, very intense. And then I went to Korea and was actually an interrogator and translator. When I fill out résumés and job applications, … sometimes I put interrogator, sometimes I put translator. It depends on how you want to sell yourself. As a teacher you use both.

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ATPE: Do you still speak all of those languages fluently? STOEBE: I speak German with my mom. I enjoy French. I will still read in German and French. I’ve kept in touch with a lot of people I went to college with and those I know in Germany, Korea and Slovakia, but I don’t speak Slovak any more. A lot of times here in Texas, I’ll get to exchange pleasantries with people in Korean. More than anything, [the simple exchange of pleasantries] has served me well. It helps people understand that I’m trying and that I want to reach out and make an effort to get to know you and respect your language and your culture. ATPE: Did being an interrogator lead you to your job with the Texas regional probation department? STOEBE: I started working with young offenders in Texas and actually became director of educational services for Tom Green County. We served 11 counties in that area. It was there that I thought: “Something’s wrong here. Why are all these 16- and 17-year-olds dropping out of school?” So I started talking to them, asking them why. “Why are you dropping out of school?” And they said, “I don’t get it. The teachers don’t get me. How

does it apply to my life? I hate school.” It made me so mad because I always loved school. I loved the camaraderie; I loved learning. All the hope. It made me so distraught that there was a whole generation of kids growing up who didn’t have that same joy and affinity for learning. So I got my teaching certification and my master’s in education to help them. ATPE: So you were essentially a teacher in the probation department? STOEBE: Yes. Helping them get their GED or go back to school. Imagine part counselor, part teacher, part probation officer … ATPE: What was the experience like, finding out you were Texas Teacher of the Year (TOY)? STOEBE: It was overwhelming. It was really cool when I got it for my high school; I was at Round Rock High School at the time. I thought, “This is neat.” You’re nominated and selected by your peers, and it is really incredibly touching to feel the support from your school. And then when it went up to district, I thought, “Wow.” That was still realistic. And then things started snowballing. Region and state finalist and then the state … I felt like, “Wait, wait, wait. I’m just some little | 27

reading teacher out here in Round Rock, Texas.” I just couldn’t believe it went where it did. It’s humbling. It’s humbling to know that there are more than 331,000 teachers in Texas. To know that I’m one of the voices for them? It can get you teary-eyed. ATPE: How long have you been teaching? STOEBE: I taught two years in Georgia, and this is my third year here in Texas. I also taught one year in Arizona as a permanent sub. I have taught everything from preschool through high school. ATPE: Is high school your preferred area? STOEBE: I think I have a lot of life experiences that a secondary student can appreciate. They can take the messages— saying what’s really on your mind, standing up for yourself, that people are going to doubt you and put you down and that you’re just going to have to rise above it. I think I have some life experiences that they can relate better to. I can still go into an elementary school and get just as excited and jump right in there on the floor—kick off my high heels and grab a book and let’s go! I just love it all. I really do. ATPE: Why did you choose ATPE? STOEBE: When I was looking at professional organizations, this other organization said, “Ah, but we have a brick and mortar building in the Capitol area. That’s why you should go with us.” But what does that mean? What does that mean, in the world that’s changing today? Brick and

mortar doesn’t mean anything anymore. If anything, it means stolid and staid. And, you know, I want flexibility. I want someone who can grow and adapt and keep up with me. ATPE: What do you think set you apart in the eyes of the TOY award selection committee? STOEBE: I think one thing that might have set me apart was that there have been multiple times that I have been tested in life, and I have had to consistently rise above those difficult times. And I always came out on top. Being a high school teacher, I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed [to relate those times in my application]. I actually use those difficult times in my life to relate to my kids and to help them rise above. The other day I was walking through an AP English class, and I saw this girl I taught two years ago in a reading intervention class. It kind of took me aback. I had made a difference. I took someone who was below, struggling to make it, and now she is thinking about college in this higher-level class. I think it’s because she was able to connect some of her own personal struggles to making herself better. ATPE: What’s your current position at Cedar Ridge High School? STOEBE: I’m an English/language arts instructional coach. I primarily help other teachers take good instruction and make it awesome. Fill in any gaps. Help them brainstorm. Help facilitate. And then— because I asked when I took this new position, “Can I still work with kids?” and my boss said,

“Please!”—I have a group of about 70 kids that I follow. I try to intervene to make a difference and encourage them. ATPE: In your TOY application, you said you mentor kids every year. Are you still doing that? Are the 70 kids part of that mentoring? STOEBE: Yes. The number that I really mentor is probably down to about 15. It’s a little bit harder to get to them being a coach. But it’s funny because those kids will bring their friends to me too. And the kids who don’t have anywhere to go will say, “Can you help me?” I say, “Sure!” ATPE: Did anything happen at the school or with your students after receiving your award? STOEBE: It was really crazy because when I was told that I was a finalist—one of the three finalists for secondary—[members of the award committee] came into my classroom and brought balloons and flowers, and the kids said, “We knew it! We knew it!” The kids were so proud and so happy. I told them, “This really isn’t my award; you’ve made me who I am. And you make me want to be a better teacher.” That really floored them. [The students] were very sad at Round Rock [High School] when I left. They still find ways to sneak off and email me. They send me Post-It notes, and they give them to a teacher. “You’re going to Cedar Ridge, right? Oh, give this to Miss Stoebe.” It’s so endearing. ATPE: What will you be doing with your title? STOEBE: I’ve reached out to the Texas Baptist Children’s Home and said, “How

Prior to the interview, Stoebe worked with a group of seven students to discuss the imagery, diction, parallel structure and alliteration found in the Alicia Keys poem “P.O.W.” Stoebe has been working with these students—many of whom are “at-risk”—for quite some time. One is 21 years old; another has 21 brothers and sisters. One has been a freshman for three years, and a few have medical issues. But these students lit up at the sight of Stoebe and were truly engaged in the discussion. “My approach is always to engage the kids with relevance and rigor,” Stoebe says. “I want them to write, but for at-risk kids, a connection has to be made to their life as a ‘hook’ before the learning can begin.”

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“I have this one kid,” Stoebe says, “he’s still at Round Rock [High School]. His name is Rodrigo. He’s like a son to me. I had him as a freshman, in the same class as some of these kids who were sitting here today. He hardly spoke any English; he was a new arrival to the country. And for every kind of filming or demonstration or whatever I did, I always included Rodrigo. And he made incredible gains. He passed— in his third year in America—the 10th-grade English TAKS. Talk about monumental. But when he wrote, he showed his gratitude for life, his gratitude for being in our education system. He showed his gratitude for every single thing that a teacher did for him. I gave him an award because he actually showed up for 100 days of after-school tutoring. One hundred days for after-school tutoring! “Rodrigo represents the American spirit—that you come to America, and your chances are unlimited. You just work and do good. Work hard and be nice, and you can accomplish anything. No wasted chances.”

can I help you?” One of my friends is a case manager over there, and I want to help parents. There are so many parents who want to help their kids but do not have the tools to do that. What parent does not want to help their child excel? So I am going to volunteer with the Texas Baptist Children’s Home to empower parents to make a difference. Understanding the education system and its options will be a very useful tool.

The kids draw so many connections [to The Hunger Games] because it’s real, it’s in your face. You’re talking about: “What are you doing? You’re fighting society.” “I know this is wrong, but I have to do it.” “You’re conforming to norms.” The kids just get it. My husband was really shocked when I was telling him about this book. “Are you sure that’s an appropriate book?”

I think a lot of times we talk about reaching out and helping kids, but we also at that time have to reach out and help their parents so that their parents can help them, too. That’s something I’m very passionate about.

Just think. If you can get a kid to buy into The Hunger Games and read that, you can link it to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. You can link it to Lord of the Flies. You’re going to classic pieces. There has to be a hook; there has to be buy-in. That’s why when I do groups and intervention stuff, I pick books like this. Because a kid might be very hesitant to say to a peer, “Well, José, let me tell you about this awesome book, Lord of the Flies, that I read.” But he might say, “Hey man, have you heard this Alicia Keys thing? You gotta listen to that.” It gets them talking.

April 23 is World Literacy Day, so I’m [also planning to] hand out free books.

ATPE: There is value in every piece of literature.

I‘ve also looked at doing some community outreach. There are local businesses that have offered to host us, give us refreshments, where I can arrange for translators for those parents who are hesitant to come into school because they don’t speak English. This will give them a safe place to ask questions.

ATPE: What books? STOEBE: The Book Thief by Zusak. And The Hunger Games, because I love The Hunger Games. And one other—The Lovely Bones. It’s sad, but I have a lot of teenage girls who like it.

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STOEBE: There really is. And what does this prove on another point? That poetry is not some dead art form from the 1700s. It’s real, it’s going on right now.

STOEBE: I feed them. [Laughs] I think, really, I just listen. And I say it’s going be OK. I use this analogy about an iPod, or an MP3 player, however you want think about it. When everyone’s born, you get an MP3 player. And on your MP3 player, there are 10 songs preloaded. Some people get really positive playlists, with songs like “Your father and I planned for you, we love you, we’re always going to be there for you. You can do anything, and we’re going to help you.” These really awesome playlists are really inspirational and motivational. And some people get playlists that say, “Your dad’s a drunk, and he’s not coming home.” You can’t determine what you were initially given on your playlist. But you know what? You can get a new playlist. You can delete those songs. I tell the kids: The future is yours. You’re really going to make it. Are you going to listen to old, tired messages that depress you and make you think that your life is not worth living, or are you going to motivate yourself and empower yourself and go out there and become what you want to be? And the kids are like, “I never thought about that.” A

ATPE: What are some of the other special things you do to help your students? | 29

L earning in Transit An educator’s vision of learning on the road by Tacy Stephens, copy editor/writer

ing in Transit, Bill Griffin (left) is the founder of Learn g off-campus itatin a nonprofit dedicated to facil t), is a 36-year (righ a Teres wife, His learning experiences. director. ATPE 18 n regio the and ator educ veteran

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The Griffins are both Stanton ATPE members. Bill Griffin has been a physical education teacher for 16 years. His wife, Teresa, who is heavily involved in the LIT Bus project, has taught anatomy and physiology, art and health for 36 years and represents Region 18 on the ATPE Board of Directors. Bill is available for campus visits and encourages all educators interested in using the LIT Bus to contact him. For more information about organizing trips or making a donation, visit

© texas Capitol/istockphoto/thinkstock; alamo/istockphoto/thinkstock


n the wake of historic cuts to public education funding, school districts in Texas and across the U.S. are cutting back wherever they can—from after-school and pre-K programs to basic services such as busing. Support for field trips is scarce at a time when educators ration copy paper and tap into personal savings to cover their classroom expenses. And with larger classes this year, the logistics of field trips are also formidable. But one educator has stepped up to remind us that field trips are still possible—and more relevant now than they’ve ever been. The recently launched Learning in Transit (LIT) Bus is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping educators across Texas provide field trips and out-of-classroom learning opportunities to their students. Founded by 16-year educator Bill Griffin, the LIT Bus is more than a field trip transportation service; it’s a mobile classroom. K–12 students on this bus receive the same quality class instruction on the road that they would otherwise miss during the time spent on a traditional bus trip. In addition to being a free service, the LIT Bus addresses the administrative obstacles associated with standardized testing, which require a specific number of mandatory student preparation and testing days.  “We are not taking these kids out of school and having them miss class time,” Griffin says. “The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and everything else students do in the classroom—we want them to have this on the bus.” Griffin works with educators to build out-ofclassroom experiences that support and expand on these objectives. Dr. Steve Jenkins, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at Lamar University and Griffin’s former adviser in the graduate education program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB), has supported the LIT Bus concept from its inception.

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“Bill’s dream is that students will be immersed in a learning environment from the moment they step onto the bus up to the point of delivery,” Jenkins says. “It’s not a day off. In fact, it’s an opportunity to make the TEKS curriculum more meaningful to students.”

Collateral learning The LIT Bus is more than a pragmatic solution to the financial and administrative difficulties of leaving behind the brick and mortar for a day. It is the product of a life of reflection on the way children and young people learn, and it is an argument for what is worth preserving in austere times. Griffin hopes that his mobile classroom will allow students to forge more meaningful, concrete and intuitive connections between the classroom and the world at large. “When you can experience something in the real world, as opposed to just reading about it, it stimulates all of the senses,” Griffin says. “And the more senses that you can tie into what you’ve learned, the more it inspires your learning. If you were physically able, would you rather climb Mount Everest or read a story about it? Look at all the people who read about something, and reading got them to go see it for themselves. Many of them came back to write more about it.” Mount Everest is a distant example, but it illustrates a critical fact for education. “If you talk about the State Capitol, and you have a child who has never been there and doesn’t get to go many places, you might as well be talking about the Taj Mahal,” Griffin says. “Here’s a way to show kids what they’ve read about. And the more they experience, the hungrier they’re going to be to learn more.” While developing the model for the LIT Bus at UTPB, Griffin collaborated with Jenkins and Dr. Carl Hoffmeyer to support his concept with hard evidence of the educational benefits of travel. | 31

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deeply personal. Griffin says he’ll judge the LIT Bus a success if it inspires students to imagine their own personal and professional futures, to expand their sense of what is possible for them.

People-watching Tanis, an eighth-grader who took the first LIT Bus trip to the Science Spectrum in Lubbock, says he learned there how gravity works. He wants to be a lawyer but has considered other roads. “I have seen things outside of school that make me want to change my career of being a lawyer,” Tanis explains. “Once I went to the doctor, and I wanted to be a doctor to help people, but then I later realized my goal in life is still to be a lawyer, and I will still be helping people, but in a different way. “The reason people go to school is so that they have knowledge, and when we’re older we will have a sense of what we want to do. It’s better for the economy, too, because if we all have highpaying jobs, then the ratings will go up for the state you’re in.” Field trips, Griffin argues, are as much about meeting people as they are about seeing places and institutions. Through travel, students learn how to see themselves in a professional context—as a firefighter, geologist, doctor, legislator or lawyer. In an academic culture largely driven by the standard of “college and career readiness” as measured by quantitative outcomes on high-stakes tests, field trips should be viewed as a rare opportunity for students to ask themselves “What am I getting ready for?” “It might be a place that inspires someone to do better in academics or to start thinking about a career,” Griffin argues. “But, it might be meeting a person who does this—makes a student think ‘That’s what I want to be. That’s how I want to be.’” Dewey put it another way: “Only gradually and with a widening of the area of vision through a growth of social sympathies does thinking develop to include what lies beyond our direct interests: a fact of great significance for education.” Who we grow up around—see, hear, converse with and even imitate—influences us, sometimes unconsciously and often in ways inscrutable even to our best teachers.

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© wind farm/istockphoto/thinkstock

“The research is overwhelming,” Jenkins says. “The more exposure and actual experiences students have learning outside the traditional classroom, the more likely they are to improve higher-order thinking skills, analytical skills and the ability to apply what they’ve learned in school. “They’ll be better equipped, for example, to synthesize, compare and contrast what they may have read about geological formations to the actual sight of Big Bend or the Permian Basin. Particularly in the sciences, it has been shown that the kids who get that kind of hands-on exposure perform better on standardized tests.” The same principle applies to visiting civic institutions such as the State Capitol or a courtroom during a live trial. “It means something to see what a jury looks like, to see what is meant by the terms ‘prosecution’ and ‘defense,’ to hear the judge and all the players that make the justice system work,” Jenkins says. The LIT Bus brings the ideal practices and resources of the traditional classroom into contact with the rest of the world. It’s the real-world application of the educational philosophy of John Dewey, who first challenged the institutional tendency in education to isolate progressively organized subject matter from students’ unique, individual experiences. Like Griffin, Dewey advocated against the artificial “either-or” distinction between what students learn in classrooms and what they do when they leave school. He called this idea the principle of continuity of experience. The medium is the message. Or, in Griffin’s words, “it’s a real experience,” not the narrow “dissemination of content.” “You go to the Alamo,” Griffin says, “and a student asks, ‘Where was Davy Crockett standing when he was killed? Where did they draw the line in the sand and say that anyone who wanted to stay should stand behind it? How much of this story is legend, and how much is true?’ A classroom of 30 individuals might read the same chapter on the historical significance of the place, but there are at least 30 ways to teach it.” This native curiosity is the basis of the scientific method, the powerful instinct we call inductive reasoning. It’s the kind of thought we apply to experiences ranging from the mundane to the

“I want students to get interested in people and things around them they didn’t even know were there,” Griffin says. “All your life experiences create your view of the world. Cognitive experiences help connect us to the world, but a child who has a limited amount of life experiences compared with other children with more is at a disadvantage, especially in an educational setting.” And in an educational setting, this kind of deficit can be almost invisible, but it is inaccurate to assume that all students have equitable life experiences that they can transfer to the classroom. Decades of research tell us that academic achievement gaps are partly determined by “nonschool” factors such as family income, English-language proficiency, and nutrition and health. Among these, Griffin counts another: Students from economically disadvantaged families are often severely limited in how far and how frequently they travel beyond their homes, schools and neighborhoods. As a result, they miss educational opportunities many of us take for granted. In the worst cases, such a deficit of experience might leave them with a contracted view of the world, other people and themselves. “This is why I dreamt up the LIT Bus,” Griffin says. “That was my reason. I know that if I don’t get up close to NASA, for example, there’s a better chance I’m not going to be an astronaut. The things that kids grow up around are the things they know best. Some people are fortunate enough to break out of that mold, and some are not.”

Students can—and do—see the connection between their classroom present and their not-too-distant future, Griffin says. And he supports this thesis. He collects and records stories from adults and professionals who trace their careers and lifelong interests to memories of field trips in the primary grades. It’s evidence of the wisdom of youth, he says. “I’m for people learning where they came from. I’ve always been fascinated by this subject.”

Pedagogy on the road By altering the context of teaching and learning, Griffin says, educators can become students themselves—as willing to learn as the ones who learn from them. “Teachers, just like students, are searching for information about the world,” he says. “More importantly, they’re searching for information about each student. Learning in Transit is not only an opportunity to see more of the world. It’s an opportunity to see more of the child. If a teacher is able to see a child in a different setting—well, there’s a good chance this teacher will figure out a better way to reach that child.” At capacity, a single bus running on a six-day schedule can serve more than 10,000 elementary students and 5,000 secondary school students in one academic year. Griffin encourages collaboration among classrooms from different campuses and hopes to facilitate more trips with parents. Soon he will launch an online forum where educators across Texas can share ideas Continued on page 45

Notable arguments for learning beyond the classroom

Out of school, because they are continuously engaged with objects and situations that make sense to them, people do not fall into the trap of forgetting what their calculation or their reasoning is about. Mental activities make sense in terms of their results in a specific circumstance; actions are grounded in the logic of immediate situations. In school, however, symbolic activities tend to become detached from any meaningful context. School learning then becomes a matter of learning symbol manipulation rules and saying or writing things according to the rules. This focus on symbols that are detached from their referents can create difficulties even for school learning itself.

—“Learning in School and Out” presidential address to the American Educational Research Association, Lauren B. Resnick, internationally renowned educational psychologist and founder of the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh

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Perhaps the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular thing he is studying at the time. Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often is much more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learned. For these attitudes are fundamentally what count in the future. The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. If impetus in this direction is weakened instead of being intensified, something much more than mere lack of preparation takes place. The pupil is actually robbed of native capacities which otherwise would enable him to cope with the circumstances that he meets in the course of his life.

—Education and Experience, John Dewey | 33


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Summit highlights

ent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal lead *A  n opening sessionnurse with Food Network nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friendgeneral teacher coach parent a personality Chef Jeff, who will share his texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide experiences principalworking leader texan friend teacher nu with at-risk youth principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan * P rofessional Learning and Networking (PLAN) coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide p sessions featuring Drs. Harry and Rosemary friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher Wong, Brad Cohen, Barbara Coloroso, Patricknurse co Chef Jeff and aide Patrick John Hughes, Nancy Oelklaus cipal leader texan friend teacher nurse coachHenry parent principal leader texan frien and Dr. Debra Pickering parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principa *A  ward celebrations recognizing ATPE nurse members’coach teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher professional and leadership successtexan friend tea leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader * T nurse he 32ndcoach annual meeting of the ATPEprincipal House of lead ent aide principal leader texan friend teacher parent aide Delegates and teacher 2012-13 state officercoach electionsparent a nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend nurse Awards texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide leader texan friend * Aprincipal TPE leader training opportunities, includingteacher nu a presidents’ dinneraide with educator-turnedprincipal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent principal leader texan congressional candidate Tierney Cahill coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide p friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse co cipal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan frien parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principa trainingcoach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach teacherLeader nurse leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend te 34 |

atpe news

atpe summit

texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher oach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parHow to attend Keynurse dates e principal leader texan friend teacher coach parent aide princiAsk yourfriend local unit president to register you and 5 aide principal leader texan der texan teacher nurse coachMarch parent certify you as a voting or alternate delegate. Local Nominations/entries for Educator of the Year, teacher nursecancoach parent aide leader texan friend teacher unit presidents begin certifying delegates onlineprincipal Campus Representative of the Year, Local Unit in early April. the Year, thefriend Ben Shilcutt Plus Club and the coach parent aide principal leaderof texan teacher nurse coach Sam Houston Award for Political Involvement The registration fee is $125 until rent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach must be submitted/postmarked by this date. June 18. (Registration for some $125 aide rent registration leader texan friend teacher nurse coach attendees,principal such as ATPE AmbasMarch 15 sadors, college students and fee aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent Proposed bylaws amendments and resolutions teacher trainees, is free. Learn must teacher be postmarkednurse by this date. ncipal texan friend coach parent aide more atleader Registration includes access to Professional Learning State officer nominations must be received in the al leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader and Networking (PLAN) presentations, the Opening state office by this date.

Chef Jeff, ATPE principal Central, the leader texan friend teacher nurse coach paracher General nurse Session coachwith parent aide Housefriend of Delegates meeting, ATPE leader training der texan teacher nurse coach parentMay aide1 principal leader texan friend teacher sessions, and snack and beverage breaks. You donationsparent must be made this date aide principal leader texanmeals friend teacher ATPE-PAC nurse coach aideby principal leader may also register for additional and award to count toward 2011-12 ATPE-PAC honors urse coach parent aide leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide ceremonies (separate fees principal apply). (William B. Travis, Stephen F. Austin and the n friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse Davy Crockett Fundraising Challenge). principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan June 1 oach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide prinEntries for the Newsletter Award must be nd teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach submitted/postmarked by this date. al leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend June 18 nurse coach parent aide principal parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher Local unit presidents must teacher certify localnurse unit voting acher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend coach paralternate delegates by this date. der texan friend teacher nurse coach parentand aide principal leader texan friend teacher registration fee increases $135principal after aide principal leader texan friend teacher The nurse coach parent toaide leader this date. The Wongs urse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide n friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan oach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide prinnd teacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach al leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent principal texan friend Tweet aboutaide the ATPE Summit:leader #atpesummit House of Delegates parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach parent aide principal eacher nurse coach parent aide principal leader texan friend teacher nurse coach par

spring 2012 | 35

your association

atpe news

Meet three of Texas’ newest educators

The winners of ATPE’s Extreme Classroom Makeover

Kudos to Kathie Olsen, office manager extraordinaire

Now in its sixth year, ATPE’s Extreme Classroom Makeover promotion helps new educators stock their first classrooms with educational materials. Eligible for this year’s drawing were those 2010-11 teacher-trainee members who renewed as 2011-12 first-time professional members. This year’s three winners each received $500. They are: Ryan Eichner, Spring ISD Alma mater: Texas A&M University What he teaches: Geometry

Braxton Allison, Hale Center ISD Alma mater: Lubbock Christian University What he teaches: Prekindergarten through fourth-grade P.E.

What he bought: A variety of classroom supplies and décor, including posters, floor lamps and calculator batteries, as well as dry erase boards, markers and erasers for each student On the sidelines: Eichner coaches freshman football and freshman girls basketball at Westfield High.

What he bought: A Nintendo Wii, dance video games and controllers His career inspiration: His dad, a coach and teacher

Eric Wyatt, Andrews ISD Alma mater: Abilene Christian University His position: Assistant band director at Andrews High School What he bought: 13 tuners and pickups What he appreciates about ATPE: “The emails. They help me keep track of what’s going on. The emails are informative and look good.”

36 |

The ATPE state office runs like clockwork, and the state office staff can thank the one and only Kathie Olsen for the systems that make it do so. Olsen, the ATPE facilities director, keeps our office supplies stocked, always has an extension cord when you need it and has developed a rocksolid system for loading everything we need for the ATPE Summit onto one rental truck. But, after 29 years, Olsen is embarking on a new adventure— retirement—and we are going to have to make our way without her. Olsen began her career at ATPE in September 1982 as a member of the communications department and later moved to ATPE Accounting before taking the office management role. Olsen’s work doesn't involve daily interaction with ATPE members, but her efficiency, organization and complete mastery of her role at the state office have been instrumental to ATPE’s success and growth. We will miss you, Kathie, and here’s to many happy traveling adventures. Be sure to visit. Often.

atpe news

Spring into savings and relaxation with ATPE Spring break fun is just around the corner, and it won’t empty your wallet if you take advantage of the travel discounts available to ATPE members. Log in to the Services and Discounts page at to learn more.

Auto rental: Members receive discounts on rental cars through Avis®, Alamo®, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental. Hotels: Members save on stays at Comfort Inn®, Comfort Suites®, Quality®, Sleep Inn®, Clarion®, MainStay Suites®, Econo Lodge®, Suburban Extended Stay®, Rodeway Inn® brands and Ascend Collection® properties, La Quinta Inns and Suites, Baymont Inns and Suites®, Days Inn®, Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham®, Howard Johnson®, Knights Inn®, Microtel Inns and Suites®, Ramada®, Super 8®, Travelodge®, Wingate® by Wyndham and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts®.

Theme parks: Members can purchase discount tickets to Sea World Orlando, Sea World San Antonio, Sea World San Diego, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Adventure Island, Aquatica, Water Country USA and Sesame Place through the Worlds of Discovery Parks online ticket order program. Members can also purchase discount tickets to Schlitterbahn Waterparks through Schlitterbahn’s online ticket program.

Plan for your future Log in to the Services and Discounts page at for more information about these member benefits.

© toy car/creatas/thinkstock

Long-term care insurance ATPE is pleased to work with our long-term care insurance partner, Long Term Care Resources (LTCR). With an elite network of long-term care specialists representing the industry’s leading product providers, LTCR offers ATPE members unmatched flexibility and carrier options, superior benefits and pricing advantages.

Save up to 25 percent on car insurance ATPE understands the economic challenges members face today and would like to show appreciation to educators through exclusive member savings. To that end, ATPE has teamed up with Nationwide® to offer special member-only discounts on auto insurance. But that’s not all; as a member of ATPE and a Nationwide customer, you’ll have access to the Nationwide Family Plan™, which can save you up to 25 percent. Log in to the Services and Discounts page at for more information. Nationwide may make a financial contribution to this organization in return for the opportunity to market products and services to its members or customers. Products Underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies, Nationwide Lloyds and Nationwide Property & Casualty Companies (in TX). Home Office: Columbus, OH 43215. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review and approval. Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states. Potential savings based on comparison to major national competitors, for a teen driver on their parents’ policy, conducted 2008. Nationwide, Nationwide Insurance, the Nationwide framemark, On Your Side and Nationwide Family Plan are registered service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2011 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. All Rights Reserved.

Accident insurance Eligible ATPE members have access to affordable guaranteed-issue accident insurance from ACE American Insurance Company. Members can enroll for coverage year-round.

spring 2012 | 37

your association

foundation news

2011-12 Technology Grants awarded Each year, the ATPE Foundation awards two $2,500 technology grants to help Texas public schools purchase technology resources for classroom use. The 2011-12 recipients are: • Dripping Springs ISD’s Dripping Springs Elementary School. Fourth-grade teacher Lisa Stoll was the applicant. • Pasadena ISD’s Pasadena High School. Jeremy Jackson, a sports medicine teacher and athletic trainer, was the applicant. Applications for 2012-13 grants will be available in July. Learn more about the program at

Apply for $1,500 scholarships by June 1 The ATPE Foundation has two scholarship programs, and the 2012 application deadline for each is June 1. The Barbara Jordan Memorial Scholarship was established to honor the late Texas congresswoman and distinguished educator. Up to six $1,500 scholarships are awarded each year to outstanding junior, senior and graduate students enrolled in educator preparation programs at predominantly ethnic-minority institutions. The Fred Wiesner Educational Excellence Scholarship honors one of ATPE’s founding members. Four $1,500 scholarships are awarded to outstanding college students currently enrolled in educator preparation programs. If the number and quality of applicants allow, three scholarships are awarded to undergraduates and one scholarship to a graduate student. Find applications and more information, including the list of institutions where students qualify for Barbara Jordan scholarships, at

ATPE Public Relations Director Larry Comer presents a $2,500 ATPE Foundation Technology Grant to Jeremy Jackson, a sports medicine teacher and athletic trainer at Pasadena High School. The presentation took place Jan. 24 during the Pasadena ISD school board meeting. 38 |

Help students succeed

Donate to the ATPE Foundation Established in 2000, the ATPE Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of public education through literacy initiatives, technology programs, and educator recruitment and retention efforts. Supporting the foundation is easy when you visit You can make taxdeductible donations online using your Visa or MasterCard, or you can print a donation form to mail in with your cash or check. Donations of any size are appreciated and can be given in honor or in memory of family members, friends or colleagues. The ATPE Foundation is registered in Texas as a nonprofit corporation and is a public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

atpe news

Jackson—Courtesy of Pasadena ISD; Stoll— Courtesy of Dripping Springs ISD

ATPE Public Relations Director Larry Comer, right, presents a 2011-12 ATPE Foundation Technology Grant to Dripping Springs Elementary School principal Mary Ellen Fernandez and fourth-grade teacher Lisa Stoll during the Jan. 19 Dripping Springs ISD school board meeting.

save the date

F r i d ay, O c t. 26

Why: To have fun and win great prizes while supporting literacy, technology, and educator recruitment and retention programs in Texas public schools Where: Teravista Golf Club, Round Rock More info:

The ATPE Foundation is registered in Texas as a nonprofit corporation and is a public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

PPush ush ush yourself yourself in in 2012 ushyourself yourselfin in2012

Volunteer for ATPE

Become a leader among educators by volunteering for your professional association. We have a role for you: • If your district has a local unit, volunteer as a campus rep, or run for a local unit office. • If your district doesn’t currently have a local unit, become an ATPE Ambassador who spreads the word about ATPE by distributing materials on your campus or in your district—whichever suits your comfort level. Get started by visiting and choosing your school district in the dropdown box under the heading “Contact Your Local Unit Representative.” From there, you’ll receive specific information about volunteering in your district. This is your year. This is your ATPE. Make the most of it.

your association

tenet focus

Exploring ATPE’s 10 tenets ATPE was founded in April 1980 with a distinct set of philosophies. In this ATPE News series, we’ll take an in-depth look at each of ATPE’s 10 tenets and explain how they act as the building blocks of the association. This is the second article in the series.

Member-owned, member-governed ATPE members guide the Association through their elected local, region and Board of Directors representatives and by participation at the annual House of Delegates. ATPE’s membership is made up of educators and supporters of Texas public schools. Our local unit, region and state officers are educators working in the classroom, on school campuses and in school districts. The members who attend the annual meeting of the House of Delegates (HOD), held each year at the ATPE Summit, decide how the association is run. And though the number of delegates who attend the HOD is not near the total number of association members, those who don’t attend have opportunities to voice their views through their local unit delegates or by submitting them directly to the state office. Your voice is ATPE’s voice, in all that the association does.


Right to Work/ Oppose Strikes

Superior Services to Members 2011-12 Spring ATPE Vice President Robert Hanchett asks a question during the HOD at the 2011 ATPE Summit.

2012 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Stephanie Stoebe (who is profiled on pages 24–29), agrees. “I chose ATPE to represent me primarily because it is member-owned and member-governed,” Stoebe says. “This means when I need guidance, support or inspiration, it is coming from like-minded people. As I personally strive to deliver equity and excellence in education for my students, I know that ATPE is doing the same thing for its teachers.” Look to the next issue of ATPE News for information on another ATPE tenet: superior services to members.

40 |

ATPE tenets

Member-Owned/ Member-Governed

“In a nutshell,” says Kelly Fife, a Killeen ATPE member, “ATPE allows our voice to be heard, not only locally, but also nationally. As members, we drive the efforts of ATPE. This is important because we have a voice in our profession by being members of ATPE.”

Region 17 retired member Patricia Verett speaks during the HOD.

10 All-Inclusive



Issues-Oriented Advocacy

Independent Association

Local Control of Public Schools

atpe news


your association

Bravo, ATPE members

Congratulations to all of the Texas educators who achieve great heights in their field.

CONROE Russell Corcoran, assistant principal at Peet Junior High School, was named the Region 6 Outstanding Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year. Corcoran received the award for taking risks and being a leader of learners.

KILLEEN In November, Desiree Jez, a thirdgrade teacher at Reeces Creek Elementary School, won an educators’ essay contest sponsored by Texell Credit Union. Jez was awarded a $1,000 classroom makeover prize, which she plans to use to purchase new technology for her students.

Humanities Texas


n 2011, four ATPE members earned the Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award presented by Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The organization supports research, education and public programs in history, literature, philosophy and other humanities. The following members received a $5,000 check and an additional $500 to purchase instructional materials for their respective schools: • Helen Bradley, U.S. history and government teacher at Nimitz High School in Irving ISD. • Chris Cooper, art history, humanities and visual arts teacher at San Marcos High School in San Marcos CISD. • Melissa Lamprich, retired educator from Colleyville Heritage High School in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. • Melanie Mayer, chairwoman of the English department at Port Aransas High School in Port Aransas ISD. Mayer is also a 2012 Texas Exes Outstanding Teacher.

T e x as E x es h o n o re d


his year, three ATPE members received the 2012 Texas Exes Award for Outstanding Teachers sponsored by the Texas Exes Alumni Association and the University of Texas College of Education. These awards are given to 10 high school and two elementary school educators who “inspire and support their students, bring credit to the teaching profession, and are held in the highest regard by their current and former students, fellow teachers, administrators, parents and community.” The following honorees will receive a $2,250 check and a bronze sculpture at an awards ceremony this spring: • Gregory Dick, band director at Friendswood High School in Friendswood ISD. Dick is the recipient of the Mrs. Harold B. Myers Award.

• Melanie Mayer, English teacher at Port Aransas High School in Port Aransas ISD. Mayer is the recipient of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Award. • Janice Ann Reed, Latin and English teacher at Cypress Falls High School in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. Reed is the recipient of the Houston Texas Exes Chapter Award. Also, Nikki Peck, who teaches third-grade math and science at West End Elementary School in Bellville ISD, was named a 2012 Rapoport Rising Star. This honor is bestowed upon 10 begining teachers each year.

spring 2012

SACU and San Antonio KENS 5 ExCEL Awards During the 2010-11 school year, San Antonio Federal Credit Union (SACU) and San Antonio KENS 5 News celebrated their 13th year of honoring outstanding public educators in the greater San Antonio area. Recipients of the ExCEL Award are featured on KENS 5’s Eyewitness News program and receive a $1,000 check and a trophy made by the company that creates the Oscar for the Academy Awards. Two ATPE members received this recognition: • Keri Robertson, a second-grade teacher at Randolph Elementary in Randolph Field ISD. • Deborah McQueen, a special education teacher at Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary in Boerne ISD. | 41

family album

Ennis—Courtesy of Merry Creager

Big Lake—courtesy of Sara Stevens

your association

Big Lake


Educators, parents, students and community members participate in Big Lake ATPE’s Teacher Trot 5K Run/Walk in Reagan County ISD in November to encourage educators to stay healthy and raise money for the local unit’s scholarship fund. Participants, including some from McCamey ISD, each contributed $25 and received a T-shirt.

Region 10 Past President Merry Creager and Ennis ATPE Past President Nanette Moyers pack local unit donations for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a local and international relief organization. Ennis ATPE members, led by President Carolyn Heubel, collected hard candies, toys, socks, combs and toothbrushes and packed them into 70 shoeboxes to be sent to children in Texas and around the world at Christmastime.

Region 10—Courtesy of Jackie Davis

Region 10

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ATPE State Treasurer Richard Wiggins , Region 10 Secretary Melissa Duffey and Region 10 President Carl Garner attend the Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) 12th Honor Roll recognition event, sponsored by H-E-B, in December. Garland ATPE campus rep Jackie Davis, a longtime leader in Region 10, was also among the nearly 1,000 educators in attendance from the 253 Texas public schools on the TBEC Honor Roll. “This is the eighth year my school has been recognized and given this award,” Davis says. “It is an honor for me to get to represent my school each year. It’s a very positive and uplifting experience for educators who have worked to maintain the highest standards for their school campuses.”

atpe news

welcome back! The following local units have recently reactivated:

irving—courtesy of cheryl drews

• Marshall ATPE in Region 7. It has 22 members and is led by President Amy Crumrine and Treasurer Anna Hardy. Crumrine and Hardy are first-time educators and recent graduates of East Texas Baptist University, where they led the university's local unit.


• Natalia ATPE in Region 20. It has 20 members and is led by President Travis Weissler, Vice President Eileen Wilkins, Secretary Tina Herrera and Treasurer Laureen Gonzales.

Irving ISD trustees participate in the “Irving in a Nutshell” panel discussion during the Oct. 13 Irving ATPE meeting. Attendees also heard a presentation on Project Share. Pictured on the left is trustee Gwen Craig, an Irving ATPE retired member.

• Kemp ATPE in Region 10. It has 40 members and is led by President Stacy Canaday and Treasurer Debra Airheart.

Irving—Courtesy of Cheryl Drews

Willis—Courtesy of Judi Thomas

• Stephen F. Austin State University ATPE in Region 7. It has 138 members and is led by President Sarah Zavorka, Vice President Andie Rivera, Secretary Steve Pacheco, and Treasurer Tamyra Albers and Membership Chair Jose Barrientos.

Willis Turner Elementary School librarian Linda Carter accepts a $500 Literacy for a Lifetime grant from Willis ATPE in October. Carter used the grant to purchase new books and educational resources for Turner Elementary students.

spring 2012

• Texas Southern University ATPE in Region 4. The 86-member local unit is led by Co-Presidents Brittanie Hilliard and Kala Batiste, Vice President Latisha Chateman, Secretary Ashley Holley and Treasurer Donny King.

highlights McMurry ATPE won the Photo Safari contest ATPE held after the ATPE Summit. The photos are featured on ATPE’s Facebook page at | 43

your association

Thank you for your donation!

atpe-pac honor roll

The following ATPE members donated $50 or more to ATPE’s Political Action Committee (ATPE-PAC) between October and December 2011.





Janice Cooper

Stephanie Bailey

Allen Bettis

Greg Vidal



La Vernia


Nelson Bishop

Dianne Reed

Clay Bordner

Jill Gipson


Del Valle


Chris Hansen

Mary Hopkins

Jayne Serna

Doris Ratenski Shirley Sadowski Richardson Boerne

Fort Worth


Richard Wiggins

Steve Pokluda

Robert Meador

Annette Cameron San Antonio




Jose Garza

Amy LeBrun

Janice Houston



Mary Bryan

Julia Lepek



Janet Hanson

Gayle Sampley

North Lamar

Yvonne Waggoner

Alison Hayter


Frankie Jarrell

Janice Hornsby

Northside (20)


David de la Garza

Stella de la Cruz

Debbie Massey

Doris Camp

Brock Gregg Terrell Lisa Jenkins

Huntsville Brenda Lynch

Conroe Debra Ferrari

State office

Mount Vernon Rita Long

Clear Creek

Carlos Perez


Cynthia Sloan

Judy Roundtree Crowley

Eileen Walcik


Diane Pokluda

Melissa Walcik

Gary Dennis

Ron Walcik

Learn more about ATPE-PAC and make donations at

44 |

atpe news

Continued from page 15—Legal Opinions

Continued from page 33—Learning in Transit

No law guarantees that a certified educator will be paid extra for her extra time. Again, the contract will govern this. It is most common for a contract to state that the educator’s normal salary is full compensation for all of the work she does under her contract—including any additional work. This provision has also been common for years, but it’s less significant when the district has a limited ability to increase the demands on an educator’s time. However, when a contract allows a district to significantly increase an educator’s work time, the significance of whether the educator will be paid for the extra time also increases.

for integrated field trip lesson designs, potentially extending the program’s utility well beyond the day of a trip. “I’m looking for teachers who are willing to stick their necks out and design new lessons for their students,” he says. “I want teachers to be more creative and innovative with the lessons they teach, and I want the teachers to come up with those ideas. We’re limited to nothing but the imagination.” When Griffin describes the LIT Bus, it’s easy to forget the Euclidean contours of the classroom that has come to define school in the imagination of most—replete with desks in rows facing an authoritative chalkboard. Worldwide, the average person seldom travels outside the 25-mile radius surrounding his home. But in learning and teaching, there is something non-stationary, itinerant, restless for the yet-to-be discovered. And there is also something inarguably democratic about a traveling classroom. It comes to you no matter where you are and shows you places and people you never knew existed, places and people that other people get to see. The LIT Bus is now equipped to serve all populations of students—special education, gifted-and-talented and more. With additional funding, Griffin hopes to buy more buses and install interactive technology allowing educators to conduct face-to-face classes in transit. And with the interest of Texas educators and support from private and corporate donors, Learning in Transit can grow into a durable and scalable educational service, provided at no cost. Visit for more information. A

Cause for alarm? Although these new contracts exist and you need to be aware of them, we do not know how common they will become. We know that many districts will continue the practice of treating educators as professionals and will work with educators as partners rather than adversaries. It is just doubly important for you to take the time to read and understand what you are agreeing to when you sign an employment contract. If you have questions, get good advice. A The legal information provided in ATPE News is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorneyclient relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers should consult directly with an attorney. ATPE members should call (800) 777-ATPE or access the Member Legal Services Intake System (MLSIS) at

Official notice of

the 32nd annual meeting of the ATPE House of Delegates The ATPE House of Delegates (HOD) will meet during the 2012 ATPE Summit this July 14–16 at the Austin Convention Center. HOD proceedings, including state officer elections, will occur July 16.

Please visit for more information about the summit and the HOD, including delegate certification information. The wording of proposed bylaws changes will be published in the Summer 2012 ATPE News and made available at at least 45 days prior to the HOD meeting.

This notice is published pursuant to Article IX, Section 4, of the ATPE State Bylaws.

spring 2012 | 45

2011-12 ATPE Membership Application If paying by personal check, mail this entire page along with your check to ATPE. If paying by payroll deduction, complete the payroll deduction authorization below and mail the entire page to ATPE, or join at to pay by credit card. Soc Sec # XXX-XX-____________ (only last four digits) Previous member?


Member ID # First



Insured categories*



$145 00

$ ______


First-time Professional

$90 00

$ ______

$70 00

$ ______

Name Last

Enter amount


Have never been a Professional member


Campus Associate

Home address City/State Home Phone (

Paraprofessional and classified positions


Teacher Trainee



Student teacher in Texas

School email Uninsured categories

Home email


Yes! I want information about becoming an ATPE volunteer! Of the amount of dues paid toward your membership in ATPE, $3.32 pays for a subscription to ATPE News (published four times per year) and includes all state and local sales taxes. A portion of ATPE members’ dues (up to $24.00 for Professional and Associate members, and up to $4.00 for Teacher Trainee members) pays for the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Policy.

College Student

$ ______ FREE

Non-teaching college student


The ATPE Political Action Committee (ATPE-PAC) accepts voluntary donations from members to advocate for ATPE’s legislative priorities. ATPE-PAC does not endorse political candidates. Donations to ATPE-PAC are not a condition of employment or membership. A member may donate more or less than the suggested amount or may choose not to make a donation without it affecting his or her membership status, rights or benefits with ATPE. Donations are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.

$10 00

$ ______

Friend of public education

Local unit dues

$ ______


$ ______

Suggested $12 donation

*LIABILIT Y & EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS DEFENSE INSURANCE 2011-12 MEMBERSHIP YEAR Coverage applies to your activities as a Professional or Associate member in the course of your duties of employment with an educational institution, or to your activities as a Teacher Trainee member in the course of your duties as a student in a teacher education program in an accredited college or university. Coverage is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa. ALL COVERAGE IS SUBJECT TO THE EXPRESS TERMS OF THE MASTER INSURANCE POLICY ISSUED TO ATPE AND KEPT ON FILE AT THE STATE OFFICE. View a summary at The policy applies only to activities that begin during the period when coverage is effective and does not apply to activities that predate the coverage period. For paper applications, your membership date is established when your application is received in the state office, or when your application is received, signed and dated by a designated local unit representative. For online applications, your membership date is established at 12:01 a.m. C.S.T. on the date following successful transmittal of your online application and payment at Coverage begins on the later of 8/1/11 or your Membership Date and expires on 8/1/12 except for the following: COVERAGE IS EFFECTIVE ON 8/1/11 IF YOU RENEW MEMBERSHIP ANYTIME DURING AUGUST OR SEPTEMBER 2011, AND EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS DEFENSE INSURANCE IS NOT EFFECTIVE UNTIL 30 DAYS AFTER YOUR MEMBERSHIP DATE IF YOU JOIN AFTER 9/30/11 AND WERE ELIGIBLE FOR MEMBERSHIP FROM AUGUST 2011 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2011. For further information, call (800) 777-ATPE. Eligibility for membership benefits is contingent upon receipt of the entire membership dues amount for your appropriate membership category. A disruption in payments to an authorized payment plan may result in discontinuation of such benefits, including cancellation of insurance coverage for the entire membership year, retroactive to August 1 or your membership date.

$10 00

Retired former school employee

TOTAL Payroll deduction

$ ______


Check enclosed

Complete authorization below

Professional and Associate membership is open to persons employed in Texas by a public school district, institution of higher education, Regional Education Service Center, the State Board for Educator Certification or the Texas Education Agency. You must join in the appropriate insured category in order to qualify for coverage. ATPE reserves the right to determine eligibility for the appropriate membership category. Please review a list of eligible job descriptions at jobdesc.aspx, or call (800) 777-ATPE. Commissioned peace officers are eligible for public membership only. Dues are not deductible as charitable contributions for income tax purposes but may be deductible as miscellaneous itemized deductions, subject to IRS restrictions. It is estimated that 12 percent of your dues dollar is used for lobbying activities and is therefore not deductible. Arrangements for payroll deduction are the responsibility of the applicant.

Payroll Deduction Authorization I, the total amount of $


authorize the


school district to deduct

in order to pay for ATPE state dues, local dues and political action donations I further authorize the Association to notify the

school district of changes in the annual dues amounts and the school district to deduct the new amount The number of pay periods over which deductions may be made is

Upon termination of my employment, I authorize any unpaid balance to be deducted from my final check This authorization,

for the deductions referenced above, will continue in effect until I give notice to the school district to revoke Payroll authorizations for 2011-12 will not be accepted after Feb. 29, 2012. Employee Signature

Soc Sec #

ATPE applicant must sign

Or Employee ID #

Date 2011/12 AP8

by Mandy Curtis, senior copy editor/writer

Making global comparisons Ever wondered how your district compares with others around the country or even the world? The George W. Bush Presidential Center has made such comparisons possible through The Global Report Card, which can be found at The website presents evaluations of student achievement at the state, national and international levels. The evaluations are averaged on a curve to facilitate comparisons across state and national borders. For example, Round Rock ISD’s district performance from 2004–2007 ranks at: •5  7 percent in math and 61 percent in reading when compared with the world; •6  9 percent in math and 63 percent in reading when compared with districts in the U.S.; and

© report card/Jupiterimages/thinkstock; boy using notebook computer/istockphoto/thinkstock

•6  4 percent in math and 63 percent in reading when compared with other districts in Texas.

“ ” I am where I am because I believe in all possibilities.

How big can a byte get?

Streaming digital literacy Although online video streaming and rental service Netflix underwent changes during late 2011, the company’s basic model is being adopted by many other online services, some of them educational. One such service is myON, an online literacy system that provides customized digital reading selections for K–8 students. myON offers students digitally enhanced reading material with audio, dictionaries and highlighting. Students can create profiles based on their interests, reading history and reading level. Find more information about the program at

Digital information storage is measured in units called bytes. Your computer’s hard drive is likely somewhere in the 80–500 gigabyte range, which means that it can hold between 80 billion and 150 billion bytes of data. By 2015, the Internet is estimated to reach a zettabyte, which is equal to 1 sextillion bytes of information. Other multiples of bytes include: @ Kilobyte—1,000 bytes.

—Whoopi Goldberg,

@ Megabyte—1 million bytes.

American comedienne and actress (b. 1955)

@ Terabyte—1 trillion bytes.

spring 2012


@ Petabyte—1 quadrillion bytes. @ Exabyte—1 quintillion bytes. @ Yottabyte—1 septillion bytes.

Currently, no storage system in the world holds more than a zettabyte, but the yottabyte is ready and waiting for the day it’s needed. | 47

It’s time for every Texan to understand what educators have long known: Our choices at the polls become realities in the classroom.

It’s time for educators to Teach the Vote.

At, a project of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Texas voters can research candidates’ education stances. You won’t find endorsements, but you will find solid information from Texas’ preeminent educators’ association. Use this information to select the candidates you believe will make public education their top priority.

T e a c h t h e V o t e . o r g C o n ta i n s P o l . A d . P a i d F o r B y t h e A s s o c i at i o n o f T e x a s P r o f e s s i o n a l E d u c at o r s .

Spring 2012 ATPE News  

The Spring 2012 ATPE News contains a guide to the 2012 Texas primaries and a profile of Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Stephanie Stoebe...

Spring 2012 ATPE News  

The Spring 2012 ATPE News contains a guide to the 2012 Texas primaries and a profile of Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Stephanie Stoebe...