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Articles from December 2015

Student says move to Ames High School changed his life

Ames High School senior Jacob Hess says he went to a pretty good high school in Minnesota before he moved to Ames in 2013 as a sophomore.

“My school had a good variety of AP classes and a chance to take some classes at the community college,” he said.

So the prospect of packing up and moving to central Iowa did not appeal to him, he said.

“I wasn’t thrilled about moving to Ames, but academically it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Hess said.

By the time Hess graduates from Ames High School in the spring, he will have earned more than 18 college credits and completed more than a year of internships, he said.

“It all started when I talked to Dr. (Mike) Avise,” Hess said.

When Hess was placed in a freshman study hall upon arrival at Ames High School because the sophomore study halls were full, he looked for ways to avoid becoming even further disgruntled.

Avise recommended that Hess look into the school’s Extended Learning Program.

With the help of the ELP staff, support from Industrial Technology teacher Kent Jahn and the encouragement of some upperclassmen, Hess learned he could enroll in classes at Iowa State University to pursue his interest in computer programming while gaining college credits.

“I’ve been interested in computer programming since seventh grade,” he said, recalling the time he was home from school sick for several days and became so bored he started looking at “how-to” YouTube videos about Python, a widely used general-purpose programming language.

“I guess I was Inspired by my dad, who always tells me to put time to a good use, and my uncle, who’s a professional computer programmer who uses Python from time to time,” he said.

While taking Computer Science 227 at ISU, Hess applied for and was chosen for an internship with ISU’s Institute for Transportation, or InTrans. His work focused on writing a computer program to visualize traffic data.

“With a hobby-level background in coding and what I learned in  Comps Sci 227, I wrote a program to convert thousands of lines of data into 3D graphics,” he said.

The program got noticed not just by leaders at InTrans, but also by a lead software engineer at the Iowa Department of Transportation, Hess said.

Hess, who has decided to pursue a mechanical engineering major at ISU, says Ames HIgh School does a good job preparing students for higher education.

“Open campus and free periods, and taking classes at a major university has really helped me in managing time and being responsible and self-motivated,” he said. “If you want to push yourself academically, there are countless numbers of opportunities.”

Read about Jacob Hess in The Ames Tribune

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Blanket drive helps Edwards students learn about giving

Second grade students at Edwards Elementary School collected 53 new and gently used blankets to help keep Ames citizens warm this winter.

Teacher Terri Boeding said the project, now in its second year, helps students learn the value of giving to others.

“We want students to learn to be compassionate and to care for people in need,” she said.

Boeding said since classrooms are full of students from all backgrounds who celebrate various holidays, teachers and students looked for a way to promote generosity while still being sensitive to a differing customs and beliefs.

“A basic human need of keeping warm during cold weather led us to this cause,” she said.

Teachers also wanted to respect the wide range of students’ families’ financial situations, Boeding said.

“So we welcomed new or used blankets,” she said. “Many students brought in clean comforters, baby blankets or throws from home, while others purchased new ones”.image002

Students say the blanket drive gave their families a chance to work together in the spirit of giving.

Brayden Crosser, for example, said he helped his grandmother make a blanket for the project.

“I wanted to make a blanket to give to the homeless people of Ames and do a project with my grandma,” he said.

Ian Helgersen said when he told his family about the blanket drive and how he wanted to help people who didn’t have warm homes, his family responded generously.

“I went to Target with my family and we bought three blankets,” he said.

Sophia Kyveryga said, “I told my mom that I wanted to get a blanket to give to the homeless people of Ames.  We bought one from TJ Max.”

Sophia’s mother, Natalia Rogovska, was so grateful, she sent an email to Boeding thanking her for “teaching our kids to be compassionate.”

Edwards second grade teachers are Boeding, Kelly Hansen and Heather Werner.

Boeding said the blankets were delivered to Youth and Shelter Services.

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Iowa releases new school report card

A new web-based tool that gives a snapshot of every Iowa public school’s performance on certain educational measures became available to the public, Wednesday, Dec. 16.

The Iowa School Report Card scores schools on up to eight educational measures that include student attendance and Iowa Assessment performance, and then assigns an overall rating to each school. The Iowa School Report Card website explains the measures, methodology and rankings in more detail.

While this information can add to conversations in the Ames community about how we’re preparing our students for success, these measures are based on limited data, Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross said.

“As we know from other accountability initiatives such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act, labels and ratings do not tell the whole story about our schools,” Ross said.

Each school in the District uses a variety of data to track how students are progressing and to adjust instruction and professional development for better results, Ross said.

“These data show our students consistently score above the local, state and national averages,” Ross said.

Compared to global peers, Ames students also score well, Ross said. Last year, randomly selected 15-year-old Ames High School students who took the OECD test—an international test of science, mathematics and reading skills—out-scored all the other high-performing Iowa high schools that participated, and scored toe-to-toe with global powerhouses like Singapore, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. Among international peers, only Shanghai’s scores surpassed Ames’ scores.

Superintendent Tim Taylor said Ames students also benefit from the District’s “depth and diversity in all the areas that help students succeed.”

“We have the right balance of expertise, strategies and community support to provide individualized instructional strategies for our students, supported by an array of fine arts and extracurricular programming and athletic opportunities set in the rich culture of our community,” Taylor said.

Earlier this month, the national school ranking organization Niche selected Ames Community School District as the number one district in the state of Iowa for the second year in a row, based on student demographics, teacher/staff qualifications, and student test scores.

Ross said principals are sending messages to their families to tell more about success stories and school improvement efforts in their schools.

“We  invite you to ask questions about our improvement efforts, and find out what you can do to support our district, its teachers and its students,” she said.

Read More ranks Ames the best school district in Iowa again

For the second year in a row, has ranked Ames Community School District the best school district in Iowa.

The composite ranking includes No. 1 rankings for

Ames High School

Ames Middle School

Our elementary schools are ranked Number 1-4 and 7.

The 2016 Best School Districts ranking provides a comprehensive assessment of the overall experience of a school district. This grade takes into account key factors such as the strength of academics, quality of teachers, school resources, the quality of student life, as well as student and parent reviews, in an attempt to measure the overall excellence of the district.

At the time of calculation, NICHE’s database contained records for 12,153 school districts. School districts were not included in the ranking process if they did not have sufficient data. The final ranking results in 10,563 school districts receiving a grade, with 10,488 of those also receiving a numerical ranking.

Read more on NICHE’s methodology.

Read more in The Ames Tribune


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Ames Middle School state Quiz Bowl champs

Ames Middle School seventh and eighth grade Thinking Cap Quiz Bowl Teams both placed first in the statewide contest, Friday, Nov. 20.

Thinking Cap Quiz Bowl is an online contest of information commonly covered in the middle school curriculum, along with trivia about sports, music, and current events. It is a timed group test, so students must be able to share information quickly and correctly.

The seventh grade team bested 26 other teams, earning a score of 1,191 to edge out the second place team, West Des Moines, by more than 60 points.

Representing the seventh grade: Rob Arbuckle. Ellie Barry, Ella Chopski, Ian Coffman, Caius Danley, Emma Dorhaut, Arunadee Fernando, Nao Furukawa, Kaleb Glover, Brandon Harold, David Jiang, Eliot Jurgensen, Ha Nguyen, Zeynep Oghan, Aria Pilcher, and Eddie Wei.

7th grade quizbowl

Seventh Grade Quiz Bowl team. Seated-L to R: Arunadee Fernando, Emma Dorhout, Ian Coffman, Kaleb Glover, David Jiang, Nao Furukawa, Eddie Wei. Back row-L to R: Aria Pilcher, Ella Chopskie, Caius Danley, Rob Arbuckle, , Zeynep Oghan, Eliot Jurgensen, Ha Nguyen, Brandon Harold, Ellie Barry

The eighth grade team competed among 42 teams from across the state to earn 1,284  out of 1,500 possible points, taking first place with 100 points more than the second place team.

Representing the eighth grade: Jinal Amin, Elizabeth Andrews, Silvia Ayndinyan, Lara Baker, Rianna Bloom, Kendra Caulfield, Jason Chen, Oliver Chen, Shria Chug, Andres Cordoba, Nathan Essner, Nitzan Friedberg, Hannah Huang, Bjorn Iverson, Justin Kenny, David Kim, Susanna Mkhitaryan, Mitchell Oh, Will Orth, Sayre Satterwhite, Simeon Steward and Joshua Webb.

eighth grade quiz bowl

Eighth grade team. Seated-L to R: Kendra Caulfield, Rianna Bloom, Hannah Huang, Susannah Mkhitaryan, Silvia Ayndinyan, Elizabeth Andrews, Lara Baker Standing L to R:Bjorn Iverson, Mitchell Oh, Oliver Chen, David Kim, Will Orth, Justin Kenny, Simeon Steward, Nathan Essner. Not Pictured: Jinal Amin, Shria CHug, Nitzan Friedberg, Sayre Satterwhite, Joshua Webb

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Stay informed about school closures for weather

With inclement weather in the forecast, here’s where you can find information about early dismissals, late starts or school closures.

  • An alert on the website home page, visible in a blue bar at the top of the page.
  • An Infinite Campus message sent by email—and by text and voice message if you have signed up for those options.
  • An alert from the District App, which is available for iOS and Android
  • Announcements on television stations KCCI, (Channel 8), WHO (Channel 13) and ABC Channel 5, on the District cable channel, on KASI Radio, in The Ames Tribune, and online at Iowa School Alerts.

Details about our procedures for closings and delays




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Kent Jahn honored with “Teacher of Excellence Award”


Kent Jahn, R, accepts Iowa Industrial Technology Educators Association’s “2015 Teacher of Excellence” award from its president, Dean Lange, Oct. 30

Ames High School teacher Kent Jahn is the Iowa Industrial Technology Educators Association’s “Teacher of Excellence” for 2015. The Association presented the award, which goes to one Iowa high school industrial technology teacher each year, at the state Career and Applied Technology Conference, Oct. 30.

Jahn, who has been teaching Industrial Technology for 33 years with 18 of those years at Ames High School, says he has taught everything from Building and Trades to Computer Applications and Entrepreneurialism.

Jahn says over the course of his career he’s learned to adapt instruction to meet students at their level.

“I have students of high ability in the same class as those with low ability. Every student can benefit from being in Industrial Technology,” he said.  “I don’t want the low ability students to get behind and stressed out or fail nor do I want the high ability student to be held back. What I try to do is provide a basic outline of instruction to the point where I can get them started and then make myself available to provide instruction and personal guidance where it is needed.”

In Industrial Technology, students learn to problem solve and persevere, Jahn said.

“It’s an important life skill to develop the willingness to try and retry and then try again and realize that it is OK and that it is a part of learning,” he said..

Jahn says the value of Industrial Technology goes well beyond learning to use CAD software and honing woodworking skills.

“These students are learning that they do have abilities and they can do things that they never thought they could do,” he said. “They develop confidence and take pride in doing a job well and when they take a complex drawing or a finished wood project home and show it off to their family, there is a real sense of accomplishment and that feeling of ‘look what I did’”.

Jahn says he’s still learning, too.

“When there are so many things that are changing with technology and improvements of machines, it is really hard, if not impossible, for someone to learn everything,” he said. “So many of the things that I do with my classes I have had to learn along the way. I learn as much as the students do and sometimes I am learning from them.”

Above all, Jahn says his belief that each of his students is special has kept him in his profession and motivated him to keep improving as a teacher.

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” he said.  “There are a lot of things that make teachers think about leaving the teaching profession but none of them have anything to do with the students. The students are what make teaching worthwhile and they keep all of us coming back.”

Editors note: This marks the second consecutive year an Ames High School Industrial Technology teacher has won this award. Craig Boylan was  the 2014 “Teacher of Excellence.”

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Teachers tout benefits of Teacher Leadership

Alex Ford, a new teacher at Meeker Elementary School, is grateful for the help she received from her Mentor Teacher to prepare for her first parent-teacher conferences.

“It can be intimidating as a young teacher to talk to parents twice my age, some with degrees that it will take many more years for me to achieve,” she said. “It’s great to have my Mentor Teacher’s support and encouragement throughout the whole process.”

Ford said her Mentor Teacher helped by not only giving advice on the logistics of using the District’s student data system, which is a maze in itself, but she also encouraged Ford to not be nervous.

“She reassured me that in all her years as a teacher, she’s never had a bad conference,” Ford said.

Mentor Teachers are just one example of how Teacher Leadership is helping district teachers collaborate and learn from each other, says Teacher Leader Coordinator Lisa Clayberg.

Clayberg says teacher leadership has long been a hallmark of Ames Community School District’s practices.

“But with this being the first year of the Teacher Leadership Grant, things are definitely moving forward because we have an opportunity to have a variety of Teacher Leaders in place.”

Clayberg said, for example, 49 different teachers took advantage of observing Model Teachers within the first quarter of school.

Alex Reideman, a teacher at Edwards Elementary School, said teachers understand how important modeling is for students, and that they need modelling for their own learning, too.

“Being able to observe a Model Teacher allowed me to see what things could possibly look like in my classroom and has made a big difference in my teaching already,” she said.

Clayberg said other teacher leaders, such as Instructional Coaches and Teachers on Special Assignment, are providing different forms of professional development all throughout this school year.

“TOSAs have been working right alongside the teachers as they grow their practices to benefit students,” she said.

For a closer look at what’s happening with Teacher Leadership in the Ames Community School District, follow along with the Teacher Leader Blog, Twitter @ACSDTL and Instragram ACSDTL.

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School Board to discuss how District defines student success

The Ames School Board will discuss the District’s proposed criteria for defining student success during its meeting Monday, Nov. 9.

Led by Vice President Tim Rasmussen and Director Alisa Frandsen, the discussion will present proposed definitions for success in the areas of literacy, math, science, graduation rates, professional learning communities and the multi-tier system of support.

Rasmussen and Frandsen serve on the Board’s Teaching and Learning Committee, which drafted success standards at its Oct. 29 meeting. The proposed standards, which the Board will review, define success as:

  • Proficient and/or demonstrating at least one year’s growth on Iowa Assessments for grades three through 11 in math, science and reading comprehension.
  • Reading at grade level or above at the end of grade three.
  • Graduation rate at 95 percent and/or exceeding the state graduation rate.
  • Each teacher being an active, contributing member of a professional learning community.
  • Routine review of core instruction at each building and grade level using convergent data,
  • A plan in place to address tier 2 and tier 3 student needs.

The Board will also discuss how the District will implement the new Iowa science standards, adopted by the Iowa Department of Education in August. Teacher on Special Assignment Kari Smith will present what the District is doing to prepare and Aileen Sullivan, high school science department liaison, will present how 10th grade courses will meet the new standards.

The Board provides an opportunity for the public to speak during its Public Forum at each regular meeting.  School Board meetings are held in the Ames High School Multipurpose Room, 1921 Ames High Dr. Meetings begin promptly at 6:30 p.m.

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Fellows students talk to a diplomat

AMES–Cultivating relationships with foreign countries is rewarding as well as complicated for government officials, fifth grade students and Fellows Elementary School learned this week. There’s a lot at stake when everything from, m
anners, rules, government systems and religions affect how people interact, conduct business and even become friends. That’s why most governments palce diplomats in foreign countries to help, students learned.

U.S. Embassy Consular Chief Jeffrey Osweiler visited Fellows School, Monday, Nov. 2. as part of The Secretary of State’s Hometown Diplomats Program. According to its website, the program’s mission is to “explain to America what we do and why it matters. We do this by tapping into our best resource: our people.”

The Hometown Diplomats Program helps the U.S. Department of State establish and maintain important relationships with individuals and local communities, its website says. Department employees like Osweiler volunteer their time during trips to their hometown to speak publicly with local organizations and students of all ages and educational backgrounds.

A 1990 graduate of Ames high School, Osweiler has a son and a daughter who are students at Fellows.

Osweiler spent several years in Madagascar along with his wife and children before recently being stationed in Tunisia, he said.

“My family is living in Ames now and this is the first time my children have attended school in the United States,” he said.

It’s safer for his family to be in Ames than in Tunisia, Osweiler said.

“I visit Ames often, especially when the children have days off from school and during holidays and breaks”.

DIPLOMATOsweiler learned that at least half of the students in the Fellows fifth grade had visited or lived in a foreign country.

Based on their diverse experiences, students directed questions to Osweiler about food, customs and currency in foreign countries like Madagascar.

One student asked why his relatives had to wait so long to obtain a visa to come to the United States, giving Osweiler a chance to explain various types of visas and reasons people might have for visiting or relocating to a foreign country.

“There are different types of visas for visitors, refugees and immigrants,” he said, explaining that his department does not manage visas.

Fifth grade teacher Cathy Miller said Osweiler’s presentation will hlep students gain a perspective for their study of government this year.


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