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August 31, 2016     Hays Free Press
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16 Former Aquamaid looks ahead San Marcos Mermaid Week. - Page 1C to Hays Free Press August 31, 2016 Page 3B !i!i!ii/~ i!!ii~ !iiiiii !ii!iii! !iliiI !i!i!ii[ :i!i!iiiii ii!i!iii Wallace Middle School teacher Adrienne Simes (back right) and art classes at a library/community center. Negley Elementary PHOTO School teacher Amy Cigainero (back left) chose to spend their time in the Dominican COURTESY OF ADRIENNE SIMES Republic teaching children BY SAMANTHA SMITH news@haysfreepress.com A love of art can take a person to places far and wide. For Wallace Middle School art teacher Adrienne Simes, her love of art has taken her across the gulf to the Dominican Republic, where she shared her passion with children and their communities who don"t have as much access to art. Simes has been teaching for 14 years, almost 11 of those years have been spent teaching art at Wallace Middle School in Kyie, where she brings her international teaching experiences to her Hays CISD students. According to Simes, she and a colleague, Amy Cigainero, a teacher at Negley Elementary, were traveling in Nicaragua and staying in a small community when they felt as if they wanted to give something back to the members of the small community acting as their gracious hosts. "We wanted to give back to the people there and noticed that the students did not have access to art classes. We looked for an opportunity at a local library/community center that gathered students after school everyday," Simes said. Simes and Cigainero were then introduced to organizers in the community who helped them set up makeshift art schools, where they could teach children how to create art and express themselves through it using any materials, whether it be oil paints, watercolors or clay. "Giving the gift of art was something that just seemed right," Simes said. According to Simes, it wasn't long before more people wanted to get involved and contribute to the communities. "We have had organizers cry when we donate supplies and our time, thankful because they are working hard with very little and we ask for nothing in return," Simes said. -Adrienne Simes, Wallace Middle School art teacher "We started by does admit that there are bringing others down to challenges that must be experience the culture overcome as well. through retreats that One challenge in we were putting on for particular is how to adults and we began fund the trip. Simes said organizing service currently she must save projects to create all year in order to fund cultural awareness in her abroad teaching others. Teaching just expeditions. seemed like the perfect It's their hope that one way to promote this day, Simes, Cigainero awareness in a group and other interested setting," Simes said. parties might find Although the funding for the expenses experiences Simes has involved in her goodwill gained teaching abroad mission. are boundless, like the Another challenge feeling she gets when she Simes identified is sees a child filled with the language gap. The joy because of art, she Dominican Republic is a Spanish-speaking nation and sometimes lessons can get lost in translation. But Simes and others have already begun to remedy that issue by learning Spanish. Limitations in the supplies they can bring is also an issue. Simes, however, viewed this challenge as an opportunity instead of a handicap. "We try to incorporate materials that they have access to and use recycled materials so they can continue to create when we leave," Simes said. Despite bumps along the way, Simes said she has been enjoying the journey, and she's not alone. Everywhere she teaches art, Simes said she has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents and community members regarding the artwork and lessons she has shared. "I have yet to have the community or parents have a negative reaction to this adventure," said _ Simes recalling how many murals she has painted on the walls of - small businesses once 2 the owners saw how beautiful her art was. _" "We have had organizers cry when we donate supplies and our time, thankful because they are working hard with very little and we ask for nothing in return," Simes said. Simes not only wants to spread a love of art, she wants to spread the love of giving back to others as well by inviting all who are interested to get involved. "We have opportunities for teachers or just adults to travel with us and participate in this type of service projects through our travel group called Destination Journey (www. traveldestinationj ourney. com) ." n.. ~i, STAFF REPORT A local state representative is calling for fundamental reform of the state's standardized testing system after the "litany of errors" he claims plagued the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) in 2016. State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) called for reform in a press release Monday, adding "flawed testing practice" threatens the state's "ability to fulfill our education system's goals - and our children's futures." Isaac believes school districts should be able to choose from national standardized tests as the state fixes the STAAR test. "The litany Of errors being uncovered about STAAR is simply a disservice to our "The litany of errors being uncovered about STAAR iS simply a disservice to our students, hard-working teachers, and families. To that end, I propose that schools be given the freedom to choose from a variety of nationally normed standardized tests, not have their hands tied while the State of Texas tries to iron out STAAR'S many kinks." -Jason Isaac, State Representative, District 45 students, hard-working mishandling of students' a grade, or force themmillion for these errors, teachers, and families," private information have to retest, due to issues possibly the largest such Isaac said in a statement, come to light, according with New Jersey-based fine in Texas history. "To that end, I propose to a press release, test vendor Education "I'm pleased that that schools be given the In March, numerous Testing Services (ETJ), the Texas Education freedom to choose from school districts across according to the Tribune. Agency has taken a variety of nationally the state reported issues According to the significant steps to normed standardized with the online STAAR release, STAAR also failed improve STAAR, but it's tests, not have their test, causing test answers to meet the provisionsclear there is still more hands tied while the to be lost. of House Bill 743, which work to be done," Isaac State of Texas tries to According to a report Isaac jointly authored, said. "School districts iron out STAAR's many by the Texas Tribune, the HB 743 requires that should not be hampered kinks." glitch affected more than 85 percent of studentsby an inefficient and When STAAR was last 14,000 tests, be able to complete the ineffective system. administered in May, In June, the Texas exams within two or Adding a dose of free- issues regarding test Education Agency (TEA)three hours, dependingmarket philosophy to administration, along said it wouldn't hold on grade, education by allowing a with lost or late testing fifth and eighth gradeThe TEA last week variety of standardized materials, glitches that students who failed announced ETS has beentest options can only erased test results, and the STAAR exam back fined more than $20 drive down costs and improve quality." Dripping Springs ISD Superintendent Dr. Bruce Gearing said in an emailed response the district has always advocated for "local control in education" and believes Isaac's call for reform would be a "positive step to consider other mechanisms for assessment. "The freedom to make local decisions also aligns with our status as a District of Innovation and our district goals of delivering personalized learning to students," Gearing said. He added that Isaac listens "carefully to the challenges that educators and school districts face." "We appreciate Rep. Isaac's interest in public education, and look forward to working together in the future to address some of these changes," Gearing said.