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Education - Druid City Living, Tuscaloosa's premier community newspaper. - Druid City Living, Tuscaloosa's premier community newspaper. Mon, 18 Jun 2018 13:42:15 -0500 MYOB en-gb Congrats to the Graduates! Northside High School seniors make their mark on the final days of school.

Every year, the young minds being shaped right here in Tuscaloosa get brighter and more driven for success. In every school in the city and county, you’ll find faculty and staff who are dedicated to helping Tuscaloosa’s young people create a promising future for themselves. Whether these students stay here in town, or follow their dreams to another part of the world, there is no doubt that the community has been better with them a part of it.

“As a Student-athlete at Central, you have different expectations from your teacher and coaches. Without good grades, it would be difficult to be accepted into college, but with the help of Central, I am going to be a successful student athlete.” Demontae Wilson, Central High School, will attend Lipscomb University

“Because of the outstanding faculty and staff at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, I had multiple offers at colleges and universities throughout the US. In addition, I was surrounded by classmates I consider my second family. For this, I am forever grateful.” Peyton Goodbread, Holy Spirit Catholic School Valedictorian, will attend the University of Kentucky

“Sipsey Valley has prepared me for my future by not only providing me with an education, but also by teaching me the values of teamwork and cooperation. I met a lot of great people with whom I share similar goals, and I know they will be there for me in my next season of life.” Abigail Phillips, Sipsey Valley High School Class President, will attend the University of Alabama 




Education Wed, 06 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Seven Need-Based Scholarships Available to Kentuck's Summer Art Camp Seven Need-Based Scholarships Available to Kentuck's Summer Art Camp

Do you know an artist in need? Kentuck Art Center & Festival, in partnership with Tuscaloosa City Schools, is offering seven need-based scholarships to kids ages 8-12 for Imagination & Enrichment Summer Art Camp, instructed by Studio Artist Sydney Gruber. 

Participants in the camp will explore a variety of mediums and artist processes, from painting abstracts on canvas to pen drawings, and even creative writing. All exercises are designed to give students the tools to express themselves in many ways, while also working on artistic technique.

All children and teens attending workshops this summer at Kentuck Art Center will have one piece of work featured in the "Kids of Kentuck" gallery show at the September 2018 Art Night.

To register for camp, visit

You must apply for a scholarship by June 1. To apply, please send the following information to:

Kentuck Art Center
Attention: Sydney Gruber
503 Main Avenue
Northport, AL 35476

]]> (Super User) Education Sun, 27 May 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Druid City Living’s Teacher of the Month: Andi Jones, Lake View Elementary School Druid City Living’s Teacher of the Month: Andi Jones, Lake View Elementary School

With the weather warming, exams ending, and the possibilities of summer looming ahead, May fills area schools with electric excitement. Students’ stresses begin to fade away, as they are treated to end-of-the-year celebrations and movie days in class. They enthusiastically make plans with their friends about how to spend their newfound free time during a vacation that seems like it will last forever.  

For teachers, the month of May is exciting in other ways – they've spent a year teaching, guiding, and shaping these young minds, and all their hard work has paid off. While their work is far from being over, they do get to take a step back and appreciate all the wins they had throughout the school year. 

“The end of the year is like ending a chapter in a book,” said Andi Jones, a second-grade teacher at Lake View Elementary School. “It is time to look back and see the growth and success that each child has accomplished over the year.”

Jones knows this story well, as she has taught in Tuscaloosa County Schools for 16 years, with 10 of those at Lake View Elementary School. She decided to transfer there to teach in the school her own children attend – and in the community where she grew up (Jones attended Brookwood Elementary and Brookwood High School). 

In the story of children’s educations, the early chapters transform their story line, and teachers are key characters. Through long school days, after school lesson preparation and one-on-one lessons, teachers build unique relationships with their students. 

Jones looks at her job as more than just a teacher, but as a mentor to the people who’ll become everyone’s future. Each school year is a new opportunity, she says, to influence and leave her mark on a fresh mixture of young minds. 

“I think teachers should influence students in a positive and loving way,” Jones said. “I think it is important for the students to know that they are in a safe environment. When a teacher believes in a student, the student learns to believe in themselves – and they’ll have the tools they need to be successful in life.”

Tuscaloosa’s great teachers, like Andi Jones, are already hard at work preparing their classrooms for a new group of students who will make up much of Tuscaloosa’s future.   

Education Tue, 22 May 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Investing in Students: Program for ACA Seniors Prepares them for the Future Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill participates in a mock interview with ACA senior Allie Swann on March 22. Swann plans to attend the University of Alabama this fall.

Most young adults enter their first interview with uncontrollable nerves, shaking hands, and no idea what to expect. For the seniors of American Christian Academy, that will not be the case. 

With the guidance of their English teachers, ACA seniors have spent all semester working on a comprehensive professional development project that includes researching careers, developing a resume, and practicing their interview skills. 

“After 19 years of working with seniors, I think this project is one of the most realistic assignments they can experience during their last semester of high school,” said Christine Blakley, one of the teachers leading the project. “Many of my former students have stayed in touch with me, and they always say the senior project was not only memorable, but that it was also genuinely beneficial.”

Since 2011, ACA has encouraged their seniors to participate in the project. Hopes are that after graduation, they’ll have all the practical skills they need to confidently enter the next stage of their lives.

“I really needed this experience going into college,” said Hudson Grammer, an ACA senior. “I like being able to better myself, and I know one day this will help me in the future.”

A “who’s who” list of Alabama business and government officials gathered at the school on March 22 to participate in mock interviews that the students spent weeks preparing for. These community leaders acted as a hiring manager at the local Starbucks - interviewing each student for an entry-level position. 

“They are doing a great job to prepare them for the real world, not just the academic world,” said Jeff Smith, an attorney at Rosen Harwood. “I would encourage any other schools to do this.” 

Other notable community leaders who participated in the mock interviews included Secretary of State John Merrill, Northport Mayor Donna Aaron, U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler, and Tuscaloosa City Councilwoman Sonya McKinstry. Overall, 60 volunteers from across Alabama came to ACA to invest in the students. 

“My favorite part was getting to talk to my interviewer after, just be a little more casual and talk about their real life and what they do,” said Caroline Haas, another senior who participated in the mock interviews.

Other aspects of the senior project, such as career research, seek to help students get an in-depth look at the career path they may want to pursue. Students researched things such as job outlooks, benefits, salaries, and education requirements before writing a 10-page paper on the career choice they found most interesting. 

“Through this, we've learned a lot more about the profession we want to pursue,” said Kayleigh Atkins, also a senior at ACA. “You actually learn what it takes to do it, and how.” 

On April 12, the students were able to shadow professionals from the community in their chosen field. For this final piece of the project, students were able to put into practice the knowledge and professionalism they've gained throughout the semester.

“I know a lot of other schools don't do this,” Atkins said. “We are really lucky.” 

Education Wed, 16 May 2018 00:00:00 -0500
New First Class Pre-K Classrooms to be Added in 2018-2019 School Year, Including Many in Tuscaloosa New First Class Pre-K Classrooms to be Added in 2018-2019 School Year, Including Many in Tuscaloosa

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced on Monday that the state’s First Class Pre-K program will add 107 classrooms to 33 counties this fall. Among them: nearly 50 new classrooms in Tuscaloosa’s city and county school systems.

For a full list of the new classrooms, including those in Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa county, click here.

According to the office of Gov. Kay Ivey, the new classrooms will expand access to Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten program to 18,864 children in the 2018-2019 school year, with more than 1,040 classrooms in all 67 counties that will serve 32 percent of eligible four-year-olds statewide.

Monday’s announcement came one week after Alabama First Class Pre-K was recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research for having the highest-quality, state-funded voluntary pre-k program in the nation.

“First Class Pre-K is a nationally-recognized program of excellence,” said Jeana Ross, Secretary of Early Childhood Education. “The program framework encompasses all aspects of the highest quality early learning experiences that ensure school readiness for children, and this emphasis on quality impacts student outcomes far beyond kindergarten.”

This year, the Alabama Legislature approved an $18.5 million expansion for First Class Pre-K, increasing the 2019 program budget to $96 million – the program’s largest ever single-year increase. In addition to funding new classrooms throughout the state, the Department of Early Childhood Education will continue to ensure pay parity for all First Class Pre-K teachers with the same 2.5 percent cost of living raise as K-12 public school teachers in the upcoming school year.

“Having a strong start to one’s educational journey is critical to having a strong finish when it comes time to enter the workforce,” Governor Ivey said. “Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is, without question, the best in the nation. I am proud that we can increase the reach of this important educational opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to further expand the availability of voluntary Pre-K.”

In February, Governor Ivey also announced an in-depth study of Alabama third graders that found the state’s pre-k program significantly narrowed the academic achievement gaps that typically exist between children in poverty and their more affluent peers, and between minority children and non-minority children. According to research conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, students who participated in First Class Pre-K are more likely to be proficient in reading and math at every grade level, consistent with the results from previous statewide and national studies.

These outcomes have caught the attention of researchers from Harvard University, who are creating a full-length documentary featuring Alabama First Class Pre-K that will be released nationwide in Spring 2019.

]]> (Super User) Education Mon, 30 Apr 2018 15:34:10 -0500
Harvard Graduate to Share Wisdom During Paul W. Bryant’s Commitment Ceremony Michael Constant graduated from Paul W. Bryant High School in 2012, and from Harvard University - where he earned a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology, magna cum laude.

When Michael Constant graduated from Paul W. Bryant High School in 2012, he never dreamed he would be invited back to the school to share his wisdom with students.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d be invited to speak at Bryant,” Constant said.

But, that’s exactly what he will do Thursday, April 26 when he speaks to the Class of 2018 during Bryant High’s annual Commitment Ceremony.

Constant, who was valedictorian of his class at Bryant, was named a National Achievement Scholar and was selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar. The Gates scholarship allowed him to attend Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology, magna cum laude. Now, the scholarship is allowing Constant to study medicine at Columbia University.

“The teachers are what made Bryant so special for me,” Constant said.

“I know firsthand how difficult it can be to be committed to your studies when in high school. Luckily, I had many teachers who made learning an engaging experience.”

In its fourth year, the annual Commitment Ceremony, which will begin at 9 a.m. in the school’s gymnasium, will honor students who have been officially accepted to college, the military, workforce or an internship after high school.

“There are many ways to succeed,” said Dr. Linda Harper, principal of Bryant High. “For some students, success means going to college. For others, it means learning a skill and entering the workforce. While for others, success means entering the military.”

For Constant, success means earning his medical degree and then going into orthopedic surgery. When he speaks, he plans to encourage this year’s seniors with stories about his time as a Bryant student.

Michael Constant is studying medicine at Columbia University.

“When I was getting ready to graduate from Bryant, I was full of anxiety about what the next step would bring,” Constant said. “I’ve learned a bit about how to manage those anxieties since then, and I hope to give students a few pieces of advice that will help them make the most of this exciting time in their lives.”

“We believe that every student should leave our campus with a post-secondary plan,” Harper said. “Students leave our school with a skill-set that allows them to move into any college or career setting with the confidence to be successful.”

“I feel honored that my alma mater would ask me to speak with students,” Constant said. “Bryant High School is truly a place that cares about students.”

Education Tue, 24 Apr 2018 16:33:29 -0500
DCL’s Teacher of the Month: Tiffany Cross, Northport Elementary School DCL’s Teacher of the Month: Tiffany Cross, Northport Elementary School

For over a decade, Tiffany Cross has been a teacher, second mom, and support system for some of Tuscaloosa County’s luckiest first graders. With a passion for teaching and a loving nature, she strives to create the perfect environment for her students to grow.

A West Alabama native, Cross lived and went to school in Eutaw. After obtaining her master’s degree at The University of Alabama, she began teaching in Tuscaloosa County Schools. For the past three years, her home has been Northport Elementary School.

Cross says her favorite part of teaching first grade is the privilege of helping her students learn to read. Though sometimes a difficult task, for her, the reward makes up for all the hard work.

“When you get to be the one they get to share that ‘ah ha’ moment with, it makes it all worth it. First graders go from knowing letters and a few sounds to realizing that these words make sense, and it can open their mind to the world of imagination.”

As it turns out, Cross shares her dedication to helping children learn with her sister, Farrah. A fellow teacher, Farrah greatly influences her by keeping a positive spirit and continuing to focus on her students while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Cross says her sister’s ability to keep going in the face of hardship inspires her to get through her day.

“Building that sense of community is one of my goals each year in my classroom,” Cross said. “I want each child to be able to relate to each other and depend on each other like a family.”

Ultimately, Cross knows the importance of treating her students as individuals. Whether it’s a private lesson or an exercise break, she knows her students thrive in an environment where they feel supported and comfortable. She even became one of the first in the school to adopt a flexible seating policy, allowing her students to choose the floor or a moving desk over a traditional desk.

“Some need a cheerleader, some a listener, others may need more guidance and support,” she said. “I tell my students that I am their school momma. I treat my students like my own children, and I strive to be the teacher I would want for my own children.” 

Education Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Eric Mackey Named Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey
Alabama has a new State Superintendent of Education. On Friday, April 20, the Alabama State Board of Education voted to name Dr. Eric Mackey as the new leader of the state's education system. Mackey will assume his post on May 14. 
 The 48-year-old Mackey was one of three finalists to interview for the position. He's served as executive director of the School Superintendents of Alabama. Prior to becoming the Executive Director for SSA, Mackey served as SSA’s Associate Director.
Mackey began his career as a high school science teacher in Calhoun County, where he taught physical science, biology, Earth science, physics, and chemistry. He also coached track and field and wrestling. He later became principal of Kitty Stone Elementary School in Jacksonville. He later rose to the position of superintendent of Jacksonville City Schools.
Mackey earned a Bachelor’s degree in education for Jacksonville State University, as well as a Master’s in Biology, an Education Specialist degree, and a Doctorate in Education Leadership, all from The University of Alabama.
Mackey replaces interim State Superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson, who was named to the position in September 2017, after embattled former State Superintendent Michael Sentance submitted his resignation.


]]> (Super User) Education Sat, 21 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Things to Do: Bryant High Theatre Department Presents “Shrek: The Musical” This Weekend Rehearsals continue for this weekend's production of

Local high school students are busily preparing to wow audiences this weekend, as the Paul W. Bryant High School Theatre Department presents Shrek: The Musical April 20-22 in the school’s auditorium.

Dress rehearsals are fast approaching for the cast, which includes about 35 Bryant High students, as well as a few students from The Alberta School of Performing Arts.


Shrek: The Musical is a Tony Award-winning musical based on the beloved 2001 DreamWorks Animation film. Shrek is an unlikely hero who sets off on a journey with the wisecracking Donkey and the feisty Princess Fiona – a journey that will change all of their lives.

Performances of Shrek: The Musical will be held at 7 p.m. on April 20 and 21, and 3 p.m. on April 22. Tickets are $7 at the door.




]]> (Super User) Education Wed, 18 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0500
UA’s Army ROTC Ranger Challenge Team Ready for Sandhurst UA’s Ranger Challenge team practices a one-rope bridge prior to last year’s Sandhurst competition.

The University of Alabama’s Army ROTC Ranger Challenge team will return to West Point this week a younger but equally motivated team.

Only five cadets return from last year’s team that reached Sandhurst – an international Military Skills Challenge competition at the United States Military Academy – for the first time in school history.

The team will compete at West Point April 13 and 14.

More than half of the 14 cadets on this year’s team are either freshmen or sophomores. The team’s commander, cadet David Edwards, is in his first year of competition.

Coincidentally, the inexperience and turnover have provided a boost in training and in competition, Edwards said.

“Freshmen cadets like Emily Costanza and Charlton Epperson aren’t afraid to try things new because they’ve never seen any of it done before,” Edwards said. “Having that experience is good for soldiering skills, but it can sometimes blind you to thinking through things. Having fresh eyes is helpful. And they’re always here in good spirits – if a freshman is in good spirits and working hard, upperclassmen will follow.”

Edwards said younger cadets have paired well with older cadets like Jordan Pieczynski, who attended the Army’s Northern Warfare School last year and learned many of the mountaineering knots that were used in competitions this year, and Terry Hancock, a prior enlisted member, has helped teach tactical and basic solder skills.

UA won its Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition, a 10-team regional against universities from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, in January at Camp Blanding in Florida. Edwards said UA won “by a few pushups” and was aware the competition was coming down to the wire, but the cadets didn’t blink. He said the team has routinely overcome its own mistakes with strong performances.

“The biggest pressure we felt this year was to do the same or better by reaching West Point,” Edwards said.

UA will compete at Sandhurst against other regional winners, teams from West Point and cadets from across the world in a variety of events, including fitness, weapons qualification, hand grenade assault course, and casualty care over a 30+ mile long rugged course while carrying a forty-pound load.

Sandhurst is a more grueling competition than the previous two rounds, and UA is the only school of its previous brigade winners to finish the competition. State and brigade rounds were revamped to better reflect the Sandhurst competition, including foot-marching to different events, which forces cadets to be more flexible, and think and act quicker, Edwards said.

Training has also been tailored to better simulate the competition formats.

“We do a lot of stress events, heart exercises … then we try to throw some critical thinking events at them,” Edwards said. “Something as simple as plotting a point on a map, or maybe giving them a situation where they get back from a run and find their rucksack tied in knots with another cadet’s gear, forcing them to work together to figure it out.”

The UA Ranger Challenge cadets are Emily Maier-Costanza, of Walnut Creek, California; Charlton Epperson, of Charlotte, North Carolina; David Edwards, of Glen Allen, Virginia; Conner Salisbury, of Lorton, Virginia; Garrett Preston, of Jacksonville; Jordan Pieczynski, of Pickerington, Ohio; Terry Hancock, of Kissimmee, Florida; Bailey Connor, of Sumter, South Carolina; Mike Boster, of Piperton, Tennessee; Joey Riggs, of Vinemont; and Andy Harper, of Katy, Texas.

]]> (Super User) Education Mon, 09 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0500