By Logan D.
Cougar News Blog

Cactus Canyon is booking up a new school year with Beyond Textbooks, a new program to bring out the best of Cactus Canyon.
Beyond Textbooks is a program that originated in the Vail Unified School District in Vail, Ariz. Essentially, BT is a program to maximize student achievement. It tells teachers what objective to teach, how long to teach it, and offers optional resources to help teachers find the best way to teach it.
When teachers go onto the curriculum site for their specific grade, they are presented a curriculum calendar and resources to help students master each objective. The calendar is the same for all teachers of a subject, but teachers can provide instruction in their specific style, that way teachers don’t have to be uncomfortable while teaching.
BT is an organized program, but teachers need to know if their students are understanding what they’re teaching. That’s where the common formative comes in. The common formative is a small, five-question test given usually at the end or beginning of the week. Its purpose is to see if the student has a grasp on the subject. If the student gets a four or five out of five then they have passed their formative and they’ve mastered the subject. If students get a three or less then they have to go to reteach, which is where students go if they have not mastered the subject. Teachers then get more one-on-one time with the student. After the lesson has been retaught, the student will retake their formative to see if they have mastered the subject yet.
“The BT framework will help get students the help and support they need with math and language arts,” said Principal Courtney Castelhano. ‘Students will be given weekly formatives to check for mastery. If students need more help, they will receive it during Study Skills time with objectives they need more help with. If they did well on the weekly formative, then students will receive an enriched Study Skills involving a variety of subjects.”
One reason BT improves schools who use it is connection. The teachers at CCJH can see what other teachers across the state are doing in their classrooms. Other teachers can post what lessons were a success or failure in their classroom Teachers at CCJH are utilizing these tips from other successful teachers to improve their own students and give them a better chance at success.
“Cactus Canyon adopted the Beyond Textbooks program as another tool for us as educators to better educate the students that come to this school and prepare them for high
school,” said math teacher Jeremy Seaman. “The program provides many useful tools, examples, and resources from other teachers around the state that we as educators here can use in our own classrooms.”
Cactus Canyon adopted BT partly because the school’s rating is at a C. CCJH wants to be better than a C, and some schools who have adopted the BT program have gone from a D to an A. AJUSD believes that the framework will help with student success. BT keeps everything organized,which helps make everything easier for both teachers and students. It is a very strict program and it uses Common Core standards.
“BT gives students more responsibility over their learning by knowing how they did on their weekly formative and receiving more help if they need it,” said Castelhano. “Students can feel successful over their learning by knowing exactly how they do every week in each of their core classes.”
BT helps teachers by breaking down everything that going to be taught, it will help improve Cactus Canyon and make each and every one of the students productive.
“The whole district adopted Beyond Textbooks because it helps to keep everyone organized and at the same place,” said eighth-grade math teacher Marla Aehlert. Also, other districts that have used Beyond Textbooks have had great results.”

By Alyssa F.
Cougar News Blog

Eighth graders are starting the school year off right with NJHS. Qualifying Cactus Canyon eighth graders are getting papers filled out for the National Junior Honor Society.
The new advisers Miss Ressor and Mrs. Howard have exciting things planned ahead, but the students will still have high academic expectations like always.
“Putting in the extra effort pays off in the long run for their education,” said Miss. Reesor.
The NJHS advisers have more things planned to keep the students busy for the school year.
Mrs. Howard and Miss Reesor have things planned for the year like the Disneyland trip, fundraising, and community service.
“We would hope the students gain a sense of accomplishment, character, and leadership skills,” said Mrs. Howard.
This year is going to be different from the other years of NJHS. Some things will stay the same like the meetings, the officer positions, etc. but, they plan to raise money by having a V.I.P section at the sport games which is very different from other years. However, they will not be able to have the breakfast bar due to new Smart Snacks rules.
Students that worked hard and got an “A” average in their seventh grade year were invited to participate in NJHS.
“I have learned that working and being dedicated can pay off, I can get opportunities such as this one,” said Angel Meeks.
Some NJHS students take an extra step to not only get in to NJHS, but to do other after-school programs. They join in activities such as the Leo Club where they do community service and Best Buddies where they interact with kids and make friends.
There will be an induction ceremony for new members on Wednesday, Sept. 10, in the PAC at Apache Junction High School.
“I’m really glad to be in NJHS; it seems interesting and fun to do,” said Jessica Conrad.
Photo by Kaileah Goucher

Photo by Kaileah Goucher

By Hannah Wolfe
Cougar News Blog

Cactus Canyon Junior High is swinging back into baseball season. The new coach for the Cougar baseball team, Allen Liebau, has many of goals for this season, but his ultimate goal is to bring his team together and win the championship.
After opening the season with a win over Mountain Vista, players on the team say that they think the team will do well this season, but they do have some strong parts and things they need to work on.
“The strongest points of our team at this moment are defense and leadership,” said Coach Liebau. “We have a lot of returning players that have a strong leadership role on the team. But, team needs to come together as a team and work toward the common goals.”
While a winning season is important, the coach said he especially wants his Cougars to improve as players and people.
“They will learn how to work together to achieve a common goal, how to be a better teammate and how to enjoy playing baseball,” said Coach Liebau.
A total of 37 athletes tried out this year, with 17 making the team when tryouts took place Aug. 11 through Aug. 14. The team has been practicing throughout the week since. Liebau expects the returning baseball players to be role models that lead the team toward success.
“My favorite part about baseball season is that I get to do what I love, and also help the team that I love win,” said eighth grade student John Christensen.
Games will start at approximately 4:15 pm. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Home games will be played at Apache Junction High School’s baseball field, and visiting games will be played at different middle schools around Pinal County.

Eighth grade senator Erik Lundquest makes a surfboard decoration to prepare for Student Council's Hawaiian dance on Aug. 28. (Photo by Amber Reidy)

Eighth grade senator Erik Lundquest makes a surfboard decoration to prepare for Student Council’s Hawaiian dance on Aug. 28. (Photo by Amber Reidy)

By Jessica Conrad
Cougar News Blog

The best way to end your summer is to hang out at the beach, it’s also the best way to kick off the school year. This year’s theme for the welcome back dance is a Hawaiian luau.
This year’s first dance will be hosted by Student Council on Aug. 28, from 5:15-7 p.m. It’s one of the many changes happening in this dance.
Last year, all of the dances started at 6:15 p.m. and ended at 8 p.m. Administration decided to start it an hour earlier because of how a lot of students and staff didn’t leave until 9. It will also help students be more rested on Friday.
“We decided to have dances earlier so it is easier for students and staff,” said assistant principal, Joyce Gingrich. “We noticed an increased number of absences on the day after dances.”
In addition to having the times changed, StuCo adviser Jason Davis booked a new DJ and and MC. The master of ceremonies will lead the dances and games throughout the whole dance.
“It’s a little bit of an experiment for us and we hope the MC will help get and keep people involved and have a great time,” said Davis. “If it works out, we’ll continue it for other dances.”
StuCo has also been working very hard preparing for the dance. It’s been a little challenging for them since there is only 10 students.
“The students have been making as many of the decorations as they can, from fish and turtles for an ocean scene to surfboards and postcards for other areas,” said Davis.
At the dance, StuCo will be selling ”island pudding cups” and soda bottles with hula skirts on them. They will also be selling leis and other concessions.
Many seventh graders are excited since it is their first dance. Most elementary schools don’t have school dances.
“This is my first dance,” said seventh grader Olivia Baxter. “I’m really excited to go and meet new people.”

By Angel Meeks
Cougar News Blog

Seventh grade science students in Ms. Wilbur’s class recently did a biomes project. The students had to pick a biome, research it, and create a presentation on the biome they chose. This project took six weeks with the presentations.
Biomes are different regions of land in which organisms live such as, tundra, desert, forest, ocean, and so on.
“I learned that there is a big variety of biomes,” said Savannah Castillo.
Ms. Wilbur’s students learned more about biomes then they did before. Their knowledge on biomes grew bigger as they learned there are more biomes than what they thought.
“I expected my student to learn very, detailed information on their biome,” Wilbur said.
Students worked hard and really enjoyed working on the project. Although they had six weeks to work on the project, they worked on it as hard as they could, as they wanted to get a good grade on it.
“Some of the students worked really hard and did projects with their presentations,” said Wilbur.
Some of her students would have changed things about their own project or the whole project itself. Some wanted it to be more of a challenge, and others would have liked to go back and fix the mistakes they made in the project.
“I would have went back on the project and put more effort into it if I could,” said Castillo.
When the all the students were finished with their projects, they went in front of the class, individually and presented their projects.
Students made monster bookmarks like these during I Love to Read Week.

Students made monster bookmarks like these during I Love to Read Week.

By Mariahrose Manell
Cougar News Blog

The week of March 31 through April 4 was “booked” all week long for the annual I Love to Read Week. I Love to Read Week is a school program that has different activities involving reading. Mrs. Lisa Smith was preparing for a long time to dedicate the week to reading.
Each day offered a different reading-related activity during students’ ZAP class. For example, teachers read children’s books to their classes one day and on others students made monster bookmarks and wrote stories.
Many student particularly enjoyed making the monster bookmarks.
“I did enjoy doing the bookmark(s),” said Language Arts teacher Tammy Howard. “I even made some with my grandson and daughter at home.”
They also liked the Wacky Tales, a Mad Libs style game that allowed them to write silly stories.
“I thought the Wacky Tales were very creative,” said eighth-grader Joellynn Reza. “It turned out very funny.”
On Thursday each student wrote the beginning line of a story and passed it to the next person to add one line. At the end, teachers read some of the stories out loud.
“It was interesting to see how the students’ story came together,” says Howard. “It was actually pretty funny.”
It took a total of two weeks to decide and come up with the activities. Many students enjoyed the activities because they were either cute or creative. Some of the activities were even Pinterest ideas.
“I believe the student really enjoyed the activities created for them,” said Smith.
I Love to Read Week was a huge success this year. Students thought the Wacky Tales was hilarious and creative, and the Monster Bookmarks adorable and cute.


By Kathy G.
Cougar News Blog

The Phoenix Suns and APS teamed up and put together a “Green Team,” for grades 7 through 12 who want to be friendlier to the environment.
Cactus Canyon’s Life Skills class, which started a program to recycle bottles and cans at the school was recognized for their accomplishment and invited to attend a Suns game. The group received 30 lower-level tickets to to the March 4 game and Green Team T – shirts. At halftime, everyone who went got to be honored on the court for the accomplishment of how much recycling was done.
Even though the Suns lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, students enjoyed the game and were glad they had the opportunity to go.
“The Phoenix Suns big entrance was my favorite part,” said eighth grader Richard Medina.
During the outing, Mrs. Davis’ students were able to practice the skills they learn in class, by hanging out with each other, being quiet when needed, and being loud and cheering for their favorite team when appropriate.
“My students learned community skills, “ said Ms. Davis.

By Mario Duran
Cougar News Blog

The sound of music is echoing in Cactus Canyon Junior High, probably because of all the shiny new plaques in the music room.
Cougars in different band groups took a trip to Anaheim on March 21 to participate in the Heritage Festival, a music competition for band and orchestra members.
“Heritage festival is a festival where bands, orchestras, and choirs can come from all over the country to perform in front of judges to receive a rating,” said Kailtyn Shafer. “After you perform, a judge comes to the stage to give tips or teach us how to do something.”
Three band groups attended the festival, each leaving with an award. Both wind ensemble and symphony received a bronze plaque, and jazz band received a silver.
Also among these students was Catherine Roberts, an eighth grader at Cactus Canyon, who was presented with the Maestro Award for being an outstanding musician. Roberts, 13, has been playing the violin since she was seven, taking private lessons outside of school and learning new things in class. The award was only given to 11 students at the festival.
“In orchestra class, the students and I practiced playing together as a group. We had worked hard for the festival for months,” said Roberts. “I did not expect this award because there were many other band students that played at the music festival, too.”
The Cougars also brought home the Spirit of Anaheim award, an award given to only one of the 37 schools in attendance that commemorates outstanding character dedication. Cactus Canyon hasn’t received the award before this occasion.
“I think [the award] was a nice addition to our regular award plaques, in that it recognized their hard work and dedication,” said Vining. “It was such an honor to be noticed for our positive attitudes and hard work.”

By Jessica Conrad
Cougar News Blog

Students at Cactus Canyon got to take a splash into reading, literally. On Thursday, some students were able to participate at the Book Wars pool party.
Students who went to the party had to have at least 90 points on their AR goal, about 160 students were eligible to go. The party took place during fourth hour and until the end of the day.
“Having the chance to hang out and swim with my friends instead of sitting in class and working was probably the sweetest part of the reward,” said eighth grader Holly Stillman.
Students were able to swim, use the slides, wave pool, and even the diving boards. Some students even got to play volleyball.
Book Wars began at the beginning of the year to increase reading on campus. With every 15 AR points, students would get a prize. Prizes included candy bars, buttons, passes to get to lunch early, and even shirts. Right after spring break, students had the opportunity to participate in the Book Wars party held in the cafeteria.
Lisa Smith, who designed the program, said the program had a successful first year and should be even better in 2014-15.
“There were some misunderstanding at the beginning of the year, but I think with all the teachers on board next year we will see improvement in the program,” said Smith. “I think this reward was really effective in getting students to read more.”

By Hannah Wolfe
Cougar News Blog

It’s that time of year again, Cactus Canyon Junior High’s eighth graders are promoting. On May 21, CCJH’s older eighth grade students will be moving on to ninth grade. Promotion will take place on Wednesday, May 21, at 8 a.m.
CCJH’s teachers and staff members are both excited for the students and sad that the eighth graders are moving on to bigger and better things.
“I don’t think I am ever completely ready for ‘my’ kids to move on,” said the eighth grade assistant principal Joyce Gingrich. “It is a bittersweet moment, much as parents feel about their own children. It is both a proud and a sad moment for me.”
The ceremony includes the introduction of the Students of the Year, speeches by NJHS and Student Council officers, and the presentation of the class to AJHS principal Larry LaPrise.
After the ceremony is over, students are allowed to go home and begin their summer vacation.
“I am going to miss all the seventh graders moving up, and the teachers,” said Janelle Digos. ”Actually, I’m going to miss everything.”
The eighth grade students were required to fill out a registration packet for high school. The biggest struggle for most students was picking the electives. Most students claimed that the packet was difficult and “stressful,” and they felt like they were “planning their whole life out” in the eighth grade. While others found filling out the packet fun and exciting.
“I hated filling out the registration packet, it took way too long,” said Christian Meraz.
The majority of Cactus Canyon’s eighth grade students are promoting to Apache Junction High School, while others are going to other high schools such as Skyline or Desert Ridge.
Most students are ready to move on from middle school, and find new opportunities.
“It has been a good year and I’m sad it’s ending,” said Jessica Sigler. “But I have a new school full of opportunities ahead of me.”