Robert Adams runs for a first down in Cactus Canyons opening win over Mountain Vista.

Robert Adams runs for a first down in Cactus Canyons opening win over Mountain Vista.

By Riley Duncan
Cougar News Blog

      With a title in its hands for the past two years, the Cactus Canyon football team is hungry for a third. Though Coach Vance Miller’s focus is to just get better every day.
      After a win over Mountain Vista in the first game, the coaches are preparing for the games to come. With the team having less big players than last year, the Cougars will have to play and win a bit differently than last year, but Coach Vance Miller thinks he has a good group talentwise and is in high spirits.
      “It’s definitely a different group,” said Coach Miller. “We are smaller than last year, but we have good group of kids.”
      Two types of learning are expected in every season. One type of learning is in the skill section and the other is in character building. People will look at character for all of a player’s life, and it will make a big impact in his or life. Coaches expect players to get better every day both on the field and as people.
      “I expect two types of learning throughout the season, we spend five days a week working on skill sets like pass rushing, blocking, ball security,” said Coach Dennis Plzak. “A great coach once told me ‘The problem with opportunity is that it is disguised as hard work.’”
      Coaches are also working very hard to have connections with their players. They believe that in order to get the best out of every players, they need positive relationships.
      “I feel that my biggest strengths are my connections with players,” said Coach Mike Brown. “I feel that I know what it takes to get the best out of every player as long as they are willing to work hard.”
      The Cougars will play Desert Wind at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, at Maricopa High School.

By Maddie Chilson
Cougar News Blog

     Since the media plays such an influential role in everyone’s life, students might as well have fun with it. Which is exactly what Cactus Canyon students will be doing. Ms. Tammy Howard wanted to host her own movie critiquing class for study skills because she wants kids to see positive and negative messages that run rampant in the world’s media.
     Since students have returned from winter break, on Jan. 5, Ms. Howard’s study skills class has been learning the techniques on how to notice the littlest of mistakes in any movie.
     “They can be more critical users of the media,” said Howard.
     The first movie the class has watched was Angels in the Outfield, the 1994 movie starring Danny Glover and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Ms. Howard had the students discuss the mistakes they spotted and was very impressed with the amount of errors they had found.
     One of the most common mistakes found has been sound effects. The next movie the class is going to go over is an old “B” movie written and directed by Ed Wood. The students are to answer five questions about the movie to earn their participation points for the class.
     “I figured this is a great way to get the students engaged in learning how to become a film critic,” said Howard.
     Students are already talking about how this class in teaching them how to be a critic.
     “I feel that I can watch any movie and find the mistakes in them,” said eighth grader, Lucia Kimble.
     In the future Ms. Howard plans on showing Journey to the Center of the Earth, Zathura, War of the Worlds, and Kit Kittredge An American Girl. She also plans to show students informational documentaries.
     “It’s interesting getting to watch movies, pick them apart, and see the mistakes directors make,” said Kimble. “It’s fun.”

By Zoey Lopez
Cougar News Blog

     Mrs. Anderson, a Cactus Canyon Junior High social studies teacher, wanted to try something different and unordinary with all of her eighth grade classes. She decided to put her students into groups and have them make textbooks. The textbooks must be about World War II.
     There is going to be 35 important objectives based on their curriculum. Each group is able to organize the book as they want. All textbooks must have a table of contents, index, and a cover page. The goal is to make the textbook as accurate possible.
     “I hope students will be able to learn about the important events and people of WWII,” said social studies teacher Sheryl Anderson.
     The activity is going to teach students how destructive the war was, and how Americans in particular worked together in the military and on the home front.
“WWII was a turning point in the social structure of the U.S. and international boundaries,” says Anderson, “It is a fascinating time to look back on and see how it changed the world.”
     Mrs. Anderson was able to research all of the Arizona State Standards for WWII and made the standards required topics in the textbooks. She then asked her classes to decide what a good text book would have in it. Her class told her pictures with captions, questions, fun facts, glossary, index, page numbers, color, table of contents, chapters, and a cover page. Anderson says her classes have been working extra hard just to get these little things done on time.
     “At CCJH we use a lot of new technology and new methods, but I am not always sure of what students know to be the best method for them,” said Sheryl Anderson
     After the students are done with the textbooks Mrs. Anderson will make a copy for each person in the group. Students will be able to use their textbooks to study for the test.
     All books will be judged by a team of administrators. The best book from each class will get cinnamon rolls.
     “Students have been working non-stop to earn the cinnamon rolls,” said Anderson.
The judges are going to vote for the best book out of Mrs. Anderson’s eighth-grade classes. The group with the most votes will win something bigger than cinnamon rolls.

By Hannah Wolfe
Cougar News

      Bus drivers all around the country stay up late driving student athletes to games, get up early in the morning so students can ride the bus to school, and drive students to field trips and more.
     They dedicate a big majority of their time so students and athletes are able to get where they need to go, and they do many things to make sure passengers on the bus are safe.
     An AJUSD bus driver, Michael Cohen says there are many favorable things about his job although it is sometimes challenging.
     “There are many positive things being a school bus driver. Transporting children to and from school safely, watching as the children I drive grow up, and mature and helping a child learn about bus safety and proper behaviors,” said Cohen. “When driving a special needs route, simply being able to help someone who has a disability is a blessing.”
     Drivers have to do many things before they are allowed to drive and board passengers on the bus. They must inspect the steering system, brake system, suspension, engine compartment, tires, wheels, check for lights or emergency alarms that may not be working, make sure there are no broken windows, lights or reflectors, that all of the emergency exits operate properly and so on.
     The driver also must perform a seven-point test of the air brakes system. The driver is ultimately responsible for the safe operation of the bus. This usually takes the bus driver around 25 minutes.
     Lori Alltop is also an AJUSD bus driver, and enjoys her job even though its alot of work.
     “Driving the school bus is like driving your office,” said Alltop. ”You aren’t stuck inside a building. You can enjoy the weather and you see a lot about the city you live in.”
     Drivers can drive up to about eight hours in a single day. For field trips, the drive time would vary from as few as two hours to as many as 10 hours. When drivers take athletes to away games they usually leave at around 3 p.m. and don’t get back until close to 7 o’clock at night and occasionally even later than that.
With all of the things bus drivers have to do, making sure students are safe is the top priority.
     “Over the years of bus driving, with lots of hours and miles on the road, I have become a better defensive driver. I want my students to have safe rides to and from school,” said Alltop.
     Cohen claims that being a bus driver is rewarding and he always treats the students that ride his bus as his own.
     “Driving a school bus is a rewarding experience,” said Cohen. “As my wife says, I have been the happiest being a school bus driver than at any other job I have had. I treat the students as if they were my children or grandchildren because everyone deserves respect, including children.”

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Theresa VanPelt
Cougar News Blog

     All of Cactus Canyon has been buzzing about the winners of this year’s school spelling bee.
     Champion Alaya Walton and the four other winners had to go through a class spelling bee and a school-wide spelling bee. The students that went to the school spelling bee had to place first and second in their class bee in order to participate.The students are now moving on to the district bee that is taking place in January. Although some students plan to take this way past the district bee.
     “My goal for the spelling bee is to get to the county spelling bee again and maybe get past that, to state,” said second place winner, Phillip Baker. “It was the competitiveness that go me this far, and also I am very good at spelling.”
Some, like Walton, even plan to go all the way to state and even possibly the nationals.
     “I wanted to participate in the spelling bee because I want to have more accomplishments before I get to high school,” she said. “I have always wanted to be in a spelling bee and build my spelling skills, along with my vocabulary.”
     This is the fifth year that Cactus Canyon has done a spelling bee. Last year Michelle Galang, a sixth grader from SMES, won first place in the district spelling bee, and Nila Dhinaker, a seventh-grade student at Cooley Middle School in Gilbert, won the Arizona state bee. “My goal in the spelli
ng bee was to be in the top three or make it to the district spelling bee,” said third -place winner, Kendra Litt.
     Students plan to improve their spelling abilities and have a new educational experience to take away from this. They also plan to go as far in the spelling bee as can, going to state or even the Scripps National Spelling bee in National Harbor, Maryland.
     “I’m studying with my dad and writing them down on index cards,” said fourth place winner, Genevieve Harshman. “My goal is to make it to the state spelling bee.”
     Cactus Canyon teacher encourage their students to participate and give it their all.
     “I hope that students will have fun competing academically and that they will be proud to represent CCJH at the district bee,” said head of the CCJH spelling bee, Sheryl Anderson.

By Maddie Chilson
Cougar News Blog

     The holidays are a busy time for most people and it’s no different for the CCJH music department. In addition to preparing for holiday concerts, director Aimee Vining has had her groups performing around the Valley.
     Last Saturday, Dec. 6, Cactus Canyon’s Ms. Vining took her students to the Apache Junction Public Library to perform for the holidays.
     “The coordinator is a parent of one of my students,” said Vining, “and she asked me if we could come play.”
     The students have had two months to prepare for the holiday performances. Each group had to learn three to four songs, performing at least three songs and a Christmas song. The students say the rehearsals have been stressful.
     “Rehearsal has been crazy because we’ve been trying to get everything down to perfection,” said eighth grader Sidney Harte.
     The jazz band had to learn even more because they performed in Scottsdale as well, and they had to have 30 minutes worth of music. Students say that the experience is serious, yet fun.
     “The concert environment is very serious,” said Harte. “But we all have fun because we enjoy what we do.”
     The students have shown a lot of improvement since the beginning of the school year, which happens to be Vining’s favorite part of being the band teacher; watching the kids improve for every concert. Vining expects students will continue to improve.
     “I like to see them become more independent, and play their parts with more accuracy,” tells Vining.
     There will be another band concert Thursday, Dec. 11, in the Performing Arts Center at the Apache Junction High School. The students favorite part is when they get to go on stage and perform.
     “My favorite part is when it is our time to go on stage and perform,” said Harte. “We have improved so much and it’s an amazing experience.”

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By Abriann Rios Pineda
Cougar News Blog

      Teachers work really hard at Cactus Canyon Junior High. Even after the school day is over they sometimes have to stay after school to grade homework, projects, and school work.
      Cactus Canyon staff member Jodi Rodgers came up with the idea of having a little Friday party to show teacher appreciation. They have a party about twice a month for all the teachers and staff. All of their parties are privately funded from the kindness of a couple of staff members who attend the parties.
      “The teachers and staff of this school are some of the most amazing people to work with,” said Rodgers. “They work incredibly hard to make sure the future is as bright as it can be for our students. The least we could do is let them know how much they are appreciated.”
      Everyone is invited to the office and receives a nice treat like chips, cookies, or rice crispy treats and a glass of Coca-Cola. After, the attendees of the party are instructed to do a fun/random activity.
      There’s a different theme for every party. They have had movies, pirates, a masquerade, Thanksgiving, and Twist-and-Shout themed parties so far.
      At the Twist-and-Shout themed party, the teachers were instructed to compete against another staff member by taking an Oreo cookie and twisting it off. If their side had the most amount of cream on it, they won. The loser had to draw a phrase out of the cup and shout it out.
      At the masquerade party, the staff came up to the office and drew a name of a co-worker and received a cut-out of that person’s face to use as a mask.
      “The adults on campus rarely get to spend time together without students, and of course we have to maintain our professionalism during the school day,” said eighth grade teacher Marla Aehlert. “After a long week, it’s fun to get together and relax for a bit, and sometimes be a little silly. I really think it has helped the morale among the staff.”

AJUSD Staff Appreciation Slide Show

By Raylan Nelson
Cougar News Blog

      Tammy Howard’s study skills class started creating videos with pictures from all the schools and departments in the Apache Junction Unified School District.
      The video productions enrichment class made the videos, including one for Cactus Canyon, for the annual AJUSD staff appreciation event on Dec. 10.
      “The videos included pictures from the different schools and departments in our district,” said eighth-grade teacher Ms. Howard.
      The video productions class broke up into groups of fives, and were given a certain school to base the video off of.
      “My group did Cactus Canyon,” said Justin Ramirez. “We put pictures with effects in the video, and then we added music.”
      The videos were made off laptops, with Windows Movie Maker. The students took turns adding effects, and sampling music to put on the videos.
      “We started our project last month,” said Dominique Capps. “Alicia (Frank) arranged the pictures, Justin and I found music, and Korey (Martin) helped add pictures, and viewed it.”
      The videos will be shown to staff, members, and teachers during the event at the AJHS PAC to show staff members that they are appreciated. The students were happy to provide the gift..
      “I was glad that we could make the idea for teacher appreciation, I hope the AJUSD staff enjoyed the videos,” said Korey Martin. “We worked hard on them.”
      Ms. Howard will be viewing the videos for a last time, and then hauling them to the staff meeting, to surprise the teachers.

By Sami Groneberg
Cougar News Blog

     Click, click, click is what yearbook students heard as they were working on their 15 Day Photo Challenge.
     They had to take a different photo everyday for over two weeks, but the catch was the photo had to contain at least one of the elements they study. Some elements include action, angle, and depth of field. The students started the photo challenge on November 10 and it ended November 25.
     Yearbook adviser Jason Davis wants students to not only take pictures daily, but have creative quality photos that isn’t like a photo taken by just a regular iPhone. The yearbook is involved in needing photos taken at school, but students also need to have freedom to take photos that they are comfortable with and also have a challenge on there hands. Yearbooks students had a challenge of remembering to take the photo every day and liking the photo they took. If they don’t like the photo they took they were able to retake the photo and get a better one.
     “The reason it is a daily photo challenge is to give students a glimpse into the life of a real photographer,” said Davis.
     “I learned a lot about responsibility because if you missed a day or if you were being lazy and didn’t take a picture it really affected your grade,” said Michael Jada.
     The photos also would need to have creativity. There were different ideas that students were given like from a high angle, favorite color, and eyes. Students had to pick which idea they wanted to use and had to come up with a creative idea on how to incorporate them and the elements.
     “The way I come up with the ideas is by looking at what my challenge is for that day and then I kinda just picture what I want to do as an idea for the photo,” said Meagan Clark.
     This won’t be the only photo challenge yearbooks students will be doing. There will be three other major projects. The biggest one will be the ABC Photography Challenge, where, over a 26-day period students have to take picture that goes with each letter of the alphabet.

By Shea W.
Cougar News Blog

     Students dove into a learning experience when they went to the Mesa Arts Center Nov. 13 to see two photographers speak about the marine wildlife they take pictures of. Seventh and eighth grade reading lab students went on the Mesa Arts Center trip to see David Doubliet and Jennifer Hayes speak about the beautiful creatures in the sea.
     “They showed us different species in different areas and some of the behaviors you might encounter if you are scuba diving around those creatures,” said teacher Mrs. Lisa Smith.
     She wanted her students to see a world other than their own and to see a different possibilities and environments in each unique way and the dangers that could be lurking there.
     “I wanted my students to see a world outside of their own,” said Mrs. Smith. “I wanted them to see different possibilities and environments in a unique way.”
      Before the students went on the trip, they read numerous pieces of literature andare currently studying problems on Earth and coming up with solutions that could help. The students also read articles about undersea creatures.
     “In our classrooms we read numerous materials about the planet and undersea informational text,” said Mrs. Smith. “We are studying different problems within the Earth’s atmosphere and many solutions that could help reduce or solve global warming due to over farming and cutting down forests.”
     Later on down the road, the classes may have another field trip relating to what they were working on in class. Mrs. Smith hopes that next time there would be a little more time to process the information. She think that an activity after this event would’ve been a good idea for the students to show what they learned.
     “I wanted to know what they did in real life,” said eighth grader Connor Zimmerman.