Archive for the ‘Staff’ Category

Math teacher Tina Jada created a poster with positive messages to help brighten students’ day.

By Mercy Brink
Cougar News Blog

     Many students have seen and wondered about the poster in the 300 building. The poster says “Take What You Need” and was meant to inspire and spread positivity.
     Tina Jada hung the poster up on Feb. 13 to help encourage the students. The poster has multiple sticky notes with inspirational sayings written on them like “Inhale Confidence” and “Broken Crayons Can Still Color.” Some of them have little quotes as well. This helps to encourage students to get through the long school days.
     Mrs. Jada hopes the poster will help to brighten up the days of the students and staff.
     “I was really tired of seeing so much negativity around so I decided to try and create something positive,” Mrs. Jada said.
     Students who have taken sticky notes have said that it has cheered up their days.
     “Usually when I take a sticky note, it’s because I’m in a bad mood,” said eighth grader, SeAnna Brennan. “After I take the sticky notes, I always feel better because it feels like someone actually cares, or I look at it and I feel better.”
     Mrs. Jada saw the idea of the poster and variations of it on Pinterest. She was also inspired by the thankful tree that Lisa Smith put up in the building earlier this year, and said that she liked seeing what people were thankful for.
     She says that once all of the sticky notes are gone, she might put up more or she might even let students make their own.


By Natalie Delintt
Cougar News Blog

     Students at Cactus Canyon Junior High don’t usually know much about their teachers, but they know even less about custodians.
     Most CCJH custodians have kids of their own, some even going to Cactus Canyon or have gone to the junior high in the past.
     “I have two granddaughters that I raised in school here, so this is home to me,” said custodian Dianna Storms.
     Another thing students aren’t aware of is that custodians don’t live up to their stereotypes. They do more than just pick up after a whole bunch of messy teenagers. They have to make sure students are in a sanitary environment at all times, which is something kids take for granted. They have to get rid of graffiti and other vandalism made by students.
     There are also night custodians, like Storms, that prepare the school for the next day. They usually have to work in silence and it can get a little lonely.
     “My day starts with a team meeting at 2 p.m. to discuss any special needs or activities at school, then I load my cart and head off to my first building to begin my routine,” stated Storms. “Not being around the students at night is kind of lonely and quiet but it’s the only way to prepare (the) school for the next day.”
     Custodians do have a fun time, though.
     “I always look for chances in my day to brighten someone else’s,” said Storms. “I feel like we all have the ability to pay it forward or make someone’s day,” said Storms.
     Students sometimes don’t understand that the CCJH staff, including custodians, care as much as they do. They do their job to help students have the best educational environment possible.
     “By doing little things for each other here at Cactus Canyon like giving one another a sincere smile, a kind word, or even a rose when no one is looking is the little kindness we could all use in our lives to remind us of why we are here.”
     All staff at CCJH want students to follow their dreams and do what they want in life because it will always matter to someone.
     “I (and all other Cactus Canyon staff) want the kids to know that in no matter what your
chosen profession is, take pride in your work and always do your very best because it counts to someone,” said Storms.

Art teacher Paige Reesor shows her work at shows all over the Phoenix area. (Photo from Ms. Reesor)

Art teacher Paige Reesor shows her work at shows all over the Phoenix area. (Photo from Ms. Reesor)

By Bailey Tower
Cougar News Blog

     At Cactus Canyon, several teachers have unique abilities and art teacher Paige Reesor is one of them. Reesor participates in art shows frequently and she still is working on new techniques to become an even better artist.
     She usually has one to two art shows per-month. Sometimes the shows last for a whole month or sometimes it is a one day event like live painting for concerts or festivals.
     Reesor has art shows and festivals lined up for the next few months.
     Reesor, who said she has wanted to be an artist since she was 5, likes challenging herself and using intense colors.
     “I like portraits the most. I like the challenge of trying to capture someone’s face. I also love experimenting with bright colors,” said Reesor. “I am still trying be a great artist. Always trying and practicing.”
     Reesor is even able to sell her paintings and drawings her shows and earns a good amount of money when she sells her paintings.
     “Each piece is about a few hundred dollars and it’s a nice extra income. I can’t live off of it yet, but it is nice to pay some bills with it,” said Reesor.
     Reesor wants to influence her students to find inspiration in art and hopes being a working artist helps with that.
     “I believe my students see how art can be used in many different career paths. I hope my students find some form of inspiration for themselves,” Reesor said. “All I do is just try to get my art out in the public eye, and I usually get a positive response back.”

Marla award

By Natalie Delintt
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s Marla Aehlert won an award for Excellence in Education because a former student nominated her on 99.9 KEZ radio.
     Yasinya Peterson, one of Aehlert’s former students, nominated her for the award. She won for the month of November 2015 and received a plaque that has her name and an apple on it, two certificates, and a check for $99.
     “The award made me feel fantastic,” said Aehlert. “I felt very loved.”
     KEZ’s Marty Manning came to CCJH to surprise Aehlert with Courtney Castelhano and Peterson in tow. The trio gave Aehlert her prizes while students took videos and pictures to capture the moment.
     “They came to my room on Monday, Nov. 9, and surprised me in the middle of fourth hour,” said Aehlert.
     Peterson chose to nominate Aehlert because she had her as her math teacher in third grade and again in seventh grade. She wanted Aehlert to know the difference she has made in her’s and other’s lives.
     “I nominated her because she is a devoted teacher. She always does her best to help her students and she’s always got a smile on her face that you can’t help but smile back at,” said Peterson.
     Peterson nominated Aehlert when she heard on the radio that a student could nominate a teacher they’ve had and then she went on a website to submit her.
     Though Peterson told Aehlert she had nominated her, Aehlert didn’t think she would actually win. So, the surprise of people coming in her room in the middle of fourth hour one day really was a surprise.
     “When Yasinya told me that she had nominated me, I thought that was super sweet of her to do, and I told her that,”said Aehlert. “It never crossed my mind that they would actually choose me to win the award.”

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.”