Neighborhood Veteran Volunteers to Help Keep Kids Safe: September Above & Beyond Award

On a rainy Wednesday morning, Matthew Davis is found in a neon yellow jumpsuit and army boots directing school buses, cars and students safely in, out and around Jardine Academy. You can find Davis here every morning and every afternoon rain or shine. Davis is a retired United States Army veteran, father, volunteer traffic director and now the September Above & Beyond Award recipient.
Davis, who lives across the street from Jardine Academy, saw a need for assistance in traffic directing after the first few days of school this year. Since then, Davis has used his military traffic planning skills to help make arriving and departing school safer for students, staff and other vehicles. He takes the responsibility seriously and has done research to confirm that he is following city and state traffic laws. Davis is working to find and coordinate additional volunteers to help in his effort. He was nominated for the Above & Beyond Award by Nick Grummert, assistant principal at Jardine Elementary School, for his kindness, willingness to help and positive attitude.

Davis and his family have put down roots in the neighborhood by Jardine Academy and are glad to help make it safer for everyone. Volunteering puts his mind at ease to know that students are making it to and from school safely, including his first grade son at Jardine Elementary. He is happy to be able to strap on his army boots to once again go above and beyond to help his community.

Back to School Safety Reminders

With the first day of school right around the corner, Topeka Public Schools (TPS) would like to remind students, staff and the Topeka community that safety is our number one priority. The safety of students and staff is essential to creating a positive environment for students to learn and grow successfully. In the video below, TPS Chief of Police, Ron Brown, explains how you can help keep our schools safe. These simple tips will significantly increase the safety of our district. With your help, TPS will have a safe and secure 2018-19 school year!

To watch additional safety webinar episodes, click here.  Other episodes cover intruder safety, situational awareness and more. TPS also offers a tip line for anyone to report suspicious behavior or bullying anonymously. Click here, to access the TPS tip line.

Kaitlyn Ferrier : Westar's First Female Fleet Mechanic Intern

Kaitlyn Ferrier learned a lot from her dad. He introduced her to cars and tools. He showed her what hard work looked like and always told her that she could do anything she set her heart to. Even though he has passed on, Ferrier has never forgotten his advice and has since become the first female fleet mechanic intern at Westar Energy.

Ferrier’s interest in cars and mechanics started at a young age from working on cars with her dad to taking four years of auto shop classes at Topeka High School.

“I’ve always done stuff like this with my dad and I’ve always wondered ‘what does this do?’ and I get giddy when I’m around cars,” Ferrier said with a smile.

Ferrier is a 2018 Topeka High graduate who has taken her high school auto shop classes to the next level by utilizing the partnership between Topeka Public Schools and Westar Energy.

“In my auto shop class we rebuilt engines and repaired brakes but at Westar it’s more realistic, it’s an actual work place,” Ferrier said.

Topeka High auto shop teacher, Dean Fairweather, encouraged Ferrier to apply for the Westar Fleet Services internship after seeing her grow as a student for four years in his auto shop classes. Now Ferrier repairs roadside work trucks both in the fleet shop and out in the field.

“I work on whatever is broken. If a tire breaks down on the side of the road, we can go fix it,” Ferrier explains. “The tires on the boom trucks are like 400 pounds, they’re bigger than me,” she says laughing.

Despite only interning since the beginning of May, Ferrier has notices her skills improving.

“There’s been a few things that I didn’t know existed and a few things that I have forgotten in the past that I was reminded of, so that’s been exciting. I learn something every day.”

Working in a male-dominated environment is nothing new to Ferrier.

“I was the only girl in my neighborhood when I grew up, and in my auto shop class I was the only girl for three years. It’s no different. I mean they can probably lift up something heavier than I can, but I don’t feel any difference. I love how I can get along with my coworkers so well.”

In fact, Ferrier has thoroughly enjoyed working with her Westar coworkers in the fleet shop and learning from the Fleet Garage Operations Supervisor, Mike Shultejans.

When Ferrier’s Westar internship is done in December, she will have hands-on experience to pursue her dream of becoming a diesel mechanic. Ferrier is thankful for Fairweather’s guidance and for the support from her former Trojan time teacher, Denise Heavner. She is also thankful for her lifelong remodel, the person that told her “…you can always do what you want to do, so set your heart out to it", her dad.

Bringing Lessons to Life: Alaskan Musher Visits Meadows Elementary School

When Diane Kimsey shared her plans to teach about dog sledding to her fourth grade class on Facebook, she had no idea a few months later she would have an Alaskan musher standing in her classroom.

Kimsey and her 22 Meadows Elementary students began their dog sled experience by reading Stone Fox by John Gardiner, a short children's book describing dog sledding and survival. After noticing that her students were very interested in learning more, Kimsey reached out to the Facebook community for suggestions on furthering their studies. Luckily, Facebook put her in touch with Debbie Menendez, a volunteer coordinator for the internationally recognized Alaskan Iditarod dog sled race. Mendez directed her to the Iditarod dog sled race website, where she found exciting resources and lesson plan materials to share with her eager students. 

Through the website's resources her students were able to track Iditarod mushers in real time. 

Kimsey explained,“We could see when they were resting, when they were eating and when they were actually racing. We watched them move on the map and created a wall-sized map, and the kids moved their sleds on the map two different times during the day." 

Kimsey was able to incorporate math, geography, culture, writing and graphing into lesson plans through dog sledding. 

“We did a ton of math. We knew the speed that the mushers were traveling and the distance of the trail. The kids got really good at figuring out how long and at what time the mushers would arrive at the next check point. They could even get it to the second," Kimsey recalled. 

The class also learned about the complex geography and culture of the Alaskan Iditarod landscape.

Kimsey said,“They learned a lot about geography and how Iditarod is basically three drastically different environments. They learned a lot about the villages along the race trails and the traditions that happen at each of the different villages.”

The students were inspired to write the mushers individual letters that they received while racing on the trails. 

"The kids wrote some of the most magnificent papers that I have ever read in all my years of teaching about their mushers," Kimsey bragged.  

One of the Alaskan Iditarod mushers, Alan Eischens, received a student's letter and was so moved that he was determined to meet the class. 

Kimsey recalled, “Alan was taken by the letter that he received and his wife happens to be from Kansas City, and they came to visit family, so Alan said ‘we’re going'. I told the class we had a musher coming, but I didn’t tell them which one. They had it narrowed down to four mushers, so when they saw him walk in they were excited and knew exactly who it was." 

Eischens answered countless questions from the 22 fourth graders, fueling their curiosity and interest to learn more. He brought some of his racing gear for the students to see and hold. 

“It’s so rich, and they get first-hand experience and learning. You get to hear stories and things that don’t make the books," said Kimsey.

Since Eischens' visit, Kimsey was able to invite another musher, Steve Watkins, to her classroom to talk with the kids. Watkins was even able to bring a retired racing dog for the kids to meet. 

By creating this experience for her students, they were able to learn true life skills in addition to the academic curriculum. 

Kimsey explained, "They’ve learned the life skills of endurance, perseverance and stamina. Both men and women compete, but they’ve learned a lot about brotherhood. The mushers are competing to win, but they are also making sure that everyone survives out there on the trail and if someone is injured to help them. They’ve learned about racing to win but also about racing to participate. Even though that’s not what I set out for them to learn.”

Kimsey was able to make learning come to life for her students. 

“It’s going beyond the textbook and making something come to real life for the kids. It’s been incredible. It shows how social media can be a fabulous thing to reach out and see what’s out there," said Kimsey. 

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Neighborhood Veteran Volunteers to Help Keep Kids Safe: September Above & Beyond Award

On a rainy Wednesday morning, Matthew Davis is found in a neon yellow jumpsuit and army boots directing school buses, cars and students safe...