Brain Friendly Teaching Helps Students

Dr. Spencer Kagan is well- known in the education world for his instructional strategies in the classroom related to how the brain works.  Today and tomorrow, Dr. Kagan is leading a seminar for educators in the Topeka area called Brain Friendly Teaching.

This morning at Highland Park High School, he talked about which teaching methods best align with how the brain learns and how to put brain science to work to maximize learning.  He also talked about how exercise helps students learn and what some schools are doing to keep students up and active in the classroom.  Kagan said studies show that students who are active in school do better in school.  Kagan strategies are used throughout Topeka Public Schools.

Dr. Beryl New is a Woman of Influence

Congratulations to Highland Park High School Principal, Dr. Beryl New, for being named Woman of Influence in Education by the Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development, a GO Topeka Program.

Grant Patrol Delivers Gifts

The Topeka Public Schools Foundation Grant Patrol visited several schools recently, awarding teachers TPSF grants to be used for projects in their buildings or classrooms.

The TPSF grant allocations committee recently reviewed grants submitted by educators from Topeka Public Schools. Twenty-four grants were approved for funding, totaling $25,602 in Foundation-distributed grant dollars. The funds will be used for classroom, school or district-wide innovative projects. The grants provide enhanced learning opportunities for students that otherwise may not be possible. Topeka Public Schools Foundation Executive Director Pamela Johnson-Betts said the Foundation awards educational grant dollars annually to Topeka Public Schools because “grant dollars provided needed support to the district, endorse educators’ creativity and provide students with expanded educational opportunities.”

Honors Keep Coming for Topeka West Band

Congratulations to the TWHS Band! They had a very successful competition this past Saturday at the Kansas Bandmasters Marching Championships held at Washburn University. Schools were divided by their KSHSAA School Classification.

In Class 5A there were 8 bands from around the state, including Seaman, Valley Center, Maize South, Goddard, Lansing, Wichita Carroll, and Goddard-Eisenhower. The Topeka West Band took 1st Place in Class 5A, and received a trophy for high Visual... Effect. They finished 9th overall in Prelims out of 21 bands.  They advanced to finals to compete against the top 12 scoring bands from Prelims regardless of Classification. At finals Topeka West was one two bands from class 5A to advance and one of three bands to improve their placement by finishing 8th, ahead of Washburn Rural, Blue Valley North, Valley Center and Shawnee Mission West.

The TWHS Color Guard finished 2nd for Finals, behind Olathe North.
Here is a recap of overall scores the bands received:
3A Score School
1 57.03 Riverton (visual, music, effect, perc, guard)

1 78.83 Buhler (visual, music, effect, perc, guard)
2 61.83 Basehor-Linwood

1 71.38 Topeka West (visual)
2 71.23 Valley Center (music, perc)
3 69.25 Topeka Seaman
4 66.95 Eisenhower (effect)
5 66.48 Maize South (guard)
6 60.78 Goddard
7 59.45 Lansing
8 58.03 Wichita Carroll

1 83.00 Olathe North (visual, effect, perc, guard)
2 81.65 Derby
3 79.50 Lawrence (music)
4 75.68 Dodge City
5 74.38 Shawnee Mission East
6 72.60 Lawrence Free State
7 71.80 Shawnee Mission West
8 71.08 Blue Valley North
9 70.98 Washburn Rural
10 62.58 Wichita East

1 TIE 81.88 Olathe North (vis, effect, guard)
TIE 81.88 Buhler (music, perc)
3 78.98 Derby
4 77.83 Lawrence
5 71.20 Dodge City
6 69.35 Lawrence Free State
7 67.83 Shawnee Mission East
8 66.73 Topeka West
9 65.08 Shawnee Mission West
10 64.95 Valley Center
11 62.85 Blue Valley North
12 62.23 Washburn Rural
Congrats, TWHS Band Members!!

Remember Rosa Bus Visits Schools

The Remember Rosa bus pulled up to Avondale West this morning for the first of many presentations that will commemorate the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ historical ride.

The Topeka Metro bus will act as a mobile classroom while it travels throughout the district this school year. Every TPS student in kindergarten through high school will have an opportunity to visit the bus and see the featured exhibits, including displays depicting the March on Washington and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Angela Easton, Education Specialist with the Brown v. Board of Education Historical Site, said it is important for the students to visit the bus “so they can see how this has changed our society and how it impacts us today.”

We think this is a fun, unique way to learn about an important time in American history and are happy to have the bus visit all of our schools!

Whitson Elementary Outdoor Classroom

The students at Whitson Elementary have a beautiful, new outdoor classroom thanks to an anonymous donor.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held yesterday to unveil Whitson Elementary’s new outdoor learning space, a beautiful garden made possible through the efforts of an anonymous donor. Principal Keelin Pierce welcomed students and staff to the Whitson Learning Garden, the only outdoor classroom of its kind in town.
The materials for the space were all donated by a Whitson parent, who also completed most of the construction on the garden himself. He envisioned a space where students could practice hands-on learning, study nature and science, indulge in games and books, and enjoy new learning experiences. The Whitson Learning Garden boasts a multi-tiered planting bed, Japanese rock garden, lending library, learning pit, wishing well with a solar-powered fountain, and a reflection bench.
Thank you so very much to the special volunteer who made this amazing learning garden possible! Whitson students have an outdoor learning space they will enjoy for years to come!

Groundbreaking For Elementary School

The Jardine pre K- 8th grade campus groundbreaking ceremony was held this afternoon at the site of the new building. Local news outlets, elected officials, the building's architects and community members were all in attendance as school district officials celebrated the upcoming construction of the new school.
The building will boast 116,000 square feet on two levels. It will hold 33 classrooms (30 regular and 3 pre-k) including two music rooms, an art room, a two-story media center, four discovery areas (open spaces for collaboration) and two outdoor patio spaces.

Construction will begin next month and is scheduled to last 18 months. Students will begin attending classes in the building in August of 2017. This new elementary school will be connected to Jardine Middle School, making it the third Pre K- 8th grade campus in the district. The other two are Ross Elementary/ Eisenhower Middle School and State Street Elementary/Chase Middle School.

The school is being built with funds from the Securing Our Future bond initiative, which voters approved in April of 2014.

Students Hear From Civil Rights Leader

Georgia Congressman John Lewis has been involved in the civil rights movement for more than 50 years.  As a college student, he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  He was the youngest person to speak when Dr. Martin Luther King gave his I Have a Dream speech.

Today at Washburn University, Lewis told his story to 2,000 TPS high school, middle school and elementary school students.  Lewis told the students to speak up if they see something wrong and to stand up for what they believe.

The congressman is the co-author of a graphic novel memoir trilogy, March.  After his talk, several students approached him to sign their copy of the book.

Topeka West Teacher Named Above & Beyond Winner

Many of you are familiar with the Above & Beyond  Award.  It is a monthly award that goes to a teacher, staff member, parent or community volunteer who goes above and beyond to help deliver services to students.

The October Above & Beyond Award goes to Maggie Corcoran.  Maggie is a language arts resource and 9th grade English teacher at Topeka West High School.  Fellow teacher Jason Berryman nominated Maggie for the award.  “Although she has only been working as a full-time educator for less than 5 years, Maggie has risen above the rest of us as the “go-to” person to get things done.  Inside the classroom she provides a safe and nurturing educational atmosphere for her students and outside the classroom she coordinates the National Honor Society, leads the faculty and staff together group in her building, assists at extra-curricular events and recently spearheaded the faculty tailgate event before the first home football game,” said Berryman.

Topeka West Principal Dustin Dick said, “Maggie is a hard-working, dedicated professional who not only cares about the students, but also cares about the staff.  She is always willing to help wherever and whenever needed.”  When told of the award, Maggie responded, “It is easy to go above and beyond when you love your job.”

If you would like to nominate someone for the Above & Beyond Award, go to the district website (  At the bottom of the page, click on staff site, then formers for staff, then district programs.  You will find the Above & Beyond application form.

Local High Schools Honor Alums

Highland Park High School, Topeka High School and Topeka West High School recently held induction ceremonies for their respective halls of fame.
On Sunday, October 4th, the Topeka High School Historical Society inducted Charles B. Axton II (1950), Fred L. Slaughter (1960), Col. Richard Snyder (1941) and Linda Dickinson Spalding (1961) into the school’s Hall of Fame. Former history teacher and 1914 graduate Amy Swenson received the 2015 THS Distinguished Staff Award.
On Saturday, October 10th, Highland Park High School held a ceremony for their Hall of Fame and Wall of Honor inductees. Larry Robbins (1967) and George Whitney (1956) were inducted into HPHS Hall of Fame. Members of the 1964 wrestling team were inducted to the school’s Sports Wall of Honor.
On Sunday, October 11th, the Topeka West High School Graduate Hall of Fame and Distinguished Staff ceremony took place. Cindy Schmidt Heath (1967), Mark Hunt (1967) and Kevin Young (1988) were all inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. Jim Elmborg, Ed Scarlett and Linda Wardlow were all awarded the TWHS Distinguished Staff Award.

Congratulations to all of the inductees and award winners!

Walmart Helps Teachers

Capital City Schools recently held an assembly with special guests from Walmart. Managers Veronica and Derek brought twenty $50 Walmart gift cards for the school's teachers. The winning teachers' names were drawn at the assembly, and teachers whose names weren't drawn received a fun gift basket.

Thank you, Walmart, for your generous donation to our teachers!

Schools Get New Science Classrooms

French Middle School recently unveiled their three new science classrooms in a ribbon cutting ceremony. Students helped cut the ribbons before they headed into the new labs for the first time. The French science rooms, along with the Topeka West High School and Robinson Middle School science rooms, make up the first round of science classroom renovations in the district. Thanks to the voter-approved Securing Our Future bond initiative, all middle and high school science classrooms will be updated to meet 21st century science standards.
French 6th grade science instructor Diane Denmark said both she and the students were very eager to begin using the new space. “Everything is new… the ceiling, walls, whiteboards, counter tops, cabinets. What we have now that we didn’t have before is that we have an actual science lab. It looks like a lab, which changes the mindset of the students,” she said.

The school year began with science classes being held in traditional classrooms, not science labs, while the renovations were being completed. “We had no counter space for our lab work,” Denmark said. “Now we have the space to spread out. The kids will be starting a chemistry unit and will be working with chemicals, so this space will be perfect.”

One of the new features of the updated science labs is a dishwasher. “We do lots of science experiments. For example we just got done with one that used lots of vials. Prior to having a dishwasher in the
classroom, I had to haul them all home in shopping bags and wash them at home. Now I can wash them here,” Denmark said.
Also at the ribbon cutting ceremony was school board member Dr. Michael Morrison, who spoke to the students. “I just hope all these new facilities encourage you guys to look at science as a career after high school and college,” he said.

District administrators, school principals and architects are working together to decide which buildings will be part of the second round of schools
to receive science lab renovations. The next set of renovations will begin at the end of this school year, and all other middle and high school science labs will be completed by the 2017-2018 school year.

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