Education (103)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 21:07

Cooking Christmas treats for 4-legged friends

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By Lucy Wilson

On December 5th, members of the A.S.A.P. Club (Amazing Small Animal Project Club) met at the McClain County Extension kitchen to make homemade dog and cat treats for pet goodie bags.  

The members made enough treats for 11 cat goodie bags and three different kinds of dog biscuits for 16 doggie goodie bags.  
These bags were donated to Operation Christmas for people who might also have a pet that needs a Christmas gift.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 21:03

Blanket Brigade

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Some Newcastle elementary fifth grade students have given up their recess for the past two weeks to make baby blankets for the Norman Fire Department. One of their teachers, VA Ospovat read that the firefighters take blankets on calls with them to hand out if a home has little or no heat. The children wanted to help, so the Blanket Brigade was formed and they started making child and baby size blankets. According to another teacher volunteer, Jennifer Privett, they can make about one blanket a day. Pictured from left: Special Education teacher Tiffiny Grigg; students Taylor, Joanna, Ashlynn, Lauren and Trevor; Jennifer Privett.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014 19:52

Christmas notes and voices

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By Darla Welchel
Managing Editor

The Newcastle High School Band and Choir performed in the grand auditorium last Thursday evening for a nearly full house.

The Racer Band began the program with Christmas On A Snowy Night arranged by John Moss followed by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells’ holiday classic The Christmas Song.

Director Todd Baker took a few moments to shine a light on his students’ accomplishments so far this year, both on the marching field and in the concert arena.

The band finished its portion of the concert with everyone’s favorite Hallelujah from Handel’s The Messiah. A short intermission ensued while the band quickly broke down the stage to ready for the Racer Choir.

As Diane Watson began playing to an empty stage, soft voices could be heard coming from the rear of the auditorium. The singers walked in by candlelight to Personent Hodie arranged by Leavitt.

After the choir took their places, Director Lisa McLean led them in bringing holiday cheer with their renditions of Christmas Canon Rock by Pachebel and O’Neill, Wolfgang’s Christmas Canon by Mozart, Christmas Pipes by Gragam and Holiday Favorites Christmas Medley by Emerson.


Wednesday, 10 December 2014 19:45

Christmas helps to save literacy

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Darla Welchel
Managing Editor

In spite of busy holiday schedules, the Newcastle Early Childhood Center saw nearly 350 people at their 2nd Annual Countdown to Christmas Literacy Night.

“Considering everything going on this time of year, we had a great turn-out,” said Title I Reading teacher Tammy Bolles.

There were oodles of activities, crafts and yummy treats for the children to enjoy. The night was sponsored by the Title I Reading program to promote and encourage families to read and learn together.

“This is a great way to get families involved in literacy. The students and their families enjoyed making Christmas crafts, playing games, listening to stories told by an elf, and even voted for their favorite Christmas book,” she said. “They voted The Polar Express as their favorite book,” she said.

Also, each child in attendance was able to take home a free hardback book donated by Feed the Children Teacher Store, Bolles said.

And no Christmas event would be complete without a visit from Santa. All through the night, Santa was on hand in the ECC library to listen to children’s wishes and to pose for photographs.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014 19:42

A fanciful winter gala

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By Darla Welchel
Managing Editor

The Newcastle Drama Department’s first Annual Winter Masquerade Ball will be filled with intrigue and mystery.
The concept of wearing a mask while attending a ball began in the early centuries, as hiding one’s identity was part of the fun and games of a masquerade ball.
And, although the Newcastle High School Drama Department’s Winter Masquerade Ball won’t require full costumes, it will allow students a chance to channel their inner courtier and have a bit of royal fun, said Drama teacher Terry Cummings.
The glamorous event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20 and will be held in the Newcastle Ball Room (located inside the community center). Price of admission is $15 per masked student or $25 per couple. This is for high school students only.
“Our attendance is limited to 250 so the tickets should be purchased as soon as possible,” she said. “The Drama Club is selling the tickets.”
The dress code for the evening is floor length dresses for the girls and the guys must wear a shirt, tie, jacket and dress pants. No jeans allowed, Cummings said. And, everyone in attendance is required to wear a mask.
And no ball would be complete without a formal dance. The first dance of the evening will be a waltz, and if students don’t know how to dance the waltz, no worry as Cummings is offering free dance lessons.
“I will be giving dance lessons next week after school so that our first dance is participated by all,” she said. “We’ve also learned the Foxtrot and another teacher has agreed to show them the Texas Swing.”
There will be snacks and a photo booth to capture memories of the night, and a DJ will spin the tunes, both old and new.
“One of the reasons for this ball is to let our students experience a different time period, where dancing was the main attraction and with each other rather than a big crowd on the dance floor where they are not even aware of who they are dancing with,” Cummings concluded.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014 20:49

Drama department to hold first-ever Masquerade Ball

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By Darla Welchel
Managing Editor

Masquerade balls were a feature of the Carnival season in the 15th century and involved increasingly elaborate allegorical Royal Entries, pageants and triumphal processions celebrating marriages and other dynastic events of late medieval court life.

And, although the Newcastle High School Drama Department’s Masquerade Ball, won’t have quite this much pomp and circumstance, it will allow students a chance to channel their inner courtier.

The event will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20 and will be held – where else – in the Newcastle Ball Room (located inside the community center. Price of admission is $15 per masked student or $25 per couple.

Female students are required to wear a floor length dress and everyone is required to wear a mask, said Newcastle Drama teacher Terry Cummings.

As this is a ball, the first dance will be a waltz, she said. She has already begun teaching her drama students how to perform dances like the waltz and the fox trot, she said. Cummings will be offering free dance lessons to other students after the play is finished (See story at left).

“This is the first time anything like this has taken place in Newcastle,” she said. “The kids are so exited.”

Cummings said, they still need several things to make this magical night a success. She is looking for a “reasonably” priced D.J. and caterer.

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By Darla Welchel
Managing Editor

When the Newcastle High School Drama Department were deciding on their winter play, the members knew they didn’t want to do the standard holiday show.

The play they landed on is far from festive, but it is sure to enthrall murder/mystery fans.

A cast of 15 will present Lizzie Borden of Fall River written by Tim Kelly. Beginning at 7 p.m. nightly on Friday, Dec. 5 and Saturday, Dec. 6, the 2-Act play will be held in the Newcastle Auditorium located at the high school.

The price of admission is $8 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. All drama students are selling tickets for the shows or, they can be purchased at the door.  

Over 20 businesses are supporting the play, said Newcastle Drama teacher Terry Cummings. Each night, patrons of the play will be entered (with a ticket) to win special door prizes.

Most everyone knows the rhyme:

Lizzie Borden had an axe,
She    gave    her   mother  40  whacks,
When she  saw  what  she  had  done,
She gave her father 41

And although the gruesome story has been around for over 120 years, the case was never solved. Borden was acquitted of the double homicide, but over the years, the story has been the fodder of movies and plays alike.

Newcastle high school student Kinsey Davis will be portraying the 32 year-old Lizzie Borden, who was arrested and tried for the murders. Borden had clear disdain for her stepmother, Abby, often calling her Mrs. Borden, and for her father, Andrew’s stingy hold on his money.

Brannon Tallant and Morgan Wright will play Andrew and Abby Borden respectively, while Mikayla Schane will play older sister Emma Borden. Katie Curl will portray the maid Bridget, whom Lizzie often called Maggie, the name of a previous maid.

Other cast members include: Mikayla Moomey, Jacob Martin, Kasin Small, Marissa Hunt, Landon Thornhil, Eric Stangfield, Nick Tate, Aubrie Sanders and Chloe Kelley. Stage Manager Alyssa Banks is overseeing around 15 other crewmembers, and Terry Cummings is the director and producer.

Cummings is very proud of her students and the work they have accomplished since drama has returned to Newcastle.

“They are just a wonder,” Cummings said. ‘These are kids that are looking for a niche and drama fills that niche. “They need to be able to understand that they aren’t being judged; drama class is about learning to express themselves without doubt.”

Cummings, who also teaches English, teaches her drama students the importance of the imagination.

“You won’t keep your inner child unless you play with them; you have to have an imagination,” she said. “I absolutely love these kids – through them, I can be a kid.”


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By Darla Welchel
Managing Editor

All too often, the media focuses on only the negative aspects of our public education system.

But that is not the complete – even the true – story to be told about teachers. For the biggest part, teachers are selfless, passionate people who often put their students’ needs ahead of their own.

Recognizing and honoring these men and women is why districts like Newcastle Public Schools choose a Teacher of the Year annually. The selection begins with one teacher being chosen (by their peers) as a Site Teacher of the Year. Later in the school year, a District Teacher of the Year will be selected from these four educators.

It is not hard to understand why they were selected after speaking with them as each has a unique quality they bring to the profession of teaching.

The winners of the 2014 Site Teacher of the Year are:


  • DeAnn Smith – Early Childhood Center
  • Clarice Vandiver – Elementary
  • Kathy Cannon – Middle School
  • Scott O’Hara – High School



DeAnn Smith – Speech and Language Pathologist
DeAnn Smith is not just an educator; she is a Nationally Certified teacher with certification through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She also has a Master’s Degree in Speech/Language Pathology and Special Education Administration.
But her awards and degrees are not what make her a gifted educator; it is her love and care for her students that really show who she is.
“Behavior is communication. Students with limited communication skills need people to look at what they are trying to communicate through their behaviors, said Smith. “I do my best to help bridge the gap between the students, teachers and parents.” 
She currently works with students from age three years to 1st grade, and she also works with high school students. But, during her teaching career, which spans 21 years, she has worked with all ages, birth to 21 years old, Smith said. Until four years ago, she spent most of her career working in Nebraska.
She credits her father, a school superintendent, for her career path.
“My father really wanted me to go into education, so that when I had a family, we could have similar schedules,” she said. “I didn’t want to manage an entire classroom, so he steered me in the direction of Speech Pathology.”
The best part of her job is witnessing the fruit of her labor.
“[My favorite moment] is when a child, who has been trying to figure out how to make a sound (usually an “r”), makes it correctly for the first time. We (the child and I) get super excited, and I get chills down my spine.”
Smith said the worst part of her job is paperwork.
“In special education, we have LOTS of paperwork. My personal motto is: blessed are the flexible, because they won’t be bent out of shape,” she said.
There is not one single moment that stands out, but a series of moments that make teaching special for Smith.
“I love the moments working with more significant learning and communication challenged students, and I see that they’ve acquired skills that will make a significant impact on their life. It could be a new word to communicate, a new skill or a sound that allows them to be more clearly understood,” she said.
When she is not helping her students communicate better, Smith spends time with her husband of 22 years and her two children. She also loves to cook, travel and help with the Newcastle 4-H Club.
Clarice Vandiver – 2nd and 3rd Grade Special Education
Clarice Vandiver has spent 19 years teaching children with special needs reading, spelling, English and math – nine of those years have been at Newcastle Elementary. She said she got the teaching bug when she was a student at college.
“I enjoyed working with young people while I was in college and decided I wanted to continue that as a career,” said Vandiver.
One of her own teachers, Brenda Burton is who inspired Vandiver to go into teaching, but it is her own philosophy that makes her a great teacher.
“She showed me that I must continuously learn and take on the role of a student, so I never forget how to inspire my own class,” she said. “I believe each child is a special individual who needs a safe, stimulating environment to learn. It is my job to provide this place and encourage them to seek information and take risks while learning.”
Whereas the best part of teaching is seeing the “light bulb” come on when a child finally understands a concept that is being taught, for Vandiver, the most challenging part is meeting all of the children’s individual needs within her classroom.
“The most memorable part of my teaching career was teaching my own daughter, Rhylee, when she was in 5th grade,”
When Vandiver is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family at the lake and snow skiing. She also enjoys reading, gardening, watching her daughter play softball and attending Emmaus Baptist Church.
She is married to Randy Vandiver, a retired Okla. City Fire Fighter, and has two children: Cole and Rhylee.
Kathy Cannon – Art, Leadership and Life Skills
She may have only been in the classroom for five years, but Kathy Cannon is no stranger to molding and leading young lives. As a manager for Steak & Ale restaurants, she hired, trained and worked with high school and college students for over 20 years.  
Cannon has been at Newcastle for two years and has already made a big impact with her students – teaching them that art is about seeing things.
“Learning artwork is learning to see things. I don’t know about you, but I want my surgeons to have good eye-hand coordination,” Smith said.
She said she decided to change careers and go into teaching because she enjoys working with young people.
“There’s never a dull moment [with young people],” she said. “I remembered taking art classes and thinking there had to be something more. I wanted to teach the things that weren’t taught.”
Cannon also loves those “light bulb” moments in her classroom.
“The best part of teaching for me is when I’m talking to the students, and they’re all staring at me with blank expressions until one by one, their faces start to light up, because they understand what we are working on or appreciate the artwork,” Smith said. “But the most difficult thing is not having enough time to teach the kids everything that I want to teach them.”
Family is very important to Cannon, and she learns something from each of them.
“My father taught me integrity, my mother taught me to have a heart, my brother taught me no regrets and my sister taught me courage,” she said.
Not surprisingly, when she is not teaching students about art, she is engaging in it herself – as a painter she considers herself a “working artist.” She also keeps busy with her daughter’s activities and going to church.
“My life is also very busy with my daughter, Sydney. She is a junior at Newcastle High School this year, and she is the light of my life,” Cannon said.
Making a difference are the moments Cannon loves.
“The most memorable moment of my teaching career was when one of my former high school students who was not doing well in school discovered something he enjoyed and excelled at in art.  The class made a complete difference in his life,” she said.
Scott O’Hara – Economics and Government
When Scott O’Hara’s uncle – who was a football coach at the University of Iowa, passed away when O’Hara was just 11 years old, he saw how much difference one man could make in the lives of his students.
“When I was at his funeral, I saw how much his players loved him, and they told my he was way more than a Coach. I wanted to have that kind of influence on students.”
O’Hara has taught seniors at Newcastle for the last two of his 10-year career. He is also, himself, a coach (Head Power lifting Coach and Head Girl’s Track Coach) – although he plays down that aspect of his job.
His teaching philosophy is based on living by example.
“[I want to] show students the real world as much as I can in the classroom and out. And I want to show them that anything is possible when you work hard and put your mind to it.”
O’Hara said the best part of teaching is his students – of course!
“[I love] being able to help students on their way and to help them get ready for the real world. I try to teach them and show them things to get ready for,” O’Hara said. “[The hardest part] is by the time I get most of my students, they are all mostly seniors, and communication between parents, students and teachers can really be a struggle.”
He said that winning this award is one of the most memorable moments in his teaching career thus far, but a gift his students gave him ranks at the top.
“I walked into one of my classes one time, and all my students were being perfect. I was wondering why, and it was because they had brought me a new pair of basketball shoes,” he said. “I was in a men’s league, and my shoes were giving me bad blisters. [My students] just went and got them for me. It completely blew me away!”
When he is not teaching and coaching, O’Hara is spending time with his “lovely” wife Tara and his three “adorable” daughters Kaylee, age five and three-year-old twins Peyton and Lydia.
“I love hanging out with m family and fishing – if I ever get the chance. With four girls at home, I am usually busy,” he said.
O’Hara is a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and will be going on a mission trip to Thailand in December.
“I am so excited because I will be going with my wife and another couple. I was very hesitate  [to go on this trip] going with the start for football season and knowing it was going to cost a lot of money. I gave all the excuses in the world way I could not go: its football season, it cost too much, lets just give them the money. But the way God works, that was not His plan for me and my wife. So, the past few months getting prepared to go has been on Faith, and again God has blown me away with all he has done, to get this trip to happen and prepare the way,” O’Hara said.
What would a local teacher from Oklahoma go all the way to Thailand to tell others about God?
“I don’t want to live a life that says and does not want my children to know that Christmas is not about how many presents we get under a tree, but  about Savior that was born for them, and to let them know that there are a lot of boys and girls around the world that don’t have mommy’s and daddy’s. We want to show them love and that there is someone that can love them at all times. I am so honored for this opportunity and cant wait to see what God has in store when we get there,” he said.



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By Darla Welchel
Managing Editor

Until a year ago, Newcastle junior Brannon Tallant had never thought much about writing.

But when he transferred from Dibble High School, he decided to enroll in Andrea Thomas’s Creative Writing class. And that, as they say, was that.
Tallant soon discovered that he not only had a passion for writing poetry, but that he was also pretty good at it. In fact, so good, that the young man was recently selected as one of 12 Poetry Ambassadors for the State of Oklahoma.

Saturday, Tallant and the other 11 finalists were at the University of Oklahoma to learn the results of the Oklahoma Literary Arts Alliance first ever Oklahoma Youth Poet Laureate. Although he did not win the title of Oklahoma Youth Poet Laureate, he did receive a medal signifying him as one of 11 Poetry Ambassadors.

“To even be considered for this is an honor, because they had to pick from everyone in the state,” Tallant said. “It was a very fun experience, and I will definitely be entering for next year.”

To enter, the young writer had to submit five original works of poetry. The finalist were selected from schools all over the state, Tallant was the only one selected from a small-town school.

Andrea Thomas said, “During the months of August, September and October of 2014, OLAA accepted submissions from young poets, rappers, leaders and activists ages 14-19 from across Oklahoma interested in representing Oklahoma as the inaugural OK State Youth Poet Laureate. A group ofesteemed judges choose 12 Finalists, all given the distinction of “Oklahoma Youth Poet Ambassador,”

Thomas believed her student had a good shot at winning the title because of his hidden talent.

“Brannon started writing poetry in my Creative Writing class last year. I saw promise and encouraged him to continue. He then made it his mission to get better and better, and that he did. He is not afraid of criticism and not afraid of revision. He grew so much as a poet last year, and now has reached a level that I would call professional” Thomas said.

Tallant said his inspiration for his prose varies, with some of the more personal topics coming from things he has actually experienced. But, he also likes to step into the shoes of others and write about their own hardships.

“I mainly write free verse slam poetry,” Tallant said. “I write these types, because it’s the type that comes naturally to me. I’m not too much of a fan of structured poetry, though I can still write them. I just prefer to not have limits.”

Lengthy poetry doesn’t deter the young man, but topic can shake him up a bit.

“The difficulty of writing a poem for me doesn’t depend on the length. It depends on the topic. If  I can connect with it, I could write lines upon lines on it. If I don’t really feel the subject, it is hard,” he said.

Since he has only been writing for about a year, he really hasn’t tried his hand at other forms of literature, but he is still growing as a writer. Tallant’s other interest include drama class and performing group poems.

“In drama, we are currently working on a play scheduled for December 5th and 6th. It’s called Lizzie Borden of Fall River,” he said. “I’m also in this competition called Louder than a Bomb with some of my peers and we’re writing and performing a group poem. Four of us get to perform together.”

As a Poetry Ambassador, Tallant will have chances in the future to speak at events.

“The only other thing I would add is that I think poetry is too underrated. Slam poetry, what I do, is not ‘roses are red, violets are blue’ or Shakespeare style writing. The type of poetry I write is more self-empowering and a great emotional outlet,” Tallant said. “My favorite thing about poetry though, is that when you’re doing it, no one can tell you it’s wrong.”

A Scholastic Epiphany


By Brannon Tallant, Oklahoma Poetry Ambassador

I was told to write a poem about education and youth leadership
At first, I didn’t know what could ever materialize without
Sounding incredibly cliché and overused
But something came to me in a thought provoking revelation
So bear with me because
This is the breath that could change your life

At the very mention of the word
High school begins to fabricate before my mind’s eyes
And along with that, a disdainful association

This knowledge that I’ll acquire will
Never get me anywhere but through the year
Paper cuts and graphite dusted fingers were all I got
In a concrete shell that I couldn’t wait to get out of

All it is is
Irrefutable deadlines
Sleep deprived lectures
Mind straining memorization
And standardized tests anyway

But that’s not what education is all about

Education is the contrast of deliberate ignorance and
Enlightenment to the third degree
It’s the difference between McDonald’s and Wall Street
Nights under city bridges and preventive ceilings
Discarded dinner scraps and a hot meal

After being put through classroom doors and contemptuous rejections
Students have resorted to
Filling out welfare forms instead of job applications
Holding cigarettes between their fingers instead of pencils
And feeling all the more anxiety taking pregnancy tests than final exams

There are too many prominent negativities left floating around
Too many girls after the D instead of a PhD
Too many guys after that green instead of the green
And teenagers picking frat parties instead of political ones
Destroying their IQs faster than they’re driving their cars to nowhere

I know that I can’t be the only one here who thinks that
There needs to be an intellectual uprising
This reality check ended my blissful ignorance
It was a smack to the face
And I want you to be next because
Innocence never changed the world

We are more than just grains in the sand
Fillers in the space
It takes a thousand ripples to make the wave
I learned that
A machine only works if every cog is working
And that it’s a team effort and
A leader is our repairman guiding us places we dare not go alone
I will be the repairman if that’s what it takes
To see this social reformation through

So I’ll tell you something that you need to know
Elicit a transcendent purpose and authenticity through my work and
Bring out your mind’s freedom and personal independence
I’ll play the embodiment of your imaginary personnel and
Spark that internal revolution
In the context of this articulate written art form

Because this educational process that we undergo
Isn’t here just to torture us
It’s here to brace our minds for the greatest inheritance of all
The world
The past
The now
The future
The everything
It’s all in our unstained hands
If only we’ll step up to bat and take it



Wednesday, 19 November 2014 16:57

FFA members attend National FFA Convention

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By Sydney Cannon FFA Reporter

On October 27-31, six members of the Newcastle FFA Chapter made the road trip to Louisville, Kentucky to attend the 87th National FFA Convention.

Sydney Cannon, Austin Hey, Nicole Lee, Josh Miner, Makenzie O’Brien and Derick Price attended as well as Newcastle FFA advisor Brandon Morgan and Newcastle Superintendent Tony O’Brien.

En route to the convention, the FFA members toured the National Corvette Museum, Churchill Downs and Louisville Slugger. As a token of appreciation, two personalized Louisville Sluggers were brought to Newcastle High School principal Rob Gilstrap and assistant principal Robbin Sanders in order to thank them for their cooperation with the local ag program.

At the opening session of the National Convention, FFA members from all fifty states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands heard from motivational speaker Nick Vujicic. Vujicic, who was born with no arms and no legs, spoke about going all out in everything you do, regardless of your limits. Newcastle FFA members took his words to heart, and came home ready to Go All Out for the FFA and to better lead the members of this great organization.

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