Education (95)

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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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By Darla Welchel
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People usually hate when others play mind games, but not so for Bridge Creek High School.
On Oct. 26 at 5 p.m., the Bridge Creek Academic Team will be on the KSBI show, Mind Games, competing with other local academic teams for cash prizes. Team members for the Bridge Creek team are seniors Darby Bryce, Robert BlueBack and Jenny Corbin with Juniors Morgan Danker and Justin Meyers.
The teams earn cash prizes for their school; $10 a question sponsored by the Choctaw Nation. There is also a single Oklahoma history question worth $250 for each team, sponsored by Ward Petroleum, said team advisor and high school technology teacher Adam Carr.
"Mind Games recruits academic teams at the Oklahoma Academic Coaches Association meetings every September, so I had been hearing about it for a couple of years," Carr said. "Last spring, one of my team members, Morgan Danker, asked if we could do it. Once I knew I had a little buy-in on the part of the team, I knew it was time to push the opportunity forward."
Carr loves to show off his team's prowess at academic bowls, and was looking for a different venue for them to compete.
"I like to find different opportunities for students to show what they are made of. I figure, if I believe in them enough to make the opportunity available to them, they will feel confident to put themselves out there and make a good showing," he said. "I feel like that's my biggest challenge as an educator – to get kids to believe that hard work makes a difference. That confidence is a choice we make, not a feeling that is fleeting, and that the status quo is a construct we have control over."
In order for the team to be chosen for the show, they had to take a "quiz" as one unit, he said. They had to take an online test and answer 24 questions as fast as possible, and the team that got the most questions correct in the shortest amount of time received the highest seed in the tournament.
Filming actually started in September, and the team had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to leak the results before the airdate, Carr said. The filming for the tournament has been completed, but one unfortunate turn of event may keep further shows from airing - KSBI was purchased by Griffin Communications and future shows are in question.
"We were told that no matter what happens with Griffin and KSBI anything that is taped, they intend to air even if they can only air it online," he said. "The big thing [the show] means, is a new and novel experience for students. The second thing it means is students get to see their community supporting them as they assert themselves and take on new challenges. The third thing it means is that any question they get right they now have $10 to spend as a team."
Carr, who has taught at Bridge Creek for 12 years, has coached the academic team for 11 of those years. In addition, he has also coached the robotic team for the past two years.
"I am hoping the Mind Games game show continues; I have some sophomores and freshmen that I would like to take in years to come. I have a very diverse team with lots of really smart kids. As we learn confidence and develop a hunger for competition, my Academic Team shows a lot of potential. When people watch the show, no matter how you want it to go, you will be yelling at the screen, I know I was, it is really a good game," Carr said.


Wednesday, 08 October 2014 18:18

Pucker up and help fund education

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By Darla Welchel
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Limeades are a sweet and sour way to cool off when you are hot, it is also a way to help raise money for education.
Voting is now going on for Sonic Drive-In's Limeades for Learning give-away.
Two Newcastle teachers have submitted three projects in which they hope to receive educational funding, according to Sonic ad agency representative Madison LaRoche. Sixth grade reading teacher Blaire Harrison and middle school technology teacher Vickie Crossley have entered in this year’s contest.
Harrison's project Tech It Out is requesting 10 Chromebooks to promote the use of technology in her reading classroom. The cost of this project is $2,989.40.
"We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher's hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world. Please help bring our classroom into the future by donating to our project," she said in her project submittal.
Her second project Look, Look, Look it Up! Asked for actual dictionaries, thesauruses and almanacs to teach her students to look information up in reference books; this project has already been funded for $856.45.
Crossley's project I Didn’t Know That! - Tech Resources for Middle Schoolers is requesting books and reference materials about technology, which she says can be used in numerous ways and have a multitude of uses. Her project cost is $437.06.
"Technology is often confused with the term 'computers'. But technology is about problem solving and improving things. How people use tools to create new things and develop new ideas are better descriptions of technology. I try to reinforce that throughout the school year," Crossley said in her project report.
Limeade for Learning allows people to vote on their favorite project to help local teachers receive funding for educational needs in their classrooms. Go to to find and vote on a project.
You will have to sign in either through your Facebook, twitter or pintrest accounts or you can sign up using your email, LaRoche said. You can vote once a day, but there are other ways to earn more votes like visiting your local Sonic. When you order an item, you will receive a sticker with a special code on it for more votes.
You can also get additional votes for sharing the link on Facebook, twitter, pintrest and through email, she said. And, when you have voted 10 days in a row, you will get extra votes for your favorite teacher's project.
Christi Woodworth, Senior Director of Communications & Community Relations at Sonic Drive-In  said, "As a national brand, SONIC Drive-In is dedicated to supporting our local communities and we are passionate about education. Limeades for Learning is our way to give back to the communities we serve, empowering our guests to vote for their favorite projects and connecting each local drive-in to the public schools in the area."
Sonic has pledged $500,000 for education and have been giving away $100,000 a week since the contest started Sept. 22; the voting and funding will continue through Oct. 26, so there is still plenty of time to get online or visit Sonic to cast your vote.


Thursday, 02 October 2014 15:13

A message from the superintendent

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Good Morning Racers,

As I sit here reflecting on a very busy weekend for me, and the school district, I am reminded - between the yawns - of how old I sometimes feel. Keeping up with my own children and many of the children in the district keeps me old and young at the same time. We as school personnel know that this time of the year can be very demanding on our students and their families also. 

With homecoming week approaching, this is a perfect example of what I am trying to write about this week. How often do we feel overwhelmed by ALL that we have to do as adults, and it seems like none of it gets done as well or maybe as quickly as we would like for it to be done. The same goes with our students. While this may be the “best years of their lives,” they still are facing tremendous pressures to perform in the classroom, the athletic fields, and at the everyday jobs they have in addition to trying to be a “KID” who is in school. 

Just like the pit crews of racing teams are always behind the scenes making the cars of their drivers safer and faster and more dependable, let us as the pit crews for our “RACERS” continue to do the same for them. In the days, weeks, and months to come prior to the end of the semester continue to push them hard while at the same time encouraging them and giving them every support possible. 

We as a district are beginning the major reporting for the year that is due at the beginning of next month. These reports will show that we have another record enrollment and that our demographics are slowing changing. These data points are also indicative of the need of our students to continue to be supported outside of school in all that they do. Many of them will need “support” in their academic efforts; others will need it in athletics, music, or robotics. In other words, let’s all make a concerted effort to be supportive of all of our students when and wherever possible.

Since this is homecoming week, please come out and support the students and faculty in all of the activities that are planned for the week culminating in the hosting of district fast pitch softball on Thursday; first ever regional volleyball tournament appearance for Racer volleyball on Thursday night in Cache; the parade, carnival, and football game on Friday.

Have a great week!


Wednesday, 01 October 2014 20:03

Newcastle 4-H collects tabs for charity

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By Darla Welchel
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Imagine being surrounded by 462,455 pop tabs. That's a lot of aluminum – bags and buckets of the stuff.
The Newcastle 4-H Club, in sponsorship with the Newcastle elementary schools, collected over 360 pounds of pop tabs since last year.  At approximately 1,267 tabs per pound, that equals nearly a half million tabs of all sorts and sizes.
No, the club is not obsessive compulsive; they are just doing their part to help the families of seriously ill or injured children by collecting all types of pull tabs from cans, said 4-H parent and elementary school speech pathologist DeAnn Smith.
The "Pull for Kids" campaign is part of the OK 4-H Foundation project to benefit Ronald McDonald Houses, she said. Individual clubs, like Newcastle's, collect from October to October each year and present their total poundage of aluminum tabs at the District Youth Action Conference.
"Last year, the total for all of McClain County was 75 pounds," Smith said. "This year, Newcastle 4-H collected over 362 pounds."
What made the difference? Smith said she got the idea to make it a project in all of the elementary schools when her students started bringing her pop tabs in their pockets and lunch bags. The reason they collect only the tabs is because the aluminum is a better quality, and it's much easier to save the tab instead of the whole can.
"I started just at the ECC last October, then added the elementary school in November," she said. "Kids would come up to me saying 'we brought you a pop tab, Mrs.. Smith.'"
Each month, that school is in session, all the classroom teachers have collection receptacles in their classrooms. Smith collects them with the help of her son, Brenden, who is the Newcastle 4-H vice president, and other 4-H students and takes them home to weigh and store.
Monthly, the class bringing in the most tabs earns the right to keep the recycled traveling trophy in their classroom. At the end of May, the class with the greatest poundage of tabs in each building wins a cookie party, Smith said.
"It's gone over really well. It kind of started from a challenge between the Blanchard 4-H and us as to who could collect the most," she said. "So we said, 'how can we get more,' and we came up with this idea."
The focus for the club is for community service and is a great project for the younger 4-H members, because they can put a pop tab in their pockets, Smith said.
Brenden even did a presentation on this project for one of his 4-H projects, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Newcastle 4-H, as well as explaining what "Pull for Kids" is all about.
The Newcastle 4-H is excited to attend this year’s conference and bring all the tabs collected, she said. The group will continue the project and look forward to bringing in even more tabs.
Individuals and business can also donate pull-tabs at any elementary site. The Pacer currently has a container in the staff kitchen to save pop and soup tabs.


Wednesday, 01 October 2014 19:12

Hogs and Kisses at Newcastle Elementary

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By Darla Welchel
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Pucker up, its time for the annual Hogs & Kisses fundraising event. From Monday, Oct. 6- Friday, Oct. 10, students can bring change each day to fill the piggy bank for the teacher of their choice.
"Teachers usually decorate a pig, which gets judged at the end of the week, and the winner gets a gift certificate," said PTO President Joanah Salas.  
The teacher who raises the most money by the end of the week, will kiss the pig. The winner for PreK-1st will kiss the pig at the ECC, and the winner from 2nd-5th will pucker up at the 4/5 gym.
Last yearss winning teacher at the ECC was Mrs. Huff and since Mrs. Chlouber was less than $5 away she received 2nd place and was a good sport and went ahead and kissed the pig too, Salas said. Mrs. Sykes won the honors at the upper elementary schools.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 21:54

FCCLA hold a blessed event

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By Darla Welchel

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Amongst balloons, punch and cake, more than 30 members of the Newcastle chapter of FCCLA met for the first time this year last Thursday.

To kick the year off, students in Family Career and Community Leaders of America, the student organization affiliated with the Family and Consumer Science class, held a baby shower to promote its District Project, said FCCLA sponsor Debbie Chappell.

The students chose Operation Homefront: Star Spangled Babies for this year's project. This important program provides baby showers to enlisted service members and their families while they are away from home serving their country, she said. 

To properly get in the mood, the students made and decorated baby shower cakes, had punch and played shower games, she said. The goal of the project is for students to collect and then deliver baby items by Sept. 30 during the District Meeting.

Often, military parents-to-be live far from their extended families and support systems due to deployments and relocations. Star Spangled Babies helps provide them with some of the necessities they might not otherwise get.

Although FCCLA members are collecting the items, community members can become involved by delivering needed items to the high school before Sept. 30, Chappell said. Some of the needed items are:

Diapers (size 1-2)

Baby wipes

Baby wash clothes

Bath towels

Diaper Cream, lotion, wash, etc.

Baby blankets

Soft toys

Teething rings and rattles



Baby detergent

The purpose of FCCLA is to promote personal growth and leadership development through family and consumer sciences education. This organization is available to anyone currently enrolled in FACS courses, or anyone who have previously taken the courses, Chappell said. 


Thursday, 11 September 2014 21:42

Teaching the 3 R’s at Newcastle Elementary

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By Darla Welchel

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Reduce, Reuse and Recycle might not be the 3 R’s that most of us grew up with, but in today’s ecology it is very important for the health of the planet.

The Newcastle Elementary School is turning lessons into practice and earning cash doing it. On Thursday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. the grade school will be holding a Recycling Event in front of the cafeteria.

The recycling extravaganza is being held as a fundraiser for the elementary school to raise money to beautify the front of both the first and second grade and fourth and fifth grade buildings.

Students have already been sent home with pink bags to fill with gently used clothing, shoes and small household items, but there is still a big need for more items, said event sponsor Duane Alexander of Recycle for Charity. Community members are urged to bring their boxes and bags of donations in to help fill the truck.

The school will receive $60 per 3x5 foot cart and there is no limit to the amount that Recycle for Charity will accept. The local donation center, located at 1612 NW 32nd St. to the west of T.G. Farms, donates 80 percent of what they take in back to the Newcastle community, he said.

“Parents get tired of all the school fundraisers,” Alexander said. “This is easy, they just have to clean out their closets and the school gets money.”

The event will accept all gently used items including small household items and battery operated toys and electronics, working or not, he said. Just no TV sets or monitors. Tax receipts will be issued and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the school. Special arrangements can be made for large furniture donations by calling (405) 681-9926.

The class with the most donations brought in will win a Pizza Party.

“Help us keep it out of the landfills and keep our community looking beautiful,” he said. “Feel Great and Donate.”


Thursday, 11 September 2014 21:32

Pasta for dancing

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By Cody Johnson

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   Have you been craving some good Italian pasta? Do you also want the chance to help out the junior class put on a great prom?

   Then come out and support the Newcastle junior class's fundraiser for Prom. They will be holding a spaghetti dinner on Thursday night. Come on out from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the high school cafeteria for a plate full of delicious pasta.

   The junior class will also have their parents out to help serve the community along side them. A $5 donation will get you in the door for spaghetti with some traditional sides.

   Anyone wishing to donate money to help the junior put on Prom this year can contact Stephanie Burchett at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Andrea Thomas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  


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