New Teacher Profile: Gabriela Sarmiento

This is one in a series of Q&A’s with teachers new to Denair Unified in 2019-20

Family: Husband, Jose; daughter, Emma (at DMS); and son, Victor (at DECA’s Dual Immersion Program)

School: Denair Middle School

Subject taught: English Language Arts

Experience and education: I hold a bachelor’s degree in both criminal justice and psychology, as well as a multiple subject teaching credential from CSU Stanislaus.  This is my fourth year in education and my first year teaching sixth-grade language arts.

What attracted you to Denair? I have family and friends who are a part of the Denair community. I was attracted to Denair because it is a small town and a very tight-knit community.

What most inspires you about teaching? Knowing that I have the ability to positively impact the lives of my students and their families.  

What is a challenge you look forward to tackling this year?  Effectively developing reading and writing lessons that are going to inspire and motivate my students.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? While there are many tools and activities helpful to teaching, my favorite is building community in the classroom.  I like to get to know my students (their likes, their dislikes, what excites them, what they look forward to in the future, etc.). I’ve learned that by taking the time to make these genuine individual connections, my students are willing to work harder in pursuit of their own learning goals.

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Denair Students Continue to Progress on State Tests

Students continue to make improvements in English and math, but too many still are performing below state standards, Superintendent Terry Metzger told the Denair Unified School District board Thursday night.

Trustees have expressed concern with results from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, known as CAASPP. Students in grades three through eight as well as high school juniors take a battery of tests each spring over six or seven days. Their results are then revealed – individually, by grade level and by school district.

The performance in grades three through eight also are used to indicate a district’s academic status on California School Dashboard, intended to be a quick way for parents and others to measure progress.

“It’s high profile and high stakes, but often misinterpreted,” Metzger told trustees.

Denair students have lagged state-set benchmarks for many years in English and math. That’s still the case, but Metzger said there is a silver lining in the latest numbers based on tests taken last spring.

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Denair School Board Member John Plett Resigns; Applicants Sought to Fill Out Remaining 16 Months of Term

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

John Plett, the senior member of the Denair Unified School District board, submitted his resignation at Thursday night’s meeting. It is effective immediately.

In his letter to Superintendent Terry Metzger and board President Regina Gomes, Plett said he needed “to focus on my health.”

The remaining four trustees decided they will appoint Plett’s replacement rather than hold a costly special election. His term ends in November 2020.

Interested community members who live within the district’s boundaries and who are registered to vote may pick up an application at the district’s office or download the form off the district’s website.  Applications will be accepted Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Aug. 19.

A question and answer session will take place Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at the district office for those interested in learning more about the board position prior to applying.

On Aug. 29, Trustees Kathi Dunham-Filson, Regina Gomes, Ray Prock Jr. and Crystal Sousa will hold a special board meeting at 7 p.m. to interview all the applicants. After discussion, trustees will vote that night to choose Plett’s successor. The new trustee will be sworn it at the Sept. 12 board meeting.

Those with questions about the process should call Daisy Swearingen, executive assistant to superintendent and board, at (209) 632-7514, ext. 1202.

Plett, 68, was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. A retired law enforcement officer, he is known for the pride he takes in the community as well as the students and staff on Denair’s four campuses.

He and his wife, Kathy, have lived in Denair for nearly 40 years. All four of their daughters attended Denair schools and one of them, Kara Binkley, is a counselor in the Denair district. Many members of Plett’s family were in the audience Thursday night.

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New teacher profile: Cassie Talaga

This is one in a series of Q&A’s with teachers new to Denair Unified in 2019-20

Family: Just me and my Boston terrier baby, Token 

School: Denair Elementary Charter Academy State Preschool

Subject taught: Preschool 

Experience and education: I have been teaching preschool for almost 15 years. I started my career at the CSU Stanislaus learning center.  I have had the opportunity to work for a variety of preschool programs in different capacities.  I hold my California Child Development Master Teacher Permit, and am working toward obtaining my Site Supervisors Permit and completing my B.A. in child development.  

What attracted you to Denair? DECA was home for me five years ago, when I worked as a paraprofessional in the morning preschool class, and now I am so happy to be returning to this great program, school and district. DECA incorporates many wonderful programs that help the children of this community to grow and succeed in their lives. It introduces children to programs such as academic adventures, character bound and college awareness, starting as early as kindergarten.  The small town environment and involvement is what drew me to DECA in the first place and is what has drawn me back!

Why most inspires you about teaching? The children whom I have been able to be a part of their lives, even if it was only for a few months, are the reason that inspires me to keep teaching. Seeing their minds grow, their experiences flourish and their relationships become stronger, is why I do what I do. Not having any children of my own, I always tell everyone, the children in my classroom are my children! They always will be! I can’t wait to meet this next group of wonderful children that I get to explore the year with.  

What is a challenge you look forward to tackling this year? By coming back to DECA after five years, I hope to challenge myself and become incorporated back into the district family.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? My favorite teaching activity is anything I can get the children engaged in and maybe get a little messy, while exploring our environment. This is how children develop at the preschool age and learn to their full potential. I always want to provide hands-on experiences in which they are able to use their problem solving, communication and many other skills to explore and learn through: STEM/STEAM, TinkerToys and process art are just a few examples.

What do you want your students to remember? I want each of my students to remember that Ms. Cassie is a safe person that they can always come to and have fun with. I want them to remember that their preschool life was a time they felt safe, worry-free, happy and ready to explore. 

How can parents support what you do? Parental involvement is so key to the preschool learning environment. I love when parents want to attend field trips, volunteer in the classroom, or just need to sit and talk with someone.  My classroom is always open to parents, and while there are a couple hurdles to volunteering, don’t let it stop you.  Come be a part of your child’s preschool experience! You are their FIRST teachers. Please encourage them to ask questions to increase their problem-solving  and communication skills. 

What would surprise people about your job? I think people would be surprised at how much teachers think of your wonderful children as their own and how much time we take to make their educational experience, hopefully, a wonderful one. 

What do you do for fun? I love to spend time outside, relaxing or adventuring.  I love hanging out with my Boston terrier and friends.  

New teacher profile: Carrie Perry

This is one in a series of Q&A’s with teachers new to Denair Unified in 2019-20

Family: Husband, Paul, and children Aidan, 17, and Kellan, 13

School: District

Subject taught: Speech therapist

Experience and education: I graduated from Fresno State with a master’s in communicative sciences and disorders, and a clinical rehabilitative services credential. I also hold a state license in speech pathology. I have worked in the school setting for my entire career and also take private speech therapy clients.

What attracted you to Denair? My friend Suzie Ramirez raved about this district and the leadership. I also was attracted to the idea of the small-town, small-district atmosphere.

Why most inspires you about teaching? Giving a child the gift of communication. Knowing that my interventions are helping a child communicate and that those skills will help them their whole life is the very reason I do what I do. It’s an amazing feeling to watch them make progress over time and meet goals. Let me tell you how awesome it to watch a child go from having no words to speaking in short sentences! Just the best feeling ever!

What is a challenge you look forward to tackling this year? I will be spending my time working in two different districts this year for the first time in my career.

What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? I have many therapy tools and tricks I have gained through the years. I would say with the expansion of technology the iPad apps that are now available for speech therapy are an awesome tool to keep students engaged.

What do you want your students to remember? You will never regret being kind.

How can parents support what you do?  This is one of my most favorite parts of this job. I love educating and empowering the parents of the children I work with. Watching a parent have an “aha” moment as we are working together is amazing. Knowing that the “aha” moment will lead to more progress in their child is priceless.

What would surprise people about your job? One trait that is crucial for speech language pathologists (SLPs) to have is the ability to be creative. It is part of the job. Because each client is never like the one before, we are always using our creativity to keep therapy interesting, motivating and efficient.  For example, because SLPs do not have a curriculum to follow, the schools SLPs often use their creativity to pull together lessons that both are individualized for the students as well as follow along with the general education curriculum. We also often tailor therapy to our student’s interests to help motivate and therefore build success. This takes time, patience and a lot of creativity!

What do you do for fun? I love music, enjoy attending concerts and wine tasting. I love spending weekends hanging out with friends and family.