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Bob Sikes Elementary building strong citizens

“My big point with my students and my staff is that we’ve got to be strong citizens,” she said. “Academics are certainly important, but at the top of that list if we are good people making positive choices in the lives with others, we are accomplishing things.”

Bob Sikes is a Title I school that receives federal funding for the economically disadvantaged and Hayden knows the importance of making sure those students have their needs met.
Hayden’s face lights up when she talks about the school community of students, parents and staff.

“I couldn’t ask for better (support),” she said. “My parents are supportive. My kids are pretty supportive and of course my staff is.
“Challenge wise, I think more than anything, we have some attendance issues that we are work on with our students.”

There are currently 813 students enrolled at Bob Sikes. A few years ago that number was close to 900, but the school district sent 100 students to Walker Elementary to help alleviate some of the overcrowding at the school.

You do have more fluid movement than we’ve had in the last few years. So that’s a challenge when students are coming and going. We were a school that was approaching 900 students several years ago so about 100 of our students went over to Walker Elementary. As subdivisions continue to spring up around the school and across Crestview, Hayden expects to start seeing growth in the school again.
Bob Sikes wasn’t hit hard by Covid during the 2020-2021 school year, but the start of this year got off to a tough start with several teachers and students missing school because of illness during the first nine weeks of the academic year. The school has been back on track for several months now and everything is running as to be expected.

One thing Hayden has noticed in the post-Covid return to normal is the way students have to again learn how to communicate within the classroom setting.

“Academically what we are finding is our students are not as comfortable with the freedom to talk. They got so used to being online that communicate through technology and not through spoken words,” she said. “We are having to back up a little bit and teach what expectations are when working in a small group, how we treat each other, how we respond to each other, asking those questions. It’s called, “Student Talk.”

As is the case with most schools in Okaloosa County, Bob Sikes has a large number of students from military families.

“We are probably close to 50 percent are military,” Hayden said. “We have the first military club in the district and we are proud of that. It gives us an opportunity for our non-military families to work with our military families so they can begin to understand when their parent is deployed, and this child is upset, why they are upset.”

The school day for Bob Sikes students ends at 2 p.m., but there are plenty of after school clubs to keep students busy until 4 p.m. when many of their parents get off work. The school has a variety of clubs including student government, running club, spin club, math club, art club and robotics. All of the clubs help build the community feel within the school.

Hayden loves her school and is thankful for the support of those that make up the Bob Sikes family.

“I’m proud of the overall understanding and compassion that families continue to give us in our environment,” she said. “As things changed other schools opened up their cafeteria earlier than we did. They (parents) didn’t go out and talk badly about us.
“I’m proud of the understanding and compassion that our families continue to provide us. Every day is still a loving experience.”

Annual Crestview High student art show now on display

The school’s annual student art show provides a wonderful insight into the creativity unleashed in the CHS art program under instructors Lori Phillips and Alex Pottinger, while simultaneously introducing the community to rising young artists from whom even greater works are eagerly anticipated as they pursue their muses into college.

Using media including tempera, pen-and-ink, scratchboard, charcoal and acrylic, two-dimensional works on display run the gamut from self-portraits to pop subjects — including those UNO-playing dogs by Grace Bostick, yummy-looking mochi by Lilly King and an impressive self-portrait by Robert Sagaya called “Dragons and Mullets” that’s infused with an evocative golden glow.

On the Sandra Dreaden Gallery Wall, advance placement (AP) students, primarily seniors, showcase several works each, including Paiton Prescott’s acrylics that incorporate elements including buttons and flowers. Evan Hyde’s “Vengeful Swordsman” is drawing his blade from beneath a billowing coat in an action-filled drawing rendered in pencil and charcoal.

Three-dimensional works exhibited in the library lobby include a variety of colorful and creative sculptures in various media and form a delightfully vibrant welcome to the facility’s visitors.

The Crestview High student art show runs through May 16 and may be viewed during the Crestview Public Library’s normal opening hours. Awards for the student winning works will be announced during the mid-week National Art Honor Society induction. For library hours, visit www.cityofcrestview.org/178/Library or call 850.682.4432.

Riverside Elementary School promotes family feel

“I have always been at a secondary school (middle or high school) so this is the first elementary school,” she said. “I will tell you these teachers are incredible. It sounds very cliché to say, but these teachers really dig in deep.”
“They put in a lot of extra hours. I know at other schools it’s the same, but I have seen these teachers hone in on individual kids and meeting them where they are, not as a group or a small group, but they are meeting each individual kid where they are and growing them, not only academically, but they are working with them on behavior, on emotional. These teachers really have a passion for these kids, and I think that’s what makes Riverside an incredible school.”

The school is home to 976 students and that number will grow as subdivisions just a few hundred yards from the school are completed.

“The school is being equipped (for the student population) we are looking at, especially with the new neighborhood coming,” Kennedy said. “We are looking at that and what it means in the district. The district is very supportive of what we do.
“This next year we are looking at adding two portables (classrooms) is what we are going to be adding to our campus.”

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the school is the staff is in transition. Principal Melissa Kearley has been at the school eight years, but, like Kennedy, many faculty and staff members are relatively new to the school. Many of the new faculty members are just starting their teaching careers.

“We’ve got a lot of young teachers, so we are going through some transition,” Kennedy said. “There are new teachers, and I just came this year so there’s that transition. We’ve got a new secretary and there is a lot we are working on.”
“Next year we are going to be adding a dean of students. So we will have an extra admin and that will allow us to be more visible.”

Kennedy believes it’s important for the administration to be out and about the school as much as possible and it’s good for the morale off teachers and students alike.
“I want my teachers to know that they are being supported,” she said. “In order for them to know that support is there, they have to see it.
“So having another person here to help tackle some of the concerns behaviorally will be good.”

With all the time a faculty and staff spend together having the support of one another is important.

Having a family feel is important to Kennedy.

“Riverside is a community,” she said. “I think you have to be a family and a community. This is a home away from home.
“It’s our second home. Parents need us to be a family too. They are trusting us to help grow their babies.”

Crestview High Drama Club to perform Alice in Wonderland

The Crestview High School drama department will be performing Alice in Wonderland this week, April 27-30 at 6 p.m. in the Crestview High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at gofan.com.

The Drama Club does two performances a year; one in the fall and another in the spring.

The cast and crew have been busy since February getting ready for the production.

“I had a baby so we had about half the time we normally would have,” Drama Club teacher Brittany Young said. “We’ve been working for about nine weeks.

“We have between 30 and 40 students involved with the production. There is a cast of 18 performers. “And the tech crew helps run everything backstage.”

Javier Alejandro is March Hare and Makiyah Gordon the Mad Hatter.

Sophomore Kamryn Luadmon is one of the students working behind the scenes.

“I do spotlights,” she said. “It’s really fun seeing everyone on the stage from all the way back there (in the back of the auditorium) because you get to see all the different parts getting worked out. I first got involved with James and the Giant Peach play that we did back in October (2021).

“My sister asked if I wanted to be a part of it too. I told her, ‘No,’ and she asked me to come to one of the rehearsals and they asked me if I wanted to try doing spotlights and I said, ‘Yes,’ and that’s what I’m doing in this play too.”

Senior Austin Caudill hopes to one day be a script writer. He’s playing Tweedledee in the play.

“I saw this high school had a nice little family in the drama club and I thought I’d join it and see what I could do,” he said. “I started the last play in a very small role. This time I wanted to really get into it.

“The hardest part is getting used to learning lines. That’s something that no human is good at when starting at it. Learning lines is pretty hard when you start, but after a while, the people you work with help you.”

William Hannah is White Rabbit with Sage Nichols playing Caterpiller.

Maya Smith is a freshman and is helping as a stage manager.

“We make sure that all the props are out and that the actors have all their props and they go out on time,” she said. “The most difficult part of job is keeping track of what goes out when and getting it out on time.”

She said she will continue to be involved with the drama club throughout her high school years. But will she ever get on stage? She said she would consider it but thinks she’s better behind the scenes.
Young said the drama program was hurt by COVID and the audiences haven’t rebounded since the pandemic.

“COVID really hit us hard, numbers wise and audience wise,” she said. “When I first came we sold out the house every night. Since then (COVID) we’ve really struggled to get people in the community to come watch the shows.

“Until we can get more people in to watch the shows, it’s going to be very difficult to do those larger numbers that the kids want to do because you have to sell tickets. The only thing we really need is people come and watch the shows and support the kids and all of their hard work.”

Antioch Elementary School celebrates 25 years of excellence

“We are so proud and honored to serve our community with a top-notch education and that has been from day one at this school,” she said. “There is a long history here of excellence. We’ve been an A+ school every year that grades have been given by the state.
“We’ve always been big on a year’s worth of growing for a year’s worth of teaching,” Sanders continued.
“That has always been our goal. We want the kids to come to us and we want to take them a year at a time.”

Alice Thomas has been at Antioch since the beginning, and she echoed what Sanders said.
“From the start of the school our goal has been to teach one child at a time,” Thomas said. “We always start small and go big.

“It was fun because we started it. We came up with the mascot and we developed the (school) song. It was just a lot of fun because we were together at the start. Just taking that blank slate and creating the family we have, that’s heart-warming to me.”

Sanders said the school’s history excellence motivates her and the Antioch staff.

“I think when you have a history of excellence you want to continue the history of excellence,” she said. “We have a high military population, so we see kids in and out a lot. We try to provide the best education for them while we have them and make them a part of our family.
“We are very proud of our military community.”

There are eight members of the original faculty and staff still at the school. That number is down from the 12 original members five years ago when the school celebrated year 20.

As the original faculty and staff continues to dwindle, it’s a priority for Sanders to find good people to fill those positions, but that isn’t easy these days.

“Retaining good people has become a challenge,” she said. “People aren’t willing to teach, but I feel like we have the best staff around.”

At its inception, Antioch was home to 600 students. There are now 972 students at the school. Many of the students are children of the first Antioch students.

“That has been an amazing thing and how many people want to come to Antioch,” Thomas said. “Within the community itself, parents want to be here. They want their children to be here
“A lot of former students have kids here now. Parents will tell stories about the teachers they had that are still here.”

Antioch will continue to shape young minds for years to come and Sanders hopes her legacy will be that she put students first.

“My vision for this school is to leave it in better shape than I found it,” she said. “I would hope that the employees that I have hired will become a part of that family Alice was talking about. It’s a great family atmosphere here, even to be a part of such a large school.

“We take pride in the fact that we take care of each other. I would hope that people would think that I was very child-centered and that we did things for kids.”

It all starts with knowledge for Davidson principal Holly Tew

“I feel in our core areas we are showing great growth. We have a wonderful music program here.”

Tew pointed to the school’s CTE (Career Technical Education) program as one that is continuing to evolve.

“One of the things we are switching over here is we are changing our robotics track over to an artificial intelligence track,” she said. “Next year we are going to over a program called “Think Python,” which is part of that artificial intelligence track.

“Our STEM program is going to get more toward the artificial intelligence program and just tweaked a little bit.”

Next year the school will also offer a basic construction and carpentry class called, “Skills to Build.” The program will serve as a feeder program to construction trade classes offered at Crestview High School.

One of the things that is most important to Tew is making learning applicable to life.

“I always like incorporating the book learning with real life learning and hands on learning,” she said. “Sort of wrapping them all together. Like in carpentry they can see, ‘I’m using the geometry from my math class in my construction class.’

“They have to know about angles and all those types of things. So that the kind of thing about interweaving that learning and making it more meaningful.”

Tew’s vision is to produce lifelong learners at Davidson.

“I want to continue to build students and grow students to help them to learn and realize the importance of learning,” she said, “and what learning can empower you to do with the rest of your life. School is not just a place to go to be with your friends.

“It’s a place that is going to give you the groundwork you need to do amazing things with your life. It all starts with knowledge. What you learn and the knowledge you put inside your brain is always yours to use and to harness and to take use going forward.”

Mastering technology at Northwood Elementary

“We are fortunate that we have a science teacher, and our students get to go to science class,” Northwood principal Dr. Donna Kelley said. “They get an extra science lesson in addition to what the classroom teacher teaches them. And Mrs. Coleman does a lot of one-on-one.

“She also has an afterschool robotics club and a drone club. It’s really fun watching the kids do the programs and watching the planes flying around. They have to know a lot of math and science concepts to be able to program everything to fly around.”

It only takes spending a few minutes with Coleman to see how she shares her enthusiasm for science with her students. Her easy smile and quick words of encouragement spur students on to excel in the First Lego League Challenge Program.

“As part of their (educational) enrichment we are participating in the First Lego League Challenge Program,” Coleman said. “These students are learning how to code. They had to build the robots and code the robots to solve the particular mission (related to theme of the program, which was online retail giant Amazon).”

Robots perform the tasks programmed for them to complete in the First Lego League Challenge at Northwood Elementary School.

The challenge was the logistical aspects of moving orders around points of distribution at an airport.

“They have a challenge in front of them and they have to figure out the solution,” Coleman said. “As they are building the robots and programming the mission, they have to do it trying to maximize the points, because there is a little bit of a competition or a coopetition as First Lego League likes to call it.

“They are trained to get the most amount of points for solving missions on the table in two-and-a-half minutes. So there is a lot of strategy to solving the program. We have a very large table and a lot of tasks formed to be moving a plane (airplane) and then dropping something.”

She continued, “It’s pretty neat to watch when we have everything put together. They are working on individual programs and to consolidate they are going to have to do the math and figure out what is the best bang for their buck once they have all of their individual programs to earn the most points.”

Coleman pointed out that the computers that are running the Lego League Challenge are more powerful than those used in the early years of NASA when the Mercury and Gemini flights were first taking American astronauts into space in the early 1960s.

The computer programs used in the First Lego League Challenge are seen here on a computer.

She admitted that it can be a challenge for her to keep up with all the changes in today’s world of science and technology.

“Fortunately, there are a lot of people that have learned some shortcuts that are kind enough to hand them off,” Coleman said. “But I learn along with the students and sometimes they will master something before I have.

“That’s great and that’s what I want to see because that’s them really adapting to the technology. If they are ahead of me on something, that’s outstanding. I am perfectly fine with the students learning faster than I do and learning from them, because once they are able to teach (a technology) someone else I know they have mastered it.”

Successful day for Crestview JROTC

The color guard team finished second at the regional competition, becoming the first to ever qualify for state, which is scheduled for April 1-2 in Lakeland.

Members of the color guard team are Angel Sluka, Jayden Schwarz, James Johnson and Michael Niswonger.

In addition to the color guard team qualifying for state, Shane Froehly earned a trip to state in the exhibition competition thanks to his first-place finish in the event.

Baker School preparing students for the real world

Baker School principal Mike Martello knows that every high school student won’t go to college. For some it’s a matter of liking or not liking the academic setting.

Other students might be hard wired to work with their hands or have a desire to simply pursue a career path that isn’t tied to college.

That’s where the CTE (Career Technical Education) program at Baker comes into play.

“I’m really excited about our Construction Tech,” program Martello said. “The housing market in Okaloosa County is on fire and I feel like it is in other places as well. Not every kid will go the college path, but there is a very strong housing industry and we will be able to prepare our kids and I’m very excited about that.”

The school recently received a laser engraver that cuts to 1-100th of an inch. The engraver allows students to make houses on a small scale and understand the concepts of how to put things together as they put up walls and frame doorways.

“They get the concepts of putting a home together,” Martello said.

For students not interested in the construction industry, the school offers programs in digital technology that include digital editing for television and computer programming classes where students learn how to build websites.

“Today’s the digital age, and if you’re not savvy in those technologies, you are behind the curve a little bit,” Martello said. “Hopefully we are getting students ready for the next step in technology.”

These flags are examples of the work Baker students to in their construction design classes.

Martello admitted that some technology is changing so fast that he finds himself having to catch up just to know what’s going on.

“It’s so new to everybody it’s a learning curve for the administrators and the teachers teaching it at the same time,” he said. “So that’s a little bit of a challenge for us because technology seems to change on a monthly basis almost, so staying on top of those things is definitely a challenge.”

As the world continues to change and the Baker community continues to grow, Martello and Baker School are committed to meeting the challenges of preparing students for which ever career path they want to take.

“I see the Baker community growing and the numbers at Baker School are going up,” Martello said. “We will work very hard to make sure the programs we put in place are relevant to kids when they get out in the real world.”

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