Checking in on Frisco ISD schools the old-fashioned way

In Frisco, the wheels on the bus went round and round, but instead of students, the school buses transported senior citizens who visited three Frisco ISD campuses to observe teachers and students at work.

Approximately 40 Frisco ISD residents aged 55 and older took part in the second annual Senior Adult Bus Tour offered by the school district on Tuesday, April 14. The event is one of several FISD has instituted to reach out to members of the community who may no longer have direct contact with schools through their own children.

“If you haven’t been in a school for a while, all you may know is what you see on TV,” said tour leader Audie Adkins, FISD Community Outreach Liaison. “Our teachers and students are doing great things and we want people to see it.”

The group started their tour at Tadlock Elementary, where Principal Kellie Rapp explained various aspects of elementary school life. She also introduced school namesake, retired teacher Polly Tadlock, who is very involved at the school. Barbara Gallegos, longtime Frisco resident, reported that Mrs. Tadlock had taught all five of her children.

Guests enjoyed touring classrooms and observing teachers and students. Grandparent Sandra Hajek was very interested to learn that fourth grade students at Tadlock had the same “tough” spelling words as her grandson, who is a fourth grade student at Boals. She said she enjoys working with her grandson on homework because it “refreshes my memory.”

Several participants gathered around veteran teacher Shannon Keller’s claw foot bathtub, curious as to its purpose. Keller, who taught kindergarten for many years, used the antique tub as a “Reading Pond” to encourage young readers by using tub time as an incentive. Recently moved to fourth grade, Keller was assigned to math and science.

“I didn’t think I would get to bring my tub,” she said, but school leaders encouraged her to keep it in her classroom. She repurposed it as a place for math and science activities. “The fourth graders love it just as much,” she said.

School Board members Renée Ehmke and John Hoxie were both on the tour to field questions. They assured the seniors that teachers, while using FISD’s highly-specialized curriculum, are still allowed to use their creativity in the classroom.

Hoxie commented that teaching and encouraging creativity is very important in the new world of technology and preparing students for the work world. He explained the term STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math, and noted its importance in industry and education.

“Creativity is a big part of that,” he said, sharing examples of recent FISD students who have gone into careers that combine technology and the arts.

A visit to the new Independence High School had several tour guests in awe. The tour was conducted by students who explained their experience of being rezoned from other high schools such as Liberty and Heritage. They were very positive about being included in meetings to help shape the school atmosphere and mascot. The home of the Independence Knights is filled with reminders of the attitudes and traits of knights of old.

In addition to touring the facility and seeing performances by the school’s drill team, the IHS Royals, IHS theatre students, and the school’s award-winning choir, the guests enjoyed lunch provided by catering staff from FISD’s Child Nutrition Department.

The tour ended at Stafford Middle School on the west side of Frisco. Principal Robin Scott broke the ice with a rousing game of Stafford Bingo and many winners went off with prizes bearing the name of the Stafford Spartans.

The tour broke into teams to visit science, language arts and broadcasting classes, as well as a Skills for Living class (once called home economics) where girls and boys were in the first stages of learning to sew on a sewing machine. Scott later encouraged any experienced sewing enthusiasts to feel free to volunteer to help with the class, where most students encounter needles, bobbins and sewing a straight seam for the first time.

The tour ended with a concert by the award-winning Stafford Sound Machine that brought a standing ovation from participants.

“Where can we find out about plays and concerts,” was a constant question during the tour.

Alan Waligura, principal of Independence High School, encouraged senior citizens to check the Frisco ISD website calendars and to look at individual school websites for the campuses near their home on a regular basis for opportunities. The community is welcome at all FISD performances and a calendar of events is posted on the Fine Arts Department website.

Tour guests were also offered the Senior Citizen Gold Card that Frisco ISD provides in appreciation for seniors’ support of the community. It enables senior citizens to attend most school district activities free of charge. These school activities include home athletic games or meets and most plays, musicals and concerts.

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