Five MCC professors, staff receive service awards

By Candice Kelm

McLennan Community College has selected five honorees to receive the annual National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Awards. The honor represents a commitment to high performance and extraordinary service in higher education.

This year’s honorees are Amy Antoninka, professor of philosophy, Arts & Sciences faculty; Boyce Wilson, associate professor of business, Workforce faculty; Becky Boggus, instructor of mental health/social work, part-time faculty; Kayla Willis, instructional designer in the Center for Teaching and Learning, administrative staff; and Lori Caceres, senior administrative secretary for Math and Sciences, support staff.

MCC faculty and staff members nominate their colleagues for the NISOD honors and their nomination remarks are included below.

Amy Antoninka

Amy Antoninka

“Dr. Antoninka’s philosophy classes cultivate our students to grow into the people they were meant to be. She is a master teacher in the classroom and wise mentor outside the classroom. Her lessons don’t just last a semester, they instill a lifetime of longing for deep knowledge and truth. She inspires them to reach higher and search intentionally for the good life they want to live. Dr. A, as her students call her, is a champion, and thankfully, our champion. We are so fortunate she is one of us.”

Boyce Wilson

Boyce Wilson

“Boyce is a helper. He is always willing to go out of his way to help anyone with any project or offer assistance to anyone who may need help. Boyce is also smart, kind, and generous with his words and his time. He stepped in to lead the Mentor/Mentee program and was a big help with the transition to online during COVID-19.”

Becky Boggus

Becky Boggus

“Becky is an incredible professor. As a social worker, she exemplifies selflessness and is committed to her students’ success. She is passionate about teaching and pours her heart out in all of her assignments and instruction. She is willing to change her pedagogy to adapt to student learning styles and goes above and beyond to ensure that they are successful. Additionally, she cares deeply for each of her students, treating each with dignity and respect.”

Kayla Willis

Kayla Willis

“I can’t say enough about Kayla. She always is going above and beyond in everything she does. Kayla worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 transition to help faculty be prepared to teach online. She is an amazing instructor and helped teach over 100 faculty during spring and summer, assisting them in their transition to online.”

Lori Caceres

Lori Caceres

“Lori is the glue that holds our department together. She always knows who to contact to solve your problem. She is extremely pleasant to work with, always calm, and just a delight. She is a Class act!”

For more information about the NISOD awards, contact Staci Taylor, Director of the Center for Teaching, at 254-299-8363 or [email protected].

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco ISD launches anonymous tips app for students to report bullying, threats

The STOPit mobile and desktop app empowers students to stand up against bullying.

By Joshua Wucher

As part of Waco ISD’s continual effort to ensure students have a safe learning environment at school, the district is introducing a new safety app that enables anonymous reporting of bullying, dangerous situations and other potentially dangerous activity.

STOPit is an online and app-based system that enables students, parents, teachers and others to safely and anonymously report anything of concern to school officials – from cyberbullying to threats of violence or self-harm.

“There’s always a stigma around tattling or snitching, which makes it harder for students to feel comfortable enough to speak up,” said Dr. Rachelle Warren, assistant superintendent for student services and support. “Bullies are empowered by a culture of silence, so we hope the STOPit tool will empower students and give them a new way to stand up for themselves and others.”

Once the STOPit mobile app is downloaded, users can anonymously submit an incident report consisting of an image, video and/or text. Administrators can then respond to the incident and get help to the student in need. The app also allows for anonymous two-way communication between students and administrators. While a user may choose to provide identifying information, the district will not be able to identify an anonymous submitter. 

Funding for the platform is being provided through the Stop School Violence Act by a Department of Justice grant awarded to ESC Region 12 last October. 

“We are grateful to Region 12 for providing us the opportunity to utilize this very valuable tool,” said Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent. “Providing a safe way for students to report any harm or if they feel in danger is just another layer of protection for their well-being. While STOPit won’t replace the relationships that we want staff to build with our students, we hope the app will encourage them to feel safer reporting bullying or other concerns and not fear retaliation.” 

More information and resources including videos and FAQs can be found online at wacoisd.org/STOPit.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Innovative treatment for children with autism available in Waco

By Julie Ivey

As a faculty member at Baylor, I have worked extensively helping children with autism, and I’m really excited about a current project that is innovative and free to children in the area. Our team is working one-on-one with children to improve balance, gait, behavior, and language. It’s a fun experience for the children because they do this while riding a mechanical horse.

The Baylor School of Education autism team is measuring the behavioral and language effects of riding on the MiraColt mechanical horse.

You might have heard about the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding for children with autism; these experiences are believed to stimulate neurological connections because of the motion of the horse that the child must respond to. But not every family has access to live horses. If the mechanical horse can be effective in a clinical setting staffed by trained professionals, it can offer an excellent intervention to help children.

Through a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, our Baylor autism team is measuring the behavioral and language effects of riding on the MiraColt mechanical horse. Because of this funding, the experience is free to children, whose parents sign up to attend two sessions per week for 15 weeks. In fact, families who complete the study will receive $150. The project is taking place at the Baylor BRIC. Be assured that the members of our interdisciplinary team have extensive experience working with children with autism and will help the children feel comfortable in a new setting.

We are recruiting children ages 6-12 who have a diagnosis of autism and may experience motor delays. To participate, children should be able to follow simple verbal instructions and have an IQ above 80. We are accepting participants on a rolling basis this fall and spring. While the study is in its early stages, our preliminary observations are promising, and parents have said they see improvements in their children.

For a little bit more information, you can read this story from the School of Education: School of Education Autism Research Team Studies Mechanical Horse Intervention

If you think your child would be interested and would qualify, we will begin with a meet-and-greet session to show you what it is all about, meet your child, and let you explore the space.

For more information, please mail me at [email protected]! We are excited to work with children and the community on this exciting, innovative project!

Julie Ivey, Ph.D., is a clinical professor in the Baylor University School of Education.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco ISD joins new, innovative Holdsworth Center leadership collaborative

By Joshua Wucher

Kincannon, Gutierrez, and Cornblum will participate in the program’s inaugural cohort, along with 13 districts from across the state, to strengthen principal pipeline.

Waco ISD is partnering with The Holdsworth Center, an Austin-based nonprofit, to strengthen its bench of future principals through a new, 18-month program called the Holdsworth Leadership Collaborative. 

Waco ISD is among the first 14 districts across the state invited to take part in the program, which the center’s materials describe as an effort to “build internal leadership capacity, with the end goal of having a strong bench of leaders ready to step into school leader positions when they arise. 

Josie Gutierrez (l-r), Susan Kincannon, and Deena Cornblum of Waco ISD participate in Holdsworth Leadership Collaborative.

“We are excited and feel blessed to be one of the few districts across the state working on school leadership development with the Holdsworth Center,” Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent, said. “This new program will be a pivotal part in how we build supportive systems and structures that can sustain a school leadership pipeline. Ultimately, this will help our district retain great teams to serve our kids.” 

Over the 18-month program, Kincannon, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Josie Gutierrez and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Deena Cornblum will attend learning sessions at The Holdsworth Center’s Campus on Lake Austin. They will learn best practices from organizations inside and outside of education that have built high-performing talent management systems and then work to define what great leadership looks like in Waco ISD.

“Because principals influence the working conditions and skill level of every teacher in the building, they have a huge – and often unseen ­– impact on students in the classroom,” Dr. Lindsay Whorton, president of The Holdsworth Center, said. “Waco ISD recognizes this and is committed to ensuring its students benefit from outstanding leadership.”

Founded by H-E-B Chairman Charles Butt in 2017, the center’s mission is to improve the quality of public education by supporting and developing educational leaders. The 14 districts participating in the Holdsworth Leadership Collaborative are Corpus Christi ISD and Mission and Los Fresnos CISDs in South Texas; Conroe, Tomball, Pasadena and La Porte ISDs in Southeast Texas; Eanes, Temple, Waco and College Station ISDs and San Marcos CISD in Central Texas; and Irving and Plano ISDs in North Texas. 

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Tennyson student named a finalist in national STEM competition

Guerra-Sanchez is one of 30 finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS, a premier middle school competition for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

By Joshua Wucher

Gabriela Guerra-Sanchez, a student in the ATLAS Academy at Tennyson Middle School, is among 30 finalists who will be competing for over $100,000 in awards and prizes in the Broadcom MASTERS middle school competition. Guerra-Sanchez was named a Top 30 finalist after advancing from the Top 300 MASTERS competition earlier this month. Participants in the Top 300 competition were selected from tens of thousands of regional and state science and engineering fair participants nationwide.

Gabriela Guerra-Sanchez (second from right) is honored by Waco ISD at the September board meeting. Superindent Susan Kincannon (left) and Leslie Cannon, Tennyson Middle School teacher-librarian, were among those who honored the student’s achievement in STEM research.

The MASTERS program, founded by the Society for Science, seeks to inspire young scientists, engineers, and innovators who will solve the grand challenges of the future. Each of the 30 finalists will participate in team challenges in addition to being judged on their science research project during a virtual competition in October. 

“Gabriela is a creative, out-of-the-box thinker who worked incredibly hard to execute an amazing project. As an educator, I want my students to engage and enjoy learning and to help them realize the dream to pursue careers in STEM is attainable,” said Leslie Cannon, Tennyson Middle School teacher-librarian, who herself was among 66 stellar educators from across the country recently selected for the society’s Advocate program, which provides teachers training, stipends, and year-round support to mentor underrepresented students in entering science research competitions like Broadcom MASTERS. 

Guerra-Sanchez’s winning project, titled “Can You Hear That? What Do You See?”, explores how different styles of background music can affect the way people see art. She collected data from survey responses from students who listened to music and then viewed an original abstract painting that she created. 

“We are so proud of Gabriela for this outstanding accomplishment and excited to have her represent Waco ISD and Tennyson Middle School at the national level,” said Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent. “Her project represents the high level of critical thinking and learning happening in our schools. And teachers like Ms. Cannon are doing a tremendous job supporting students like Gabriela who aspire to become scientists, engineers and innovators.”

Additionally, Broadcom MASTERS is awarding each Top 30 finalist’s campus with $1,000 to use toward STEM activities and providing their science teacher with a one-year classroom subscription to Science News magazine.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Triple Win campus development prioritizes community engagement

By Lilly Price

Walking around the grounds at 1129 Webster Ave., you get the sense it is a space with deep history. The five-acre property, owned by Brazos River Capital, was once home to Khoury Inc., a family cabinet company that operated for nearly seven decades. 

The food entrepreneurship summer students sell their products on the Triple Win Food Truck.

Now, it’s the location of a new joint venture operated by Triple Win Waco, an informal out-of-school-time work-based learning program that combines students and businesses for everything from manufacturing to running a food truck. 

Originally, Triple Win used a workshop on Franklin Avenue and facilities at Connally Career Tech for its pilot programs, but it eventually found the space at Webster in 2020. Waco Pedal Tours, Triple Win, and Brazos River Capital agreed upon a three-year lease giving Triple Win the time to invest in research and development of their program with facilities large enough to host their vision. Founders Clay Springer and Cory Dickman chose the property because of its location near downtown and the geographic proximity to many of the students that Triple Win serves. 

The group has grand plans for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) campus. At present it houses a workshop and offices for local businesses, but eventually it will host a commissary kitchen, artist co-studio, maker’s market, food truck park, general store, student center, and co-working space. 

Triple Win Waco and Rapoport Academy Public School are making a three-year commitment of almost $1 million dollars in seed funds, personnel funds, and equipment to execute Project Launch. The campus will direct and enrich work-based learning and thought leadership in STEM education and entrepreneurship to have a lasting impact on the Greater Waco community. The Webster campus will help serve as an incubator for student businesses, giving them access to resources and start-up funds with a path to profitability.

Triple Win starts at the individual level, connecting the interests of each student who enters the program. More broadly, the team behind Triple Win hopes the Webster campus will be a resource for all of Waco by leading the charge on STEM education in our city. 

By advocating for each stakeholder involved in Triple Win — students, education, and businesses– the program works to cultivate the creativity and love of learning that every person has when they walk through the front doors.

Mechatronics students take a break after working hard in the shop.

The fully renovated campus is set to unveil in February 2022 and will feature an expansion of Maker’s Edge Makerspace in partnership with Rogue Capital Investments. There’s something so appropriate about a building with a rich history of manufacturing and woodworking being transferred to students who are getting their start learning the ropes of fabrication and entrepreneurship. 

In a way, it affirms the ongoing importance of work in STEM fields and the way industrial sectors will continue to benefit the local community. The Triple Win campus lies in the heart of South Waco, neighbored by spots like Jesse’s Tortilla Factory, Cotton Palace Park, and the Talitha Koum Institute. 

Sustainable and equitable city growth means innovation that is led by people who live and work in the neighborhoods being developed, and Triple Win has made it a priority to partner with local businesses and organizations to see growth that reflects the culture of the city.

Beyond the practical significance of the Webster campus, the leaders of Triple Win hope the renovated property will become a community resource ideologically, as well as a place where people can work together and find a sense of belonging. 

The Webster campus is represented by Hector Sabido, city councilman for District 2- which includes South Waco, Baylor, and downtown. “An educational resource like Triple Win would be transformative,” Sabido said. “Having a workspace that allows people to prepare for their future ideas and how they can implement those ideas and including the educational component and mentorship, that is something I want to see more of in my district … for people to be able to live out a dream they have.” 

Instructor Thomas Ellis lifts the ax trailer frame in order to place jacks underneath.

Central to Triple Win’s vision and values is the Waco community. By connecting families, students, businesses and educators, Triple Win seeks first to foster economic prosperity and continuing education for all. The renovation of the Webster campus is representative of that goal, which has motivated the work done at Triple Win since its inception in 2018. 

For people like Rachel Pate, who was raised in the South Waco neighborhood and serves as vice president of economic development for Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, the work Triple Win is doing in the community is significant. “The Triple Win space brings new opportunities into an underserved community … better training means better opportunities and a better quality of life,” Pate said. 

For students, the Webster campus represents a safe place, instructors who know their names and stories, friends who share their interests, and confidence gained from having the tools they need to build something new. 

By working in a collaborative environment with facilities that are flexible to individual student interests, the Webster campus aims to foster innovation and a passion for exploration. To keep up to date with Triple Win’s renovation journey, visit https://triplewinapprenticeships.com.

Lilly Price is a Baylor University alum and the Public Relations Coordinator for Triple Win Waco. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Lopez named new Waco ISD assistant superintendent for human resources

By Joshua Wucher

Waco ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon announced today that she has selected Daniel Lopez as the district’s next assistant superintendent for human resources. In this role, Dr. Lopez will lead the strategic planning and implementation of human resource programs, including professional and auxiliary staffing, wage and salary administration, performance appraisal, and employee relations and retention initiatives, such as the teacher incentive allotment and opportunity culture.                                                                  

Dr. Daniel Lopez

“It’s a privilege to have been selected to lead the department that focuses on taking care of our team members,” Lopez said. “I’m excited to join the Waco ISD family in its effort to develop leaders and support multiple pathways for educators to advance their careers in the district. I look forward to building relationships, learning about strengths and opportunities, and cultivating a collaborative culture.”

Lopez has 25 years of experience in education where he started as a paraprofessional and then a bilingual educator. Since 2019, he has served as the executive director of human resources in Denton ISD. Prior to that role he served as Denton ISD’s area superintendent of academic programs, an executive director of student support services in Spring ISD and an assistant director of student services in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.

“Daniel is a dynamic bilingual educator with over 20 years of experience in the classroom, as a campus leader, and as a human resource professional,” Dr. Kincannon said. “He understands that recruiting and retaining top talent is critical to achieving our mission and ensuring staff can focus on providing our students with an exceptional educational experience that truly meets their needs.”

Lopez received a doctorate in professional leadership from the University of Houston, a master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. He also spent over seven years as an elementary school principal in Spring, Conroe, and Goose Creek ISDs. 

Dr. Josie Hernandez-Gutierrez, who previously served as the assistant superintendent for human resources, was named as the district’s deputy superintendent in July.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

New School and Community Alliance meeting Sept. 14 for first time

By Josh Caballero and Sarah Pedrotti

Schools are facing unique challenges this year, and they need our support. Teachers are overwhelmed, and students and families are facing new challenges brought on by a global pandemic. 

Schools always have a difficult job making sure educators have what they need to teach effectively so students are able to learn. But this year they have the additional challenge of trying to do these things while also trying to keep everyone safe and ensuring that families have all the resources they need while trying to keep everyone safe. 

More than ever, they need our help as a community, but it can be difficult to know how to help in a way that is actually useful.

This year, Prosper Waco has combined several of it’s school-based workgroups to form the School and Community Alliance to offer support to students and families in our area schools. The School and Community Alliance is made up of the Informal Learning, Mentoring Alliance, and Wrap Around Service workgroups and is led by the two of us — Josh Caballero and Sarah Pedrotti. 

The Alliance’s first meeting of the school year will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14 at over Zoom and will focus on the goals of the workgroup and project proposals for the year. If you’re interested in being part of the group and learning how you can support our schools, register here

Josh Caballero is director of community organizing for Grassroots Community Development, and Sarah Pedrotti is director of student advocacy for Transformation Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Mayborn to host community dialogue on human genome editing

By Cindee Millard

Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex will host a community dialogue Oct. 2 titled, “Human Genome Editing: Framing Our Biological Future.” The dialogue is part of a three-year research project funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Arizona Science Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and Boston Museum of Science chose Mayborn to host, facilitate, and participate in the dialogue at the museum, 1300 S. University Parks Dr., beginning at 10 a.m.

Forum participants will include people from Central Texas. The goal is to create conversations between experts and community members that both will find valuable and informative. During this citizen dialogue we will take part in discussions that will solicit input that will be used to feed into global negotiations about our futures with human genome editing. 

We are looking for individuals with a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints representing the diversity of our community. No prior knowledge is required. There are no incorrect answers and every viewpoint is welcome.  

Interested persons may apply no later than Sept. 19 and will receive notification if accepted to be a part of this day long community forum. Those selected will receive lunch and a $100 gift card for participation in this project. Masks will be required for all participants. You must be at least 18 years old to apply. 

Apply online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HGE-Waco. If selected, you will receive a confirmation email by Sept. 21, with more information. 

Please note that this forum may be moved to a virtual format to comply with Baylor University’s COVID protocols. Registrants will be informed via email.

NIH, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. This project on Human Genome Editing has completed a literature review, interviewed experts in the field, developed workshops for future scenarios, and conducted stakeholder workshops. The public forum will be the next step to completion of  this project.

The Mayborn Museum, Baylor University, and Waco were chosen because of their central location, non-metropolitan cross section of the U.S. population, their association with public deliberation initiatives, and their experience in gathering diverse community voices in public forums. Only two other locations in the United States have been funded to participate: Boston Museum of Science and Arizona Science Center. 

The Mayborn Museum will benefit from this collaboration by receiving national visibility and by helping to add to the fulfillment of their strategic plan goal of building relationships with communities that represent a diversity of backgrounds, ages, and cultures to increase accessibility and relevance.

For more information: [email protected] or 254-710-1733.

Cindee Millard, a native Wacoan and Baylor University graduate, is public & community engagement manager for Mayborn Museum Complex. For more than 10 years Cindee has worked with nonprofits and community organizations collaborating in projects and programs to provide relevant museum programming to diverse audiences. Millard lives in Waco with her husband, Mike.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco ISD board appoints Iazzetti to fill vacancy in District 5

Iazzetti will replace Sykes who was first elected to the board in 1999.

By Josh Wucher

Following interviews in closed session Tuesday, Aug. 31, the Waco ISD Board of Trustees voted to appoint Emily Iazzetti to represent Trustee District 5, which includes the neighborhoods between Richland Mall and the lake as well as some areas near Baylor University. Iazzetti was appointed to serve until next May when voters will elect a trustee to a new three-year term.

Emily Iazzetti

The mother of two students at Lake Air Montessori, Iazzetti is passionate about Waco ISD. She has led the PTA at her children’s school, helped plan the Waco ISD Education Foundation’s annual fundraising event, supported the Waco ISD Women’s Empowerment Summits held in partnership with the Junior League of Waco, and served on the advisory committee for the district’s gifted and talented program. More recently, she was a member of the community advisory committee that studied the district’s facilities needs and recommended replacing four existing schools with new buildings. A former television news anchor, Iazzetti is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University.

In her letter to the board, Iazzetti wrote: “I am interested in serving on the board, because I believe we are all responsible for the success of our schools. … I have appreciated the work this board has done to increase teacher retention, and I would like to be part of the team laying the groundwork for continued improvement.”

The board received letters from four voters who live in Trustee District 5 and interviewed two of them during tonight’s closed session.

“Being a school board member is a volunteer position,” said Angela Tekell, board president. “It was inspiring to hear from people who want to give their time and their talents in service to our kids at this critical moment for Waco ISD. I am looking forward to the perspective that Iazzetti will bring to the board and know that she will be a voice for the families in our community.”

Iazzetti will be sworn in at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 9.

The vacancy that Iazzetti was appointed to fill was created by the resignation of Allen Sykes last month. He was first elected to the school board in 1999 and was the board’s longest serving member. In his resignation letter, Sykes told trustees that other commitments were “making it increasingly difficult to allocate sufficient effort to fulfill the requirements entrusted to me.”

Iazzetti joins the board just weeks after its members voted unanimously to ask voters to consider a $355 million bond package to replace Waco High, G.W. Carver Middle, Tennyson Middle and Kendrick Elementary with new schools built in the same location as the existing campuses. If approved in November, the bond program is projected to increase the district’s tax rate by 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. For the average homeowner in Waco ISD, that is approximately $117.62 per year or $9.80 per month.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].