Kaweah Country goes back to school


Woodlake High is in session for 2016-2017

When Woodlake Union High School’s 625 students returned to classes on Tuesday, Aug. 9, there was the usual first-day anticipation of who had who when and in which classes. 

Ag Academy enters second year— For the 59 students who are enrolled in the second year of Woodlake’s Academy of Agriculture, they not only take agriculture courses with other ag students but they also take English, math, and science with their ag cohorts.

That translates to more than half of the school day with students who have chosen a similar academic and career pathway: agriculture.

Carmita Pena, who moved over to the main office from her position as head counselor last year to direct the Academy program, said choosing agriculture as the pilot program wasn’t a difficult decision because of the importance of agriculture in Tulare County and California. 

“Last year, it was difficult to get students to apply for the Ag Academy but now that the word is out that it is fun, interesting, and could lead to paid positions, there are lots of applications,” Pena said.

Enrollment is up more than 25 percent. The academy work-based learning appeals to students interested in plant and animal sciences and the mechanical side of the industry too — welding and engineering. 

It is projected that in the next five years there will be 400,000 new agriculture jobs in California alone, and WHS will have Academy graduates who will be qualified for those jobs. 

Academy students, who experience work-based learning at area employers like Monrovia Nursery, Pacific Crest Equine, and the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center, theoretically develop the relationships that translate to jobs. 

Pena said there are plans to develop other Academy opportunities to meet the exigencies of changing markets in a global economy. Next on the agenda is an academy for students who want to pursue careers in the burgeoning field of information and technology. 

Woodlake High School is currently searching for an Ag Mechanics teacher to replace Charley Abee who departed this semester to take an instructor position at College of the Sequoias. Carrying the current ag education load on the science pathway is Lauren Moss. A substitute is teacher is handling Ag Mechanics until a permanent teacher is hired.


New staff at WHS:

Kristin Royer


Kristin Royer was hired as a new English teacher for the 2016-2017 year. Royer, a Lemoore native, said it won’t be difficult transitioning to being a Woodlake Tiger because she’s still wearing her stripes as a Lemoore High School Tiger who graduated in 2007.

Royer comes from a background in psychology. While she was pursuing an industrial psychology job she decided to try substitute teaching.

“I fell in love with the kids and teaching in the classroom,” Royer said.

It wasn’t long before Royer entered the two-year intern program with the Tulare County Office of Education.

“In May 2017, I’ll have my full credential,” Royer said.

Royer explained that her emphasis on behavior in her own education led her to teaching English because both disciplines rely on methods of communication. 

“I want to equip my students to write and communicate effectively,” Royer said. “With basic writing and communication skills students can succeed in any career.”

Royer used “Romeo and Juliet,” a unit she teaches, to illustrate her behavioral approach.

“Most instructors delve into the conflict of the characters and the setting in Shakespeare,” Royer said. “Romeo and Juliet are adolescents like my students so I emphasize the feelings and interaction between these two.”

Royer is in her second week at WHS but said she’s feeling right at home in her new position. She said she’s one new teacher who gets it: “Once a Tiger always a Tiger.”

Royer is single and resides in Visalia.  


Jorge Santos


Jorge Santos was hired to teach math, specifically algebra. Santos, who grew up in Selma, comes to math by way of civil engineering. 

“When I was growing up in Selma for as long as I can remember I wanted to go to Fresno State,” Jorge said. “After graduating from Selma High in 1999 I attended Fresno State and got my degree in civil engineering.”

But Santos said when he tested the civil engineering market in the Fresno area jobs in that field were nonexistent. He started substitute teaching in the Selma schools and liked being back in the classroom from the outset.

“It wasn’t long before I was developing my own philosophies and teaching style,” Santos said. “I began to feel I could connect to my students and make a difference.”

Santos said he is a stickler on foundation math. For students who are not quite ready for algebra, he’s willing to help them learn math basics.

“I believe being a good teacher begins with developing good relationships with the students,” Santos said. “Then students want to learn and the teaching and the learning will flow.”

Santos, who is also a TCOE intern working on his credential, lives in Selma and is married with three children.


Robert Norman


Robert Norman was hired to teach advanced algebra and statistics for seniors who need to be ready for the college requirement in that subject.  Norman grew up in Orange County where he graduated from Irvine High School in 1998. 

Like most guys his age it took several false starts before Norman settled on what he really wanted to do — teaching. 

“I started at a community college thinking engineering, got distracted and later changed my major to pursue nursing and fire science,” Norman said. “I finally ended up at Fresno State where I got an undergraduate degree in community health and a master’s degree in public health.”

Norman landed his first job with Family HealthCare Network. He said it wasn’t long before he realized he wanted something “more engaging.”

That’s when he made a career transition, turned to teaching, and entered TCOE’s internship program. Along the way he met and married Tara Hardcastle, a 2001 Woodlake High grad.

Tara’s mom, Darlene, a WHS alum, worked for more than three decades at F.J. White and Castle Rock schools in the Woodlake district. So it wasn’t an arduous process deciding where Norman should apply for his first teaching job.

“I try to make math and statistics applicable to life,” Norman said. “Learning math is like working out at the gym. You need to train your brain like any other muscle to be ready for the Big Game: Life.”

Norman is also enrolled in the TCOE teacher internship program and lives with wife Tara in Visalia. The couple has one child.    


Three Rivers School students returned this week

It’s time to hit the books… and the parks! There are no personnel changes this year at Three Rivers Union School, but there will be some program changes.  

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, TRUS began the 2016-2017 school year. Board members and teachers were excited to welcome new students, implement a new safety program, and strengthen the partnership between TRUS, the National Park Service, and the Sequoia Parks Conservancy.  

Scientists and educators Christy Brigham, Koren Nydick PhD, Savannah Boiano, and Jenny Kirk are collaborating with TRUS staff to spearhead an effort to engage students on multiple levels. Students of all ages will learn from park experts in the classroom and in the field.

“We have always been close with the National Park Service but we are now expanding our relationship with interpretive and scientific staff,” said Susan Sherwood, TRUS superintendent.     

“This will open up avenues to interesting career paths,” added George Kulick, TRUS trustee.  “It’s great when the kids can see it.”

A field trip planned for Isaac Warner’s third-grade class Thursday, Aug. 25, exemplifies the benefits of an invigorated relationship between TRUS and the NPS.  Dr. Nydick has partnered with Warner for a unique field trip experience.

“On the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, my class will watch researchers climb giant sequoias to test the health of the trees,” said Warner. “The goal is to gather moisture-level data in order to calibrate full-spectrum photography via aircraft. If they can analyze the health of a forest from the air, it saves time and enhances safety on the ground.”

A multi-faceted safety program was unanimously passed by the board at its regular meeting on Wednesday evening, Aug. 17.  A color-coded system is being implemented, educating students on what to do during a multitude of potential crises.  After drills simulating everything from fire to flood, students will know when to stay put and when to move.  



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