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Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Photo by Grace Reyes

Irving—Irving ISD hosted its second annual State of the District in the Irving Convention Center on Tuesday, Mar. 8. This year’s themewas ‘Together We Rise.’

Joselyn Castillo, 2021 District Elementary Teacher of the Year, talked about working with students in the classroom.

“I assure my students it’s okay to make mistakes [regardless of their level],” Castillosaid. “What really matters is the work we’re going to put in and we are going to move forward.”

Rashaad Calaham, 2021 District Secondary Teacher of the Year, also shared his expertise.

“I decided to get creative and utilize apps and use TikTok,” Calaham said. “I see what other teachers are doing on TikTok, or Instagram and see what works with them.”

Students selected fromCastillo’s andCalaham’s classesspoke about their experience.

“My favorite thing in Ms. Castillo’s class is fractions and multiplications, because they are so confusing, and she helps me with them,” Judith Pecina, a John Haley Elementary student, said.

“What I’m enjoying most in Mr. Calaham’s choir class would be the activities that we do, such as the games; the cool music pieces we learn,” ImyniCastron, a Houston Middle School student, said. “Overall, it’s always an ecstatic atmosphere environment to be a part of.”

The national high school graduation rate for 2021 is 87 percent, whereas in Irving ISD it is 94 percent.

“Although this number is high,” Magda Hernandez, Irving ISD’s superintendent of schools,said. “We wanted to be more innovated to reach 100 percent, and therefore, we launched the Night Owl Academy.”

The Night Owl Academy gives students, who are about to drop out or have already dropped out, an opportunity to earn their high school diploma in the evenings.

“The mantra at the Night Owl Academy is ‘opportunities without limits,’” Fabian Garcia, Night Owl Academy principal, said. “The students in our program have work commitments throughout the day, were committed throughout the day, extenuating circumstances, and family obligations, which prevented [them] from being successful in a traditional high school setting.

“Ultimately, we want to help every student who walks through our doors to successfully complete our program in Night Owl Academy, graduate with a high school diploma, so they can better their qualityof life.”

Sharwria Morris, aNight Owl Academy student,shared her experience.

“It doesn’t matter how you start it; it matters when you finish what you started,” Morris said. “You can go back.You can finish.You can give yourself a reboot in life.”

Through theSingley Collegiate Academy, high school students earn up to 60 credits or an associates degree, tuition-free. Irving ISD will open its second collegiate academy, the South Irving Collegiate Academy, at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.

“One of the ways our industry partners can collaborate with our campuses is through work-based learning experiences,guest speakers, job shadowing, or internship,” Eber Perla, South Irving Collegiate Academy principal, said.“The more opportunities we give our students to get those hands-on learningin real world experiences, it’s going to be better for our students.”

Liesel Payne, parent education and community engagement strategist, spoke about the type of events they hold for parents. They held over 70 outreach events in 2021.

“We offer classes on how to keep your children safe online,” Payne said.“Our popular Coffee and Me class focuses on social emotional wellness and positive parenting.

“We want our parents to be advocates for their students, as well as a partner with our teachers in our schools.”

“When I was attending these classes, I met with other parents,” Claudia Guzman, parent and student in Irving ISD’s ESL program, said. “This lets me know we are not alone. There are so many resources in our community we can use to improve ourselves.”

“Since I’ve been in the program, it’s just amazing all the support Irving ISD gives to parents to help your children actually achieve their goals,” parent Latrice Nervis said. “I’ve been in Path to College and Career three times, and I plan on being here all the way through to their graduation.”