PALS Press

Spring 2021

Winding it all up

Dear friends,

Thanks for your patience during the PALS Press Pause of 2021. The newest PAL, a little guy named Elliot, joined us on 3/5 and now that maternity leave is over, I'm back in the business of supporting PALS teachers and counselors. We have some great news this month.

As we approach the end of the 2020-21 school year, I hope you all take the opportunity to reflect on the ways you were able to innovate, adapt, and nurture in the weirdest teaching time that anyone in our generations has known. I am amazed, still, to hear about the ways that your programs have made virtual meetings work, the resources you've made available to your PALS and PALees, and the empathy and understanding you've been able to extend to your students and colleagues under these very difficult circumstances. I hope I get to hug you all and tell you in person very soon.

How are you celebrating your accomplishments? What are you doing for yourself to cap off this chapter? Have your plans for the coming year changed at all? Do you think your approach to PALS will change in the long-term?

We have some exciting news from Akins, the Travis vertical team, Gorzycki, McCallum, and Austin High to share with you, as well as some news about resources for your students. Read on for the good stuff!

Check out the happenings and resources that AISD's TBRI team has gathered this month, including a six-minute meditation for you and your students.

Book Study Dreams

I've been reading Connections Over Compliance by Dr. Lauri Desautels, and thinking about how much I wish I had this as a resource when I was a new teacher--or really at any time when I was still in the classroom.

What print resources are inspiring you these days? If you could read a book with your PALS, what would it be? Take a minute to fill out this survey if you're interested in getting print resources for your own professional development as a PALS teacher, or to read with your students.

Upcoming Events

  • PALS Social Hour - Please take this survey to help us plan our final event for the year
  • May 10th - Dr. Bruce Perry will address the AISD community, presenting on the Neurosequential Model in Education and understanding trauma and its effects on adults and children in our schools.

PALS Packs, At Last!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have materials for our secondary PALS to bring to schools for their mentor meetings. In the coming week or two, middle- and high school PALS teachers can look forward to receiving boxes of children's books and other materials for your PALS to use when they meet with their PALees. Please keep an eye out, and please store your package somewhere safe for the summer! We want to make these PALS Packs last!

PALS Around Town

Akins Eagle PALS Doing Good Work on Campuses

Akins Eagle PALS have been visiting campuses in their vertical teams, helping students to feel like they can soar through the STAAR test, writing positive messages in chalk around the entrances of the buildings and creating bright posters to hang inside. They've also been hosting book drives. Great work, Eagles! Wings Up!

Travis PALS: Rebels with a Cause

Travis PALS are collaborating with mindfulness advocates from around Austin for their upcoming workshop on mindfulness and mentoring. Stay tuned for the link to the training they do on 5/19. Three cheers for students collaborating on training!

Travis Heights and Lively Build a Bridge

In another great collaboration from Central South Austin, Barton Hills teacher Amanda Moore and Lively PALS teacher Andrew Gonzales are teaming up to host a panel discussion between Lively PALS and Barton Hills 5th graders to talk about what to expect in 6th grade. These kinds of partnerships are so helpful for elementary students (and for middle school students to do some reflection). If anyone needs help connecting with schools in their feeder pattern, please let me know!

When Kindergartners Choose Your Name

Ms. McCumber's class at Zilker chose names for their Austin High PALS at a recent meeting. Not pictured are Dry Piranha Plant and Koopa Troopa. Still, I think Professor Hot Dog is the all time wiener, here.
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Mac PALS Raise Awareness for Clean Water Access Organization

Here's a great piece from Mac Journalism's co-advisor, Dave Winter that appeared in the McCallum newspaper, The Shield, covering the PALS' shower strike and its kickoff event. Says Mac PAL Gage Sanchez in the article, “I have found that when we do have a rare (COVID-safe) gathering nobody takes it for granted...When people show up we all understand that we need to cherish that time and make the most of it so we usually have great time.” Three cheers for the efforts of PALS teacher Mr. Cowles to build and maintain community with his PALS through the pandemic, and for his PALS for working to stay connected through a long, virtual year. Bravo!
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Senior PAL Isabela Tellez adjusts her hold on the water jug during her water walk obstacle course run. Photo by Dave Winter.

Gorzycki Gets Official

After YEARS of thriving during EXCEL (the built-in tutoring block in the master schedule), Gorzycki PALS is going to become a full-on class. Wooooo!

Congratulations to their fearless leader, Andria Sindt, who has kept her hand on the PALS wheel as she's changed departments (from ELA to CATE), learned and learned to teach new software and skills, and still advocated for her PALS students to mentor sixth-graders.

Menchaca PALS Meet Their Reading Buddies In Person!

At last! Menchaca's PALS have finally started meeting with their reading buddies in person. Their counselor, Lisa Schmitz, is so proud of her PALS for hanging in during a tough year and doing good work. The excitement of meeting their reading buddies face-to-face was a great reward after a tough year.

Walnut Creek PALS Help Build Campus Capacity for NME

Ana Thornton's Walnut Creek PALS have done a fantastic job this year of role-modeling and offering peer support at their campus. Walnut Creek is part of the pilot for using the Neurosequential Model in Education (NME) to address campus climate and culture, and to provide space for all students to thrive. Walnut Creek leadership and staff have invested a tremendous amount of time building strong relationships with parents, community members, one another, and--most importantly--their students. PALS have been instrumental at Walnut Creek because, to paraphrase Dr. Bruce Perry, students don't always listen to adults, but they do listen to each other. Way to go Ms. Thornton! Way to go, Walnut Creek!

About Austin ISD PALS

PALS is a cross-age peer mentoring program founded at Crockett High School in Austin, Texas in 1980. PALS support K-12 students at all levels of their education, and are at work at more than 60 campuses across Austin ISD.