Lion's Pride

April Newsletter

Message from the Superintendent

It is difficult to describe the range of feelings that many of us are experiencing during this time. Some people feel a loss of control, structure, or routine. Others may be frustrated with the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds. Whatever each of us may be dealing with, we can still take at least some comfort in recognizing the positive things going on in the Jessieville community.

To begin, I would like to point out the level of determination displayed by school employees as they continue to adapt to our current situation. Time after time, Jessieville employees have risen to the occasion of educating and caring for the families in our district from a safe distance, and I appreciate their perseverance!

Parents, I also appreciate your patience and cooperation with picking up and turning in student work, and your willingness to help keep students accountable by monitoring their work at home. To help us serve your children and keep you informed, please make sure your contact information is up to date for our mass notification system and watch our school website and Facebook page for important announcements.

Last but not least, thank you so much to all of the local churches and business who have supported Jessieville School District throughout the pandemic. It is truly an honor to share this community with people who are invested in our mission of creating lifelong learners.

I hope everyone is able to stay safe and healthy, and my wish is that each of you remember to find your own silver lining during your time at home. Please reach out to us if you need help.

Melissa G. Speers, Ed.S.

Jessieville School District



Educating During the Pandemic: Teacher Reflections

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jessieville educators have continually researched and brainstormed together to find the best ways to reach students from a distance. Whether technology-related or emotional, every teacher now faces a unique and brand new set of obstacles. Many faculty members have compensated for the lack of face-to-face interaction by creating and uploading video content for students to view online. Like many of our teachers, second grade teacher Tiffany Hardin has shown creativity and determination by posting videos of herself reading to students who, without a doubt, enjoy seeing her as the cute, bookish forest animals that Facebook and Snapchat filters make possible! When asked about her personal journey of teaching from home, Mrs. Hardin shared the following:

"It is such an interesting experience to witness the worldwide effect of COVID-19. It feels as if this will be a monumental time in history. Public schools have been called to duty in a unique way that we could never have imagined. Personally, I am in awe at the flexibility and responsive measures that our district, and many others, have taken to provide for entire communities. Many people around the world have taken notice of the positive impact that schools have made in many ways and understand our 'work of heart' more than ever.

It has been a challenge to pick and choose which learning targets we feel are essential, yet, not too complicated for families that are already dealing with a lot of stress. Teachers have stepped up and are connecting on a whole new level with students and families. It has made me realize how co-dependent our school family has become. My families need me as much as I need them!

This is not a vacation. We have not stopped teaching and caring for our students. We miss our kids like crazy! It was very difficult to walk into the quiet, empty school building and classroom when we came to plan future instruction.

I miss seeing the look on their faces when they have finally accomplished something that they’ve worked hard to achieve. I will no longer take for granted the loud, happy noises first thing in the morning, as they all come flooding through the halls on their way to class. If any of my students have learned one thing from me, I hope it is that I love them and care for them deeply. When we return, I feel that teachers, students, and families will have a renewed appreciation for one another, which makes me hopeful for a bright future in education."

Mrs. Hardin isn't the only one missing her quality time with the kids. High school teacher and coach James Jacques echos her nostalgia and desire to be reunited with students in his own reflections, pointing out that hearing from students about their lives in person is one of the things he misses the most.

"Coach Huff and I always had five to ten students who would stop by to eat lunch and talk. Sometimes we would talk about school but most of the time, it was anything but school. I have talked to a few of those students who have said this is one of the major things they miss." On the school closing, Jacques adds, "Most of us know that a major part of education is relationships, but this has really put that into perspective."

As for the professional growth that the school closing has inadvertently caused, Coach Jacques mentions never needing to hold a video conference until now, which he says has turned out to be a fun experience. (School leaders have learned the beauty of video conferencing as well!)

In closing, Jacques would like to relay this message to students: "In the immortal words of High School Musical, 'We are all in this together.' Students and teachers have all tried new things in the last few weeks and we will get through. Seniors, you are the only ones who spend all year ready to leave, and while you had a life experience taken from you, I guarantee you will never forget your senior year. To all of the other students, you get a do-over next year and your teachers have learned many new tricks to help you in the future. I hope that you take this time to build relationships and see the importance of being a good person and caring for others."

Forbess Reunites with Jessieville Family

Former Jessievillle teacher Jeffery Forbess will be returning to the district to serve as ESL Facilitator and Spanish teacher beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. Regarding his teaching experience and excitement about coming back, Forbess comments,

"I have had many different teaching and supporting roles in my career. I have taught bilingual education for second and fifth graders. I have worked as a bilingual specialist for Head Start and Denver Public Schools. I have taught English as a Second Language with the Bible while working as a missionary in Bolivia. I have also worked as an ESL teacher and coordinator for both the Jessieville and Fountain Lake school districts.

There are many ideas I have that may be possibilities at Jessieville. I am very eager to help our English learners and families continue building strong connections to lifelong learning and academic success. I hope to continue teaching advanced Spanish courses eventually, such as AP Spanish Language and Culture and/or AP Spanish Literature. Many rural school districts do not have strong foreign language programs and I hope to reverse that trend by helping Jessieville to become renown for the strength of its program. One idea I am excited about exploring more are content classes taught in a foreign language class in which students learn content and language at the same time such as medical Spanish for health care workers.

Some things I am looking forward to most about returning to work at Jessieville are being right across the street from The Shack, getting to wear all my blue clothes without feeling guilty, getting to watch the Jessieville Lions play some basketball, getting to work with many old friends and make new ones, working with amazing students, and most of all, being able to work at the same school where my wife and children are."

Jessieville School District is eager to see students benefit from all the wonderful things their new ESL Facilitator has to offer. Welcome home, Mr. Forbess!

Elementary Students Invest Fake Money in the Stock Market

One project that students have been able to continue despite the school closing is the Stock Market Game, assigned by Mrs. Judy Speers, computer lab teacher at Jessieville Elementary. The Stock Market Game is a national program of SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) that allows students and teachers the opportunity to invest virtual money in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds over a time period of thirteen weeks.

Mrs. Speers explains the project as a multi-school game for teams of fourth and fifth graders that started in January, when each team was allotted $100,000 of fake money to invest in the current Stock Market. According to Mrs. Speers, the teams were all very conservative in their researching and buying stocks, which ended up paying off for them in the game! As of April 6th, they all still had above $97,000, which is actually pretty impressive, considering the stock market's recent drop. The game ended on April 10, and Jessieville students placed 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 11, 12, 16 in their Region (31 total teams).

Mrs. Speers credits guest speakers Paul Speers, former Entergy Electrical Engineer and Supervisor from Hot Springs, and Deedra Berkemeyer, Financial Advisor from Edward Jones in Hot Springs Village, for enhancing instruction with their own unique insights and expertise. Overall, this was a stimulating real-world scenario for students that illustrated the nature of the Stock Market and how quickly things can change.

Economics Arkansas Stock Market Game 2020

Mrs. Harper's Message to K-Kids

K-Kids is a service club for students in the 4th and 5th grade sponsored by the International Kiwanis Club. It is a student-led organization providing members with opportunities to perform service, build character, and develop leadership.

Jessieville sponsor Teresa Harper communicates this information about her club: "This year, we collected non-perishable items for a local food bank, worked to help keep our campus clean, tutored younger students, and sponsored a fundraiser to collect money to be donated to charity. When we had to leave campus, we were planning another fundraiser, an engagement to participate in a Kiwanis Club meeting, and a visit to the Good Samaritan Campus in the Village. It saddens me that we are not able to finish out our year the way we had planned. I encourage you all to continue to seek SAFE ways to make a difference in your communities and the environment."

Mrs. Harper's continued leadership and concern for K-Kids is a fantastic example of how Jessieville teachers persist in the goal of reaching students throughout the pandemic.

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Recognizing Excellence

Each month, one student per building level and two school employees are chosen to be recognized at the school board meeting for going above and beyond in their roles on our campus. Congratulations to these people who were announced at April's virtual board meeting on Monday of this week!
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Local Businesses Support Jessieville Schools

People across the nation keep finding new and imaginative ways to support one another throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Indeed, the Jessieville community has united like never before in its shared mission to serve children. This is evident in the many thoughtful gestures made toward Jessieville School District by local businesses and churches since the school campus closed early last month. The district would like to recognize the following organizations who have supported our students and staff:

Village Nutrition

Meny Construction

Sonic Drive-In

Domino's Pizza

Hot Springs Village Governmental Affairs Committee

Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Durrett

Jessieville Baptist Church

Mt. Tabor Baptist Church

Ladies of the Sacred Heart at Sacred Heart Catholic Church

To these community leaders who realize that educational process involves everyone, not just those employed by the public school system, THANK YOU!

Positive Thoughts Come to Life in Student Art

Mrs. Carter, high school art teacher, recently challenged her students to use the elements of design to create an image based on a positive word that inspires them in this stressful time. Freshman John Taylor generated the thought-provoking piece shown here.
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John explains, "I came up with this image to illustrate healing because I’ve always seen birds as a symbol of life. I thought that the flow of the water would go well with the rigidness of the buildings. The buildings symbolize the rebuilding of our country, whether it be small businesses or our economy as a whole. The message that I would like people to get from this is that we’re almost through this pandemic, and that now all we have to do is heal."

With John Taylor's symbolic and uplifting use of birds in his artwork, and with April as National Poetry Month, it seems appropriate to end this month's newsletter with this excerpt from a poem by Emily Dickinson:

"Hope is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -"

Now and through the summer months, may the song of Hope resonate within each and every Jessieville Lion.

Newsletter Submissions

The Lion's Pride Newsletter is brought to you by Ashley Layfield, Jessieville School District Public Relations Coordinator. If you would like your news included in next month's edition, please send details with photos/videos to with "newsletter" in the subject line.

Possible ideas for submissions include guest speakers, unique projects or lesson plans, college signings and scholarships, upcoming professional development, sports events and accomplishments, outstanding student citizenship, etc.

When submitting news, keep in mind the 5 W's:

Who, What, Why, When, and Where.

The deadline to submit information is the 20th of each month.

Thanks for reading!