Compass Chronicle

Online Middle School | Winter 2018

Happy New Year CCS Middle School Scholars and Families!

As I begin 2018, I like to reflect on the past to prepare me for a better future. There were many great and exciting changes that happened in 2017, including the transition to our award-winning StrongMind curriculum and SIS. Scholars have done a fantastic job managing the transition. They have created amazing projects in their classes, many of which you will see in this newsletter. Scholars have participated in hands-on learning experiences in Learning Labs, something we are very proud to offer in an online setting. Scholars are reading, writing, and using critical thinking skills on a daily basis. Very exciting things happened in 2017 and I am excited to share some of them with you in this newsletter. Be sure to take a look at all of the great work samples we have to share!

As we look forward into 2018, CCS has many impressive things planned for scholars and families, including new elective courses starting on Thursday, February 1, SBAC and i-Ready diagnostics to see how far scholars have come this year, and several field trips and engagement experiences. Be sure to check the weekly Monday Morning Updates to locate everything that is going on at Compass! Happy 2018!


Melissa Blitzstein, Middle School Coordinator


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  • Hands-on Labs & Scholar Projects
  • StrongMind
  • Family Spotlights
  • Staff Spotlight
  • Counseling
  • Share Your Story
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Science Learning Labs

On Halloween 8th grade scholars conducted three spooky Chemistry labs: Fluff Slime, Glow Sticks, and Peroxide Yeast. After class, they stayed for a costume and pumpkin decorating contest.
The seventh-grade science scholars were challenged to build earthquake-resistant houses. After implementing the scientific method to try and modify designs, seventh-graders tested their house models to see if they could withstand a quake on a Jell-O foundation. Scholar Alexia C. and her family accepted the Quake Challenge!
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In sixth-grade Science class, scholars built models of the cell, clearly labeling all the different parts. Here are two fun examples, one from Maddux and one from Teagan.

Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset continues in eighth-grade Study Skills, where scholars are learning about how the brain works and develops, just like our muscles. Scholars created projects, such as poems, advertisements, or comics, showing what they learned. Here are some examples.
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English Language Arts

In eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA), scholars learned about internet safety and researched how to protect themselves online. They were required to create a brochure and complete an oral presentation. Here is an example by scholar, Kayla C.
In sixth and seventh-grade ELA, scholars honed their reading and writing skills by using writing in various genres. They wrote news reports, how-to articles, and advertisements.
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Social Studies Projects

In 8th grade SS, scholars wrote biographies and created Facebook pages for historical figures. Here is an example by Aurora K, another example by Kayla C, and one final example by Matthew J.
In seventh-grade Social Studies, scholars are applying their understanding of Japanese culture in the Middle Ages to analyze a Close Reading of an excerpt of "47 Ronin". Check out some of our scholars’ writing, which demonstrates a better understanding of the story than the Keanu Reeves movie!
In sixth-grade Social Studies, scholars used Google maps along with a writing assignment to visualize the journey down the Silk Road. Scholars all added pictures and connected the routes they would take to trade goods back around 206-220 A.D. Here are examples of the writing sample and map from scholar, Helena A.
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Math Activities

Our eighth-grade CIA Math Agents reviewed the laws of exponents by playing Jeopardy. The scholars worked together in groups to solve very difficult questions.
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In seventh-grade math class, scholars played Jeopardy to review the concept of Slope. Teams collaborated to make sure all members participated and understood the concepts.
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In sixth-grade math, scholars used mathematical, academic language to solve problems. To do this, they used Vocaroo, an online voice recorder, to share their thought process when solving math problems. Here is an example from sixth-grade scholar, Helena A., who created a real-world math problem using fractions.

Health Class

In seventh-grade health, our scholars have been working hard to develop resistance skills to the pressures of being a teenager. Every scholar knows that good health starts with a healthy diet. Check out a sample newsletter, created by Najae, that teaches about healthy eating habits.
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New elective courses for our scholars will start on Thursday, February 1. Courses include:

  • Sixth-Grade Character Education
  • Seventh-Grade Introduction to Spanish
  • Eighth-Grade Gaming Unlocked
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This month we're featuring the Millaris Family

Amy Millaris, a learning coach, and her scholar Audrey share their experience at CCS.

CCS: What grade is your scholar in and how long have you been part of Compass Charter Schools?

Amy: My scholar Audrey is in sixth-grade and we have been part of CCS for three years.

CCS: Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

Audrey: My dad works for American Medical Response, running shops for ambulances and ensuring they are stocked with supplies that the EMTs and paramedics need when making emergency calls. He is also on the FEMA response team and has been called to work during national crises such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey. I have two older brothers, James, who is on a Cyclocross competition team, which is a combination of downhill and mountain biking. James also participated in MATE, an underwater rover competition, and won medals for his rover design. My other brother, Timothy, is the captain of his high school basketball team and is a great athlete. As for me, I train at a professional ballet company called Bayer Ballet Company, which is a competitive ballet program that is preparing me to become a professional ballerina.

CCS: What is your favorite school subject(s)?

Audrey: My favorite subject is math.

CCS: What do you enjoy most about being part of Compass Charter Schools?

Audrey: My favorite thing about CCS is that it gives me the flexibility to do extracurricular activities like ballet and spend time with my family.

CCS: What do you like to do outside of school? Do you have any hobbies?

Audrey: I am an entrepreneur. I have my own business where I make slime and sell it in my mom’s laundromat and to my friends at ballet school. I have a laboratory where I test out different recipes, colors, and seasonal slime, depending on the time of year. I also plan and manage all of the finances of the company to ensure that I make good financial decisions and a profit.

CCS: What is one fun fact that you would like everyone at CCS to know about you?

Audrey: I am an inventor and I like to create vending machines from scratch, including all of the different mechanisms that make the machine work.

CCS: We know that often, with our scholars, each day is different, but what would a typical day look like for you and your scholar?

Audrey: I wake up at 6 am, have breakfast and get ready for the day. After dropping my brothers off at school, I come home and organize my day by looking at all of my subjects and plan what I will focus on for the day. I love that I get to incorporate my ballet into my daily routine. For example, I can print out readings or resources and do my ballet stretching while I read them. I like to focus on one or two subjects per day because then, I can complete only one or two tests or writing assignments per day. I also pair up easier subjects with more difficult subjects to evenly spread out my work and pace myself. This way, I don’t have to take four exams in one day. The flexibility is awesome!

CCS: What has been your greatest joy in schooling your scholar at home?

Amy: As her mom, I love seeing how independent she is becoming. She has grown up so much from when she started at Compass. It is wonderful as a parent to see her blossom into a young adult who can work independently and get good grades on her own.

CCS: Share a piece of advice you’d give to a parent thinking about taking their child out of school to school at home? My advice is to make sure to keep your scholar engaged in the program, encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities, clubs, and leadership opportunities that are offered. Encourage them to make friends with their classmates to build a community in the online environment. Also, help them navigate to what they are interested in and help them make connections with their teachers. Those relationships are invaluable to their success!

We're also featuring the Wilridge Family

Carmelle Hasan, a learning coach, and her scholar J'Len share their experience at CCS.

CCS: What grade is your scholar in and how long have you been part of Compass Charter Schools?

Carmelle: My scholar, J'Len is in eighth-grade and we have been part of CCS for four years.

CCS: What is your favorite school subject(s)?

J'Len: My favorite subject is science.

CCS: What do you enjoy most about being part of Compass Charter Schools?

J'Len: What I enjoy most about Compass is the challenging nature of the curriculum. I like the projects and that they make you use your brain and do research. I also like meeting new people during Learning Labs.

CCS: What do you like to do outside of school? Do you have any hobbies?

J'Len: I like to draw, make music, and work on my business, which is called Toocan Imagination. I have been cultivating the business for five years as a way to bring creative arts back into schools and help save animals around the world. I also enjoy making YouTube videos, which I am editing for my YouTube channel. Finally, I like to go on adventures in the woods.

CCS: What is one fun fact that you would like everyone at CCS to know about you?

J'Len: I am obsessed with foxes. I like their personality, the diverse color of their coat and how they play a really important role in the ecosystem, which is to help lower the population of rodents, birds, and other animals.

CCS: We know that often, with our scholars, each day is different, but what would a typical day look like for you and your scholar?

J'Len: I wake up and eat a healthy breakfast with my mom. I love to cook, so sometimes I do the cooking and sometimes my mom does. Then, I read a book to prepare my brain for learning and look at my calendar to decide which subjects to focus on in accordance with the daily Learning Lab schedule. Throughout the day, I take dance breaks in between school work to keep my mind awake and my blood flowing. Then, I will eat a healthy lunch, which again, I cook. After lunch, I do PE (either a Just Dance video or Karate) and then continue with my school work for a few more hours. My mom works from home as well, so we are checking in with each other often. Once school is over, I get to draw and listen to music. I am taking some art classes to learn new art techniques. Then I cook dinner with my mom where we talk about our day.

CCS: What has been your greatest joy in schooling your scholar at home?

Carmelle: I love the freedom to create our own learning environment at home. We can make the curriculum fun and individualize it for J’Len, more than you can at a regular school.

CCS: Share a piece of advice you’d give to a parent thinking about taking their child out of school to school at home?

Carmelle: Be patient with yourself. It can be overwhelming but don’t compare yourself to others. Rather, make the experience your own and learn how to create a positive learning environment for both you and your scholar. Be patient with the process. It can take a few years, as it did for us, and we are always learning new things to try. Keep trying!

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Andrea Lomeli, middle school English teacher at CCS.

CCS: What are your primary job responsibilities?

Andrea: My job is to be an encourage our scholars and to help them in their individual educational journey. I am a leader, listener, supporter. I get to help scholars grow their reading and writing skills to prepare for high school and beyond in our 21st-century world.

CCS: Can you tell us about your family?

Andrea: I have a family of seven. My husband Ben and I have been married for 14 years. Our son Cole is 12, our daughter Elliana is 10, and our daughter Macie is six. We have two puppies. Our Boxer Luna is two years old and our Boston Terrier, Lala is three years old.

CCS: What do you and your family like to do during your free time?

Andrea: We are very active in our kids’ soccer community. Both my husband and I coach for a competitive soccer club and travel up and down the state of California for various tournaments and events. This is what takes up the majority of my free time!

CCS: What is your favorite thing about working at CCS?

Andrea: I love that even though I primarily work from home, I work for a school that is very supportive and encouraging all around, including our staff and families. I look forward to building on the supportive foundation that Compass has established.

CCS: What is your favorite thing about Learning Labs?

Andrea: I love learning from scholars. I love our time together to collaborate, work together toward common goals, and seeing their faces and hearing their voices to making learning come alive.

CCS: As an educator, is there a piece of advice you’d like to share with learning coaches or scholars?

Andrea: It is never too late to start fresh. With an independent study program like ours, there is a lot of freedom and there is always time to regroup and start fresh when you need to, especially with middle school scholars. This is the time when you need to start advocating for yourself and take ownership of your learning. You are supported by your teachers and staff who are here to support and help you any way you need. You have so many resources! Do not forget to reach out to them whenever you need.

CCS: What is one thing about you that very few people know?

Andrea: I totally sing in the shower. I get to embrace my inner entertainer and feel confident about my skills.

Terrasa McGuire, Middle School Math Teacher at CCS.

CCS: What are your job responsibilities?

Terrasa: As a middle school math teacher, my responsibilities include planning Learning Labs in a way that helps scholars understand the concepts. Additionally, scholars are encouraged to reach out to me to get additional help through email, message center, or instant chat. I communicate with homeroom families about scholars’ progress in the online program and I grade discussions and projects.

CCS: Can you tell us about your family?

Terrasa: I live in a small house with my backyard up against BLM land (land that is not owned by anyone). In my home, I live with my dog Chloe who brings me joy and entertainment. My parents volunteer at the same organization that I do and live only 30 minutes from my home.

CCS: What do you and your family like to do during your free time?

Terrasa: Most of my non-work-related time is spent volunteering to feed the homeless in our community and working on my doctorate degree in Educational Technology. My focus for my degree involves online education and ways that we can improve the success of scholars who participate in this cutting-edge educational environment. When I am not doing that, I enjoy taking trips to Tahoe, CA and having a good meal with my family and friends. My goal for this year is to work on improving my health and fitness by exercising and eating healthier food.

CCS: What is your favorite thing about working at CCS?

Terrasa: My favorite part about working at CCS is that I get an opportunity to help scholars from all over California understand the wonder of math. In a traditional teaching environment, I would only get to interact with people that live in my local area. By working at CCS I get to meet a large number of amazing scholars who are already making a difference in the world. Working online, I have had the pleasure with working with TV stars, movie stars, Olympic hopefuls, professional hockey players, figure skaters, and scholars who have decided to take on the challenge of getting their education independently, so they can thrive in their environment.

CCS: What is your favorite thing about Learning Labs?

Terrasa: My favorite part about Learning Labs is the interaction with the scholars. I look forward every week to “seeing” every scholar attending my Learning Labs. I have the honor of getting to see the light bulb turn on while I provide clarification and instruction. The more engaged the scholars are, the more fun the class can have and, in turn, the more fun I have.

CCS: As an educator, is there a piece of advice you’d like to share with learning coaches or scholars?

Terrasa: As a mathematics educator, I want to help learning coaches and scholars understand the passion I have for the subject. When I was a scholar in middle school and high school and I was asked why I liked math so much, I had an answer that surprised most people who heard it. Math is like a jigsaw puzzle, with every piece that you place in the puzzle, you will see more of the picture until finally, the most amazing image appears. Just like a complex jigsaw puzzle can be challenging to find the right piece, math too can be challenging to understand, but the feeling of accomplishment you get when you finally understand and are able to see that beautiful picture is the best feeling you can have. In order to experience that wondrous emotion, (which only comes through struggle) we must face the challenges and embrace the journey. Eventually, you will understand and be successful. Math is the key that opens all kinds of doors when you are seeking a career and the journey to possessing that key, starts now.

CCS: Share one thing about you that very few people know.

Terrasa: One thing that very few people know about me is that while I was still in school I wrote poetry, some of which has been published in poetry books.

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Happy New Year!

This time of year signals the end of Semester 1, and our team has been working tirelessly behind the scenes preparing for Semester 2 with final details and pre-loading courses for scholars. Additionally, while the bulk of college application season is through, we are still deep into financial aid application season as the March 2nd deadline draws near. Our team continues to support scholars with various records and document requests, as well as financial aid application assistance. We are looking forward to hearing from scholars regarding college acceptance letters as they arrive in the spring!

October and November saw a great deal of college, career, and academic activities and presentations that many learning coaches and scholars were able to enjoy by attending the live sessions or receiving the recordings. We will continue to provide these valuable resources via our department presentations and our College and Career Success Cafes. We invite all of our scholars to contact their counselor for more information.

Lastly, in December our department delivered an internal presentation to our school staff about the topic of Suicide Prevention. Considering the prevalence of adolescent suicide in our culture, our goal is to ensure that our staff knows what to do if such a situation presented itself. Our team values the privilege to continue to support our Compass scholars, families, and staff.

As civil rights pioneer Harriet Tubman once said, “Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” As your school counseling team, we are here to help you explore your dreams and discover how to achieve them. Reach out via phone, text, email, or video conference and talk to us soon. Remember to make every day great!

~ Counseling Services Team

Counseling News

Congratulations to our scholars Alexia, Helena, and Amber, who were nominated for consideration of the Carson Scholars Fund scholarship. Our entire counseling team worked collaboratively to nominate three scholars, one from each of our schools - Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Nominations were based on scholar service to their community in addition to their academic excellence (minimum 3.75-grade point average). If awarded, each scholar stands to receive a $1,000 college scholarship for their future studies.

This February, the Counseling Department also looks forward to celebrating the 2018 National School Counseling Week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association. This special week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping scholars achieve school success and plan for a career. Please join us in celebrating the week starting next Monday, February 5 through Friday, February 9.

We highly encourage our families to visit our website and view a variety of helpful college and career preparation resources for scholars.

Family Spotlight

A learning coach shares her scholar's experience at CCS.

Our journey to California from Texas really began in 2016 after my husband’s passing. I suppose you can say we are a military family, with my late husband serving in the U.S. Army many years ago, and my daughter serving as a 1st Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. My daughter’s involvement in the military is actually what brought us to California.

Having the flexibility of online schooling has been a great benefit for my son, John McHale, as he explores his post-high school options. John had the opportunity to travel this past November/December to Hawaii to meet the USS Nimitz, a naval supercarrier returning from operations in the middle east. John is considering joining the military as one of his post-high school options, and being able to travel onboard the ship for a week as it returned to the San Diego naval base was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has aided him in narrowing down a decision as to what he wants to do after he graduates high school in June 2018. He spent the better part of his time observing and assisting with missile launcher maintenance and repair duties in the shop, which was an invaluable experience for him.

While onboard the ship, there was no access to Internet or phone for national security reasons which meant 8 days on the ship without the ability to do school work. Staying on top of his school work definitely required some creativity and sacrifices on John’s part while on this trip. He completed as much work as he possibly could in the hotel room at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, while waiting for the ship to arrive, as well as working hard to catch up with work upon his return.

I’m so glad we chose Compass Charter Schools! The flexibility in completing assignments and the range of subjects offered, as well as the ability to pursue topics of interest are all reasons that brought us here. One of the highlights that made me choose Compass over other online schools is the opportunity for social interaction with other scholars and parents through the diverse and interesting field trips offered. My family’s experience with Compass has been great so far as I feel closer to the teachers, staff, and administration - more than those of my previous 4 children who attended both public and private brick-and-mortar schools. We are happy to be here.

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Staff Spotlight

This month we are featuring Mr. Jacob Samples, School Counselor at CCS.

CCS: What are your primary job responsibilities?

Mr. Samples: My responsibilities as a school counselor involve providing support in academic planning and decision making, college and career exploration, and social-emotional wellness for our scholars, families, and faculty.

CCS: Can you share a little bit about your background in education and counseling?

Mr. Samples: I started out years ago as a program leader for an afterschool program called Think Together while I was completing my Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies at California State at Fullerton. I then earned my Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University at Los Angeles and moved to Palm Springs, CA to work at a community mental health clinic. I went back to school at the University of Redlands to receive my Pupil Personnel Services Credential for School Counseling while working at the Edison Academy for Differentiated Learning in Ontario, CA as a counselor for grades K-8.

CCS: What is your favorite thing about working at CCS?

Mr. Samples: I truly enjoy the challenge of connecting with scholars and families in a virtual setting, and watching them progress through the program. It is gratifying to see scholars gain confidence as they become more comfortable in their independent learning roles at CCS.

CCS: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

Mr. Samples: My passion is theater arts. I love acting when I have time outside of my role as a school counselor. Additionally, I love to spend time with family and friends, and I love to travel and explore new places when I have the time!

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Are you enjoying the educational experience at Compass? Tell us! We want to hear from you. Why did you decide to join the Compass family? Or, what do you love most about being part of our community? Share you comments and all of your wonderful experiences at Compass with us! Click here to share.
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Compass Charter Schools

Visit our website for more information about our academic programs. Or, contact Melissa Blitzstein, Middle School Coordinator, at

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