News From Principal Hill

Panther Parents,

Happy Monday! It is difficult to believe that in just one week, we will be welcoming October (and, hopefully some cooler weather as well). With the fall semester well underway, we wanted to be sure and let you know about a few things happening at Zilker Elementary.

District Leveling and Staffing Updates
Each year the district goes through a leveling process where staffing changes are made at campuses that are overstaffed and those that are understaffed. This year at Zilker, our first grade classes exceed the maximum number of students in each classroom that is allowed by Texas law. As a result, we were able to add an additional teacher to this grade level.

Please join me in welcoming our new first grade teacher, Ms. Eileen Vasquez. Ms. Vasquez previously taught second grade at Sanchez Elementary, and before that she was a first grade teacher in Round Rock ISD for four years. We are happy to have her join our wonderful Zilker community.

We have also learned through the leveling process that our special area allocations have increased. As a result, we will have our scheduled traveling special areas teacher at Zilker all day. For example, on A-days, our traveling music teacher will be at Zilker all day, instead of just the first three periods of the day. The three teachers will continue with the regular rotation of music, art, and PE. This new schedule will begin Thursday, September 28th.

We realize many of you have not had the opportunity to meet our traveling teachers. We hope with the additional time on our campus, we will have more opportunities to introduce these amazing teachers to our Zilker families. Until then, we have put together a brief written introduction from each of our traveling special areas teachers.

Michael Stephenson- Physical Education Teacher
My name is Michael Stephenson. This is my second year of teaching elementary school PE but my 7th year total. I am originally from Chicago where I taught middle school and high school. I have coached almost every sport at multiple levels. My wife and I moved down here a little over a year ago for her to pursue her doctorate at University of Texas. I have two daughters that are 3 years old and 3 months old. I love all sports but basketball and football are my favorite. I love being a physical education teacher and getting to play every day!

Laura Wohlfort – Music Teacher
My name is Ms. Wohlfort, and I’m extremely excited to be teaching at Zilker Elementary this year! Here is a little information about myself: I was born and raised in Houston, TX, and I attended Baylor University where I majored in choral music education. I’ve played piano since I was six years old, and I was a percussionist in middle school as well as on drumline in high school. Music has always been a large part of my life. This is my 3rd year as a teacher and my 2nd year in AISD. My main elementary campus is Brooke, but this year I’m traveling to Zilker as well as Travis Heights.

In my free time I enjoy wakeboarding, wake surfing, traveling, making friends, and making music! I look forward to teaching your children!

John Ousley- Art Teacher
I have been teaching students in Austin ISD elementary schools for over 12 years now. I graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2005 with a degree in Art Education. I started teaching because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. I teach Art and enjoy sharing the knowledge I have learned with young students.

I have an art background in drawing, painting, filmmaking, graphic design, ceramics, and print making. The medium of art I enjoy working with most is painting. I have worked to organize fundraiser and art shows for AISD. I was selected 2016-2017 AISD campus “Teacher of the Year” at Brooke Elementary. In addition I work for Gigtown a music app company located in San Diego. I run sound, DJ, and book local Austin musicians for events as my side job. I work with my side employers’ to help with fundraising and events here in Austin. On what free time I have I spend with my wife and 5 year old son. I enjoy outdoor actives here in Austin.

I look forward to working here at Zilker Elementary this year as a part time Art teacher. My door is always open if you have any questions. I am honored to work with the children of this community. I have been a Texan all my life and am glad to be here in Austin Texas. Go Longhorns!

Thank You Garden Helpers
Thank you to all the parents who came out to Zilker on Friday to help weed and tidy up Jabo’s garden in preparation for our garden lessons beginning in October. We are looking forward not only to a bountiful harvest, but also to the many ways our students benefit from having a school garden.

Did you know that research has shown that students experience increased academic achievement when a school garden is integrated into their school curriculum? Studies also show that:
Gardening during childhood exposes children to healthy food, moderate exercise, and positive social interactions and can often lead to a lifetime of gardening.

The school garden serves as a “safe place” for students. Studies show that large numbers of students report “that they feel ‘calm,’ ‘safe,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘relaxed’ in the school garden.

Students involved with school gardens generally take pleasure in learning and show positive attitudes towards education
We know it takes a lot of hard work and effort to bring this experience to our students, and we are grateful for all of the support.

Zilker Fund
The Zilker Fund is a once a year “no hassle fund raiser” by the Zilker PTA. The funds raised through this year’s Zilker Fund will support our initiative to provide more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning opportunities for our Zilker Panthers.

Please consider a simple monthly sustaining gift or a one-time donation to ensure our Zilker students have access to innovative educational experiences and current technology and resources. Your contribution will make a lasting impact on all of our students at Zilker.

 

–  from Alicia Hill, Principal

 

A Few Things From Principal Hill

Hello Zilker Elementary Families,

It has been a great first month in Zilkerland!  In just these few weeks, we have had so much going on.  Our Panthers have been busy identifying sensory language in stories, crafting personal narratives, celebrating diversity, becoming physically fit, comparing fractions, tie-dying class shirts, learning about place value, creating beautiful art and music, chasing runaway gingerbread men, and so much more!  We are well on our way to a great school year.

It cannot go without mention that the great work we do here at Zilker would not be possible without the support of our parents and school community.  We want to thank you for all that you do to support our teachers, students, and our school.  We know that together, we will continue to keep Zilker…a GREAT place for kids.

Personally, it has been a pleasure to visit with many of you these past several weeks, whether at morning drop-off, lunchtime, and other times during the ordinary school day or at Parent Principal Coffee and Back to School Night. I welcome the opportunity to become better acquainted should you ever have questions or just want to chat.  Please know that my door is always open. 

Drop-Off and Pick-Up

We realize morning time drop-off can get crowded and backed-up right around bell time. Arriving even a few minutes earlier can make a big difference if you are in a hurry in the mornings. For the safety of our students, please do not drive into the teacher parking lot by the library to drop-off your students in the morning or pick-up in the afternoon. Our parking lots are for staff/faculty and handicap parking only.  We do not have enough parking for all of our staff so please do not, even briefly, park in a staff spot.  Thank you!  

Biking to School

If you children are riding their bikes to school, please remind them to wear their bicycle helmets. Remember, helmets must fit well and should be fastened securely. A well-fitted helmet does not move around on the head or slide down over the wearer’s eyes when pushed or pulled. Thank you for help in encouraging safe biking practices.

Neighborhood Parking

Due to limited parking space, we know many families must park on the street when they are dropping-off or picking-up their students.  Please keep our neighbors in mind if you are parking around Zilker.  Be careful not to block driveways when you are parking and also when you are in line to drop-off or pick-up.  Thank you for your consideration towards our neighbors.

Thank you all for a great start to our school year!

Alicia Hill

 

Great First Week!

Hello Zilker Families,

Thank you all for a great first week of school!  What a pleasure it is to see our students excited, engaged, and proud to be Zilker Panthers!  We are well aware that your support and good humor is vital to the success and charm of our school community.  We appreciate all you do and look forward to partnering with you this year and in years to come. 

There’s plenty in the works at Zilker right now, so please be sure and check our website regularly. In the meantime, here is information about a few upcoming events:

Wellness Wednesday

Coach Cohn is on a mission to keep Zilker…a healthy place for kids (and teachers). In an effort to encourage regular exercise and overall wellness, we are designating each Wednesday as Wellness Wednesday.  Our teachers will be encouraged to wear exercise clothes on Wednesdays and join their students in a walk around the track or any other physical activity, time permitting.

We invite you to join us in this initiative! Encourage your child to wear exercise clothes and tennis shoes on Wednesdays.  Better yet, designate Wednesdays as your walking or biking to school day!  Don’t live close enough to Zilker to walk?  No problem, park your car nearby and walk from there.  Not only will you start your day off in a healthy way; you also will avoid the morning drop-off traffic!

Remember, the more our students see us modeling wellness and exercise, the more likely they are to follow in our footsteps!

Every Friday is Spirit Day! – Show your Panther pride by wearing your Zilker shirt! 

Parent Principal Coffee September 1, 7:45-8:30 – Join us in the library to hear more about what is happening at Zilker and in AISD

Back to School Night – Back to school night is an evening dedicated to providing parents with classroom and grade-level information related to their children’s education. Teachers will review this year’s goals and the structure of their classroom. Join us at Back to school night to learn more about your student’s day, as you visit their classes and teachers!

Kindergarten-2nd-Thursday, September 7 from 6:00-7:30

3rd -5th grade-Thursday, September 14 form 6:00-7:30

Sincerely,

Alicia Hill

School News

Hello Zilker Elementary Families,

Here are some school-related updates to get you all back in the swing of things.

NEW ZILKER ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL

It is my pleasure to announce Hannah Hallmark as the new assistant principal of Zilker Elementary.  Hannah has been a teacher in AISD for the past eleven years where she taught Spanish at O’Henry Middle School. During her career in education,  Hannah has made it a priority to build strong relationships with all members of the school community and ensure her instruction supports the social, emotional, and academic development of each child. We are pleased to have her join our team at Zilker.

MORE STAFFING NEWS

Congratulations to grade teacher, Tammy Thompson, who will be joining Baldwin Elementary as the new full-time assistant principal.  We are excited for her as she begins this new adventure in her career and wish her the very best in her new position. 

We have already started the process of finding a new third grade teacher and will work diligently to ensure a smooth transition in the process.    

 AISD BOND

Austin ISD is calling for a bond election to be held on November 7 of this year. The district will be conducting community meetings from August through November to ensure that you are informed and that your opinions are heard. For more information about the bond, go to: https://www.austinisd.org/fmp

To find out more about how this Bond will impact Zilker Elementary and the rest of the Austin Vertical Team specifically, click on the “View 2017 Bond Projects by School and Facility” button on the landing page.  

IMPORTANT DATES:

August 7-10 New Student Registration

August 18 Meet the Teacher 11:30 am -1pm

August 21 First Day of School!

Enjoy the rest of the summer! And, don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you need anything from me.

 

Wishing You All the Best in Zilkerland!

Dear Zilker Families,

Well, that time is really here now. While I am officially the Zilker principal through June 30, for all practical purposes, Alicia Hill is. I have shared with Ms. Hill how hard it has been to let go, and she said she understands that after only a few times on our campus. She already recognizes what a special place Zilker is.

So all of my personal effects are out of the principal’s office, and I am about to turn over the last two Zilker keys that I have. Ms. Hill has begun moving her things into her new office and is looking forward to new adventures in the coming years. I have to admit that I am a little jealous, but this is all as it should be. I am confident that you are in good hands with Ms. Hill and your new assistant principal still to be named.

And how about Patrick Aziz and Joslin! Just when we were feeling a bit discouraged, Joslin happened! I know Mr. Aziz will miss Zilker, and you all will certainly miss him, but I also know you join me in congratulating him and wishing him only the best. He will be amazing as the interim principal for the Joslin Jaguars.

When you happen to see me around town, please be sure to say hello. I may forget names, but I will remember faces and that you are/were Zilker Panthers. I guess I will stop here. Just know how much you all have meant to me, know that I will always remember these past nine years as the ones when I was “the luckiest man in AISD,” and be sure to keep working together to ensure that Zilker continues to be “…a great place for kids!” I love and already miss you all.

Most sincerely,

Randy Thomson

Randy Thomson Has Resigned–Effective June 30, 2017

Dear Zilker Families,

I hope you received my voice mail message or email last Thursday, March 23.  In case you did not, the text of the email is included below.  I know I will be seeing and talking to you in the coming days and weeks, but just know again how very much my time in Zilkerland has meant to me.  I will so miss our Panthers and their families and teachers and everyone else who works at Zilker.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sincerely,

Randy Thomson

——————————————-

Dear Zilker Families,

This is my last semester as the principal of Zilker Elementary School. I submitted my formal resignation to our associate superintendent, Sandra Creswell, just this past Tuesday, March 21. My last official day as the Zilker principal will be June 30, 2017.

There is absolutely no way—no way—that I can express to you how very much the past nine years have meant to me. It is because of you and all of our Zilker team. Nine years… how can that be? That is longer than I have ever worked anywhere else in my life! My daughters, Lauren and Hayley, were in high school when I came to Zilker in 2008, and those of you who were here through their high school and college days (and even beyond) listened to so many of my “brag stories” about them. Thank you for indulging me or humoring me through those times. Now Lauren and Hayley are grown, successful, professional, working women living in Chicago and Little Rock. That ol’ “time thing” can really sneak up on you, so enjoy, love, and appreciate every moment that you have with your children in the coming days and years.

To our Panthers, the Zilker faculty/staff, all of you… it’s been an absolute pleasure and joy for me to have had this opportunity to serve you. Again, there really, really are no words that can adequately express my gratitude to each and every one of you. I guess it likely became so trite and predictable for me to say, “I am the luckiest man in AISD!” again and again during the past nine years, but I always meant it—sincerely. And I still do.

How very proud I have always been to tell people that I am the principal of Zilker Elementary School—the best and most wonderful title I’ll ever have. If I allowed myself to be the selfish one that I could easily be, I’d stay here forever. It is time now, however, for a post-Thomson era in Zilkerland. I know you will join our teachers as you and they take our Panthers to new heights with new adventures in the coming years! I look forward to hearing about your achievements and accomplishments. I know there will be many.

Thank you so much for your continued support of our teachers and staff who work so hard and diligently for your children as they (and you) continue to make “Zilker… a GREAT place for kids!”

Most sincerely,

Randall W. Thomson

Principal

 

One More Faculty Change for 2017-18

In addition to the other “shuffling” among our faculty that I already shared with you, there is now one more change to report.  Emily Day, current 3rd grade teacher, will move to 4th grade for next year; and Tammy Thompson, current 4th grade teacher, will move to 3rd grade for the 2017-18 school year.  At this time, that still leaves us with only one teaching positiong to fill for the coming year:  4th grade bilingual.  We hope to begin interviewing soon!

 

KINDERGARTEN ORIENTATION!

If you have a child who will be in kindergarten here at Zilker for the 2017-18 school year, please join us for KINDERGARTEN ORIENTATION on Tuesday, April 4, at 9 a.m. in the school library.  This is really a time for adults to complete and submit registration materials, and you’ll also find out about our kindergarten program.  While children really won’t be that interested, and there won’t be anything especially planned for them, do feel free to bring them if that is the only way you can attend.  We will have our “Kinder Kamp” one morning later in May–date TBD–when you and your children may return for a campus tour and fun time together.  Stay tuned for more information.  We hope to see you on April 4!

When you come on April 4 for orientation, be sure to bring with you two copies of each of the following:

* Proof of address (house contract, lease agreement, or electric/gas bill)

* Child’s birth certificate

* Child’s social security card

* Child’s immunization record

* Photo IDs for parents (driver license or other government-issued ID)

 

Teacher Assignments for 2017 – 2018

We will have a few changes among our faculty for the coming school year, and we wanted you to know about them.  Families will have an opportunity to provide input regarding their children’s class placement the week after spring break.

1) Steve Wagner, special education/PPCD teacher at the kindergarten level, has announced his retirement.  He is ready for whatever the next chapter in life brings his way, and we wish him all the best.  Congratulations, Mr. Wagner!

2) Jan McLendon, current 1st grade teacher, will move to the open PPCD position due to Mr. Wagner’s retirement.  Mrs. McLendon requested this change and is ready for a new challenge!  She has served as a special education teacher in the past.

3) Alison Balic, current 2nd grade teacher, will move to the open 1st grade position due to Mrs. McLendon’s move to PPCD.  We are losing one 2nd grade teacher–from five to four–due to projected 2nd grade enrollment based on current 1st grade enrollment, so one 2nd grade teacher needed to change grade levels.

4) Emily Peters, current 4th grade teacher and Mrs. Lugo’s successor, will move to 5th grade.  We are gaining a 5th grade teacher–from three to four–so Ms. Peters is needed there.  Our 5th grade teachers are planning to “team teach,” so our 5th-graders will have each teacher for one academic subject each.

5) We will be hiring a new bilingual 4th grade teacher to take Ms. Peters’ position since she is not bilingually certified, and we always have one bilingual class at each grade level to serve our English language learners.

While we may have other openings due to unanticipated changes in other teachers’ plans, these are the only changes at this time.  We will have only one teaching position vacant that needs to be filled (4th grade bilingual).  We will keep you apprised of any additional changes as they may occur.  We are very fortunate at Zilker to attract a large number of applicants and then to retain our teachers–very little mobility among our faculty/staff!