Back to Reality

Happy 2017, and welcome back!  There were a good many groggy people (not all of them students!) dragging their way into the school buildings this morning, but as everyone spied friendly faces and had some time to catch up with one another after the holidays, moods seemed to improve.  Now comes the business of getting back into the school routine, and with the start of a new semester, many of our scholars will be taking different classes during these last 5 months of school.  For example, students who took trigonometry last semester will tackle pre-calculus this term, and Chemistry II students are now enrolled in physics. Also, a new offering this semester is music appreciation, taught by band director Josh Landrum; this class fulfills the fine arts requirement for graduation if students have not already taken art or band.

Students in 4th-period music appreciation class

More than anything, however, this semester is always a busy one.  Soccer and basketball are still going strong, and spring sports — track and field, baseball, and tennis — will begin soon.  Next, the high school’s Beauty Pageant takes place in 11 days!  Then, before we know it, it will be time for Spiritual Emphasis week, Prom, cheerleader tryouts, elementary field day, awards day, and finally, graduation for the Class of 2017. Not to mention, in the middle of all of these activities, we will still have daily lessons, chapel programs, homework, and yes, juniors and seniors will have the dreaded research papers to contend with.

The spring semester is always a wild whirlwind, and making it successful requires a great deal of planning and dedication on everyone’s parts.  Parents, please don’t forget to check this website, Facebook, Instagram, and Notify messages for regular updates.  Furthermore, as the school year draws closer to its end, it is crucial to keep up with your children’s grades in STI so that you can communicate with teachers if necessary and so that there are no unpleasant surprises at the end of the year.

Above all, let’s remember Colossians 3:23 – 24, which states, ” Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Using Drama in the Classroom

Mrs. Harwell’s 8th-grade English classes have been reading the novel Anne of Green Gables, which tells about the adventures of Anne Shirley, an imaginative and talkative 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to the Cuthberts, a middle-aged brother and sister who intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with (and wins over) the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town, despite her tendency to get into trouble.

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Rather than have her students write a book report or an essay, which students often dread, or simply take tests and quizzes about the novel, Mrs. Harwell asked her class to act out parts of the novel. While students often think of this as pure fun, using drama in the classroom also teaches numerous valuable skills.  Acting out literary passages develops both verbal and non-verbal communication, helps students understand concepts from different perspectives, fosters cooperation with others, and furthers problem-solving skills, encouraging awareness of how to solve issues. Drama has been used from the time of Aristotle, who believed that theater provided people a way to release emotions, up to modern times, when emphasis in education is placed on analyzing and synthesizing, rather than on memorizing.  Most of all, however, using drama in the classroom is just plain entertaining, as the most lasting learning often is.

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“Wealth consists… in having few wants.” – Epictetus

As part of our efforts to ensure that our students are well prepared not only for college, but also for the rest of their lives, Mrs. Browning’s Computer Applications I classes are currently studying a unit of curriculum entitled Foundations in Personal Finance.  This program teaches young people how to avoid debt, how to budget, how to invest early, and how to build wealth so that their financial futures will be worry-free.  Students watch videos hosted by finance experts Rachel Cruze and Dave Ramsey, and then they complete various computer-based activities, including math exercises, journal questions and reflections, and word problems.  Students also are shown real-life case studies to further their understanding of how to practically apply financial principles.

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With an ever-changing American economy, very few high-school graduates considered to be financially literate, and more than 7 million borrowers defaulted on student loans for college, it is obvious that young adults need to be better educated about money matters.  Toward this end, the ultimate goal of Hillcrest’s use of this program is to empower and equip students, building their confidence in their own financial decision-making, to ensure a secure future.

Mock Election Results

More than 28,300 Mississippi students participated in the 2016 Promote the Vote Mock Election sponsored by the Secretary of State’s office.  This year’s Promote the Vote theme, “My Voice, My Vote,” sought to highlight the importance of voting to our democracy and how one ballot truly can make a difference in an election.  Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said, “Promote the Vote is one of my favorite election events because it involves teaching the next generation of Mississippi leaders about one of their most important future civic duties: voting for their elected leaders.”

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First-time voters! Seniors Spurgeon Sanders and Mayowa Asagunla

Students who cast their ballots represent about 103 schools across the state, and the results of this mock election are as follows:

· Republican nominee Donald Trump received about 49.2 percent of the vote (13,977 votes);
· Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received almost 42 percent of the vote (11,918 votes);
· Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson received about 2.7 percent of the vote (752 votes);
· Green Party nominee Jill Stein received 1.8 percent of the vote (511 votes);
· Constitution Party nominee Darrell Castle received about 1.3 percent of the vote (372 votes);
· American Delta Party nominee “Rocky” De La Fuente received 1.3 percent of the vote (360 votes);
· Prohibition Party nominee Jim Hedges received about 0.7 percent of the vote (195 votes); and
· About 1.1 percent of the votes cast (303 votes) were write-in candidates, which do not count.

The results from Hillcrest’s mock election are as follows:

  • Republican candidates Trump and Pence – 134 votes
  • Democratic candidates Clinton and Kaine – 50 votes
  • Libertarian candidates Johnson and Weld – 3 votes
  • Green candidates Stein and Baraka – 1 vote
  • American Delta candidates De La Fuente and Steinberg – 8 votes
  • Prohibition candidates Hedges and Bayes – 1 vote
  • Write-ins, among them our very own Ms. Flemmons, received 8 votes

The faculty and staff of HCS recognize that not only are we educating students in specific subject areas, we also “expect growth in character.” Therefore, ensuring Hillcrest students understand the importance of voting in our democratic nation is as important as knowing how to add and subtract or how to spell. As headmaster Jason Estabrook recently reminded the faculty, “We get to have elections for our next President of the United States on Tuesday. We all get to cast our ballots for the candidate that we believe is the best choice to represent our country. Come Wednesday morning there will be a new President in office AND whoever is elected, our GOD will still be on his throne. Presidents are important, but our trust and faith is in our Father in heaven.”

Vocabulary Matters

One of the critical skills taught regularly, and at nearly all grade levels, at Hillcrest is vocabulary knowledge.  While students often complain that vocabulary is “just busy work” or is “just a way to get grades in STI, teachers of all subject areas know that in order to comprehend what they read and learn, students must first understand what words mean, both individually and when placed together.  This skill is crucial not only in school, but also in the work force, where employers value educated employees who can make informed decisions on their own.

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For many decades, vocabulary instruction was rarely a planned part of classroom instruction; instead, student questions often led to “teachable moments,” after which students were directed to a book’s glossary or a dictionary.  Numerous studies have shown that this “method” did not result in long-term retention.  People of all ages need multiple exposures to words in a variety of contexts before they understand, remember, and apply them.  According to Scholastic.com, “Vocabulary is critical to reading success for three reasons:
1.  Comprehension improves when you know what the words mean. Since comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, you cannot overestimate the importance of vocabulary development.
2.  Words are the currency of communication. A robust vocabulary improves all areas of communication — listening, speaking, reading and writing.
3.  ….When children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their academic and social confidence and competence improve, too.

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For these reasons, Hillcrest teachers will continue to promote the regular learning of vocabulary at every level: elementary, middle school, junior high, and high school.  Furthermore, teachers of all subject areas — not only English and language — will use a variety of instructional methods to improve students’ vocabulary knowledge so that when they leave HCS, they will be prepared and successful, no matter where life leads them.