Tuesday, January 30, 2018

KC history comes alive in Grandview classroom

by Mary Wilson

Not all high schoolers have the opportunity to learn about their own communities, but students at Grandview High School are receiving an education on Kansas City culture and history. Teachers Diane Euston and Mike Stringer, who teach English and history respectively, have combined forces to offer Grandview juniors and seniors a fresh and different perspective on local history and the influence of various cultures, events and circumstances that impacted the development of the area.

The course, Crossroads of America: Survey of Kansas City, exposes students to a seminar style, interdisciplinary study environment where both a social studies and an English teacher co-teach the class, offering insight to genealogical research with a secured grant through Ancestry.com, primary and secondary sources, document-based questions, scholarly publications and a culminating activity that will include a formal research paper over a chosen aspect of local history.

“We sort of handpicked the students,” said Euston. “It is an elective. We promised these ‘recruits’ that it would be fun and worth it. So far, so good. We were just so excited to have this opportunity to merge our passion of the history of Kansas City and share it in a unique way. We want students to be excited to learn about history, and challenge them as well. Even in Grandview, there is such a cool backdrop to the city. It's our goal to take these students back and time and have them uncover the past, survey the area and reflect on where we go from here.”

By partnering English and history together, the course develops a strong and mutually-supportive focus to benefit the students, school and community. The 25 students enrolled in the class will also have the opportunity for field experiences, including tours of local areas like Watts Mill, New Santa Fe, historical homes, the Battles of Westport and Island Mound, and the Grandview Bushwhacker Conflicts.

“I am really excited for when we do a tour of Grandview area, and I can show the kids where all these bushwhackers lived and the shady stuff they did back in the day,” said Euston. “Tim Reidy, Rockhurst High School teacher, guided us. He has been teaching a class on this for a while, and though we aren't doing the same thing as he is, there is no other public school that I know of in the metro area teaching a class like this; and certainly not with two teachers in this type of setting.”

This week, students in the class were creating a map of the Kansas City area from the 1850s, labeling key landmarks such as Kaw Point, Westport Landing, Fort Osage, Red Bridge and New Santa Fe, and the rivers that flow through the region.  Students can be creative and artistic, while learning about the community they are from.

“I’ve always wanted to learn more about our history. I’ve lived here for years, so why not learn more about the place you live in,” said senior Christabella Ramirez. “When I first came to the class, I didn’t even know anything about the Oregon Trail. We played the game and it was pretty fun. I did die a few times, but then I finally made it all the way through the game.”

Junior Nick Johnson said that while growing up in the area, he and his family would drive past different monuments or historical places, and he is getting the chance to learn the history behind them now.

“The high school I was at before didn’t really have a class like this, so it’s nice to be exposed to something new,” said Johnson. “I hope I can learn things and pass the experience onto my children and my family.”

Euston and Stringer knew of the need for new, innovative classes in the district, and thought that an interdisciplinary class proposal would fit the bill.

“The work that our teachers do each and every day is the driver in preparing our students for their futures,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Juan Cordova. “Grandview C-4 empowers teachers to find ways to reach today's students.  Our work in cultural competency, innovation classrooms, and a number of other initiatives are all designed to empower our teachers to be equipped for the students of today and prepared for those students to come.  By having teachers be a part of the curriculum and instruction process, we tap into those closest to students and all parties benefit from the work.”

“We were passionate about making this happen, and I think that passion shows when we teach together,” said Euston. “We wrote a class proposal, met with a committee and were approved last year. We hope that we can continue to learn and develop this class so it exists for years to come.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Grandview man charged in weekend homicide

On Sunday, January 14, Grandview Police were dispatched to the Arbors of Grandview apartment complex on report of a burned body found near a dumpster. The officers responded to 6715 E 119th Street, where they discovered a 27-year-old female victim from Grandview.

The victim, Lynnette Williams (dob: 05/26/90), suffered traumatic injuries and was burned. On Tuesday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker charged 27-year-old Kasanova Callier, of Grandview, with Murder 2nd Degree and Armed Criminal Action charges.

When officers arrived on the scene, they extinguished the fire and tracked where Williams’s body was dragged in the snow from an apartment complex stairwell nearby. They also found blood and heard from witnesses of a disturbance in the apartment where police had responded previously on domestic disturbances involving the victim and the defendant. The Medical Examiner advised the victim had suffered deep cuts to her throat and a stab wound to her abdomen. Callier's shoe was matched to a unique shoe print found near the drag marks at the crime scene. Evidence of blood was found in the apartment. Callier told Grandview detectives that Williams was a bad mother and she had tried to stab him so he had to kill her.

Prosecutors requested a bond of $250,000 cash.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Peace Ambassador visits Grandview High School

by Mary Wilson

Students in Amy Cameron’s class at Grandview High School are getting a lesson in peace this school year. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) selected Grandview teacher Amy Cameron to serve in the 2017 Peace Teachers Program. The Peace Teachers Program is rooted in the conviction that educators can be pivotal in bringing peace themes into their classrooms, schools and communities. At a time when violent conflict regularly dominates headlines, USIP believes that teachers are the key to helping young people obtain the knowledge, skills and perspectives to envision a more peaceful world and their part in creating it.

Recently, USIP’s executive vice president, Ambassador William B. Taylor, visited Grandview High School and met with Cameron and her students. Before working for USIP, Taylor was the special coordinator for Middle East Transitions in the U.S. State Department.  He oversaw assistance and support to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.  He served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

He also served as the U.S. government's representative to the Mideast Quartet, which facilitated the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.  He served in Baghdad as the first director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office from 2004 to 2005, and in Kabul as coordinator of international and U.S. assistance to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003.  Ambassador Taylor was also coordinator of U.S. assistance to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He earlier served on the staff of Senator Bill Bradley.

“I am so impressed with your school,” said Taylor. “As part of USIP’s role, we identify and look for ways to reduce conflicts around the globe. We also have a team that works in schools and educators in the United States and around the world.”

Cameron’s senior students were provided the opportunity to ask Ambassador Taylor questions ranging from how he became the Ambassador to how conflict can be resolved. Cameron wrote curriculum for her high school British and World Literature students using the book What Is the What, written by Dave Eggers, which is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese child refugee who immigrated to the United States under the Lost Boys of Sudan program. Last school year, after the students read the novel, Cameron invited a Lost Boy from Sudan to come and speak with her classes.

As part of the Peace Teachers Program, Cameron has received a number of resources to help her incorporate peace building into her everyday teaching. The other teachers selected for this year are from Montana, Florida and Oklahoma, and the four speak monthly to discuss what may or may not be working in their respective communities.

“Part of this is to show that peace and conflict can be incorporated into anything you teach,” said Megan Chabalowski, USIP’s Interim Director of Public Education. “It isn’t subject-based. Whether you teach math, Spanish, literature or social studies, there are ways to teach through a peace-building lens. The teachers that we choose can then serve as models to show what this could look like.”

Cameron will help develop strategies for other teachers to use to incorporate peace into their lessons. She has also written a reflection article that will be published on USIP’s website.

“We look for teachers who are passionate and go above and beyond for their students, which Amy obviously does,” said Chabalowski. “The idea of taking students and helping them to think outside of themselves and do something for their community is really important. When we talk about being a peace builder, that’s what it’s about. It’s about being responsible for creating a culture of peace in your school, your community and the world.”

Cameron will focus on bringing conflicts from around the world into the world of her students and find ways to relate them to the issues kids in Grandview are facing. Each day, her students will be asked how they can be effective peace builders in their school and community. For each individual student, the idea of peace can look very different.

“It could mean no more child abuse; that there is clean water; that we don’t mistreat animals. They all have different ideas of what peace should be,” said Cameron. “At the beginning of this, some of my kids were rather hopeless. A lot of them have said that conflict is just going to exist and there is nothing they can do.”

Cameron believes that her students are the ones who can make a difference, and it is up to them to instill peace and find conflict resolution. Every day, as she teaches World Literature, she explains to her students different perspectives and that the world is much bigger than the community they live in. Her classes will begin reading What Is the What in February.