Klein Oak Art Teacher Spreads Goodwill in the Philippines
Last November, Klein Oak Art Teacher Melanie Leslie traveled to the island of Cebu in the Philippines to propose a micro-enterprise project called “Hope and a Future” for the children of the town of Dumanjug to help fund education beyond the high school years.
To help Melanie in her goal of supporting education in Dumanjug, the Klein Oak National Art Honor Society raised enough money in their annual Empty Bowls Auction to award "Hope and a Future" $600 to kick off their project.
Through “Hope and a Future,” Melanie utilized recycled materials to build a vertical organic vegetable garden that students in Dumanjug will tend and market to individuals and businesses in their village and surrounding areas. Along the way, the children will receive support and assistance from adults committed to the program’s success.
Melanie shared some additional info on the project in a recent Q&A session.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and how you became involved with the “Hope and a Future” project.
A: I’m an art teacher at Klein Oak High School and have been here since 2011. Before that, I taught art courses at Houston Baptist University for 19 years. I have been active in Houston’s art community in many roles, including exhibiting and teaching workshops at art leagues and museums around the city. A single parent for many years, I have two children who are both graduates of Texas A&M. My family on my mom’s side were strong advocates of education, so it has always been a big priority.
My son was in the Army when 9/11 occurred, causing my daughter and me to become extremely concerned for his safety and well-being. That Christmas, we made a special point of reaching out to others through the Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox Project. This is how we met a family in Cebu, Philippines whose little boy, Jungie, received the box. Because he was so small, his father wrote a thank you note explaining that he had never had a toy before because of their poverty. This began a correspondence that has spanned more than 15 years.
Q: Tell us more about the project. What is it’s mission & purpose? How is it making a difference?
A: A few years ago, Jungie graduated from high school and had a dream of becoming a pilot. I became acutely aware that the children growing up on this under-resourced island had few if any opportunities to pursue an education beyond a public education. The idea of trying to save for college is not on their radar because they are fully focused on day-to-day survival.
I began trying to find ways to help Jungie finance his education so that, as the eldest sibling, he could make the same possible for his brothers and sisters. That is how “Hope and a Future” was born.
Q: How are you able to use this experience in your daily life, and with your students?
A: It makes me ever mindful of the wonderful opportunities students in America have, and makes me want to help kids in other places in the world have some of the same opportunities. I hope that by being a role model for causes such as this, I can instill in my students a sincere appreciation for what they have and a desire to invest in others who will benefit so much from a little care and kindness. I keep pictures of my “Philippine kids” in my room as a reminder that we can make a difference in someone else’s lives.
Klein ISD is excited to announce
that the Board of Trustees approved a shared vision for the district in
January: In Klein ISD, EVERY student enters with a PROMISE and exits
with a PURPOSE. We will achieve this vision by focusing on the following
- Pathways: We will utilize a dynamic, guaranteed, and viable curriculum and provide every student with a rich, relevant, and clear pathway to success.
- Challenge: We will focus on the whole student so that every student will "level up" and engage in rigorous learning and build excellent character.
- Equity: We will close gaps by personalizing learning by knowing every student by name, strength, and need.
- Leadership: We will retain, attain, and grow excellent leaders throughout our system so that every student learns in a quality environment.
- Continuous Improvement: We will gather feedback from every voice to eliminate silos, build strategic partnerships, and foster a culture of learning.
“Our shared vision guides the
work we do every day with and for our students,” Klein ISD Superintendent Bret
Champion said. “It defines what we are aspiring to for each of our
students in our system.”
Along with the shared vision,
collaborative district groups have been formulating guiding documents that
define three critical components for successful learning. These documents were
designed with input from Klein ISD students, alumni, parents, teachers, clergy,
business owners, community members, state leaders and others, and will be
presented to the Klein ISD Board of Trustees for approval in April.
While the guiding documents are
under construction, a plan to make our shared vision a reality in every corner
of the district is being created, as well. In January, the district
initiated a call for participants to design a strategic plan to make our shared
vision a reality for every student in Klein ISD. More than 600 people applied
to be part of this critically important work, and almost 70 people were
selected to serve on this team that will develop strategies for each of the
five targets above, and guide our work as educators.
As part of their work, the
strategic planning team is learning together by reading The Innovator’s
Mindset by George Couros and other articles that push their thinking about
providing a meaningful, engaging, and relevant education that prepares our
students for their purpose.
We want the Klein ISD community to join us on this journey. Visit the
Promise2Purpose Vision website at http://vision.kleinisd.net/ and send us
your thoughts using the Let’s Talk dialogue tool located on the district
this year’s annual Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA)
Conference, the Klein ISD communications and planning department was again
recognized as a stand out department in many categories, also earning two
coveted Crystal commendations.
is the second consecutive year that we have been awarded a Crystal,” said Judy
Rimato, Klein ISD associate superintendent for communications and planning.
“This top award is not easy to earn and we are thrilled to see our efforts as a
team turn in to such a big accomplishment.”
year, the department earned 11 awards including two Crystal commendations, one
Crystal certificate of merit, two gold
stars, two silver stars, and two bronze stars for their for their
graphic design, writing, video packages, and more. The Crystal commendations
were received for larger projects including the annual staff recognition
banquet and the retirement celebration for former Klein ISD Superintendent, Dr.
addition, this is the second consecutive year that the district’s Paint the
Community with Peace project has been awarded a gold star.
think it’s great that this project continues to grow each year and those
efforts are recognized with an award from our communication peers,” said Kate
Hope, Klein ISD communications supervisor and co-lead on the Paint the
Community with Peace project. “We know that this project is unique and we are
fortunate to continue receiving this type of honor.”
for the awards are divided into three divisions based on the number of students
in the district, under 10,000 students; 10,000 – 30,000; and over 30,000
students. Independent judges review all award submission and score each entry
based on set criteria; therefore awarding bronze, silver, and gold stars.
have an amazing and talented team that understands the importance of telling
the Klein ISD story,” said Rimato. “Winning such prestigious awards year after
year shows the dedication of the team.”
to thirteen Klein ISD Destination Imagination (DI) teams that will be advancing
to the State competition set to take place in Lubbock in early April. DI is an
educational experience that works with students to teach the skills needed in
school and in their careers beyond. Project-based learning programs blend
science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education with the arts and
social skills. Teams listed in red are advancing to the state competition. For
more information on DI, click here.