New Jersey Names New Department of Education Head

The former superintendent of Morris County schools in New Jersey, Angelica Allen-McMillan, will take over the state Department of Education as hundreds of school districts face uncertainty in the COVID-19 pandemic, says Gov. Phil Murphy. With case counts rising, Allen-McMillan may quickly find herself immersed in pandemic response as she settles into the new role as education commissioner. “We have been knocked down and continue to stumble on occasion as we work to stand tall in our fight against COVID-19,” Allen-McMillan says. “I ask you to remember that this is not as formidable as our resolve, and definitely not indomitable when challenged by our effort.”

Fears of a Mass Exodus of Retiring Teachers During COVID-19 May Have Been Overblown

Last summer, one-third of teachers told Education Week they were “somewhat” or “very likely” to leave their job this year, compared with 8 percent who leave the profession in a typical year. But while that survey might have reflected teachers’ feelings over the summer, a review of the retirement and staffing figures collected in some of the first states to resume classes suggests that fears of a mass exodus may have been overblown. In Tennessee, 1,307 teachers filed retirement applications through September. That figure is down 31 percent from the same period last year. In Indiana, the 1,572 teachers who retired through September represent a 5 percent decrease from the number who retired last year. All told, the state Teacher Retirement System reported 5,728 retirements between April and early August, a 4 percent increase over the same period last year.

Kansas History Teacher Buries Artifacts in Students’ Desks

In an effort to engage his students, Keil Hileman, a history teacher at Monticello Trails Middle School in Shawnee, KS, teaches history through artifacts. His classroom holds over 50,000 artifacts—75 percent of which were donated. His students get hands-on education with them, including bones, candlesticks, pieces of iron, photos, and sculptures. Each custom-made desk in his classroom holds sand and digging tools so that his students can “discover” some of the artifacts on their own. Hileman tells stories while his students examine the pieces, and history comes alive. “In a normal history class, you don’t see this kind of stuff,” says Hunter Springer, a former student of Hileman’s. “You read it from a book and get tested over it and then you just forget about it. By using these artifacts, you get more of a feeling about how these people lived.”

Public School Kids From Chicago Record a Top-Selling Mariachi Album

César Maldonado was born in Chicago to two Mexican immigrants; he excelled in school and became a successful investment banker. He wanted to give back to his neighborhood, and he remembered that his school never offered music classes. Maldonado decided he could make a difference for the next generation of young Mexican-Americans. Maldonado did not have a music background, except for a deep appreciation for mariachi music, thanks to his parents. So, he founded the Mariachi Heritage Foundation (MHF). As part of one of MHF’s programs, 16 students ages 11–18 were chosen by audition to take part in creating the group’s debut album, “Nuestra Herencia” (“Our Heritage”). After only about a year of playing together, the group released their album, which reached No. 2 top Latin album on iTunes and nabbed a Latin Grammy nomination in the best ranchero/mariachi album category. “It’s beyond anything we thought to accomplish,” Maldonado told NBC Latino, adding that the group also played at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. “These kids have a passion for the music.”

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