Friday, October 29, 2010

Deadline to Apply for Idaho Science & Aerospace Scholars Program is Nearing...

The deadline for students to apply for the second year of the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program is nearing.

This competitive program provides an unprecedented opportunity for Idaho students to take an engaging online course in space exploration and learn a broad range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and work side-by-side with STEM experts from NASA and from right here in Idaho.

High juniors interested in participating must apply by November 15, 2010.

So what is the program all about?

The Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars (ISAS) is a competitive program that allows high school juniors to take an engaging online NASA-developed course on Space Exploration that teaches a broad range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills aligned with Idaho Content Standards. Based on their course performance, scholars may be selected to participate in an expense-paid, resident academy at NASA Ames Research Center in California.

The ISAS Coursework is offered online through Idaho Digital Learning Academy from January through May. This graded course consists of eight online units and a semester project that allow students to build their knowledge of NASA, space exploration and their relationship to Idaho STEM. Master educators will work with students online throughout the course. At the completion of the course, students will have the opportunity to participate in the ISAS Capstone Celebration, a regional gathering with other scholars, at universities and other locations throughout the state. Based on their performance in this course, students may also be selected to participate in an expense-paid, week-long residential academy at NASA Ames Research Center in California and Boise State University. Students will receive one science credit for successful completion of online coursework.

The ISAS Summer Academy is offered to select students who are top performers in the online course. At the residential Summer Academy students will be exposed to math, science, engineering and technology mentors and master educators at NASA Ames Research Center in California and Boise State University. They will undertake a mentored team aerospace mission and will be immersed in hands-on Idaho STEM activities.

So if you know of any high school juniors who have a passion for STEM subjects, please urge them to apply for this outstanding program.  Remember, the application deadline is November 15, 2010.

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Melba Teacher Wins $25,000 National Teaching Award

BOISE – A 6th grade teacher in Melba received the 2010 Milken Educator Award for Idaho during a surprise assembly Tuesday morning.

Carmen Larrinaga, a teacher at Melba Elementary School, won the $25,000 prestigious award from the Milken Family Foundation for her innovative work in the classroom to raise student achievement and to keep students engaged. Along with the financial award, Larrinaga will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to participate in the Milken National Education Conference focused on solutions to America’s pressing challenges in education today.

“I am honored to present Carmen Larrinaga with the prestigious Milken Educator of the Year Award. Through her work in the classroom each and every day, she serves as a great example of the highly effective and hard-working educators we have across Idaho,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “I also want to thank the Milken Family Foundation for continuing to recognize excellent teachers in Idaho and across the United States.”
Superintendent Tom Luna with 2010 Milken Educator of the Year Carmen Larrinaga in her classroom.
Larrinaga’s identity was kept secret until Superintendent Luna announced the award during a school-wide assembly at Melba Elementary School on Tuesday morning. Superintendent Luna was joined by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, State Board Member Milford Terrell, Dr. Jane Foley of the Milken Family Foundation, Melba School District Superintendent Andrew Grover, and Melba Elementary School Principal Sherry Ann Adams.
“I’d like to extend my congratulations to another outstanding Idaho teacher. Today’s recognition by the Milken Family Foundation again affirms that Idaho is home to some of our nation’s best educators. Carmen Larrinaga is a true asset to her students and the entire community,” Governor Otter said.
As Milken Educator of the Year, Larrinaga receives $25,000!

Larrinaga is now one of 12 educators in Idaho who have received the prestigious Milken Educator Award since Idaho joined the Milken program in 2003. More than 2,500 educators have received the award nationwide.

“Thank you so much. Teaching in Melba is such a blessing,” Larrinaga said after the announcement. “It has been a great seven-plus years. I’m looking forward to many more years and many more great students.”
Larrinaga accepting her award during a surprise assembly in Melba.

The Milken Family Foundation was established in 1982 to discover and advance inventive and effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. The Foundation advances this mission primarily through its work in education and medical research. For more information about the Milken Family Foundation, please visit

Here's more about Carmen Larrinaga.

Carmen Larrinaga, 29, has been a classroom teacher for seven years. Though she has only been in the profession a short time, Principal Sherry Ann Adams says Larrinaga’s “classroom performance exceeds what is typically seen from a new teacher.”

“Carmen creates and maintains a classroom environment that encourages students to perform at high levels both academically and socially,” Adams said. “Carmen is always willing to step up and help out whenever and wherever needed to make our school more successful.”

In addition to being a classroom teacher, Larrinaga serves on the district technology committee and helped the school and district implement a new student management program. She helps mentor new teachers, and her colleagues recognize she works well with all students, including students with special needs and limited English proficient (LEP) students.

~ Melissa M. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Idaho State Board Honors Schools for Academic Achievement

Members of the Idaho State Board of Education are traveling across Idaho this month to recognize a handful of Idaho schools for making significant strides in raising student achievement over the past two years.

Eleven schools earned the 2010 Additional Yearly Growth Award and just two schools have been named Distinguished Schools this year.

Superintendent Luna was in Coeur d’Alene on Friday to recognize Winton Elementary School for its Additional Yearly Growth Award.  He celebrated Whittier Elementary School’s Distinguished School Award this morning in Boise.
Whittier Elementary Principal Derek Gardner and State Superintendent Tom Luna
“Idaho is a national leader,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction and State Board member Tom Luna. “Our success is not a coincidence. It takes teamwork and focus. The schools awarded today are examples of dedicated teachers, hard-working students and involved parents. I'm proud to celebrate Idaho's public school success.”

Idaho State Board of Education President Richard Westerberg said, “These schools show us that our students, teachers, administrators- everyone involved- can perform at a high level.”

To be honored with an Additional Yearly Growth Award, a school must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for two consecutive years and show a minimum of a ten percent improvement in one of the forty-one subcategories.

The top five percent of schools who meet the above criteria earn a Distinguished School designation.

Here’s the full list of award winners this year.

Schools honored this year with an Additional Yearly Growth Award include:
  • Mountain View Elementary- Cassia County Schools- Reading Hispanic Students
  • Hailey Elementary- Blaine County Schools- Reading in Hispanic Students
  • Hailey Elementary-Blaine County Schools- Reading in students on Free/Reduced Lunch
  • Peregrine Elementary- Meridian School District- Math in Special Education students
  • Horizon Elementary- Jerome School District- Math in students on Free/Reduced Lunch
  • Downey Elementary-Marsh Valley School District-Math in white students
  • Jefferson Elementary- Pocatello/Chubbuck School District- Reading in students on Free/Reduced Lunch
  • Winton Elementary-Coeur d'Alene School District- Math in students on Free/Reduced Lunch
  • Priest River Lamanna High School- West Bonner County Schools- Math in students on free/reduced lunch
  • Priest River Lamanna High School-West Bonner County Schools-Math in white students
  • Whittier Elementary-Boise School District- Math in Hispanic Students
Distinguished Schools:
  • Peregrine Elementary in the Meridian School District- Math in Special Education Students
  • Whittier Elementary in the Boise Independent School District- Math in Hispanic Students
Visit the State Board of Education website for more information. Congratulations to these outstanding schools!

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Celebrates Idaho’s Progress in Farm to School Program

Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton was in Boise this morning to salute Idaho’s efforts to support Farm to School programs, a key component of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to help children across America get a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it gets to their plates in the school cafeteria.

Four schools and districts in Idaho were recently selected to pilot Farm to School programs in the state through a federal grant. The program is run by the Idaho State Departments of Education and Agriculture.

“It’s vital that we provide our children with nutritious meals so they are able to learn and thrive,” said Thornton. “And incorporating local produce into school menus is a wonderful way to ensure that they have access to the fruits and vegetables that are such an important part of a healthy diet.”

On Tuesday, the Deputy Under Secretary joined staff from the Child Nutrition Programs at the State Department of Education to eat lunch with students at Boise’s Whitney Elementary School, which features a Healthful Choice Bar with a variety of locally grown fruits, vegetables and grain products.

Idaho implemented new, more nutritious standards for all school meals in Fall 2009.

~ Melissa M.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Superintendent Luna Helps Dedicate New COSSA Regional Center

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna joined superintendents from five Idaho school districts and dignitaries in Canyon and Owyhee counties in dedicating the new COSSA Regional Technical and Educational Center. 

Founded in 1969, the Canyon-Owyhee School Service Agency (COSSA) is a consortium of five school districts that pooled resources in an effort to provide services that were financially impossible for each district to provide individually: special education, an alternative high school, and professional-technical education.

COSSA annually serves more than 1,100 students:

In previous years, COSSA provided these services at multiple locations throughout the two counties and five school districts – Homedale, Marsing, Notus, Parma and Wilder.  Now, COSSA cut the ribbon on a new facility in Wilder that will not only provide new and improve classrooms but also a central location for all these services, significantly reducing transportation costs.

The new COSSA Regional Technical and Educational Center has truly been a community effort, COSSA’s executive director Mark Cotner explained.

The Wilder School District donated the land for the facility, valued at more than $200,000, and local community member Rob Roberts who owns R&M Steel donated all the steel that went into constructing the building, amounting to a $400,000 donation!

Many others from Superintendent Luna, Rep. Darrell Bolz and Congressman Walt Minnick to the Idaho Department of Labor and Sage Community Resources worked to see this project through to the end.

The new facility will house:
  • Professional-Technical (PTE) Programs
  • Health Professions Medical Records
  • Engineering Design and Automation
  • Business Education
  • Centerpoint Alternative Jr/Sr High School
  • COSSA Administrative Services
  • Special Education & Gifted/Talented Administrative Services
~ Melissa M.