Campus Connection: Volume V

Q&A's with some of the newest staff members on campus

December 4, 2018

Wingspan introduces you to some of the new staff members on campus.


Prachurjya Shreya

Throughout students’ educational careers, they are provided with feedback from their teachers. However, Wingspan’s Allie Lynn explains her opinion on the importance of doing the reverse; students giving their feedback to teachers.

Srivani Gandikota

From struggling to understand math in school, to now becoming a geometry teacher, Srivani Gandikota is looking forward to teaching on campus this year. Wingspan talked with the UT Arlington graduate about how her first couple weeks having her own classroom have been.

Wingspan: How have your first weeks at school been?

Gandikota: “It’s been pretty good. I student taught before and this is like nothing like it. It’s crazy how different it is once you’re actually in the field. There’s a lot less behavioral issues than with my previous school, but a lot more responsibilities when it comes to like workload and like you know just pre-planning lessons and stuff.”

Wingspan: What so far has been the most confusing or difficult thing on campus to adjust to?

Gandikota: “The most difficult thing, honestly, everything beens pretty smooth thanks to my team, like the staff. The other teachers have been really helping me out. But, if I didn’t have them, then I think being overwhelmed by all of the responsibilities of a teacher. Not in the classroom, the classroom just fine, but outside of the classroom. I need to get paperwork into the print shop in time so that all the lessons come printed out early because you have to give five or six days notice and creating new documents, stuff like that, just learning the system of the school. But, because of the great mentors and staff over here, it’s been pretty smooth.”

Wingspan: What is the most exciting thing that you think this school has?

Gandikota: “The most exciting thing, I think your teachers are really fun and laid back. The schools I went to were way stricter with dress code, with just discipline and everything in general. They’re more laid back and have like groups as opposed to just rows. Right now my desks are in rows for testing, but other than that I usually have them in groups of four. Basically all the classrooms do that, and they have engaging activities instead of boring notes.”

Wingspan: When did you really start to enjoy math?

Gandikota: “I hated math in the beginning just like everybody else. Because, I didn’t like doing something that was hard for me because I was used to things being easy for me. But once it got hard, my brother ,who’s five years older than me, started tutoring me in math and that’s when everything became clear and I started enjoying it. So then I was like oh my gosh, now that I get it, I can tutor other people and then they’re going to like math too.”

Wingspan: What was your favorite math in school?

Gandikota: “I liked algebra but then I got to college and I really liked calculus because you get to apply all that you learned to like real life scenarios.”

Wingspan: What inspired you to become a high school math teacher?

Gandikota: “You’re able to shape the lives of the students and sometimes their home life isn’t great and your the only person they can turn to. So, your like a guidance counselor and a teacher all in one and I think some people need that. If I can provide that to other people, to students, and I can help them make decisions to better their future then, I want to do that.”

Wingspan: What advice would you give to struggling students who need help with math?

Gandikota: “Ask a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions and that’s probably cliche, everyone says it, but it’s true. Just anything you’re confused about, if you have questions, asking is the best thing to do. Don’t feel shy just because you think your question is dumb. And try to come to tutorials whenever you can, if there’s no time for questions in class or if you need extra help.”

Wingspan: What would you say to students who say geometry will never be used in the real world?

Gandikota: “It will and geometry is all around you. Just because your unaware of it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And so I think that’s why I try to use real life scenarios in the classroom while I’m teaching it. You might not have to sit there and construct an angle, but you might have to notice it in the real world. And, being able to notice it will help you with that common sense and making better sense of your life.”

Wingspan: What is the most rewarding part about being a teacher?

Gandikota: “When students finally get a concept that they’ve been struggling with for so long. And they’re like oh I get it. That’s probably the best feeling in the world. You made that happen.”

Wingspan: Would you change your career if you could? If so, what would you change it to?

Gandikota: “I still want to stay in the education field, but I am working towards my masters and I want to teach college. So, still in the teaching field, just maybe slightly higher.”

Wingspan: What are you most looking forward to on campus this year?

Gandikota: “Bringing in my own ideas and activities, and having the students actually enjoy math instead of feeling like they’re forced into a class.”


Melody Tavallaee

After working as an EMT for 3 years, Laura Stubblefield is applying what she learned about medicine to teaching medical terminology on campus.

Laura Stubblefield

An EMT for three years, Laura Stubblefield is the school’s new Medical Terminology teacher. Stubblefield attended Baylor University and joins the Redhawk staff after 11 years of teaching elsewhere. Wingspan sat down with her to find out more about her and her medical background.

Wingspan: What made you come to Liberty to teach what you teach?

Stubblefield: “I have several coworkers that have moved into Frisco ISD, and they were very complementary, and this position became available.”

Wingspan: You teach Medical Terminology, is that because you have ever pursued a career in the medical field?

Stubblefield: “Yes, before I started teaching I was at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and that’s when I met my husband and we decided to have our two sons, and I wanted stay home in the evenings and on the weekends to participate with my children. So, I made the change.”

Wingspan: What is an EMT?

Stubblefield: “It’s an Emergency Medical Technician, it’s a certification you have to receive. I did it at Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, the original Scott and White, and I worked in the ER as an EMT.”

Wingspan: How long were you an EMT?

Stubblefield: “I did that for about three years.”

Wingspan: How intense was being an EMT?

Stubblefield: “Depends on the emergency, it’s an Emergency Medical Technician so it depends on the emergency. I worked in the ER and very intense things come into an ER so it’s life and death. That’s what made it so intense.”

Wingspan: Where did you work as an EMT and how did it affect your working environment? Didn’t you say you worked at the original Scott and White?

Stubblefield: “Yes, the original Scott and White in Temple Texas before there was a Scott and White on every corner, and I loved it! I loved it, it was the original hospital, and so everything came to Scott and White. Every emergency came to Scott and White.”

Wingspan: What do you enjoy about the medical field?

Stubblefield: “I like that you’re helping people lead a better life, you know, solve a problem and lead a better life.”

Wingspan: What do you enjoy about teaching high school students?

Stubblefield: “Well I think the subject matter for this course lends itself to a more mature student, so highschool level are the great years to teach the subject matter.”

Wingspan: What do you like about teaching medical terminology specifically?

Stubblefield: “Its all makes sense and it explains everything about the human body, and what you’re gonna learn in anatomy, what you’re going to do in Health Science and it lays a great foundation in your future.”

Wingspan: What is a career that you would have pursued if you hadn’t have been a teacher or an EMT?

Stubblefield: “I was in medical school so I was going to be a doctor and I was gonna go to one of the communities that was an outlying community that didn’t have a general practice doctor and serve as their physician in the town.”

Wingspan: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to your students looking to pursue a career in the medical field no matter what the career is?

Stubblefield: “Do something hands on, when I did the EMT certification, it was at the medical director at Scott and White. So why don’t you do that and see how it goes and see if you like it, and if you do then pursue it. So, I did it over the summer and he’s [Dr.Author C. Scott] like ‘Well we want you to work in the ER, so hands on work.”


Prachurjya Shreya

Ashley Benson

Wingspan: What are the challenges of teaching your new class?

Benson: “Well it’s the 5th prep that I have, which adds to my schedule, but actually it’s just another marketing course and there’s so much material for it that actually makes it fun and easy.”

Wingspan: What certifications do you have?

Benson: “I’m certified in marketing education and also business education.”

Wingspan: What are your feelings toward teaching this new subject this year?

Benson: “I’m actually kind of excited about it because I’m never ever bored teaching a new class and it’s something that talks more about current issues which can be used  in our curriculum so it always makes it interesting.”

Wingspan: Do you think all students should take an advertising/marketing class?

Benson: “I think all students should take at least one marketing class if they’re interested in getting a business major and it just lets them explore the industry a little bit more.”

Wingspan: What is your background that qualifies you to teach this course?

Benson: “Well, my undergraduate degree is in marketing, so in college I took probably two or three advertising classes. I also have my master’s in business.”

Wingspan: Are you the only teacher to teach advertising classes?

Benson: “I’m the only one that is certified to teach marketing and advertising on this campus.”

Wingspan: Would you say this class adds on more stress compared to last yearRachael

Benson: “It’s another prep with different curriculum, but it’s so similar to the other marketing classes that I teach that it’s not like a totally new course.”

Wingspan: In what ways do you feel that this new class will benefit students here?

Benson: “I feel like any business marketing class would benefit all kids greatly and help them expand their horizons, as well as guide them into the field which they want to pursue beyond high school and college.”

Wingspan: How do you think teaching this class will better your experiencing as a teacher?

Benson: “The ways that this class would be able to benefit me is just the fact I’m helping these kids have a better understanding of the business world, as well as being able to guide them in their lifelong interests.”

Wingspan: Lastly, do you plan on teaching this course from here on forward?

Benson: “You know, I’m gonna have to see where this year takes us but I have really high hopes for this course.”


Melody Tavallaee

English teacher David Barr looks forward to year of building relationships with students through English.

David Barr

Beyond the more than 500 freshmen that are new to campus, there are also quite a few new staff members. One of those is Pre-AP and English 3 teacher David Barr who graduated from UNT.

Wingspan sat down with Barr recently to get his thoughts on being a Redhawk, his favorite books, and what he’s looking forward to the rest of the year.

Wingspan: Which college did you go to and why do you teach what you teach?

Barr: “So I went to Oklahoma State University and I majored in Sports Media. My last semester during OSU I decided I didn’t want to pursue a career in sports journalism and I actually wanted to become a English teacher. I picked journalism because I always loved to read and write and I love sports so I wanted to do both of those. However I realized I didn’t love sports as much as I thought. So, I went to the University of North Texas to get my Masters Degree in Teaching.”

Wingspan: What would you like to accomplish during this year?

Barr: “Yeah that’s a great question, I think my biggest thing I would want to accomplish is just to really establish relationships with each of my students. Even if English isn’t their favorite just to kind of encourage them to start thinking about what they love to do and just help them, talk to them and hear what it is they are really interested in.”  

Wingspan: What is your favorite type(s)/ genres of books?

“Yeah, I mostly love to read fiction and love a good detective story, but I also love science fiction. Most of the books I read are kind of hard to classify, but definitely detective novels and science fiction as well.”

Wingspan: On the top of your head can you think of five books (that is not a series)?

Barr: “That are not in a series! Ok, my favorite books is this book called Snow Crash it’s about a hacker, its set in the future. There is another book called Motherless Brooklyn that’s about a detective who has Tourettes Syndrome. That’s really good. There’s a book called The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. That’s probably my favorite book of all time! It’s about these two guys writing comic books right when comic books really took off in America. It’s a fiction story, but it’s based on the lives of the two guys who created Superman. It’s a really, really cool book. Then, so five, ok so two more. There’s oh no that’s in a series. The book I am reading right now is called Wonder Boys it’s about a guy trying to write a novel, he’s having a hard time finishing his book. It’s like two thousand pages long and he can’t end it. He has no idea how to get an end. The fifth book … this is so hard… I’ll say… there is just so many books. There’s a book called White Tears that’s about these two record producers in Brooklyn who end up being haunted by the spirit of blues music. It is really weird, but really good.”

Wingspan: How has has your past experiences shaped how you teach today?

Barr: “So, I was not a great student, but I always responded to teachers who engaged us in a way that that kind of beyond the subject. So, English was a good subject for me always it was fun because we got to talk about either real life or make connections to like movies we had seen. Things like that and that’s something I always want to try to do, use the creative thinking that goes with english encourage some interesting discussions that goes beyond just the books we are reading in class.”

Wingspan: What school event are most excited for this year?

Barr: “Great question, man I don’t know. I’m hoping to, I know a lot of my students are in band or orchestra. So, going to one of their concerts or something like that. I’ll definitely hit one football game, but I’d love to go to a concert. I was in band in high school and OSU as well. So, I’d love to see what Liberty is doing in those departments.”

Wingspan: Lastly, since you are new, what have you experienced so far that is different from other schools you’ve taught at?

Barr: “What I really love about Liberty already is not just that all the kids are so motivated but I love how motivated the staff is to help everyone out. Being new to the school there a lot of things about teaching that i’m just kind of new to. It’s so early in my career and everyone is so so supportive and just really want to help me become better and they are willing to take the time to think though that.”


Melody Tavallaee

Students in pre-AP Biology classes such as those of teacher Kristen Newton are learning how to write a science based research paper over a health problem in today’s society.

Kristen Newton

After going through a long journey with many different jobs, a new teacher among many joins the campus to teach science after a lot of teachers left the school last year. Wingspan sat down with Kristen Newton to hear her thoughts and the new ideas she hopes to bring to Liberty.

Wingspan: So, what classes do you teach currently?

Newton: “So right now, I’m teaching Anatomy and Physiology. And then I also teach PAP Biology.”

Wingspan: What college did you go to?

Newton: “I went to the University of Texas at Austin and I did my Bachelor’s degree there in Exercise Physiology. And then, I did a Master’s degree at University of Texas at Dallas.”

Wingspan: Have you always wanted to teach?

Newton: “Kind of, I always like things related to teaching, like coaching, tutoring, and babysitting. It wasn’t until I was about three years into college that I realized that.”

Wingspan: If there was no aspect of teaching of some sort, what job occupation would you want?

Newton: “I would probably do something involved with writing, or something with publishing and writing.”

Wingspan: If you could pick one person, who would you say was most influential and inspiring to you during your journey to teaching?

Newton: “I’d have to say, my dad. Even though he’s not a teacher, he’s just very good at explaining things, and taking a really complex idea and just breaking it down. Seeing him doing that every day because he’s a doctor, I think influences me a lot and how I teach.”

Wingspan: So this is your first year, do you have any new ideas that you want to bring to campus?

Newton: “Yes, I really, really, want to try a project based lesson. And that’s where you take a whole concept and like right now in my biology class, we’re studying the organic molecules. You structure the class very differently. We’re working on one project with one outcome, but the students have a lot of freedom and how they study it. You would be learning all of those concepts that we’re supposed to be learning anyways, it’s just directed towards an actual situation where you’re solving a problem.”

Wingspan: When do you think that you’re going to be able to establish this idea?

Newton: “I think I’ll be able to get that in anatomy by the end of the year. Whereas in biology, y’all have that big EOC. So, it might take me a year to maybe get that implemented in my biology classes.”

Wingspan: What do you do when you have free time?

Newton: “I love watching Netflix. Hiking, walk on trails, I have a dog. He occupies a lot of my free time. And then, I’m really close with my family.”

Wingspan: So, I know it’s only been a short while, but what do you like the best, so far about working here?

Newton: “I would say that the kind of team directedness of the teachers here has been really awesome. I don’t feel like I’m left all on my own. Ever. As a brand new teacher, I have a lot of support and people working with me to make sure that I’m delivering content the best way I can.”

Wingspan: Putting aside being supportive, what do you think are the most important qualities for someone in your position?

Newton: “I think being flexible is very important. Because obviously being organized and having a plan is a good thing as a teacher, but you also have to be very okay with changing that plan.. That’s just how teaching and learning happen at different rates for different people.”

Wingspan: Would you say you have more of a fixed or growth mindset?

Newton: “I would definitely say the second. I think there’s always room for change. I don’t want to say I’m hard on myself, but I definitely challenge myself. None of us are perfect. You can always learn something new. Do it a different way, get better somehow.”

Wingspan: Did you have another job before this?

Newton: “I’ve had a bunch of weird jobs since I started college. I worked at a doctor’s office because I was kind of interested in the medical field. And then I trained at a facility in Austin, where they worked with professional athletes. When I moved back home to Dallas, I worked at a company called Stretch-n-Grow. And then I was worked as a teaching assistant at UTD while I was a grad student.”

Wingspan: What would you say is your biggest pet peeve and why?

Newton: “Biggest pet peeve is when people just don’t try. I can understand being frustrated and not doing something right the first time, but whenever someone just totally gives up on themselves. That makes me sad and disappointed. It’s when you quit trying that frustrates me.”

Wingspan: So, to this day, what is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?

Newton: “Most probably finishing a graduate level degree. I was really ready to be done with school, but I pushed through.”


Kia Dunlop

Choir director Toni Ugolini works at her computer as she adjusts to teaching at a high school level.

Toni Ugolini

Along with the many new faces this year, the school has a new choir director in Toni Ugolini. Teaching in the Lewisville ISD at Arbor Creek Middle School for the last six years, this is Ugolini’s first time teaching in a high school.

Recently, Ugolini sat down with Wingspan to discuss her goals for the choirs, and her transition.

Wingspan: How long have you been teaching?

Ugolini: “Overall, this will be year 13. So I have finished 12 full years.”

Wingspan: Why did you go into teaching choir?

Ugolini: “I always loved choir. I loved that it was a place where we work hard together, where we are a team. No matter what your individual ability level is, you can participate and be apart of a group. I’ve always loved music and so I figured going into that as a profession and giving other students the same kind of experience I had would be a really cool way to spend my life.”

Wingspan: Why did you decide to come to campus?

Ugolini: “I had done the middle school thing, I wanted to really move up to high school and see that next level. When Liberty opened, it was an awesome opportunity so I jumped at it.”

Wingspan: So far do you prefer teaching middle schoolers or high schoolers?

Ugolini: “That’s so hard to say. There are definitely pros and cons to each but I like that there’s a higher maturity level with high schoolers and that you are capable of doing some more complicated pieces.”

Wingspan: What are your goals for this year’s choir?

Ugolini: “To have a successful year of growth. My goal with the choir is that everybody is a better singer than when they walked in the room on day one and that they have a really good time. Also I want when we perform in public for people when they hear us to know we’re from Liberty, because of how professional we are and how good we sound, ‘Oh, that must be a Liberty choir!’”

Wingspan: What is your ideal environment, student wise?

Ugolini: “I’d love to have, 70 people per choir, because I think that’s just so much fun to have a huge group. So ideally that’d be that and then just having a group that is positive and works really hard.”

Wingspan: What image would you like your students to portray?

Ugolini: “I want people to leave my room looking happy. So they’re coming down the hallway, kind of singing as they leave the room, ‘They must be a choir kid!’ And I want people to recognize us by how professional we sound.”

Wingspan: Is there anything you are anxious about this year?

Ugolini: “The fact that the expectation of our choirs are going to to be higher than it was in middle school, and learning all the new repertoire.”

Wingspan: Has it been difficult moving schools?

Ugolini: “Yes, everybody does everything a little bit differently from attendance to gradebooks. I’ve gotten lost like three times, but just even the standard stuff that any freshman might be going through is about the same things that I am.”

Wingspan: What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?

Ugolini: “I mean, like how everybody does stuff differently. You think you know how to put your grades in the grade book and now it’s a completely different system. So what used to take maybe two minutes now takes you 15 or 20 minutes. It gradually will get faster but that’s been the hardest part.”

Wingspan: Outside of school what do you like doing?

Ugolini: “I like decorating cookies with royal icing and I like to watch Netflix.”


Kasey Harvey

Yearbook and photojournalism advisor Kimberly Breen has taken the place of former advisor Carole Babineaux this year after retiring from the Dallas Morning news as a journalist.

Kim Breen

Taking over for the retired Carole Babineaux as yearbook and photojournalism teacher, Kim Breen worked as a journalist for 20 years before deciding it was time for her to start a new career. Growing up, she always wanted to be a teacher, and photojournalism was perfect for her because of her journalism experience and degree.

Wingspan: Which college did you go to and what did you major in?

Breen: “I went to St. Michael’s College. It’s a small school in Vermont. I had a double major in Political Science and Journalism.”

Wingspan: Why did you become a teacher and or have you always wanted to be one?

Breen: “I wanted to be a teacher when I was little, but then after I went to college, I decided to be a journalist because I also like to write. So I was  journalist for 20 years and then I decided that this is a good time for me to pursue a second career, which I knew would be teaching.”

Wingspan: Why a photojournalism teacher?

Breen: “I’m certified in journalism and so yeah I enjoy photography and I love the idea of working with the yearbook kids. So it’s a photojournalism slash yearbook.”

Wingspan: How has it been at this campus so far? Has it been difficult settling is or easy?

Breen: “I think any new job comes with challenges, but it’s been great. Everybody’s been super helpful and the kids have been great and I’m loving it so far.”

Wingspan: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenges that teachers face today?

Breen: “Just having enough time to get everything done. You know their is just a lot of time constraints and there is just a lot to do and not a lot of time which I’ve learned, switching careers, it’s been a big eye opener.”

Wingspan: What part of this job are you looking forward to?

Breen: “I’m looking forward to watching kids grow their skills in photography and then watching the journalism or the yearbook kids integrate yearbook at the end of the year.”

Wingspan: If someone were to walk into your classroom on a typical day, what would they see going on?

Breen: “Right now we’re doing a lot of talking about photojournalism and looking at pictures and why they’re effective and how to make good pictures. But soon I hope you’ll see when you come into the classroom, everybody with a camera working on a project. Working on photography.”

Wingspan: What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

Breen: “I have two kids and a husband. And so we like to go to soccer games and stuff for the kids a lot. I like to read, I like to go to the movies. I love Disney World, so we try to go there every year.”

Wingspan: What were you like as a student?

Breen: “As a high school student I know I would always come to school really late. I was always never very  good at waking up on time. Or i’d get to school on time with my hair be frozen solid because I grew up in Connecticut and I’d be driving to school at the last minute. But I always had I had pretty good grades in high school. I’d say I was a pretty conscientious student. I loved to write in high school.”

Wingspan: You said that you’ve always wanted to become a teacher, did someone influence you?

Breen: “I have had a lot of great teachers over the years, both in school and then in my profession. And so I think just so many different teachers who weren’t necessarily teachers you know like they aren’t going out in a teaching profession but when you’re in the real world people teach you everything all the time. Well when you’re in school people who aren’t teachers teach you things all the time, life lessons. So I’ve had so many people have helped me so much and so I feel like this is a way for me to give back a little bit of what I’ve gotten.”

Wingspan: If there is any grade or age that you would not want to teach, which would it be?

Breen: “I don’t know enough about it. I’m not sure,I think it would be fun working with little kids. I mean my kids are 8 and 10 and so I always thought, I always love babies and preschool or so, I dont know I’m not sure.”

Wingspan: Would you describe yourself as a “tough” teacher or an “understanding” teacher? Explain.

Breen: “I think that I’m an understanding teacher. I think in photojournalism if you show me that you’ve done some work then I think you’ll be fine.”

Wingspan: What would you do if a student was complaining about an assignment you’ve given?

Breen: “Well I’d try not to waste class time having a debate over specific assignments but I think pretty much everything I assign has a reason so I think I’d have a you know, pretty concise answer to tell them why we’re doing what we’re doing. But if it’s just a debate, it would just be difficult, it would be an after class discussion.”

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