Campus Connections takes a look at some of the newest staff members on campus. (Maddie Owens)
Campus Connections takes a look at some of the newest staff members on campus.

Maddie Owens

Campus Connection: volume VII

December 12, 2020

Nearly twenty new staff members are on campus for the 2020-2021 school year and every day in Campus Connection, Wingspan introduces you to one of the newest Redhawks.

Curtis+Henderson

Michael Martin

He’s not necessarily new to campus, but he was gone for a few years. Curtis Henderson is back as a Redhawk for the first time back since 2015. Wingspan recently caught up with Henderson to talk about his experiences as a teacher, and what brought him back to campus.

Curtis Henderson

He’s not necessarily new to campus, but he was gone for a few years. But Curtis Henderson is back as a Redhawk for the first time back since 2015. Wingspan recently caught up with Henderson to talk about his experiences as a teacher, and what brought him back to campus.

 

Wingspan: First of all, how long have you worked at Liberty, and what do you teach?

Henderson: “This is my 4th year at Liberty technically. I started as a paraprofessional in the SAIL program at Heritage in 2009 for 2 years then we moved to Liberty. In 2015 I got a teaching job at Staley Middle School in SBS and then this year I got to come back to be a teacher in the SAIL room that I was a para in to start.”

Wingspan: What subject did you enjoy most when you were in school?

Henderson: “My favorite subject in school was history probably. It was easy because it doesn’t change. It’s just dates. Plus there was always a movie to watch in history class.”

Wingspan: Have you always wanted to be a teacher? If so, is there a reason, and if not, what did you intend to be? 

Henderson: “When I started I wanted to be a coach most of all. I always grew up wanting to coach but I sort of fell into SPED and found out I am pretty good at it so that’s where I am still today.”

Wingspan: Secondly, what is your number one fear about your job and/or working with students?

Henderson: “I don’t really have any fears about the line of work I’m in. After doing this for 12 years, there really isn’t anything I haven’t heard, been called, or seen that would surprise me.”

Wingspan: Do you feel any obligation towards the people you teach? 

Henderson: “I would say yes, I feel an obligation to lay some sort of groundwork to help them be successful when they leave the safety net of the school system and get out in the real world.”

Wingspan: Lastly, do you have a philosophy when it comes to life and teaching? And would you say that this philosophy applies to other professions, aspirations, or your life itself?

Henderson: “I don’t really think I have a philosophy per say. I just try to live each day and go with the flow. I try not to stress about things because most of the things you can’t fix are out of your control. I just do what I can do and control what I can control and the rest will just roll on past me. I hope that helps.”

Daniel+West

Michael Martin

Daniel West

Daniel West

After graduating from the University of New Haven in Connecticut, the campus welcomed a new precalculus teacher at the beginning of the year, Daniel West. Wingspan interviewed him to learn more about his journey so far and what he would like to accomplish this year. 

Wingspan: What made you want to teach in the Frisco ISD?

West: “I chose FISD because Frisco is a great area and FISD has a great reputation.” 

Wingspan: What made you decide that you wanted to teach? 

West: “I’ve always loved sharing ideas with people and have had a lot of friends and family tell me I should be a teacher. Being able to do what I love and teach subjects that interest me as a job is truly a wonderful experience.”

Wingspan: What got you to follow the career path to becoming a teacher?

West: “I was a student teacher in college and have also tutored quite a bit in various subjects, including math, physics, music, and Spanish. I really love academia and being able to help people learn challenging subjects, so teaching seemed like the perfect fit.” 

Wingspan: Why math in particular?

West: “Math is one of my passions. I’ve always loved math, physics, science, and logic. Math in particular is endlessly fascinating to me, and so I wanted to have the opportunity to share some of that enthusiasm and passion with others. Most people I talk to really do not like math, and I’m hoping I can make some small difference to change that.”

Wingspan: What’s your favorite color? 

West: “My favorite color has always been blue.”

Wingspan: What’s your favorite season? 

West: “I think fall is nice, especially when I lived in Georgia as well as in Connecticut. The temperature is great and the leaves are beautiful as they’re changing colors.” 

Wingspan: What is one word that describes you? 

West: “Pensive.”

Wingspan: What college did you go to and how was your time there? 

West: “I went to several colleges, but the one I graduated from was University of New Haven in Connecticut. It was a good experience. Nothing exceptional but I learned a lot and met plenty of great people. I took my work very seriously and did exceptionally well and was on good terms with all of my professors.”

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

West: “It’s been pretty overwhelming learning all the online stuff, administrative stuff, keeping up with countless emails, and so much more. Luckily I sincerely enjoy the teaching aspect and the students and teachers. Otherwise I probably would consider doing something else because the job does keep me very busy at all times.”

Wingspan: What book genre(s) do you like best? West: “I tend to enjoy philosophy books, certain types of sci-fi, and dystopian novels.”

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

West: “I grant that most people will never have to use anything more than basic arithmetic, geometry, and perhaps some basic algebra in their day to day lives. But math is clearly very useful and all of the technology we rely on wouldn’t exist without it. Mathematical thinking is also very powerful and can be used to solve real-world problems even for the average person.”

Wingspan: What would you say your teaching style is like? 

West: “I’m pretty laid-back and am mostly focused on making the material understandable for students, perhaps cracking some jokes here and there to lighten things up. I am still developing my style but I like to identify common mistakes and then teach in such a way that will minimize students making those mistakes, both by example and by having them participate.”

Wingspan: What would you like to accomplish this year? 

West: “I would love to just get the hang of everything so I don’t feel like I’m overwhelmed all the time. And I really want to see my students do well and have the occasional ah ha moment. All of the teachers have been so helpful and, well, that I can’t thank them enough. Before the end of this year I’d like to be someone that people can go to for help and give back similar to what everyone has done for me.”

Kiana+Bacon

Michael Martin

Joining the Redhawk staff this year, Wingspan caught up with Bacon recently and talked about her experiences as a teacher. 

Dianna Bacon

As the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus change the way we conduct education, Dianna Bacon, a teacher with 17 years of experience, is determined to work with fellow teachers and students alike to make this year count. Joining the Redhawk staff this year, Wingspan caught up with Bacon recently and talked about her experiences as a teacher. 

Wingspan: What classes do you teach and why did you choose to teach those classes?

Bacon: “I teach Dollars & Sense and 3DMA (3D Modeling and Animation).  I teach them because I am certified in Business and Technology Applications.  That is what was available to teach this year at Liberty.” 

 Wingspan: What college did you go to? 

Bacon: “My  undergraduate degree is from Texas State University and my Master’s Degree is from Texas Woman’s University.” 

Wingspan: What did you major in?

Bacon: “Business administration and my Master’s degree is in Teaching.”

 Wingspan: How long have you been teaching in Frisco?

Bacon: “I taught in FISD from 2003-2017 (14 years) then resigned to teach for a virtual academy and came back this Fall 2020.”

 Wingspan: What made you want to start teaching here?

Bacon: “I decided to come back this fall full time.  I have known Mrs. Stevens, the CTE department chair since 2003 when we started in Frisco ISD at FHS.  It seems like a natural fit and I’m very happy to be here. The students have been extremely welcoming.”

 Wingspan: How is it having your first year teaching at this school during the pandemic?

Bacon: “It has been a challenge, definitely, even entering my 18th year of teaching. Things that have worked for years before no longer work or we are asked to do it differently.  We all have to learn new ways and we all have to adjust our sails.”

 Wingspan: How has the pandemic affected your expectations for teaching this year? 

Bacon: “We have to be willing to be a tad more flexible and understanding….more fluid perhaps.  However, I do believe we still need to hold students accountable and have expectations. Students can and will continue to succeed if we help them along that path.” 

 Wingspan: What are your goals for your classes this year? 

Bacon: “To help my students be successful whether they are face to face or virtual.  Academics need to continue despite what is happening around us. It provides stability to students of all ages. Students deserve the very best of their teachers whether we are in a pandemic or not.  Their socio-emotional health depends on it. This is one of the BEST times for students to show leadership, perseverance and stand up for their school & community. This is a time that students can and should build character.”

 Wingspan: What do you like to do in your free time? 

Bacon: “I enjoy being with my family and helping others. I also enjoy traveling and spending time with friends.”

 Wingspan: What is the accomplishment you are most proud of to this day? 

Bacon: “As far as my professional teaching career in April 2017 a former student, Andrea Shaver, I taught for 3 years at the CTE Center identified me as “her best teacher and a role model for others” and I was flown up to her graduation ceremony at Rochester Institute of Technology and recognized for that. The Frisco Enterprise did a short article featuring it.  Andrea Shaver was a former Liberty HS student as well.”

Algebra+teacher+Maddie+Coday+is+a+Redhawk+in+her+first+year+on+campus.+Recently%2C+Wingspan+sat+down+with+Coday+to+learn+more+about+one+of+the+math+departments+newest+faces.

Michael Martin

Algebra teacher Maddie Coday is a Redhawk in her first year on campus. Recently, Wingspan sat down with Coday to learn more about one of the math department’s newest faces.

Maddie Coday

She graduated as a Wakeland Wolverine, but after attending Southwestern Assemblies of God University, algebra teacher Maddie Coday is a Redhawk in her first year on campus. Recently, Wingspan sat down with Coday to learn more about one of the math department’s newest faces.

Wingspan: What jobs did you have before becoming a teacher?

Coday: “The only other job I’ve had is working in the children’s ministry at my church, which I did throughout high school. Even throughout college on weekends that I didn’t have games, because I was on the cheer team at my school, I would come back up and still work on the weekends. While I was at school, I had a job there and it was a position called a student mentor and basically, I was like a tutor to other students.”

Wingspan: Is teaching living up to your expectations, how is it different from what you expected?

Coday: “Teaching is living up to my expectations as in, I am loving the job, but it is very different from what I expected it to be. I wasn’t expecting to be teaching virtually at all. For one thing, I am so not a techy person, so it’s been a little difficult for me. I never expected to be a virtual teacher, I always thought I would just have kids in my classroom, and now I’m doing stuff online.”

Wingspan: Being fresh out of college, do you think you get the same respect other teachers do?

Coday: “I think I do, I would think. I’m not totally sure because I haven’t been in a lot of other teachers’ classrooms, but based on the ones I have been in I would say that I do. It’s not necessarily about your age. I think it’s about the attitude and maturity, and respect that you set forth, and then that’s the respect that you get back.”

Wingspan: You’re still young, so is it hard to keep a healthy balance between your social life and school?

Coday: “Yes, it definitely has gotten a lot harder. In college, it was a lot easier because I was surrounded by a bunch of young adults all the time. There was always stuff going on, and stuff to do, and I could stay up late. Now I’m going to bed at like 9:30. It’s definitely harder, but I make time for that stuff. On Monday nights I set aside a couple of hours, I tell myself I’m not going to work on school stuff. I actually play ultimate frisbee with my Young Life group. We usually do movie, or game nights on Friday nights too. I try to keep a good balance between my social life, and my work life, because it’s healthy, and if I didn’t keep some of the social I would go insane.”

Wingspan: You said you were a cheerleader earlier, do you still do anything like that?

Coday: “I don’t, I’m not involved in any sports or athletic teams now. The only thing I do is playing sports for fun, like ultimate frisbee, but other than that no.”

Wingspan: Have you always wanted to teach high school students, or were you ever considering younger kids?

Coday: ”So I actually was planning on teaching middle school, until my student teaching. My student teaching was my last semester of college. I requested a middle school, then I just got placed here at Liberty. I was actually here in the spring when we did have school going on normally. I was student teaching with one of the other math teachers. High school was never actually my plan, it just worked out that way, and once I was student teaching I just ended up loving high school, and the high school age, and teaching older kids. So it was never my plan, it just worked out this way, and I’m glad that it did!”

Wingspan: Has teaching always been your dream job, or did you have other ideas of what you wanted to do?

Coday: “When I was younger I switched around all the time. I do cake decorating kind of as a hobby, and on the side, it’s also like another job, but I really only get to do that when we have time off of school, because I would spend multiple days decorating one cake, or one order. So that was a dream of mine, maybe to open up a bakery. I also wanted to own my own clothing store. Before teaching I really wanted to be some sort of entrepreneur or business owner, but once I got to college I decided on education.”

Wingspan: What was the hardest lesson you had to learn in college?

Coday: “One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in college, and also in teaching, is that I have always been a perfectionist. It’s actually something that you wouldn’t think is such a bad thing, but it’s definitely one of my downfalls because I won’t stop working on something until I think it’s perfect. I also am the type of person where once I have something on my plate or something on my to-do list, I want to get rid of those things as fast as possible. I’ll stay up until like midnight working on things that I need to do when really they aren’t due, or I don’t need to have them done till like the next week, but if it’s on my plate or something that I know that I have to do, and it’s on my mind I’m gonna do it right then and there. So the lesson I have kinda had to learn is giving myself Grace, so within perfectionism knowing that it’s okay for it not to be 100 percent perfect. Also giving myself grace with the timing of things, like writing it in my to-do list, but maybe not getting it done that day.”

Graduating+from+the+University+of+North+Texas+after+studying+biology+for+four+years%2C+Anatomy+and+Physiology+teacher+Gerald+Nichols+joins+the+science+department+on+campus.+Nichols+said+after+talking+AP+Biology+in+high+school%2C+he+fell+in+love+with+the+subject+and+decided+he+wanted+to+do+something+that+related+to+the+topic+for+a+career.

Michael Martin

Graduating from the University of North Texas after studying biology for four years, Anatomy and Physiology teacher Gerald Nichols joins the science department on campus. Nichols said after talking AP Biology in high school, he fell in love with the subject and decided he wanted to do something that related to the topic for a career.

Gerald Nichols

This year the school has welcomed many teachers on campus, among them is Gerald Nichols, the new Anatomy and Physiology teacher. Wingspan sat down with Nichols to find more about his journey on campus and how his past few weeks have been. 

Wingspan: Where are you from originally?

Nichols: “I was born in Oklahoma and lived in 7 states so far: Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Colorado, and Texas.”

Wingspan: What college did you go to? How long? 

Nichols:”I went to the University of North Texas in Denton for four years to study biology. I started in the fall of 2016 and graduated in the spring of 2020.”

Wingspan: Why do you like teaching?

Nichols: “The chance to meet the future generations and help them understand and see the complexity and almost majesty of the world!”

Wingspan: When did you find your passion in science?

Nichols: “When I took AP Biology in high school I honestly fell in love with biology and knew I wanted to learn more and end up doing something with biology.”

Wingspan: What is the most difficult thing about teaching? 

Nichols: “Grading is sometimes not the easiest or fastest thing for us to do, but another issue can be communication and making sure everyone is caught up on everything.”

Wingspan: What made you want to teach on campus?

Nichols: “Being my first year as a teacher I was excited to have a classroom!!”

Wingspan: What was the experience like when you started teaching? 

Nichols: “Just started so crazy but overall, I really like it.”

Wingspan: What goals do you personally want you students to achieve in your class? 

Nichols: “I want my students to accomplish the goals they set out to do, if that is getting an A in the class or passing the next exam,whatever they want to accomplish. Though sometimes I might push them a little further.”

Wingspan: What do you do during your free time?

Nichols: “Cook, read (especially books about science), walk my dog, etc. Basically, stuff to just unwind for the time being.” 

Wingspan: When do you plan to retire from teaching? 

Nichols: “Not for a while being that I just started. We will see where time takes me and my career.”

Laura+Darce

Michael Martin

Laura Darce

After moving to Texas 20 years ago from Lake Charles, LA, Laura Darce is one of the 18 new teachers joining us this year. She studied at McNeese State University and has spent her 23 years teaching at Washington Marion Magnet High School, Shepton High School, and The Colony High School before becoming our new tech theatre teacher on campus.  

Wingspan: How have your first few weeks been?

Darce: “They’ve been great. It’s a great facility and the students are great, and so bueno.” 

Wingspan: How is our campus different from other schools you’ve taught at?

Darce: “I taught at Shepton for 19 years, and it was just a 9th and 10th grade campus. It’s different in that it’s all years of high school, which is good for me because I feel like I continue to grow with the students instead of passing them on to somebody else at Plano West.”

Wingspan: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Darce: “I don’t know, I don’t think I ever thought about doing anything else. I have a family with a lot of teachers, and I kind of always just wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t know what I wanted to teach- I thought I wanted to teach English, and then I was like oh no, there’s theatre, so I went that way.”

Wingspan: Why did you decide to pursue a career in theatre?

Darce: “Well of course, theatre is fun, and you get to know your students a lot better than you would in an English class. So you develop communities and you get to see students from the beginning of their journey and then stay friends with them and see them go on to do great, and maybe not so great, things along the line, so it’s more of a community.”

Wingspan: What are you most excited about for this year?

Darce: “Probably COVID going away. I’m most excited to see what we can accomplish in a pandemic.”

Wingspan: What is the most challenging part of your job, regardless of recent events? 

Darce: “The most challenging part of my job is probably still making sure that I can maintain enough time with my own family- my son and my husband. So that’s probably the biggest challenge, is making sure that I have a work-life balance.”

Wingspan: What’s the most challenging part because of recent events?  

Darce: “Mental sanity. No, it’s hard to make connections with kids that you’re not seeing face-to face. So I think just making connections is probably the hardest thing.” 

Wingspan: What is the most fun part of your job? 

Darce: “I don’t know, everything! I like to create things. So I think the most fun thing is to see when you guys create things. Especially when somebody is like ‘I’m not creative’ and then they turn in this amazing design, and I’m like are you crazy? So the most fun is when I see students achieve more than they thought they would.” 

Wingspan: What was one of your proudest moments in teaching?

Darce: “I guess I’m really proud to see several of the students that I’ve taught from the beginning on, that have gone on to achieve broadway star status, or television or movie actors. So that’s rewarding to see that hey, maybe I did make a difference.” 

Wingspan: What hobbies or interests do you have outside of school?

Darce: “I love to travel, I’ve been all over the world. I really like seeing other places. When there’s no pandemic, I go to New York a lot, so I really enjoy seeing shows. And I have a lot of friends that I just like hanging out with. So travel and hanging out with friends are my hobbies.” 

Wingspan: If you could have any other job besides being a theatre teacher, what would you want to be? 

Darce: “I’m trying to think of jobs that make money- no I’m just kidding. Maybe a director- a professional director.” 

Wingspan: What do you hope to achieve this year? 

Darce: “Well, being new to Liberty, I don’t like to jump in and be like ‘We’re changing everything!’ So I hope by the end of the year, that I’ve have kind of made things a little more my own around here. And I guess my goal for this year would be to increase my numbers for next year, for the program to get bigger.” 

Collin+Kantor+%28Sp%3F%29

Michael Martin

Colin Kantor, 9th grade World Geography and 10th grade World History teacher, is one of those new to the staff. Wingspan sat down for an interview with him to gain insight on his experience and introduce him to the campus.

Colin Kantor

Many students who have been on campus for a while might have noticed new staff members walking the halls. Colin Kantor, 9th grade World Geography and 10th grade World History teacher, is one of those new to the staff. Wingspan sat down for an interview with him to gain insight on his experience and introduce him to the campus.

Wingspan: Where are you from?

Kantor: “I was actually born outside Washington D.C., but I grew up in Southlake. I spent most of my life in one place or the other.”

Wingspan: Where did you go to college?

Kantor: “I have my undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina, and my master’s from TCU.”

Wingspan: When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

Kantor: “I think I always knew it was part of my career path. I had really cool, fun history teachers when I was in high school, so I wanted to emulate what they did and be that influence on other kids’ lives. I didn’t plan to start teaching so young, but I really enjoy it so far.”

Wingspan: Do you have much experience teaching?

Kantor: “This is my third year. I spent the last two years teaching eighth-grade history.”

Wingspan: How were you feeling on your first day on the job?

Kantor: “The first day was a little bit nerve-wracking just because of everything going on, teaching all virtual. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the high schoolers and trying to do it online. I actually had a little Zoom-bombing incident during one of my periods on the first day, so it was a little bit rough, but everyone was really nice and most of the kids were great (other than the ones who Zoom-bombed me), so it was fun.”

Wingspan: What aspects of the school drew you here?

Kantor: “I definitely wanted to move up to the high school level, it’s where my original passion for teaching came. I had heard really good things about the school, and about the people who work here, and I just wanted to be part of a great team.”

Wingspan: Was the transition from your previous job to your current job a difficult one? Why or why not?

Kantor: “There was a little bit of an adjustment period because I’m used to working with kids who are a little bit younger, but for the most part you [high schoolers] just want to be treated like adults. If I can emulate that and have a level of respect and appreciation for your time, I get that back, and it makes my life a lot easier.”

Wingspan: What are your goals for this school year?

Kantor: “Honestly, we’re still kind of in survival mode at this point, I’m just trying to keep one week ahead at a time. I’m teaching two brand new subjects for me, geography and history, so I want to be able to feel more comfortable with those subjects and be able to share not only knowledge but also some of my personal experiences and travel history with the kids. Really, I just want to make connections and make it real.”

Wingspan: If you could give a word of advice to your students, what would it be?

Kantor: “Be proactive. Especially with everything going on the way it is right now, it’s easy to forget that I have 120 students. I want to help everyone as much as I can, but unless I know that you need help, I can’t do a whole lot about it. It may just be through an e-mail or some other way to get in contact with me, but I think all teachers would agree that we want everyone to be proactive this year.”

Wingspan: Do you find your job fun? What do you like about it?

Kantor: “I love teaching. I especially love the non-teaching moments where kids say something funny in class or there’s a conversation that starts. Even just today we were having a debate in my class about the merits of McDonald’s vs. Whataburger. I love having those fun conversations and getting to know [my students] and them getting to know me too.”

Wingspan: What do you do in your free time?

Kantor: “I love to travel, although there’s not a whole lot of that going on right now. I like running, playing tennis, reading, watching Netflix, just having some chill downtime when I’m not teaching.”

Wingspan: What kind of student were you in high school?

Kantor: “I was the bookish nerd type. I wanted to get all straight A’s, took a lot of AP classes, and worked really hard. I understand why kids are motivated to work really hard because it does pay off when you get to college, I can attest to that.”

Wingspan: What is one thing you hope your students will take away from you this year?

Kantor: “I know social studies isn’t everyone’s favorite subject, but it is probably the most relevant to our daily life. The way the world is right now, everything that we can see around us either has to do with geography, history, or both. As long as they can take some examples from either one of my courses and see how it affects the world we live in, then I’ve done my job.”

A+graduate+of+University+of+Texas+at+Arlington%2C+Savannah+Bryant+majored+in+English+and+minored+in+Education+while+in+college.+This+year+she+joins+the+English+Department+on+campus.+

Michael Martin

A graduate of University of Texas at Arlington, Savannah Bryant majored in English and minored in Education while in college. This year she joins the English Department on campus.

Savannah Bryant

One new faculty member on campus this year is Savannah Bryant who joined the English Department. Born right here in Texas, Bryant attended graduate school at the University of Texas at Arlington, majoring in English and minoring in Education. Along with that, she is also a proud soccer coach. Wingspan recently caught up with her to gain some insight into who she is and what she’s been up to.

Wingspan: What made you want to pursue English? 

Bryant: “Well, my mom is actually a high school English teacher so it’s kind of in my blood but I mean I love reading, I think that it’s a good subject because there’s a lot of people that struggle with it and a group of people that absolutely love it. I like to encourage the people that absolutely love it and help out the people that struggle with it but then again it’s also in my blood.”

Wingspan: Was teaching always what you wanted to do?

Bryant: “For the majority of my life I wanted to be a teacher but there were a few years where I considered going to physical therapy school but at the end of the day I stuck with teaching because I love kids, love soccer.” 

Wingspan: What is your favourite part of being a teacher/coach?

Bryant: “My favourite part, I just really love to interact with the students, build relationships. I mean half the time, I still think I’m a big kid myself so I just kinda like to talk to y’all and hear what you have to say.”

 Wingspan: Are there any memorable teaching moments that come to mind? 

Bryant: “Oh gosh, this is actually only my second year but last year was pretty memorable, it was more of a coaching moment. The soccer team I was coaching won district and went undefeated which was pretty cool.”

Wingspan: You mentioned earlier that you played soccer, what got you interested in that sport?

Bryant: “Well I started playing soccer when I was about four and that’s pretty much all I did growing up, I played at a really high level, I played a little in college, then i got injured and I couldn’t play anymore. So I stopped playing after my first year in college but I just have always loved it, I’ve always done it.”

Wingspan: Do you have a preference in what age range you want to teach? 

Bryant: “I don’t really have a preference, but what I really like about the high school kids is that I can make jokes and maybe be a little sarcastic sometimes and y’all will get it, I can’t really do that with the elementary kids.”

Wingspan: What is one thing you want your students to take away from your class? 

Bryant: “One thing I want them to take away from my class. I don’t know. Just find the things you enjoy in life and focus on them, I mean I know that there are times, especially with you Pre-AP kids y’all just get so stressed out over these classes and you just, you need to find some things in your life that you enjoy too and focus on those. Don’t stress out so much.” 

Wingspan: Last question, do you see yourself teaching for the rest of your life?

Bryant: “It’s a strong possibility, I mean i can’t really say where I’ll be ten years from now but I like what I’m doing right now, so maybe hopefully!”

Cecily+Yoakam

Michael Martin

Cecily Yoakam is the new assistant band director, having studied Music Education at University of North Texas. Though she already has experience directing band, with two years under her belt teaching middle schoolers in south-central Texas.

Cecily Yoakam

After studying at the University of North Texas for Music Education, the campus welcomes a new assistant band director, Cecily Yoakam. She’s been interested in band ever since middle school and decided to make having fun in band her career.

Wingspan: Where are you from?

Yoakam: “I have moved around quite a bit over the years, but most recently I have moved to Frisco from Indianapolis, Indiana.”

Wingspan: How long have you been directing band?

Yoakam: “This is my third year as a band director. I taught middle school band in south-central Texas for two years.”   

Wingspan: What exactly is your job? Or, how would you describe it?

Yoakam: “Just like a math teacher ‘directs’ their math class, my job is to teach band! Working together as a team, myself and the other directors teach four different concert bands and the marching band during the fall, as well as an after-school jazz band in normal years. In addition to teaching students to read music and get better at their instrument, we focus heavily on developing good people to be successful outside of school and the band hall.”

Wingspan: Was it always your intention to teach here?

Yoakam: “When I was in college, I had an opportunity to do a lot of observations with Mr. Weaver and Mr. Elvidge, while also work with the marching band in the fall. Through those opportunities, I was able to witness how unique and special the culture of the Liberty Band is, and I knew as a developing teacher I wanted to be a part of it. So I suppose, yes, to an extent it was always an aspiration of mine to teach at Liberty.”

Wingspan: What college did you go to? How long did you go?

Yoakam: “I went to the University of North Texas, where I studied Music Education, for four and a half years, graduating in December following a semester of student teaching practicum experience.”

Wingspan: How have your first few weeks been, especially with the pandemic?

Yoakam: “Even with the pandemic, they have been great! The students are incredible and are working so hard even with the challenges of this new learning environment.”

Wingspan: What instruments do you play?

Yoakam: “A part of learning to teach band, I have learned how to play every instrument, but my primary instrument that I studied in college is the oboe.”

Wingspan: What are your favorite parts of directing band?

Yoakam: “I love connecting with students and watching them grow through music. The coolest thing about being a band director is watching a student change as they get older since we usually see them for three-four years at a time. Making music every day with them is fun too, but definitely building those relationships and watching students grow is the best part.”

Wingspan: What goals do you have for yourself and your students this year?

Yoakam: “My goals for the students of the Liberty Band is that we all come out on the other side of this school year as better people, with more empathy and compassion for others, and to always hold kindness in their hearts for others. My hope is that we can continue to move forward as a band, getting better at music and marching band but above all to leave this year as better people than when we started.”

Wingspan: What is the most difficult part of directing a band?

Yoakam: “Probably the most challenging part of being a band director is time management. One of the unique and fun parts of our job is juggling many things at once; you have to be a good multitasker to be a teacher! As a band director, we are a teacher, administrator, accountant, counselor, coach, and musician. So finding time outside of these tasks is challenging, but when you are a part of a team as great as the one here at Liberty, it makes it way easier!”

Wingspan: What do you like to do in your free time?

Yoakam: ”I enjoy watching documentaries and getting outdoors, especially hiking and kayaking when I can make the time to get out there.”

Wingspan: What’s different about our school compared to other schools you have taught at?

Yoakam: “Probably the biggest difference about Liberty is the atmosphere and the motto of “Work Hard, Be Kind”. Coming from teaching middle school, the atmosphere of high school is very different as well but the added focus on being kind and trying your best is awesome.”

Wingspan: In your journey of becoming a band director, how would you say supported you the most?

Yoakam: “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have support from my parents, specifically my mom. She has always pushed me, given me tough love when I needed it, and encouraged me to always have fun and try my best every day.”

Wingspan: What advice would you give to struggling students?

Yoakam: “My advice would be to don’t ever give up completely. It is 100 percent okay to get upset/angry/feel defeated, but you absolutely have to pick yourself back up and try again to do the next right thing. Talk to someone you trust and feel safe with, find a new plan, and calibrate to find what works best for you in all of your classes, and ask for help! You are not alone, and there are many people who care for you out there. Please just don’t give up and continue to keep trying your best.”

Amanda+Zambaisi

Michael Martin

Returning to campus after working at Denton ISD for a year, Amanda Zambiasi returns to campus this year. Rather than the head coach of cross country and track, Zambiasi has come back as a counselor.

Amanda Zambiasi

A familiar face, Amanda Zambiasi, has returned to campus this year after a short year-long break, but instead of her previous position as the head cross country and track coach, she has come back as a counselor. She went to college at Texas Woman’s University and studied in School Counseling at Amberton. Since then, she has worked at Denton ISD and then transferred to Frisco ISD, where she spent the next six years as a Redhawk.

Recently, Wingspan sat down with Zambiasi to talk about her decision to return to campus. 

Wingspan: Where are you from?

Zambiasi: “I was born in Houston and grew up in Lake Dallas.”

Wingspan: What did you plan on becoming when you were in high school? Have you always and had an interest in psychology and counseling? If not, what changed your mind? 

Zambiasi: “I don’t think I fully knew what I wanted to do when I was in high school. While in college, I pursued my passion to be a teacher/coach. I had so many coaches in my life that made an impact in my life and I wanted to pass that on. I realized while being a coach that all of my favorite parts of my position I could do as a counselor and with a larger group of students.”

Wingspan: Do you prefer being a coach or a counselor?

Zambiasi: “They both have aspects that I love.”

Wingspan: Do you miss being a coach?

Zambiasi: “I definitely miss the kids. I miss those relationships. I miss the conversations that I got to have with my group of girls each day. I truly watched them grow up in four years. After having my own child, I realized that all of those additional hours I was spending at school, before school, after school, and weekends, I wanted to spend them with my own daughter. It was a hard decision to leave coaching, but I don’t regret it.”

Wingspan: Do you ever regret anything you’ve done in your career, from being a Special Education teacher, to a track and cross country coach, to now a high school counselor?

Zambiasi: “I have no regrets. I am a big believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. There are so many moments and things that happened to me as a special education teacher and a coach that prepared me to be the counselor I am today.”

Wingspan: What is your favorite thing about being a counselor and a coach?

Zambiasi: “Most definitely the kids and the relationships!”

Wingspan: Tell me about your decision to return after a year break? What influenced it? 

Zambiasi: “I always loved Liberty! I took a position as a middle school counselor last year at Clark Middle School. I enjoyed my time there but knew that my heart was always with the high school students. When there was an opening at Liberty, I jumped at the chance to come back.”

Wingspan: What’s the most challenging thing about being a counselor versus a teacher and coach? And vice versa?

Zambiasi: “I would say that the most challenging thing in both positions is taking my work home. So many of my students now and athletes as a coach have things going on in their life that will break anyone’s heart. I worry about those kids when I leave school. I worry about the kids that I can’t reach or that may slip through the cracks.”

Wingspan: What are you most excited about for this year?

Zambiasi: “While this year is going to challenge all of us, I think it is going to help us all grow in ways we didn’t know possible. We are all going to need to step out of our comfort zone and get creative. We must get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Wingspan: What are your concerns and struggles about virtual learning and how it impacts you?

Zambiasi: “We, as a counseling team, are trying to be creative and come up with ideas of how we reach our virtual students. My biggest concern is the students that we don’t reach because of the additional hurdles of students being at home and not on our campus.” 

Wingspan: What is one piece of advice that you wish you were told as a teenager and would tell all of your students?

Zambiasi: “I wish I would have realized that all of the things I was worried about then will not matter in a few years, or even days.”

In+her+first+year+on+campus%2C+Amanda+Peters+teaches+AP+Human+Geography+and+AP+U.S.+Government.+Peters+has+been+teaching+for+nine+years%2C+but+thats+not+what+she+thought+she+would+be+doing+when+she+was+younger.++%0A%0A%E2%80%9CWhen+I+was+younger%2C+I+wanted+to+be+an+attorney%2C+Peters+said.+

Michael Martin

In her first year on campus, Amanda Peters teaches AP Human Geography and AP U.S. Government. Peters has been teaching for nine years, but that’s not what she thought she would be doing when she was younger. “When I was younger, I wanted to be an attorney,” Peters said.

Amanda Peters

Amanda Peters is an AP Human Geography and AP U.S. Government teacher and although this is her first year on campus, she has been teaching for nine years, eight of which have been in Frisco ISD. Prior to working as a teacher, Peters worked as a litigation paralegal and worked in governmental relations for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Wingspan sat down with Peters to find out about her experience as a teacher.

Wingspan: Which college did you attend, and what did you major in?  

Peters: “Undergraduate – Texas A&M University, Political Science Masters – Ashland University, Political Science.”

Wingspan: What career did you want to pursue growing up? 

Peters: “When I was younger, I wanted to be an attorney. I think I liked arguing as a child. I thought that was what attorneys did – I learned later that there is a lot more involved, and there were aspects of the profession that did not appeal to me.” 

Wingspan: What made you want to work here?  

Peters: “I heard that Liberty had a great social studies department, and I was excited about working closer to my home.”

Wingspan: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that teachers are facing in online learning?  

Peters: “I think the biggest challenge is keeping virtual students engaged and excited about learning. Students are burned out on being at-home and bored with learning. Trying to build excitement and interest is challenging, and I hope that my enthusiasm for the subjects I teach comes through the screen and helps motivate students.”   

 Wingspan: What would you like to accomplish this year?  

Peters: “As in previous years, I want to build lasting relationships with students and help them connect with the world beyond Frisco. I love hearing from former students and following their journey into adulthood.” 

Wingspan: How has working here been different from working at other schools?  

Peters: “I have been pleasantly surprised at how much Liberty staff and students rally to support each other. In the middle of our rapidly changing situation, I see lots of everyday heroes digging deep to make the best of each day, getting the job done, and support each other with patience and grace.”   

 Wingspan: What has been your favorite part about teaching and why?  

Peters: “I love the ‘ah-hah moments’ – when I see the learning connections being made by students that make my planning and hard work worth it.”    

 Wingspan: What inspired you to become a teacher? 

Peters: “At the Boys & Girls Club, I worked with students across the country who were receiving scholarships. Hearing their acceptance speeches in which many credited the teachers who inspired them to make significant changes in their lives was inspirational. I wanted to be one of those teachers who pushes students to recognize that sometimes the most important lessons in life don’t come from textbooks or lectures, the importance of becoming a life-long learner, being an active and responsible citizen, and building time management skills that will serve them no matter where life takes them.”   

 Wingspan: If you couldn’t be a teacher, what job occupation would you choose?  

Peters: “I would probably raise llamas – they have amazingly unique personalities, much like my students! Or working at Starbucks for the employee discount to keep my coffee addiction going might be a good plan.”  

 Wingspan: What do you like to do in your free time?  

Peters: “READING! My bookshelf is almost entirely non-fiction; I love learning new things. However, I have a short attention span, so I tend to rotate between several books. I get about 20-25 pages into a book and then switch. It takes me longer to get through a book, but I find I make more connections and retain more by re-engaging with a book repeatedly. It is a habit I picked up in graduate school that has stuck.”   

Wingspan: To this day, what accomplishment of yours that you are most proud of? 

 Peters: “My children! I have a freshman in high school and one in college. We have great conversations, and I am proud of the people they are becoming as they grow into their personalities.” 

Among+the+many+new+faces+on+campus+this+year+is+ISM+teacher+Kelli+Secord.+While+it+is+Secords+first+year+at+liberty%2C+this+will+be+her+25th+year+teaching.

Michael Martin

Among the many new faces on campus this year is ISM teacher Kelli Secord. While it is Secord’s first year at liberty, this will be her 25th year teaching.

Kelli Secord

This year, the school has welcomed many new faces among the staff. Among these educators working to reconcile virtual academy students with those who have chosen in-person learning is Kelli Secord. The new Independent Study & Mentorship (ISM) teacher provides some insight into her life as well as the challenges of teaching a class that requires much face-to-face interaction.

Wingspan: Where are you originally from?

Secord:  “I was born in North Kansas City, Missouri, but moved to Texas in middle school.”

Wingspan: What college did you attend? What did you study? 

Secord: “I attended Baylor University and the University of North Texas for my undergraduate work and earned a B.S. in Family and Consumer Science. I did my graduate work at Lamar University and Angelo State University. I have a Master’s Degree in Teacher Leadership with a Texas School Counseling Certification.”

Wingspan: When did you know that you wanted to teach?

Secord: “I’m not really sure there was a defining moment where I knew I wanted to teach. My parents were both educators and education was always important in our family.”

Wingspan: How long have you been teaching for? 

Secord: “This is my 25th year of teaching.”

Wingspan: What prompted you to come here? Where did you work before?

Secord: “I came to Liberty because I was excited about the opportunity to work with the Independent Study & Mentorship (ISM) Program here. Previously, I have been a school counselor at Wakeland High School and Trent Middle School, opened Wakeland in 2006 as a teacher where I taught a variety of courses (including ISM for 8 years), and have also taught in Abilene, TX, Athens, TX, Alexandria, Louisiana, and Pineville, Louisiana.”

Wingspan: How did you become interested in teaching ISM? Why did you want to teach ISM? 

Secord: “When I was teaching at Wakeland, the ISM teacher left to teach at Lone Star and the principal asked if I would be interested in taking over the ISM program. I love this program because it offers high-achieving high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to direct their own learning and pursue their passions through research and real-world experiences in a career field of their choice. It truly is 21st Century Learning in action!”

Wingspan: How has your experience been teaching ISM? 

Secord: “I love how the program is independent in nature yet offers opportunities for students to work collaboratively as well. It is a joy to work with self-directed students who are excited about their learning opportunities. I’m able to facilitate their learning process by offering guidance and encouragement as they follow their dreams!” 

Wingspan: What has it been like teaching students online? 

Secord: “There have definitely been some challenges with online learning, but I’m grateful for the support that is available. We’ll get there!”

Wingspan: What is it like teaching both virtual academy and in-person students? 

Secord: “All of my classes are co-seated (have both face-to-face and virtual students). That presents a few challenges, but as time goes on I believe we will settle into a routine and find out what works best for all.” 

Wingspan: Can you describe your experience so far with managing a nontraditional class that requires face-to-face interaction with COVID-19 restrictions? 

Secord: “We are all going to have to be quite adaptable this year both individually and collectively. The majority of this year’s Liberty ISM students are virtual learners. We are asking all ISM students to use this experience to think creatively when proposing learning opportunities that fit their topics. Most, if not all, of our usual district-wide face-to-face interactions, will definitely look different this year. As a district ISM team, we are working together with district-level administration to brainstorm ways we can offer similar learning experiences in alternative ways this year. In addition, we are in the process of reaching out for input from area professionals to gauge their interest and availability in helping our students in their non-traditional learning experiences.” 

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

Secord: “As always, I’m most excited about getting to know the students better and watching them use their gifts and talents to create and participate in meaningful learning experiences.” 

Wingspan: What are some goals you have for your students? 

Secord: “Along with learning about their chosen topics, it is also my hope that my students are able to hone the skills needed to handle themselves, their relationships, and their work effectively and ethically.” 

Wingspan: What are the biggest challenges that you face this year and how do you plan to overcome them? 

Secord: “I think the biggest challenges that we’ll all be facing this year will be the continued changes in education – nationally, state-wide, locally, and on our campus. Change and adaptability will be the name of the game. Being willing to continue to learn and stay flexible is key!” 

Wingspan: What is the most rewarding part of being a teacher, especially with your ISM students? 

Secord: “Although it is a joy to see the ‘light’ come on when students learn a new concept or are able to apply their learning in a new and meaningful way, I have found the relationships built to be the most rewarding part of the teaching profession. I enjoy seeing ISM students get to experience the joy of learning in non-traditional ways that will lay the foundation for their future interests and careers. Keeping up with them as they are in college and beyond is also a joy!” 

Wingspan: If you had the opportunity to take a class like ISM when you were in school, what would you have studied and why? 

Secord: “I would have loved to have had the opportunity to take ISM as a high school student! I most likely would have chosen to study Marketing or Merchandising at that point in my life.” 

Katie+Speller

Michael Martin

Having graduate from Texas Christian University, English teacher Katie Speller joins the Redhawk staff for the 2020-21 school year, teaching English 2 and AP Literature and Composition teacher. Speller is originally form Long Island, New York and this is her first year teaching.

Katie Speller

All the way from Long Island, New York, the school welcomes new English teacher, TCU graduate Katie Speller. Wingspan sat down with her to find out more about her journey in life so far and how she would like to impact her students this year. 

Wingspan: What subject do you teach and how long have you been teaching?

Speller: “So this is my first year actually teaching. I’ve student taught and I’ve worked for years throughout schools but it’s my first year actually being a full time teacher and I teach English. Currently, I am teaching English 2 on-level and AP Literature and Composition.”

Wingspan: How do you feel about school so far?

Speller: “I absolutely love it. I think that it is definitely an interesting year and it has taken a while for students to adjust to all of the changes. But I think everyone is doing really great and we’re all learning a lot.”

Wingspan: If you were not a teacher, what else would you be?

Speller: “I think I would be a vet. I absolutely love animals and I’ve always had an interest in becoming a vet. But my problem is that I love animals so much that I get so attached and I think that I wouldn’t be able to emotionally separate the work from myself. I wouldn’t be able to not be devastated if I had to put down an animal or if I saw really bad neglect cases or things like that. So I think that I am just too emotional to be a vet.”

Wingspan: What was the best and the worst moment in your life and why?

Speller: “The worst moment in my life was probably when I lost my older brother. He passed away at the age of sixteen and I was nine years old. However, he wasn’t supposed to live past the age of two. He had a neurotransmitter disease, so the fact that he was able to live so long and have such a great quality of life and did amazing things was kind of a blessing within itself. So, while that was really hard losing him, I definitely was grateful for all of the time that we did have because it was so much more than we had expected. Oh the best moment in my life, that’s hard! There’s one moment that I can pinpoint just thinking to myself, ‘wow! This is such an amazing moment and I’m fully at peace and fully content.’ And it was when I was studying abroad and my friends and I went to Interlaken, Switzerland. We decided to camp out by this lake and we brought a little grill and we were making food and we were sitting there looking over the lake listening to music for hours, just talking and watching the sun set over just these beautiful mountains in Interlaken. I remember thinking to myself, wow! I am so happy right now, this is so peaceful, what an amazing opportunity that I have to be here and share this moment with such incredible people.”

Wingspan: What is the meaning of life to you?

Speller: “Yeah! I mean the meaning of life to me. I believe that we all have a purpose here and I personally feel as though I connect really well with other people and I’m made to make a difference in the lives of others. I think that is why I chose a career path working with students. Especially this age group because I think when you are in high school, you’re at such an impressionable age where you’re going through so many different things. You need a support system and you need someone that believes in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. So I really think the meaning of life is just doing what makes you happy and doing what you think will make a change in this world for the better.” 

Wingspan: Who is the most important and influential person in your life and why?

Speller: “I would say that, oh, I don’t know If I can choose one. But I would say definitely my parents. I think that, If I had to choose one, I’d say my dad because he came from nothing and he was able to work his butt off to create such a beautiful life for himself. He has the most positive attitude and outlook on everything. I’ve never met someone else that just knows as much as he does. I can always rely on him and call him when I need something and I feel like he  always has the answer and knows what to do. Whether it be something around the house, he can fix that or whether it be I’m in a sticky situation, he’ll give me advice. I think he is just a wonderful role model and I think he built such a great life for himself despite losing a child and having to spend 16 years going in and out of the hospital doing clinical trials and experimental treatments. Having to watch their son go through this, I think he remained super positive and still was the best father for myself and my brother. He still always made time for us. He would never miss a softball game of mine, he would never miss a school play that I was in, he would leave work early to pick me up. He always prioritized us and just is an amazing role model in my life.”

Wingspan: What was the most memorable moment in your teaching career?

Speller: “The most memorable moment in my teaching career would probably be when I had a student that did not like to participate much and didn’t really put in any effort. I finally got through to him and was able to find his personal interests and relate topics back to him. We were doing a play and I gave him a role in the play and from then on, he was so interested in the topic. He even volunteered to read for another character who was out that day. He went from not participating at all to being the first one to volunteer. It was just seeing that growth in him. Once his interest peaked, his grades went up so much. I think seeing that growth and of course seeing all my students grow is incredible and I love it. But this is just one specific moment that I can think of. I really just sat back and I was like, oh my goodness, I’m so proud. This is why I do what I do.”

Wingspan: What is your favorite genre of books and why?

Speller: “Oh my goodness! That would be so difficult! I really think that it just depends on my mood and it depends on what i’m currently going through. I feel like it shifts a lot. I feel like I will go a few weeks or few months with one genre that I’m super into and then I’ll kind of  move on from it because I get a little sick of it and i’m like I need something else. And then i’ll move on to another genre and another one. Then eventually I’ll go through all of them again. Currently, i’m really loving thrillers but I know that’s also because my english 2 class is also currently reading thrillers. So I was like, of course I need to read a thriller along with them! So that would be my favorite at the moment, but it really does change all the time.”   

Wingspan: How would you like to impact your students this year?

Speller: “I would like to help them understand english more. I want them to see that english can be fun and to see the beauty of the English language and literature. I would love for my passion to take over them and show them that it doesn’t have to be this intimidating and boring thing. English is a topic you’re going to be using no matter what stage of life you’re in and what field or occupation you go into. You’re going to need to know how to read, you’re going to know how to write, how to make an argument and back it up with examples. I think that being an English teacher isn’t just teaching  specific things like grammar. But it’s teaching students how to think for themselves and how to come up with their own opinions and back up those opinions.”

Wingspan: How do you imagine your life in the future?

Speller: “In the future… I want to continue teaching throughout my career, I definitely want to get married and have children. I also want to continue on, I have a masters degree but I would love to continue because I love learning. I would really love to get a PhD in English literature. I would go on and do that while still teaching high school. And maybe do research and teach some college classes over the summer and online classes while I still teach high school.”  

Wingspan: Why do you like traveling and where do you really want to go? 

Speller:  “I love to travel because I’m very interested in different cultures, different environments. I’m super interested in it and I love to see how other people around the world live and I compare it to my perspective and think about why I see things the way I do. I think about things based on my social and cultural context. I’ve been to 25 countries. But I have not been to Asia, so I would love to go to some country in Asia. I’ve really been interested in going to Thailand and doing something with elephant rehabilitation there. I think it’s just a really cool environment. So I would love to go there!”

Wingspan: Ms.Speller is…

Speller: “I would hopefully say kind! I think that kindness goes a long way and it’s really important to show kindness to every person you meet. You never know what other people are going through. A simple act of kindness can completely change someone’s day or even someone’s life.”

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