Spring Wildcats to Watch

From the back row going left to right: Heather Johnson, Madelynne Dunham, Jeidy Perez, Aries Craig, Tucker Banner, Bryce Veach, Raygan Wescott, Obed Gonzalez, Carlos Lopez-Silva, and Brianna Avila. From the front row right to left: Alohra Cloud, Jessica Lankford, Erin Gilbert, Izabella Nuncio, Edwin Ramirez, Katie Clark, Maria Ramos, Brigitte Medina, and Hilda Torralba.

The Taft High Wildcat to Watch event was held on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The event was held in the TUHS cafeteria and started with dinner at 6 pm. Carlos Chavira and his Culinary Arts students cooked the dinner and made a variety of delicious food for our teachers, students, families, Board members and administrators. Once everyone was finished eating their food, TUHS Principal, Mary Alice Finn, began with an introduction about the purpose of the Wildcat to Watch event to the families. Wildcat to Watch started in the Fall of 2018. Finn said, “What we have found is there are a lot of kids on our campus that are just amazing for so many different reasons and one of the things we do a lot of is we recognize a lot of kids in athletics. I know a lot of our programs like Band, AVID, and Oil Tech do a great job at recognizing kids in those programs, but there really wasn’t something that was school-wide and just was an opportunity for teachers to just look across their classes and say, ‘Of all my students, this the student that I think deserves the recognition.’” Not only did teachers choose a student, but the counseling staff, the principal, and Taft High’s newest administrator, Robert Ramirez, were invited to choose a student as well. After Finn completed introductions, she called up a student whose teacher was unable to attend and a teacher whose student wasn’t able to make it to the event. Finn had every one of the faculty line up and get ready to introduce their honoree and share with the audience why they chose them. Each student received a sticker and a certificate signed by their teacher.

Jeidy Perez was chosen by Mark Owen, a math teacher. He wasn’t able to make it to the event, so Finn talked about the reason Owen chose Jeidy. Owen said, “Jeidy demonstrates mastery of algebra in every quiz and test. She contributes to the whole class discussions and helps fellow students with their individual assignments. She is a true asset to the class and the school.”

Kevin Varga said he chose Jesus Silva because he is, “my superstar.” Varga said, “Jesus is a great guy and a pleasure to have in class each day. He is a reliable participant in all classroom activities and discussions and always seeks out opportunities to work independently. Jesus is always willing to help other students with their work and is good at following classroom rules and procedures. He also has a welcoming sense of humor which is always appreciated. Jesus is truly a Wildcat to Watch.” Sadly, Jesus and his family weren’t able to attend the Wildcat to Watch event. Silva not being there didn’t stop Varga from talking about all his favorite memories he’s enjoyed with him.

Tucker Banner was chosen by Tammy Sutherland, one of the Taft High guidance counselors. Sutherland said, “Even though Tucker was overlooked for many of the local scholarships, I know that he is a wonderful student and person. He has overcome many challenges and has always pushed himself to reach his goals. I admire his maturity, focus, and tenacity. I know that he will go on to do great things.” A fellow faculty member, Tanya Mauldin, said a few words for Banner because Sutherland said, “Mauldin and I arm-wrestled to see who got to give Tucker the award because we both love Tucker.” Mauldin said, “I had him in tutorial and I can always count on him to help students with math…He’s a great kid and I know he is going to be very successful.”

Tanya Mauldin teaches Success 101 and chose Brianna Avila as her Wildcat to Watch. Mauldin said, “Brianna entered my class in February. She is very down-to-earth, is eager to learn, always has a smile of her face, is kind and helpful to others, and has a very bright future ahead of her. She is always respectful in class, is not afraid to ask for help, and turns work into me that is always above-and-beyond what is asked for. I know she’s going to have a bright future ahead of her.”

Hilda Torralba was chosen by Sarah Hamblin, who is an AVID and English teacher. Hamblin said, “From the first day of class, Hilda has stood out amongst the class. Hilda constantly tries her best in English. She does what is asked immediately, helps the people around her, and comes into class every day with a smile on her face. She gets the jokes in the literature that we read, which most kids don’t. Her work is always done perfectly and on time. It’s really nice as a teacher to have one student in the class that, when you are saying something, you make eye contact and you know at least one person is getting it and she is always that person–has been since day one. She is going to do great things and I’m very proud of her.”

Karen Mitchell, the CTE Retail teacher, chose Madelynne Dunham. She said, “Maddie has been in my retail class for two years now and I have enjoyed watching her grow as a young person. Maddie is consistent in her work and is at ease handling the day-to-day responsibilities in the classroom. From her design work to cashier to working well with classmates, she is versatile and competent. She puts in the extra time and effort to get professional results in a wide variety of tasks. If she doesn’t know something, she puts in the extra effort to figure it out. Thank you, Maddie, for being a really good student for me.”

Edwin Ramirez was chosen by Mike Goodwin, who teaches social science. Goodwin said, “Edwin is always willing to put in the extra effort both in the classroom as well as with any Oil Tech Academy volunteer opportunity. He struggled a little bit at first, but he really got it. He constantly works hard and he does everything you want him to do in class. He’s an absolute joy to have in the class; he’s always smiling. I would love to have a classroom with 30 of him; it would make teaching a whole lot easier.”

Todd Bass is a CTE instructor and he nominated Carlos Lopez-Silva. Bass said, “When I think of Carlos as a CTE student, three things come to mind, such as: he has fun learning new skills, he is creative and challenging in his work, and that he has participated in class every moment of AG Wood this year. His attention to detail is what any teacher would be looking for in a student and that he has become a role model among his peers.” Bass then said the following to Lopez-Silva: “ Thank you for being an extraordinary student that you are and allowing me in    helping you learn new skills this school year.”

Heather Johnson was nominated by Sophie Rasmussen, TUHS Art teacher. Rasmussen said, “She [Johnson] sets an amazing example of patience and positivity. She always has a smile on her face. She always is willing to take creative risks. She’s always saying good things about her family. She comes in with this awesome humor and tries to mind control me with Star Wars tactics and her Harry Potter humor. What can I say? She is an amazing young lady, and I love being a part of her time here in Taft High. So thank you, Heather.”

Maria Alvarez is the ASB advisor and she nominated Aries Craig. She said, “Aries is very popular on campus among his peers and staff members. He loves to share his novels with anyone that is willing to listen. He enjoys writing and drawing stories with pictures that involve horror. He knows that I don’t like scary, so he has drawn some lovely pictures for me with some hearts.” Aries added, “It’s not just hearts, but animals too. I’m very good at furry animals and comics.” Alvarez continued saying, “He is a wonderful guy and I have enjoyed spending the year with him and thank you, Aries.”

Jessica Lankford was chosen by Mark Fitzsimmons; he teaches Graphic Communications. He said, “Jessica is a sophomore and she has done amazing. A lot of the time, the students want to learn the next step, but they don’t really want to understand the concept. Well, Jessica has come in and she is understanding the concept, so, if there’s a problem, she can critically think through the problem to get to the solution. It’s nice when you have a student who is passionate about the subject that you are teaching and that’s what Jessica has been. When students need help, she’s the one that steps up and helps in her class. It’s my honor to nominate her and just choose her for this award and just to be glad that she is going to be in my class again next year.”

Brad Van Roekel is a social science teacher and he nominated Katie Clark. He said, “This is a kid who is a leader in the room without saying a whole lot. She’s a quiet kid, but I get a little ticked when Katie’s not there because she has the ability to calm people down around her. Katie has that calming presence. She’s humble, quiet, and attentive to her teachers and fellow classmates. Katie’s mindset of not following the crowd, doing what is right when no one is looking and having a genuine interest in what her teachers and classmates say makes her a Wildcat to Watch. So Katie, great job.”

Obed Gonzalez was chosen by Joanie Sahagun. She said, “Obed takes pride in his work and he values his accomplishments. I admire his intelligence, but what makes him stand out is his work ethic and personality. He goes to great lengths to make sure he is prepared for every assignment and test, and he does it all with a smile on his face. I enjoy having him in class. Thank you for being awesome.”

Wesley Morris is a U.S. History teacher and he nominated Raygan Wescott. Morris said, “I have Raygan in my AP U.S. History class. This class is very difficult, but Raygan has resolved to study hard and get a good grade in the class. It is not just her success in my class or her good grades in her other hard classes that makes her a Wildcat to Watch, but everything else she does. She is on the varsity softball team and plays travel ball. She is also in the first clarinet position in the band, plays the alto sax and sings in the jazz band, plays the bass drum in our award-winning drumline, and is the Band Club treasurer. I’m just very proud of her and all that she does, just staying busy and also excelling in her academics.”  

Brigitte Medina was chosen by Alan Popejoy, who is an English teacher. He said, “Brigitte is a student in my English 9 Honors class. She has a quiet, pleasant demeanor; however, please do not mistake her mild-mannered nature as indicative of a lack of passion on her part, with regard to her studies. She is an impeccable student in my class–always prepared, always focused, and always performing at a high academic level. Her passionately diligent dedication to her educational experience will carry her far in life.”

John Usrey nominated Erin Gilbert as his Wildcat to Watch. He said, “In my opinion, Erin is the epitome of the student archetype that others should try to emulate. She is extremely self-disciplined, self-motivated, and organized. I had no idea, academically, the standards that she would set when she came into my class. Erin never fails to make herself accountable to read and acquire assigned content. For me, it was really just an easy nomination to give her the Wildcat to Watch.”

Alohra Cloud was chosen by Stacey Haiungs, who is a math teacher. She said, “I wanted to recognize how hard she works in Geometry and celebrates her perseverance and fortitude. She gives it her all.” Haiungs made a name acronym for Cloud and read out what each letter of Cloud’s name meant to her. Haiungs continued saying, “Alohra is motivated to succeed despite any obstacle, and I am confident that her drive will ensure a bright future.”

Amber Vogel is an English teacher who nominated Maria Ramos. She said, “I have had Maria for the last four years. She is one of the most passionate and determined and just loving people. She helps clean the board and organizes the bookshelf whenever she completes her assignments. Maria loves to help other students when she feels confident in her assignments.”

Bryce Veach was chosen by Robert Ramirez, who is the Dean of Athletics and Student Support Services. Ramirez said, “As a freshman, Bryce is a three-sport athlete and was moved up to varsity for the baseball playoffs. Bryce is starting to recognize his potential and has been very coachable. I’m looking forward to great things and, if there is a Wildcat to Watch, he’s definitely one of them, so congratulations and let’s keep working hard.”

Last but not least, Taft High Principal Mary Alice Finn, nominated Izabella Nuncio. Finn said, “Izabella is an extremely hard-working student. While most recognize her name related to her athletic and academic abilities, my recognition of her has to do more with her character. I have found her to always be respectful and kind to everyone she encounters. She already exhibits the qualities that many adults recognize as the skills that have carried them through life in both good times and difficult times. She is poised for even more success. What doesn’t ever change is who we are on the inside and that is what Bella is and that is why I nominated her as a Wildcat to Watch.”

Once all the faculty members gave insight as to why they chose each individual, Mary Alice Finn recognized the families that have been there to support the students who were nominated. Along with thanking the parents, Finn thanked everyone who had helped put the whole event together.