Thursday, March 27, 2014

Signing for Scars from the Tornado set for Saturday at Vintage Stock on the Mall

After a delay of more than a year, the first signing for Scars from the Tornado: One Year at Joplin East Middle School is scheduled for 12 noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Vintage Stock on the Mall.

The book details my experiences and East Middle School students' experiences during the May 22, 2011, Joplin Tornado, and during the first year attending a warehouse school.

Some of those students will be at the signing Saturday.

Following is a breakdown of what is included in Scars from the Tornado:

Foreword- This features a story that a former East student, Joplin High School sophomore Rylee Hartwell, wrote about the school shortly after the tornado.

A Teacher's Story- Over several chapters, I write about the last day at East before the tornado hit, the tornado and my first trip back to the school, the meeting at Missouri Southern where Principal Bud Sexson outlined what the warehouse school was going to be like, our return to school, the first day and much more.

Tornado Stories- This section features the students recounting their tornado stories. Some were right in the middle of it. Others feared for their friends. It affected all of them. Students with stories in this section include Jennifer Nguyen, Nick Shellenbarger, Abi Killinger, Alexandra Stelts, Donna Tomlinson, Maggie Baker, Cami Sanders, Kaley Moser, Amber Fleming, Desirae Orlaski, Taylor Robinson, Keisha Grunden, Courtney Hunt, Victoria Stehm, Garrett Severs,  and Ryan Ball.

The School Year- This section features stories from the students about our year in the warehouse, with some commenting about the school. Those contributing stories include Sarah Peterson, Megan Hickey, Amy Koch, Jennifer Nguyen, Annie Strickling, Stella Ndauwa, and Melinda Adams. Megan, Amy, and Jennifer contributed multiple stories in this section.

Parting Shots- This section includes a longer story that I wrote about the people from around the world who let us know that we were not alone in our battle. My story centers around our 86-year-old penpal from Santa Barbara who has come to mean a lot to my students both last year and this year. The section also has shorter comments from Cara Marshall, Jimmie Willerton, Audrey Kanan, Taelor Stone, Logan Whitehead, Amelia Street, and Madison Meinhardt.

Tornado Poems- Among those contributing to this section are students Mykah Campbell, Michaela West, Sean Harrison, Ashton McGehee, Karly Weber, Jacy Welch, Mackenzie Gunderson, Bridget Ingham, Jerry Bland, Joseph Fry, Beth Dulinsky, and teacher Kathy Weaver.

The book also includes a photo section.

Copies of 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado, Spirit of Hope: The Year After the Joplin Tornado, and No Child Left Alive will also be available.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sexson to students on opening of East: I'm so glad you're here

The opening assembly at the new East Middle School was featured in an article in today's Kansas City Star:

On the other side of the campus, East’s boisterous middle schoolers were called to order in the school’s gymnasium.

“Duty! Honor!” Assistant Principal Jason Weaver shouted. And the students shouted back the rest of the school’s code — “Peace and pride!”

“Ladies and gentlemen of East Middle School,” Weaver sang out, “welcome to your new building!”

After a roaring chorus of cheers, and then a rundown of first-day logistics, the students herded behind their teachers to their classes — except for the eighth-graders.

Principal Bud Sexson gathered them first on the school’s “Learning Stair” — a wide staircase that doubles as a gathering spot, big enough to seat all of the 250 children per grade level, and ideal for a class photo.

There is a reason the builders rushed to turn out a 24-month job in 16 months.

“It was more important to get you in here,” Sexson told the eighth-graders. “This is an incredible opportunity for you. You get to spend at least one semester in this place. I’m so glad you’re here.”

Read more here:

Friday, December 20, 2013

EMS students buy toys for underprivileged children

(From Joplin Schools)

On Thursday, Dec. 19, students at East Middle School made a Christmas presentation to area fire departments. Members of the East Middle School Student Council purchased toys for underprivileged children in the Joplin area. They delivered the toys to the fire department members for their annual distribution. EMS Student Council member Ethan Vang formally handed the toys over to Mr. Branham of the Joplin Fire Department during an assembly in front of the student body.

This year's purchases amounted to $1,043 plus some additional toy donations by individuals. The student council raised the money through candy sales and sponsoring a Halloween dance. Over the past 15 years, more than $15,000 has been raised by East students for this project.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New East Middle School featured in USA Today

The new East Middle School, as well as Soaring Heights and Irving elementary schools are spotlighted in USA Today:

"It's one more step toward returning to normalcy," said Jeff Koch, 40.

Two of Koch's four kids will be attending East Middle School when the school officially opens next month.

Koch was touring the new digs Monday night as part of an open house for the near-completed school.

"For almost three years, everything was temporary -- it was always temporary," Koch said.

"Here is a place they can have memories."