Why You Shouldn’t Blow Off the PSAT

Though it may be tempting, the PSAT should not be flippantly labeled as futile or absentmindedly shrugged off.

On October 13, every freshman, sophomore and junior needs to put forth his or her best effort.

For freshman, the PSAT is crucial practice for years to come when the score will actually count. Also, in the spring, every freshman receives a score sheet showing how his or her overall score compared with that of juniors and sophomores throughout the country. The PSAT must be taken seriously in order for these results to accurately represent each student’s mental aptitude.

For sophomores, the PSAT provides additional practice while determining which sophomores will be invited to attend the PSAT blitz junior year. This year, 150 juniors were invited to attend the PSAT blitz, a free program designed to increase juniors’ performance on the PSAT. Students who choose to participate in this program are required first to take an on-campus PSAT pre-test on one of two Saturdays in September. Then, a week or two later, students miss either their morning classes one day and their afternoon classes the next, or vice versa. During this time, they get specific help on what they missed on the PSAT pre-test, and learn helpful tricks for both the Math, Critical Reading, and Writing sections of the test. On the following Saturday, students have the option of taking a PSAT post-test, an additional practice test offered to help students apply their newly learned skills.

For juniors, their scores determine whether or not they enter the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Even if they don’t become a National Merit Finalist, the highest level of recognition, they are still eligible for Special Scholarships which are reserved for Commended students and Semifinalists. The 2010 student guide PSAT booklet approximates that out of the 1,500,000 U.S. juniors taking the PSAT, 34,000 will be commended and 16,000 will become semifinalists. Commended students will receive a letter in early September 2011 stating that they will not advance in the competition. However, they will be eligible for the Special Scholarships. The 16,000 semifinalists are the top-scoring students of each state. Each semifinalist is required to fill out an application, write an essay, and fulfill multiple other requirements, to become a Finalist. From the 16,000 Semifinalists, there will be 15,000 Finalists, from which the National Merit Scholarship recipients will then be chosen. These winners, approximately 8,400, will win a National Merit Scholarship which consists of either a $2500 National Merit Scholarship, a corporate-sponsored scholarship, or a college-sponsored scholarship. In total, between the Special Scholarships and the National Merit Scholarships, the National Merit Scholarship Program will award $48 million to students nationwide.

Our district bestows upon us the gift of taking the PSAT for free during school, and not on a Saturday with a fee. This is a privilege, and we should take full advantage of it.

View the PSAT as a challenge, a fun way to apply the myriad of vocabulary words from English and the bevy of formulas from Math. Anticipate comparing your score with your peers, and on PSAT day, show up with one goal: to do your best.

Super Bowl Alternatives

Written By: Maureen Weaver

The extended family plus family friends huddle around the TV. The soda fizzles as they crack it open, and the chips crunch as they dig in. Evidently, men in spandex who bang their heads together all in pursuit of a pigskin are utterly amusing to America.

But for those who simply don’t fit in to their football aficionado families or for those who are from families that have never taken part in the Super Bowl tradition, there are some engaging alternatives.

  1. Start a Jigsaw Puzzle. This activity is an engaging and bonding experience whether you’re crafting a beach scene with friends or a wintry cottage with a family. Beware, though, once a puzzle is started, it’s impossible to stop tinkering until the entire scene is completed.
  2. Read. Find a neglected book that has been lying around the house for decades. Or, rummage through the bookshelves to find a classic childhood favorite. Curl up next to a warm fire (or the heating vent) and slowly sip hot cocoa.
  3. Discover. Look up the childhood history of your favorite movie star or singer. See where they grew up, what their journey was like and emerge with a greater appreciation of who they are as a person.
  4. Write a card. Instead of dashing to HEB or Hallmark the day before the next holiday, take the time to silently reflect on what a relative or friend means to you. Prepare early for the next holiday by putting into words what makes them special and important to you. Knowing that you dedicated your time to such a project is much more valuable than a purchased poem.
  5. Take a bike ride. The greatest peace I know is sometimes found while I’m sailing through the woods on my old yet high-quality bike. The cool breeze is refreshing and being outside makes me feel as if all of life’s problems are simple. Biking is also a great way to get exercise with a companion such as a parent who may not want to embark on a mile run.
  6. Find Srednekolymsk, Panzhihua, Wagga Wagga and Qikiqtarjuaq on a map (preferably not one on the Internet).
  7. Connect. Find someone else who doesn’t want to watch the game and have a gab fest. Find out what your grandma was involved in in high school or what your mom’s favorite memory from childhood is.
  8. Bake. Not only will everyone in your family love you for turning out a homemade pie or cookies, but you’ll have fun doing it. Find a new and interesting recipe and invite a friend to execute it with you. Turn on some happy music while you work.
  9. Have a spa time. Light candles and indulge in a full pedicure, manicure, facial and time of relaxation. Make a classic face mask out of three tablespoons of old-fashioned (not instant) uncooked oatmeal and two tablespoons of plain yogurt. Or, mix one ripe banana with one teaspoon honey. Indulge in each for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off with warm water. Enjoy!

10.  Go to a movie. With most people watching the game at home, the theaters will be barren of their usual crowd. Grab a couple of friends and head off for a movie all to yourself or better yet huddle down at home and pop in your favorite DVD.

Spike and Dive: New and Successful

Coach Guest is new to our school, and to teaching. But being new hasn’t stopped her from getting involved. Along with teaching four class periods, she is the assistant volleyball and girls soccer coach.

“I’ve been coaching longer than I’ve been teaching, so I definitely feel more comfortable coaching,” she said, “but I don’t think I can say I like one more than the other.”

The volleyball team is having an outstanding season so far with a running tally of 21-3.  Coach Guest sees a lot of improvement in the team.

“I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon,” she said.

She is looking forward to meeting the soccer team when the season starts. So far, she’s been enjoying getting to know the volleyball girls.

“They are a joy to be around and to coach, and some of my best laughs come from practice or volleyball class period.”

But coaching is only half of Coach Guest’s job. She also teaches sophomore World History.

“All types of history intrigue me. In high school math and science were my favorite subjects, but when I got to college and started taking the higher level classes history started to interest me more,” she said.

She earned her BA in Sociology from Trinity University to “learn more about human interaction and societal development.” She also played volleyball at Trinity and was a member of Gamma Chi Delta sorority. After graduating, she returned to Trinity to earn her Master’s in teaching. She spent the first half of last school year interning at Jackson Middle School and the other half at MacArthur High School.

On the first day of her teaching career, Coach Guest admits she was anxious.

“I was mainly nervous about knowing the school atmosphere and environment,” she said.

Coach Guest has now made it through the start of the year and has successfully launched her teaching career.

“I’m having a great time and experience so far. Everyone’s help and support has made this first seven weeks so much easier.”

Reagan Graduate Converted

Ms. Armer, a graduate of Reagan High School, is a new teacher gradually reworking her once negative impression of Churchill.

“In high school, we hated you guys. But things are pretty much the same here as they were there,” she said. After nine weeks of school, she has found that everyone is “very nice and courteous.”

Ms. Armer was born in Denver, Colorado but moved to San Antonio when she was in fourth grade. She likes the heat of San Antonio better than the cold climate and high altitude of Denver.

“San Antonio is just a nice city to live in. The people are so nice and cordial,” she said.

Though she does not remember much from living in Denver, she does remember watching the Denver Broncos play football. She and her family used to watch the football games every Sunday.

“It was a fun family activity,” Armer said.

Before deciding to teach math, she considered being a veterinarian or a chemical engineer like her older brother. She stuck with math, however, and is now teaching Algebra II Pre-AP. In high school, her Junior year Pre-Calculus teacher helped her realize that she wanted to become a math teacher.

“I like math because there’s always a right answer and the calculator does a lot of the work for you,” Armer said.

She attended Texas State University, which is in San Marcos, because it had the best teaching program. After graduating from TSU, she taught as an Undergraduate Instructional Assistant and Classroom Manager for Precalculus, Calculus 1 and Calculus 2 courses.  She taught at San Marcos High School for two years before moving to San Antonio and getting a job here. Her college experience overall was fun.

“I got a dog,” Armer said.

She still has her dog, Niko, and enjoys going to the dog park with him in her free time. She also enjoys hiking, camping, biking, climbing and painting.

She wants to complete the Secondary Master’s Degree program from the University of Texas and is currently in the application process. In the future, she would like to become a dean with this further education.

One more interesting fact?

“I’m afraid of geese,” she said.

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