Education news from around Idaho

Robots to invade Boise

The best high school robotics teams from six states are infiltrating Taco Bell Arena March 31 and April 1 for a high-stakes, high-tech battle.

Idaho will host the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) Robotics Regional Competition, bringing together 25 high school robot teams.

“FIRST allows students the opportunity to engage in real science by designing, building and testing their own imagined creation of complex machiner,” said Amy Moll, Boise State University’s dean of engineering.

Teams that win the Idaho regional competition will move on to the FIRST national championship held April 19-22 in Houston, Texas, and April 26-29 in St. Louis, Mo. The Boise event is free for all spectators.

For the full schedule click here.

East Idaho principal claims Principal of the Year award

American Falls elementary school principal Tina Fehringer is the Idaho Association of Elementary Principals’ 2017 Principal of the Year.

The IAEP is recognizing Fehringer for positive “changes” in the wake of district growth, reports Shelbie Harris of the Idaho State Journal.

In 2013-14, 1,419 students enrolled in American Falls. In 2015-16, that number reached 1,472 — a 3.7 percent increase. Fehringer’s Hillcrest Elementary School has taken the brunt of the growth, including a high number of English language learners. 

Over the years, Fehringer and other Hillcrest teachers have grappled to accommodate a rapid influx of Hispanic migrants-turned-residents — forcing the school to introduce modular units and cobble a makeshift computer lab in a hallway.

But the biggest challenge has been helping the youngest of ELL students learn English — something American Falls superintendent Ron Bolinger credits Fehringer for doing.

“I really have to say, she’s been central to all of that,” Bolinger said.

More recently, Fehringer developed a dual-immersion, all-day kindergarten program for Hispanic students. With the help of federal dollars, the program provides split English-Spanish instruction throughout the day.

“It’s a real honor to represent the best of the best across the principals in Idaho because there’s so many good ones out there,” Fehringer told Harris. “But I’m super proud of my school. It’s easy to tell the story of our school because of all the people who work there, the kids and the families.”

After a failed attempt last year, the the American Falls School District passed a bond issue on March ballots to build an elementary school and alleviate overcrowding at Hillcrest. The $8.95 million measure passed with a 69 percent majority.

The IAEP award puts Fehringer in the running for the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ 2017 Principal of the Year award, which will be announced in May.

Donate a book to a child in need

With its third annual Children’s Book Drive, the United Way of Treasure Valley hopes to collect thousands of books and distribute them to children throughout the valley.

You can drop off new or gently used books at any U.S. Bank or Albertsons store throughout the Treasure Valley, April 10-14.

United Way collected more than 70,000 books during last year’s drive. The books are cleaned, sorted and distributed to schools, early learning centers, after-school programs and other places.

“Whether someone has a box of children’s books collecting dust in a closet or they want to buy some new books and donate them, each book can make a difference for our community’s kids,” said Nora Carpenter, CEO and president of United Way of Treasure Valley.

Click here for a complete list of dropoff locations.

Madison continues 18-year run at speech nationals

Madison High School’s speech and debate team will send 13 students to the National Speech and Debate Tournament in June.

It’s a record for Madison — and extends a long-running tradition, reports Gabe Davis of the Rexburg Standard Journal.

The team has qualified for nationals for 18 consecutive years.

“Last year was Salt Lake — it’s in a different city every year,” team coach Bruce Benson told Davis. “So we compete against people in the whole nation. There’ll be approximately 250 entries in each event at the national tournament. We’ve placed really well in the last few years. We’re very competitive nationally.”

Students will compete in several events, from original oratory to public forum to extemporaneous, Davis reports.

Benson went on, “We’ve had a really, really good season, really strong group of kids — 76 kids on the debate team this year at Madison High School.”

This year’s national tournament will be held in Birmingham, Ala., from June 17-24.

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