Before the lazy summer days of July arrive, Friendswood Independent School District wants to once again thank its educators for all they do for students. Each one deserves the summer for rest and relaxation, but before we dismiss completely, we want to recognize three educators for what they have done recently.

When elementary students were asked to bring in bags of hundreds of small colorful and popular rubber bands to use creatively, many teachers saw disaster coming in the classroom and said no. Christine Lyles and Colleen Baldwin saw opportunity for giving happiness and hope to others.

The answer was “yes” to their third-grade students at Cline. The teachers also had rainbow looms available.

The easy-to-use looms provided students a way to create rubber band bracelets in many designs and colors. A special project, Banding Together, brought focus to their work.

The Cline classes joined the Van Meter School in Iowa in providing bracelets to special children in Mangalore, a city on the West Coast of India by the Arabian Sea.

A relative of a teacher at the Van Meter School teaches special children in a convent school there and she encouraged the children in Iowa to start the project of sending happiness to the Indian children who have so little. Along with the gifts, the children extended the hand of friendship to become pen pals.

A website and blog was started at the Iowa school, and the Cline teachers heard about the project there. Cline students were excited to be part of it and sent a box full of bracelets to the school for the Indian students.

To read the story about the Banding Together beginning and how the students started the project in Iowa, visit

Hats off to Lyles and Baldwin for vision and creativity along with instilling a giving heart.

FISD is also proud of Westwood Bales counselor Barbara Gruener. It was her leadership in past years to encourage and obtain the award of the first school in Texas to be a School of Character. She then led the way to have Westwood Bales become a National School of Character.

Gruener has been a character keynote speaker all across the nation and will be doing the same this summer along with book signings. She recently put her tips, lessons and ideas for teachers to use in a book “What’s Under Your Cape,” using a superhero’s approach to defining good character traits.

In 1987, the FISD board of trustees put into place Character Education for grades K-12. Students in all grades are recognized monthly for displaying the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, citizenship. Gruener’s book helps teachers incorporate the traits into learning possibilities. Her new book is available through Barnes and Noble and

Now, enjoy summer — for parents, no homework questions; for students, no homework; and for teachers, no alarm clock or late-night grading.

Karolyn Gephart is director of communications for Friendswood ISD.


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