Friday, October 31, 2014

valleyNews

Making the Grade

Phoenix teacher Kathleen Johnston gets an “A+” for uplifting students – and a grant from a national foundation to scale her methods across the country.

When Tuscano Elementary School teacher Kathleen Johnston asked one of her fourth graders, “Angela,” to describe herself, Angela replied, “I’m pretty stupid.”

Feeling slow and inferior may be common among students, but few confess it openly – or believe it as strongly as Angela, accepting her perceived lack of faculty as part of her very fabric. “I’ve had students who have been severely below grade level, but had never had a student who perceived herself as unintelligent,” Johnston says. Johnston set to work, enlisting Angela’s mother – who also struggled with literacy and reading comprehension – as a partner in her daughter’s education inside the classroom and out. Johnston hosted an after-hours pajama reading night, where Angela, her classmates, and their parents could share their favorite books. At home, Angela and her mother read together and discussed the books, capturing their conversations on an old-fashioned tape recorder or a Smartphone video. At the end of the year, Angela was performing at grade level.

Read more: Making the Grade

Team Mate

PHM0814Flash-1-3The Phoenix Zoo and ASU band together to conserve Arizona’s endangered species.

At the back of the Phoenix Zoo, like the back of a classroom, dwell the misfits. Squirrels so sexually frustrating they attack a potential paramour on all but six hours in a single day of the year. Snails the size of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ear on a dime. Ferrets so disease-prone zookeepers must don biosecure clothing before entering their enclosure.

Read more: Team Mate

Identity Crisis

Weird science helps ID anonymous bodies found near the Mexico-U.S. border.

In 1998, the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson recorded 11 deaths along the Arizona-Mexico border. Last year, it was 194, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. Often the bodies can’t be easily identified – exposed to the elements of the low desert, the corpses have literally become dry enough to be classified as “mummified.”

Read more: Identity Crisis

Social Safety Knot

PHM0814PFILE03Governor Brewer stakes her legacy on reforming Arizona’s broken child-protection system.

During her tenure at Child Protective Services (CPS), former caseworker Ashley Kelly says she saw children who had just been removed from their homes forced to sleep overnight in agency offices before being placed in shelters come morning. Kelly says it happened more often toward the end of her two-year stint with the agency, when she found herself bathing children in the office, feeding them from her own paycheck and putting them down for naps on makeshift beds in her cubicle – all while earning $35,000 a year to handle four or five new cases per week.

Read more: Social Safety Knot

A Dry Eat

PHM0814PFILE02Community leaders create oases of nutrition across the “food deserts” of Phoenix.

South Phoenix resident Chris Child, 35, eyes a gallon jug warily, silently calculating the risks of transporting it home. He passes over the milk, meat and veggies and loads up on pop-top canned goods. In the 18 months the Montana transplant lived in the Valley without a car, he was rarely able to purchase fresh produce or even a frozen meal. “I had to be especially concerned about dairy products,” he says. “And if I was walking, I could only buy what fit in a backpack.”

Read more: A Dry Eat

Sordid Affairs

MIXED MEDIA: As badly as the recent Veterans affairs scandal has tarnished the agency’s reputation – secret waiting lists, 115-day wait times, deadly neglect – Americans still trust it more than Congress. According to a recent USA Today poll, one in five people think the government is doing an “excellent or good” job providing veterans with medical care, the VA’s lowest rating since 2007. Bleak numbers, to be sure – unless you happen to work alongside the Kyrsten Sinemas and Trent Franks of the world.

Read more: Sordid Affairs

Tapped Out?

PHM 500x500 FPOArizona breweries battle restrictive liquor laws to keep pace as craft beer flourishes across the U.S.

Brewmaster Andy Ingram stands behind the bar at Four Peaks’ Tasting Room on Wilson Street in Tempe and considers the grim alternative confronting the state’s largest craft brewery if it wants to keep up with growing demand for its beer. “The statute says we have to surrender our retail licenses, which means we’d have to close the north Scottsdale and Phoenix Sky Harbor restaurants and let go of 200 people,” he says.

Read more: Tapped Out?

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