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Penguins sign five 'prospects' to 1-day contracts for Make-A-Wish

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed five new prospects Tuesday morning to one-day contracts.

General Manager Jim Rutherford made the announcement at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

“It’s good to have a group of guys here to help the Penguins have a little more consistency,” Rutherford said. “It’s my honor to welcome you, and I really hope this is a fun day for you.”

>> Read more trending news

Raymond, Logan, Jason, Joseph and Colton are young Penguins fans from Make-A-Wish chapters in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, South Carolina and the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.

Their day started off with a press conference and signing their one-day contracts.

They were treated to breakfast with the players and stuck around to watch practice and hang out with some of the players afterwards.

Their trip ends with tickets to a Penguins home game.

When asked how to improve the team’s performance, Raymond said, “Get a goal or you won’t get any more breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

Here’s the full text of the one-day contract:

"In consideration of the opportunity to play for the club, the player, who is an amateur, agrees to present himself when called upon to do so and on request of the club for the purpose of demonstrating his ability and qualifications as a hockey player on November 21st, 2017 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, 8000 Cranberry Springs Drive, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. This agreement establishes for the club the exclusive right to negotiation for the services of the player against all other NHL clubs. The agreement shall be valid for a term of one day, at which time the player shall become unconditionally released. Under this agreement, the player shall receive no salary or bonus or any kind or any other form of compensation.”

The best Cyber Monday 2017 deals on tech, clothing, home and more

Black Friday is notorious for crowded shopping malls, long lines and total madness. But if the adrenaline rush of the post-Thanksgiving shopping day doesn’t appeal to you, Cyber Monday is another (almost) stress-free option for anyone looking to save big bucks on holiday gifts this year.

>> Read more trending news 

To get the best deals this Monday — and during Cyber Week — you’ll need quick fingers and a proper guide to the best discounts. 

After scouring ads from multiple retailers across a variety of categories, we picked some deals you just can’t miss this Cyber Monday.

» RELATED: All the Black Friday sales you should be jumping on now

Travel deals

The Cloister at Sea Island on the southern coast of Georgia is offering a Cyber Monday special for guests who book two or more nights between Jan. 2 and Feb. 28, 2018. In honor of their 90th birthday in 2018, the resort is giving guests 90 percent off their third night. Rates are typically $395 per night.

Guests at The Cloister will also receive 10 percent off all activities, free breakfast and complimentary wine tastings in January and February. (Forbes)

Intrepid Travel is also offering 15 percent off more than 1,000 trips in 120 countries for solo, family and culinary travel groups. Popular adventure tour group destinations include Vietnam, Machu Picchu, Morocco, India’s Golden Triangle and the Northern Lights.

» RELATED: Black Friday 2017: Get these Walmart deals on laptops, TVs and more now

The Intrepid Travel cyber sale launched Monday and will continue through Nov. 30 for travel between Feb. 1 and Sept. 30 of 2018. (Forbes)

Liberty Travel is holding a cyber sale beginning Friday through Monday with more than 500 deals with savings up to 66 percent off tours, cruises and several destinations.

See more travel deals at Forbes.com.

Tech deals

Google Home: Priced at $79 in Google’s online store from 12:01 a.m. EST Thanksgiving Day to 11:59 p.m. PST on Cyber Monday. Regular price: $129

» RELATED: Black Friday 2017: Best Buy ad deals on laptops, TVs and more just leaked

Dell 15.6” Inspiron 15 3000 laptop with Intel Celeron: $199.99. Regular price: $299.99. Dell will have hourly doorbusters on Cyber Monday, and if you order online at Dell.com, you’ll receive free shipping on any order.

Samsung 65” Curved 4K Smart HDR Ultra HDTV: $999.99. Regular price: $1,499.99. At Dell.com.

GameStop has promised lots of deals on your favorite games, consoles, systems, electronics and more. The cyber sale begins Monday, Nov. 27 and ends Dec. 1. Offers will go live at GameStop.com.

Costco’s popular deals on laptops, TVs and more end Monday, Nov. 27, so catch them before they go. Save up to $250 on laptops from HP and Asus, up to $300 on 40- and 70-inch TVs from Vizio and enjoy bundle deals on the Playstation 4 and Xbox.

» RELATED: Black Friday 2017: Get these Macy’s deals on clothes, appliances and more now

Apparel and accessories deals

Ann Taylor’s Cyber Monday sale begins Sunday at 5 p.m. EST and ends Monday at 11:59 p.m. You’ll get 50 percent off your entire purchase and free shipping.

Banana Republic is also offering 50 percent off everything online on Cyber Monday.

H&M customers will receive 30 percent off online Monday.

JCPenney kicks off its Cyber Monday sale on Saturday, Nov. 25 and it doesn’t end until Wednesday, Nov. 29. The retailer is offering 25 percent off Nike shoes and apparel, 45-65 percent off fine jewelry and 60 percent off women’s sweaters. JCPenney cardholders will receive additional discounts.

»RELATED: Black Friday 2017: Costco ad deals on laptops, TVs and more just leaked 

Nordstrom is offering an additional 20 percent off select sale items beginning at 12:01 a.m. PST on Cyber Monday until 11:59 p.m. PST.

Old Navy is offering 50 percent off everything online exclusively on Cyber Monday. The retailer is kicking off its 72-hour cyber sale on Saturday, Nov. 25. On Saturday and Sunday, you’ll receive 40 percent off everything at oldnavy.com.

Saks Off 5th is giving online customers 50 percent off select apparel and accessories, and an additional 60 percent off cold-weather items.

See more apparel and accessories Cyber Monday deals at Glamour.com.

Home and lifestyle deals

AncestryDNA is offering its kit for $59 from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Regular price: $99.

HelloFresh: Enjoy 40 percent off your first HelloFresh box using code MONDAY40.

Crate & Barrel: Enjoy 15 percent off full price items using code SAVE15 and enjoy free shipping with no minimum purchase.

Be sure to check other retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target and Kohl’s for ongoing online deals through next week.

» RELATED: AJC’s special edition Thanksgiving newspaper is a must-have for money-saving holiday deals

Tennessee State football player arrested after video shows him punching coach, police say

A Tennessee State University football player who was kicked off the team and expelled after he was caught on video punching his assistant coach earlier this month has been arrested in connection with the attack, according to police.

>> Read more trending news

Jail records show Latrelle Lee, 22, was arrested Monday night. He was charged with one count of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and released on a $7,500 bond later Monday, according to The Tennessean.

Police told told WKRN that Lee hit a coach in the face multiple times during a game against Southeast Missouri State University at Hale Stadium. Video of the Nov. 11 incident appeared to show Lee punching Tigers strength coach T.J. Greenstone twice in the head and knocking him to the ground on the sideline.

"Once struck about the face by the defendant, the victim fell to the ground and was dazed and somewhat unconscious from the punches," officers said in an arrest affidavit obtained by The Tennessean. "The victim has subsequently been having medical difficulties as a result from the altercation."

>> Related: Tennessee State player expelled after punching coach on sideline

The attack happened as Greenstone was walking down the sideline to ensure players who weren’t on the field were far enough away to avoid a penalty, The Tennessean reported.

In a statement released to WKRN after the incident, Tennessee State athletics director Teresa Phillps condemned the attack.

“We are committed to supporting the coach who was personally affected and our concern is now with him,” she said.

Dog owners less likely to die of heart attacks, study suggests

Owning a dog could quite literally save your life, a new study has revealed.

>> Read more trending news

Dog owners who live alone have a 36 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those without dogs. When it comes to dog owners who live with family members, the risk decreases by 15 percent.

"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household," Mwenya Mubanga, a study author and PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden, told CNN.

» RELATED: This Texas woman’s heart literally broke when her dog died, doctors say

Published in “Scientific Reports,” the study was conducted by researchers in Sweden who examined medical and pet ownership records of 3.4 million people. Those analyzed by the study were between 40 and 80 years old. Participants were followed for up to 12 years, with around 13 percent owning pet dogs.

Researchers also noted that individuals who owned dogs originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, saw even greater benefits. It's unclear exactly why this is, but researchers suggest that these breeds require more exercise, meaning the owner is necessarily more active and healthier.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

However, while the study clearly shows correlation between dog ownership and better heart health, it may not necessarily prove causation.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease," Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University and senior author of the study, told the BBC.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health."

At the same time, previous research has also pointed to the positive health benefits of owning dogs. For example, one study showed that children with dogs at home had a 15 percent reduced risk of asthma. Authors of that study suggested this was due to the "hygiene hypothesis," which posits that too clean of an environment actually increases an individual's susceptibility to allergies.

» RELATED: Sheriff: Toddler’s dog stayed with him while he was missing

In fact, the authors of the new study also said a possible reason for the positive effect of dogs on the heart may be connected to bacteria. According to the researchers, dogs actually change the dirt in their owners’ environment, meaning they may also influence their owner's bacterial microbiome. This collection of microscopic species lives in the gut and may benefit cardiovascular health.

But perhaps the biggest factor the research points to is the social aspect of owning a dog.

» RELATED: Ever wonder why dogs are so darn friendly? Science says it’s in their genes

"[Dog ownership] may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events," Dr. Rachel Bond, associate director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told CNN.

And of course, dogs definitely increase an individual's overall happiness.

» RELATED: 7 dog hacks for pet parents in the city 

"As many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy," Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation told BBC.

"Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them,” she said.

» RELATED: Do people care more about suffering dogs than suffering humans?

Congressional investigation launched after sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers

Update 4:40 p.m. Nov. 21: The House Ethics Committee has started an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s urging.

Update 2:30 p.m. Nov. 21: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an ethics investigation Tuesday after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress.

"As members of Congress, we each have a responsibility to uphold the integrity of the House of Representatives and to ensure a climate of dignity and respect, with zero tolerance for harassment, discrimination, bullying or abuse,” Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement. “As I have said before, any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the ethics committee.”

Conyers, D-Michigan, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was unaware of any allegations that he acted inappropriately toward women.

BuzzFeed News reported Monday that Conyers’ office paid a $27,000 settlement in 2015 to a woman who claimed she was fired from the lawmaker’s office because she refused his sexual advances. 

Original report: U.S. Rep. John Conyers denied on Tuesday that he’s settled sexual harassment complaints by staff members in the wake of a report that his office paid a former female employee $27,000 to settle a harassment-related wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015.

>> Read more trending news

Conyers, D-Michigan, told The Associated Press that he was unaware of any allegations that he has acted inappropriately toward women. He told the news wire that he only learned of the BuzzFeed News report that detailed the complaints on Tuesday morning.

A woman told BuzzFeed that she filed a wrongful dismissal complaint against Conyers in 2014 after he fired because she would not "succumb to (his) sexual advances."

>> Related: Sen. Al Franken accused of kissing, groping news anchor without consent

The case was settled in 2015. The woman, who was not identified, signed a confidentiality agreement and was rehired as a temporary employee with no job responsibilities. Over the course of three months, she was paid $27,000, BuzzFeed reported.

Documents from the case included signed affidavits from four other former Conyers staff members who said the lawmaker "repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually and rubbing their legs and backs in public."

>> Related: Sen. Al Franken accused of groping woman in 2010

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, called the BuzzFeed report “extremely troubling” and reiterated that a review of House of Representative workplace harassment and discrimination policies was underway.

Ryan announced last week that the House of Representatives was implementing a new mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training policy for members and staff.

“Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review,” Ryan said Tuesday. “People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination.” 

>> Related: George H.W. Bush accused of groping woman while in office

Since 1997, Congress’ Office of Compliance has paid federal employees $17.2 million to settle complaints of employment rule violations, including complaints of sexual harassment, The Washington Post reported. The $27,000 paid to Conyers’ former employee in 2015 is not among those numbers, as the funds came from the representative’s office budget, according to BuzzFeed.

Conyers, who was first elected in 1964, is currently the longest-serving member of Congress, with 52 years of service.

He is the second sitting senator to face accusations of inappropriate conduct toward women. A woman on Monday accused Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, of groping her as they posed for a photograph together at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair. Franken, who was accused last week of forcing himself on a Los Angeles news anchor in 2006, assumed office in 2009.

Herschel Walker blames Roger Goodell for continued NFL protests

Former NFL running back Herschel Walker blamed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for the longevity of NFL protests.

>> Read more trending news

Started by Colin Kaepernick last season, it has become common for NFL players to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem in protest of police brutality and social injustice in the United States.

“I absolutely think the protests are so upsetting, and I blame the commissioner,” Walker said, according to the New York Post. “I know people are going to be angry when I say it, but he should have stopped the protests at the very beginning."

“Guys, let me tell you this,” Walker continued. “Our flag is very special, and black lives matter, but what we should do is go to Washington after the season and protest there instead. We have young men and women fighting for the flag. And we have to respect the White House.”>> Related: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants players to stand during national anthem, memo says

While this is the first time Walker has publicly blamed the commissioner, it isn’t the first time Walker has expressed his opinion that NFL players should not protest during the playing of the national anthem

Above all else, Walker said in an interview with TMZ in September that players are at work during the games and should treat their jobs and bosses with respect.

“Everyone needs to stand. Everyone needs to be respectful,” Walker told TMZ. “And then what I’d do (if I were commissioner) is (say), ‘Guys, during the offseason, if you want to go walk the picket line in front of Congress, I will be right there with you.’”

President Donald Trump has continually voiced his opinion that the NFL should implement a rule demanding players stand during the playing of the national anthem.

>> Related: Do students have to stand for the Pledge, anthem?

Goodell is reported to have a contract extension finalized in the coming weeks that will be worth $40 million a year through 2023. 

Puppy with bad heart named honorary K-9 unit as part of bucket list

Arlo the puppy wasn’t expected to live past three months. Now, he’s almost six months old, despite living with a heart defect that can be fatal.

The puppy suffers from a narrowing of his aortic valve -- but Arlo’s owner said that even though there is surgery to fix the issue, his disease is so advanced that he won’t survive surgery, WFSB reported.

>> Read more trending news 

So, Arlo’s owner, Ashley Sakelarakis, has decided to make every day Arlo is around count, starting a bucket list for the pup that is living on borrowed time.

One of the bucket list items was to make Arlo an honorary K-9 unit. Sakelarakis is an Animal Control officer in Woodbridge, Connecticut. She contacted an officer in her hometown to make it happen, WFSB reported and it did.

Arlo received his badge, which was pinned to his collar on Monday, and was able to take his place in a police cruiser.

Also completed from his list was a visit to a news station, hitting a beach, having burgers and eating ice cream, WFSB reported.

Sakelarakis is trying to get Arlo to a different state as part of his bucket list travels.

She said that Arlo is showing progress when it comes to his treatment, but knows in all reality that his heart and health can fail at any moment. 

Latest Starbucks holiday cups may or may not depict LGBT couple

Starbucks’ holiday cups are causing discussion and debate again.

According to the New York Times, some people say this year's cups are promoting homosexuality.

Earlier this month, Starbucks released a video to introduce the cups. It featured a variety of customers, including an animation of two women shown holding hands around a Starbucks drink. Though their relationship wasn’t specified, some people saw it as a nod toward LGBTQ customers.

>> Read more trending news

There are also two gender-neutral hands linked on the side of this year’s cup

Last week, a BuzzFeed News story suggested the hands belong to a same-sex couple, saying Starbucks did not confirm or deny that the hands belong to a same-sex couple.

Several customers said the depiction was one of a same-sex couple, with some appearing to be supportive of the move and others criticizing it. 

“This year’s hand-drawn cup features scenes of celebrating with loved ones — whoever they may be,” Starbucks spokeswoman Sanja Gould told The Times. “We intentionally designed the cup so our customers can interpret it in their own way, adding their own color and illustrations.”

This isn’t the first time the company’s holiday cups caused discussion. In 2015, many people were upset about the plain red cups that didn't have a holiday-themed pattern. A conservative Christian activist pushed a boycott of Starbucks. 

At the time, the company said the cups were a blank canvas for customers to tell their own holiday story.

Editorial: Why good teachers quit

Janet Meckstroth Alessi has been an English teacher at John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres, Florida, for nearly 35 years. With more than 3,600 students, John I. Leonard is Palm Beach County’s largest high school.

Five years ago, my friend Sarah and I, who have been Palm Beach County teachers for decades, weren’t even talking about retiring from teaching. Now, she’s planning to retire at the end of this year, and I’m planning to retire within the next four years.

Why? As Sarah says, “The descent of teaching started with testing and the loss of teacher control over curriculum.”

I have been an English teacher at John I. Leonard High School since 1983 ... We have students from more than 20 countries, and there’s no other school at which I would have preferred to teach all these years.

>> Read more trending news

Sarah, who asked that I not use her last name, has been a high school teacher for 31 years, 24 of which have been in Palm Beach County. We met in 1984 when we were taking a graduate course together. She is one of the most intelligent, assiduous people I know.

For most of my career, I’ve loved teaching. I don’t regret having dedicated 34 years of my life to teaching, and it still thrills me when I can make a difference in a student’s life.

However, if I were just starting my career, I’m not sure how long I’d last.

The simple reason: So much testing has diminished true learning.

Unless you are a teacher yourself or have a child in the school system, you’d be shocked by how much teaching-to-tests, practice testing, retake testing and make-up testing occurs.

RELATED: A Judge sentenced a man to write 144 compliments about ex-girlfriend

On a regular basis, gym classes lose access to the gymnasium, and students lose access to the media center due to testing. Nearly every day, teachers receive lists of hundreds of students who need to be sent out for testing.

I find it difficult to even keep up with all of the testing acronyms: FSA (Florida Standards Assessment), EOC (End of Course), USA (United Statewide Assessment), PBPA (Palm Beach Performance Assessment), PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test), SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test), ACT (American College Testing), AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education) and AP (Advanced Placement).

I used to teach magnificent novels such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Tale of Two Cities.” My students and I read these novels together, while listening to them on tape. We discussed and analyzed what we were reading. Charles Dickens is not easy to read, but most of my students thanked me for making them read “A Tale of Two Cities,” telling me they never would have read and understood it on their own.

Not only did they improve their reading comprehension, vocabulary and even their self-esteem by reading novels, but they also came to know and love memorable characters such as Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson, Madame Defarge and Sydney Carton. And they experienced literary devices such as foreshadowing and conflict in action.

More importantly, they were left with valuable life lessons and role models.

I also used to teach Shakespeare plays such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Julius Caesar,” “Macbeth” and “Hamlet.” I sewed costumes for my students, who made wooden swords and shields so that they could act out the plays as we read them. They learned about love, hate, revenge, strength, ambition and more.

Sadly, there have been years when English teachers have been instructed to suspend the teaching of novels, Shakespeare and even vocabulary because of standardized testing.

What will students remember about practice SAT, ACT and FSA passages when they’re adults?

I, on the other hand, clearly remember numerous characters and themes from stories that I read in school. These stories have helped shape who I am.

For the first 25 years that I taught, before each grading period, I wrote out my lesson plans for the entire nine weeks. Now, I write them one week at a time, as I often have to “be flexible” and change them, mostly because of standardized testing.

I love to teach. I was hired to teach. Let me teach, damn it!

Another key reason good teachers quit, as my friend Sarah says: “The kids and their parents have increasingly less accountability, and we have more.”

I have 130 students this year. Only three of their parents came to open house. And last school year, the parents of one of my students, who had 51 absences second semester, hired a lawyer and threatened to sue the school board because their son wasn’t graduating.

Instead of teaching students to be responsible, we’re feeding their sense of entitlement.

A couple of years ago, I was assigned to proctor an AP test. Unbelievably, this was a make-up of a make-up of a make-up test, and when one of the two students didn’t show up, I was asked to call her.

We were paying for her to take the test. Did we have to wake her up as well? Where’s the accountability?

When she showed up, she didn’t have a pencil. Why would she? She knew from past experience that one would be provided for her.

When a student is suspended, he or she is now allowed to make up work. Where’s the punishment?

RELATED: Seminole Ridge student deliver backpacks to Acreage Pines Elementary

Students have to pass the FSA in order to graduate. However, if they fail it but receive a high enough score on the SAT or ACT, they can still graduate. Therefore, we spend an inordinate amount of class time trying to improve students’ SAT, ACT and FSA test scores.

Decades ago, following the first grading period of my career, my principal, Luke Thornton, called me into his office and pointed out how many of my students had earned an “F” in my class. He then asked if I thought they deserved an “F.”

“Yes, sir, I do,” I replied, and that was the end of that.

Not surprisingly, when my students discovered that I meant business, their grades improved.

However, today a school’s grade is partly determined by its graduation rate; and the evaluation of teachers, administrators and superintendents is partly based on the success of their students.

Sometimes, teachers are told that they must call the parents of students making a D or F in their class. Rather than do this, some teachers bump the D’s and F’s up to C’s.

Of course, when students learn that they can carry an F all nine weeks, and then it magically transforms into a C, this has a snowball effect and inflates GPAs.

I haven’t bumped grades up, but I do understand why some teachers have. We electronically post grades once a week and send out mid-term progress reports. Shouldn’t that be enough notification?

We’ve also had too many bad experiences. The first parent I called this year, for example, told me that surely there were other students whose behavior was worse than her daughter’s. She then demanded to know why I was picking on her daughter, berated me for bothering her, and hung up.

One father declared, “When my son’s in school, he’s your problem. Don’t ever call me again,” before hanging up on me.

Yes, there are some wonderful, supportive parents and students. Unfortunately, not all parents have taught their children to respect them, let alone respect their teachers. I also believe the blatant disrespect shown by some students in television shows and movies contributes to the problem.

I have always tried to treat my students with respect, and in return, I have usually earned their respect.

However, due to pressure to not suspend students, standards of behavior have been lowered over the years. The result has been that many teachers deal with brazen disrespect on a daily basis and aren’t consistently supported by their administration.

As Sarah points out, “Many students seem to have the attitude of, ‘You have to tolerate me.’ Too often, they’re right.”

A former student of mine, who is in her second year of teaching, laments that she “absolutely hated” her first year of teaching because her third-grade students were “too rude.”

If they’re “too rude” in third grade, imagine what they’re like in middle and high school.

A friend, who’s teaching third grade this year, has a student who has informed her of the different ways he’d like to kill her. He has threatened his classmates with a fork, scissors and belt, and he has told a classmate he wished the classmate had been in Las Vegas and died. My friend has to buzz the office daily and is documenting this student’s behavior, but the red tape involved in having him placed in a classroom for students with an “emotional behavior disorder” is tedious.

As John I. Leonard High’s Dwyer Award winner Jackie Burgess-Malone points out, “We don’t even have time to get to know our students anymore.”

We’re expected to attend Professional Development Days (PDDs), keep up with our Professional Growth Plan (PGP), the Education Data Warehouse (EDW), Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Temporary Duty Elsewhere (TDE) forms, Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and our Student Information System (SIS).

We must take attendance, check for dress code, check testing lists for our students’ names, check and respond to email, do our assigned “duty” during our planning period, watch videos and pass quizzes on the videos, earn points to renew our teaching certificate, provide make-up work, call parents, attend meetings, keep up with all of the standardized testing, write lesson plans, create worksheets, tests and quizzes and make copies.

RELATED: Angry teachers say principal’s second change is proof of double standards

That’s in addition to grading papers and entering grades, tardies and absences into the computer.

And, oh, yes, we teach.

When I am able to teach, I would like to be given credit for having a Master’s degree in English, having 34 years of experience, and having some idea of what’s best for my students, thank you very much.

Yet, almost every year, we’re introduced to a new teaching method. Many of us wonder if those deciding how we should teach were ever teachers themselves, and if so, how long it’s been since they were in a classroom.

(There are definitely some teachers who are stuck in their ways and refuse to change. I may not embrace change, but I am willing to change. When I’m presented with a new teaching method, I try it out, but if it’s not effective, I employ it only enough to keep my job.)

Class size is a problem as well. I thought having 34 students in one of my classes was a lot, but we have an anatomy and physiology class with 39. And I recently spoke to a physical education teacher who’s grateful that the class count for her classes is in the 50s, unlike in previous years, when it’s been in the 70s.

We also have so many people using the restroom between classes that we frequently struggle to have enough water pressure to flush the toilets and wash our hands, and the air conditioning breaks down too frequently — try taking all those tests in a 90-degree room.

What’s more, there are tests for teachers — and many are failing.

In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree, teachers must pass the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. Teachers who haven’t passed this exam can teach with a temporary teaching certificate for three years; however, the certificate is non-renewable.

Two years ago, the Florida Department of Education introduced more difficult teacher certification exams. Since then, the failure rates have increased by as much as 30 percent on some sections. Since 2015, only 69 percent of teachers have passed the essay, 65 percent have passed the English language skills exam, 60 percent have passed the reading exam and 57 percent have passed the math exam.

Could our teachers fresh out of college be struggling to pass this exam because they were given passing grades when they shouldn’t have been? Were they programmed to care more about their grades than learning? Were their teachers too busy teaching to the standardized test-of-the-day to teach general knowledge? Does the exam contain poorly worded, ambiguous and/or unnecessarily rigorous questions?

Or is the answer none of the above, some combination of the above, or all of the above?

On the first day of school each year, I ask my seniors if they can name the eight parts of speech. Only one or two students in the last decade have been able to do so.

I am writing this not to complain — but to plainly state what teachers have to go through each day. We teachers want our students to be excited about learning.

My hope is that our governor, superintendent, parents, teachers, students and our community will address these problems and that our new teachers will stay because they will see that improvements are being made.

Teaching can and should be one of the most rewarding careers a person can choose.

Read the full piece at the Palm Beach Post.

Woman holds decoration drive to help victims of Hurricane Harvey celebrate holidays

As Texas continues to recover during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many are trying to figure out how they will celebrate the holiday season after they’ve lost everything.

One woman came up with an idea to help bring a little normalcy for hurricane victims during the next few weeks and help brighten up their temporary homes this Christmas, KBMT reported.

>> Read more trending news

Meredith Love, with some help from Gretchen Scoggins and schools in Hardin County, Texas, organized a free holiday decoration giveaway.

Love and the others collected donations through social media to provide ornaments, trees and garlands to Hurricane Harvey victims this past weekend, KBMT reported.

Love posted on her Facebook page that more than 200 people were able to collect something to make their living arrangements a little more homey this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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