Special education transition resources

The Special Education Department will be helping families prepare their children for life after high school through its Transition Fair 2021. The three-day fair will offer information and resources through a variety of session taking place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 13–15.

The event will feature guest speakers and interactive activities that target key topics and areas of support to ensure families are knowledgeable of resources needed for students to reach lifelong goals.

Day #1–April 13th: GET READY

  • Vocational and Information Sessions

Day #2–April 14th: GET SET

  • College, Career, and Military Readiness

Day #3—April 15th: GO

  • Agencies and Resources

Register at DISDTransitionFair.eventbrite.com.


Eye fitness

In today’s technology rich environments, eyes are continuously fixed on the computer monitor during the day and smartphones or other hand-held devices after hours. This constant strain and stress on the eyes can give rise to vision problems have given rise to eye problems. Fortunately, a series of simple exercises can restore your eye fitness.

Whether you use these suggested eye exercises or download an app that guides you through other activities to give your eyes a rest and keep them in fighting shape, benefits of eye fitness include:

  • Improvements to general vision
  • Lower risk of developing eye diseases
  • Lower incidence of dry eyes
  • Reduction in eye strain
  • Improvement in concentration
  • Boost to peripheral vision

Exercise your eyes

  • Relax your eye muscles by placing your hands together palm to palm and rub them together briskly to warm them up. Place your palms gently over your eyes and allow your eyes to relax. Do not let light in. Do this whenever you have time during the day.
  • Before going to sleep, massage your eye lids and eye muscles by gently rubbing your finger in a circular direction for at least two minutes. Massaging your eyes can help to relax your eye muscles.
  • Constantly blinking your eyes is a very simple way to keep your eyes fresh and avoid eyestrain. Computer users should blink every three to four seconds.
  • During the day take eye breaks from the computer and change your range of vision by focusing your eyes on an object that is far away and looking back at a nearby object. Repeat this transition several times.
  • Without moving your head, switch your vision to look to the left and to the right. You can do this by simply looking to each side or by following a pen or pencil as you move it from the center to the side, back to the center and the to the other side.

While exercising your eyes can help you stay fit, remember that regular exam with a professional are recommended.

Don’t stress

Can you recognize the signs of stress and do you know how to manage it? Managing stress is part of maintaining good mental health.

You can learn more about why mental health is important and how to maintain it by attending Dallas ISD’s Mental Health Matters Virtual Symposium on Saturday, May 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event, hosted by Mental Health Services will feature recorded presentations and a live Q&A. There will be English and Spanish presentations on topics such as parenting, bullying, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and more. For more information or to register, please visit www.mentalhealthmattersdallas.com.

Until then, if you are having stress or other mental health issues, Lifeworks, the district’s employee assistance program can help.

The first step in managing stress is to become aware of the early warning signs so you address the sources of stress in your life and treat stress with proven techniques. Once you learn to recognize your own reactions to stress, you can begin to treat it effectively. Some signs and symptoms you might notice include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • working to exhaustion
  • being irritable
  • loss of appetite for food, fun or sex
  • stomach pain or upset stomach
  • neck or back pain
  • fatigue
  • tearfulness
  • smoking or drinking more
  • loss of sense of humor
  • forgetfulness
  • trembling, nervous tics
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations or shortness of breath
  • excessive perspiration
  • eating too much or too little
  • over-exercise
  • dry mouth
  • feeling tired/lack of energy
  • obsessive behavior
  • loss of interest in other people
  • a feeling that everything is pointless
  • inability to focus and concentrate
  • high levels of anxiety and worry

If you are experiencing five or more from the above list, you may be suffering from stress and should consider ways to manage it more effectively. Each of us responds to stress differently. Chronic stress contributes to heart disease and heart attacks. It also suppresses our immune system leaving us more vulnerable to disease.

Lifeworks offers tips and resources to help Dallas ISD employees deal with stress in a productive and healthy way. Visit dallasisd.lifeworks.com or www.dalllasisd.org/benefits for more information.

You can also download this guide to managing stress and this guide and resources to help you deal with thoughts of self-harm.

HPCs are a true calling

Samuel Hawkins found his true calling eight years ago when he quit his job as a successful car salesman to teach math to children in struggling schools. A year ago, he brought his passion to an eighth-grade math classroom at Sarah Zumwalt Middle School, one of Dallas ISD’s high priority campuses.

Math was always his favorite subject, and when he started tutoring students—including some in Dallas ISD schools—through his church, he saw how they struggled and how that affected their self-confidence. That’s when he decided he wanted to spend all his time helping these students succeed, not just in math but in all aspects.

“I k new I wanted to work with kids who, according to statistic, couldn’t get the math,” he said. “I wanted to make them feel better about themselves, show them that they can. I liked taking on the ones who kept hearing no and teaching them so they can hear yes.”

Hawkins quit his job at the Arlington dealership, started working as a substitute, passed a content exam and breezed through an alternative certification program to become a math teacher. After working at several area districts and making a difference at each of the schools where he taught, he knew he wanted to Dallas ISD and a neighborhood where his family is from.

He has always chosen to work in Title I campuses—schools with high percentages of students from low-income backgrounds—because he knows that is where he can make the greatest impact.

“The kids need to know that somebody [in school] cares for them,” he said. “You establish that relationship where they know you have their back and want the best of them, and they go from feeling cut off from the world to being engaged. Money can’t equal that experience when you see the change first-hand, face to face.

“It wasn’t the money that made me choose [a high priority campus,] because I made more money selling cars,” he added. “It was about making impact. I always want to be in an area where I can impact our future, and this is the best way you can do it.”

Teachers, instructional coaches, and counselors who want to bring their passion for making a difference in young minds and lives can take advantage of the district’s open transfer period for high priority campuses that continues through April 23. For eligibility requirements, go here.

Working at a high priority campus has benefits beyond making a difference. Eligible teachers serving at high priority campuses in the 2021-2022 school year will:

  • Earn additional DTR points on the TEI Scorecard, replacing the existing Tier I process.
  • Earn additional stipends.




New opportunity for vaccines

Because the safety and well-being of staff is a top priority for Dallas ISD, the district continues to establish partnerships to provide access to vaccines for employees. Through a partnership with Methodist Health System—which operates a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at its flagship hospital, Methodist Dallas Medical Center—staff who work and live in the southern sector have convenient access to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Schedule an appointment by registering with Methodist at https://vaccine.mhd.com/MyChart/covid19/#/. Appointments can also be scheduled by calling 214-933-6200.

The vaccination clinic is located at Methodist Dallas, 1441 N Beckley Ave., Dallas, TX 75208. Parking instructions will be included in the email confirmation once an employee makes an appointment. People with appointments can generally expect to be in and out of the vaccine clinic in about an hour. Bring a photo ID and notify the Methodist team that you work at Dallas ISD.

Employees can also continue to sign up for vaccines at Dallas County, Parkland Memorial HospitalUT Southwestern Medical Center, and other community organizations.

The vaccine is an important part of establishing a safe environment for all staff and students, and we would like to know how many employees have been vaccinated or are scheduled to receive the vaccine. An accurate count of staff vaccinations will also help Dallas ISD continue to work with health service organizations in the community to secure additional vaccines for all staff.

If you have received a COVID-19 vaccine or you are scheduled to receive it, please complete the form below.

COVID-19 vaccine information form


Still need a vaccine?

As the vaccination efforts open up to additional segments of the population, the district is working with Dallas County to ensure that Dallas ISD staff have priority in getting the vaccine. If you have not yet received your vaccine, please, fill out the district’s form that will be shared with the county to ensure priority in scheduling.

Parkland Memorial Hospital is also open for vaccinations for all adults and is asking those who still need a vaccine to schedule their vaccine appointments by creating a Parkland MyChart account.  You can find information on the Parkland website https://www.parklandhospital.com/covid-19-vaccines or by downloading this information sheet.

Vaccines are also available from other providers. For links to other vaccine providers, click here for a previous story.



The eyes: Windows to your health

The eyes can be windows to your overall health, revealing diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. That’s why annual eye exams are an important part of a thorough health maintenance plan.

Any ophthalmologist who does even a routine eye exam can detect disease throughout the body, according to Dr. Rishi P. Singh, an ophthalmologist in the Cleveland Clinic. Eye exams can reveal if there are issues affecting multiple organs or the entire body.

Sometimes problems with your vision can be related to or even caused by a larger health issue even if you are completely asymptomatic.


Ophthalmologists look for a condition called diabetic retinopathy. This condition damages the blood vessels in the eye, and the damage can be observed even before vision is affected. Normally, areas of bleeding and swelling in the retina or abnormal blood vessel development, which are telltale signs of diabetic damage, can be seen during an eye exam. Upon detection, laser treatment and medications to repair blood vessels could be recommended, and if the bleeding is severe enough, surgery could be a treatment option.


The first clue that a patient is suffering from hypertension is damage to their vision that affects the blood flow within the eye caused by high blood pressure. Screening is key since a lot of small vascular changes to the eye don’t affect your vision until very late in the disease. Scenarios like eye strokes associated with carotid artery disease, which demand serious attention, may be a future predictor of cerebral strokes and can be found in a simple routine vision screen. Early attention can save a life.

Inflammatory conditions

Early warning signs of such inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and lupus can be seen in the eyes. Inflammatory diseases cause inflammation of the uvea in the middle of the eye, causing uveitis which can cause permanent damage to your eyes if untreated.

Taking time for a yearly eye exam not only protects your eyes, but ultimately can safeguard your overall health. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults with no risk factors should get a baseline exam at 40 and then screenings at regular intervals. Those who wear corrective lenses should get an exam every year.

Handling fraudulent unemployment claims

Stories about fraudulent unemployment claims have recently been in the news, and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has reported receiving an increased number of fraudulent unemployment claims filed throughout the state.

As part of the claim process, TWC will notify Dallas ISD of unemployment claims filed by district employees for purposes of verification. The district can verify if an employee is still active, but all unemployment claims are filed directly with TWC, and any issues should be addressed directly with the workforce commission.

If you have been notified or have reason to believe that a fraudulent unemployment claim was filed on your behalf, please visit the links below for helpful information about handling fraudulent claims from the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Texas Workforce Commission Reporting Fraud 


Important Information About Unemployment Insurance Fraud


TWC Investigating Potential Fraud Cases


US Department of Labor

US Department of Labor launches website for victims of unemployment fraud | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)

Report Unemployment Identity Theft | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)


Cómo manejar el fraude en las solicitudes de pagos por desempleo

Recientemente ha habido artículos en los medios acerca de fraude en las solicitudes para recibir pagos por desempleo, y la Texas Workforce Commission (TWC, por sus siglas en inglés) también ha reportado un número mayor de casos de fraude en todo el estado.

Como parte del proceso de las solicitudes, TWC notifica al Dallas ISD cuando un empleado del distrito somete una solicitud para pagos por desempleo para verificación. El distrito puede verificar si el empleado está activo, pero las solicitudes de pagos por desempleo se someten directamente a al TWC y cualquier problema debe solucionarse directamente con la comisión.

Si se le ha notificado o tiene una razón para creer que ha sido víctima de un fraude en los pagos por desempleo que se han solicitado en su nombre, por favor, visite uno de los enlaces para la TWC y el Departamento de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos abajo para encontrar información que lo puede ayudar a resolver la situación.

Texas Workforce Commission


Departamento del Trabajo the los Estados Unidos


TOY finalists chosen

Nine Dallas ISD teachers are finalists for this year’s Teacher of the Year Awards in three categories. The winner—who will represent the district at regional and state levels—will be chosen at a special event sponsored by Central Market.

During the annual Teacher of the Year recognition program teachers of the year from all the schools will also be recognized. The three finalists in the Elementary, Secondary, and Choice/Magnet categories were selected through an application process. This year, 68 campus Teacher of the Year winners applied for the district honor, writing of their passion and innovation in teaching, leading, and serving the community. The nine finalists were then invited to complete a recorded video interview. Judges from internal Dallas ISD departments and members of the education community will review their responses to select a winner from each category.

In response to the continuing pandemic, this year’s districtwide celebration will take a unique shape: Dallas ISD’s three Teachers of the Year will be announced via video segments to be aired on NBC5 and WFAA in late April and early May. Central Market will recognize our finalists and the District Teachers of the Year monetary awards ranging from $1,500 to $5,000.


Choice / Magnet Finalists (All-Level)

Peter Morrissey – Alex Sanger Preparatory School
Peter Morrissey, now in his 17th year as an educator in Dallas, teaches general education and English as a Second Language at Alex Sanger Preparatory. He received his Bachelor’s of Fine Art in Communication Design degree from Texas State University. A frequent collaborator with colleagues about best practices in the classroom, he is also very involved in Student Activities as the Campus Activities Coordinator, working with teachers and the community to ensure that his campus provides a variety of co-curricular and extracurricular activities for all students. When he is not working in the classroom, you will find him spending time with his two children and wife. Morrissey is a strong believer in having determination, perseverance and passion that keeps you going despite obstacles. He was born and raised in Dallas and is both a product of Dallas ISD and proud graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School. With hard work and determination, he achieved the goal of higher education and tries to instill that in his students daily.

Mary Nunley – City Lab High School
Mary Nunley has nine years of experience teaching high school mathematics in both traditional-public and public-charter high schools. She is the founding math teacher at CityLab High School. Nunley is a continuous learner who takes every opportunity she can to develop her abilities both as a classroom teacher and teacher-leader. In her current role as campus lead teacher, she enjoys supporting the learning and teaching of her peers through collaboration and feedback. Although she enjoys this work to develop and support her peers, her favorite time of day is when is in the classroom with her 12th grade statistics students, where she teaches using a project-based learning model. She entered the teaching profession as a 2012 Dallas-Fort Worth Teach for America corps member after graduating from Lehigh University. Since then, she has obtained her master’s in Education with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) instruction from Southern Methodist University and her Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of North Texas at Dallas as part of The Future STEM Leaders Academy. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, her friends and her two dogs, Harvey and Rio.

Yonathan Tadesse – Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet at Townview Center
Yonathan Tadesse recognizes the potential in every student and teaches so that this potential is seen and fulfilled for every child. He believes that every student can learn math – regardless of their background, prior experiences, or fears about the subject.  A 2014 graduate of Emory University, Tadesse tutored in local Atlanta public schools throughout college and learned not only of the inequities that persist in public education, but gained a love for students, and experienced firsthand the need for more black male math teachers. Upon graduation, he became a Teach For America corps member and taught high school math for five years at W.W. Samuell High School, helping contribute to significant academic gains for students. Currently, Tadesse is teaching algebra and college transition to 10th and 11th graders and serving as math chair at the Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet. Tadesse has been a pioneer in many new campus and district initiatives, leading the first Link Crew program and teaching the first college transition class offered in the district.


Elementary (PK-5)

Jose Armendariz – Pershing Elementary School
Jose Armendariz began his teaching career after working for three years at a U.S. consulate and deciding to change his life to become a teacher to continue his family’s legacy in education. Immediately after receiving his Master’s in Business Administration from The University of Texas at El Paso he started his career in Dallas ISD as a bilingual teacher in 2004 through the Alternative Certification Program at John J. Pershing Elementary. Now with more than 17 consecutive years in education at Pershing, Armendariz has had impact in almost every teaching assignment at the campus.  Since 2016, he has been an active collaborator as a cadre member with the ESL and Bilingual Department of Dallas ISD, been showcased on Univision on via the TV Educational Show Unimás, and partnered with his campus leaders to re-establish the Pershing Lions PTA. As a winner of numerous grants and  fellowships, his focus is to provide the best learning experience to his students so they will overcome the learning barriers that impact their academic, social and emotional learning, while embracing the use of technology in a hybrid platform to promote communication, engagement, and parent involvement to drive equity for diverse learners.

Maria Sarmiento – Nancy Cochran Elementary School
Maria “Elysa” Enriquez Sarmiento was born and raised in Manila to a family of educators. She completed her bachelor of science degree in Psychology from Ateneo de Manila University before moving to the United States at the age of 22 to begin her career in special education as a paraeducator for the severely handicapped. Sarmiento served as a paraeducator in a moderate to severe special education unit of third and fifth graders in Hayward Unified School District for almost two years before relocating to Dallas as an autism behavior technician at Metro Care. A stepping-stone to her teaching career, she learned unforgettable values as an employee of a nonprofit organization. In 2016, she joined Dallas ISD as a student teacher at Eladio Martinez Learning Center. Along with teaching, she served as her school’s special education lead teacher and chairperson for three years. In 2018, Sarmiento pursued her master’s degree in special education through Lamar University. Now charged with a functional living skills unit at Nancy Cochran Elementary School, Sarmiento is currently enrolled in practicum courses to acquire her educational diagnostician certification through Lamar University. Her ultimate purpose is to positively impact the future of our nation—the youth. 

Katelyn Sokol – Stevens Park Elementary School
Katie Sokol is a fifth-grade teacher with six years of experience. She is currently teaching reading and writing at Stevens Park Elementary School. She holds a Bachelor of Elementary Education from Arizona State University, a Master of Education with a focus on ESL Education from Southern Methodist University, and a Master of Arts from the reading specialist program at Columbia University in New York City. She is exceptionally passionate about literacy education and working toward bridging the literacy gap that exists between affluent and low-income students. Sokol has dedicated her career to delivering high- quality reading and writing instruction to students who are reading below grade level and has gained experience through her time spent teaching in West Dallas, Harlem (NYC), and Oak Cliff. Sokol is passionate about working in the West Dallas and Oak Cliff neighborhoods and has long-term plans to stay in the community in an effort to make a lasting impact on the children, their families, and their overall literacy skills.


Secondary (6-12)

Seneca Denman – Boude Storey Middle School
Seneca Denman was raised in a small rural town in East Texas to a family of six sisters and six brothers where she learned the importance of sharing, taking turns, being patient, and that her Mama and Daddy don’t play when it comes to education. Her interest in education began early, when she was encouraged by her mother to seek out a profession that she would not only enjoy but find meaningful. Denman earned a bachelor of science degree in physical education and history at Paul Quinn College and a master’s degree in Education Administration with a principal certification from Lamar University. Her first teaching job was at Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, where she taught physical education and coached the women’s basketball team. Later Seneca moved to Dallas and found her home in Dallas ISD. Dedicated to the middle grades, she is presently in her fifth year at Boude Storey Middle School.  Double-digit gains on local and state social studies assessments have often followed her campus assignments, and she seeks not only to prepare her students but to collaborate with and support her peers. A TEI and TIA distinguished teacher, Denman’s greatest joy is seeing former students all grown up leading successful lives.

Rachel Reese – Alex W. Spence Middle School
A 26-year veteran of Dallas ISD, Reese has spent her career as an educator working with students in middle school and currently serves as Instructional Lead Teacher for English at Alex W. Spence Middle School and TAG Academy, teaching eighth grade reading/language arts. Reese obtained her Associates of Arts degree from Paris Junior College, followed by a transfer to Texas Tech University, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in journalism. She began her teaching career at Fred F. Florence Middle School as an elective teacher for the school newspaper and yearbook. Quickly learning that her true passion was improving students’ reading skills, Reese has served as a member of many Campus Instructional Leadership Teams, Instructional Coach, and as the campus coordinator or the Methods of Effective Teaching grant through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  In 2011, Reese transferred to Alex W. Spence Middle School to teach eighth grade reading. She was selected to serve as reading/ language arts CILT representative, where she has continued to serve consecutively. At Spence, she also serves as a distinguished teacher, LPAC chairperson and campus TEI expert.

Aaron Stewart – Skyline High School
Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Aaron Stewart moved to Dallas just before high school where he attended David W. Carter High School. A stand-out football player, choir member, member of the National Honor Society, and one of the founding members of the Fostering Underclassmen to Utilize and Respect Education mentorship program, it was during this time that Stewart cultivated his passions for reading, writing and mentoring others. A graduate of the University of North Texas, Stewart’s desire to teach students that shared his background led him to Skyline High School, where his impact was immediate. To Stewart, knowledge is not just power, but freedom. As a fatherless, poor, black student from an urban city, Stewart recognizes that with the help of past teachers, coaches, and mentors, he has been exposed to possibilities that were once hidden from him. Now his life’s mission is to expose all students to possibilities beyond what they can see, using knowledge and education as the guiding compass. Currently an English I teacher, Stewart believes his greatest accomplishment is becoming a man of which his family can be proud and makes it his mission to help his students and colleagues become all that they can be.