Student Spotlights – March ’23

Student School Spotlights March 2023 AOP 1 1
Every month we compile a list of students and schools doing great things across our community.  We have so many talented students in our area.  Greater Pensacola Parents joins with these families and schools to celebrate their achievements!


Auburn’s last exclusively African American public high school, J.F Drake High School, was founded in 1957 and named after Dr. Joseph Fanning Drake. Dr. Drake was an Auburn native who began his service to Alabama education when he accepted an appointment as supervisor of adult education for the State Department of Education. After five years, he became the Dean of the State Normal School (now Alabama State University) in Montgomery. In 1927 Dr. Drake accepted the presidency of what would become Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, located in Normal (now part of Huntsville). He served as president of this institution until his passing in 1964. Dr. Drake’s legacy lives on to this day as it is now named J.F. Drake Middle School, functioning as a middle school since desegregation. In 2017, this campus began serving sixth graders and underwent extensive renovations before the 2020-2021 school year.


Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) is a program with the mission to motivate young people to be better citizens. JROTC is taught by LTC (Retired) Anthony Benitez and 1SG (Retired) John Audaine, but is a student-led organization with a focus on leadership that allows Cadets to plan and supervise daily activities and training. The program prepares students for life after high school and provides them with meaningful opportunities to further their education or immediately enter the workforce. There are currently 110 Cadets in the program with co-curricular teams that compete against other schools as Drill Teams, Color Guard, Raider Teams, PT Teams, and Rifle Teams. Cadets also perform Color Guard missions for Auburn High School, Auburn University, and the Auburn community at large. Students in this program are awarded Career Technical Education and Physical Education credits.


On Saturday, January 21st, Keely Rider, Lee County’s Distinguished Young Woman was selected as a top 8 finalist in Alabama’s Distinguished Young Women. Rider competed with other high school senior girls from across the state for the title of Alabama’s Distinguished Young Woman. Rider was awarded a preliminary award in scholarship.


With more than 1,700 students are enrolled in CTE courses in Auburn City Schools. One program is the Advertising Design. The Advertising Design program is taught by Mr. Clay Cox, who has 20 years of teaching experience. Approximately 140 students enroll in the three different levels of classes each year and are encouraged to work on many relevant and engaging projects. Beginning in the introductory course, students are responsible for many images utilized by Auburn High School performing arts and athletic teams, including social media graphics, season schedules, and printed posters visible around campus. Advertising Design also offers the opportunity for students to become credentialed as an Adobe Photoshop Certified Associate. This industry-recognized certification demonstrates foundational skills and knowledge for digital media careers. Through collaborative partnerships with various businesses, individuals, institutions, and organizations, Advertising Design students at AHS have created graphics for Tuskegee University and nationally touring stand-up comedians.
Recent awards include:
– Multiple Visual Arts Achievement Program (VAAP) Contest State Winners
– First place in the Alexander Shunnarah Billboard Contest
– Winner of the Alabama Association for Career and Technical Education (ALACTE) Cover Contest


The Project Lead the Way Engineering program is taught by Mrs. Sarah Sharman, who has 10 years of teaching experience as well as 10 years of industry experience. The Project Lead the Way Engineering curriculum is taught at three of Auburn City Schools’ campuses, enrolling approximately 400 students a year. At Auburn High School, approximately 125 students enroll in the three levels of classes each year that encompass several engineering disciplines to provide students with strong foundations for their future. Students can enroll in courses that introduce computer-aided design (CAD) modeling, principles of engineering, civil engineering and architecture, aerospace engineering, and Robotics. Additionally, students can become credentialed as a Certified SolidWorks Associate, an industry-recognized certification. Students can share their passion for STEM-related concepts outside the classroom with their younger peers. Throughout the school year, Auburn High and Auburn Junior High students visit all ACS elementary schools to host STEM Nights. The activities for each STEM Night introduce younger students to fun and engaging concepts related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Recent awards include:
– Tournament Champion, Spooky VEX at Auburn University
– VEX Robotics Excellence Award, Bots in the Hills, Vestavia, AL
– VEX Robotics Skills Champion, Bots in the Hills, Vestavia, AL
– VEX Robotics Design Award, Patriot Pride Competition, Pike Road, AL
– VEX Robotics Design Award, Phenix City Spin Up, Phenix City, AL
– Tournament Champion, LAMP VRC, Montgomery, AL
– VEX Robotics State Winners
– Competed at VEX Worlds in Dallas, TX
– Design Award Recipient


Congratulations to Auburn Classical Academy’s 5th grade student, Luke Pittman. He competed in the Lee County Spelling Bee and placed 4th overall. Way to go, Luke!


The Sheet from Auburn High School has been recognized as an EXCELLENT magazine by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). This year, schools in 42 states and five countries nominated 262 student magazines from middle schools, high schools, and higher education entities. According to Ms. Carley Muschara, The Sheet’s Club Advisor and an English Teacher at Auburn High, this was their first year to print, and the staff worked so hard to make it special. The REALM program publicly recognizes excellent literary magazines produced by students with the support of their teachers. REALM is designed to encourage all schools to develop literary magazines that celebrate the art and craft of writing.


Auburn High School served as the host site for the VEX IQ Slap Shot Invitational Tournament, with 24 local teams in the competition. Students from four ACS elementary schools (grades 3-5), J.F. Drake Middle School, East Samford School, and Auburn Junior High School, were in attendance and won numerous awards. Team 737B from Ogletree Elementary won the “Excellence Award” for exemplifying excellence in creating a high-quality, competitive robotics program. Team 1555A from Yarbrough Elementary and Team 737B both won the “Teamwork Champions Award” for their collaboration as a two-team alliance that earned the highest score in the Teamwork Challenge Finals matches. Team 1555C from Yarbrough Elementary won the “Robot Skills Champion Award” for earning the highest combined Driving Skills Challenge and Programming Skills Challenge scores. Team 36832C from Auburn Junior High School won the “Design Award” for demonstrating the most organized and professional approach to the design process, project/time management, and team organization. Team 1555G from Yarbrough Elementary won the “Judges Award” for being the most deserving of special recognition. Judges consider several criteria for this award, including exemplary effort and perseverance at the event, team accomplishments throughout the season, and other factors that may not fall under existing award categories. ACS congratulates all the students, coaches, parents, and guardians for their success and dedication to robotics!


J.F. Drake Middle School students participated in an ACAP Testing Preparation Session to learn more about the format of the ACAP test and review good test-taking strategies specific to the math portion of the state test. The presenters from AMSTI used a Kahoot-style review to teach and assess student learning. With more than 1,500 participants from across the state involved in the Kahoot game, sixth grader Junhyeok Ahn was the overall winner! To win Kahoot, students must answer questions correctly and at a faster rate than other competitors.
Mrs. Armstrong provided an incentive that if a DMS student won, they would receive 500 Positive Behavior Reward Bucks to spend in the PBIS Rewards store. Jun’s classmates were cheering him on once he hit the leaderboard, and when he won, the hallway erupted into cheers!


Auburn Classical Academy Science courses focus on different animals, including mammals, reptiles, insects and birds. In 5th grade, students focus on mammals and birds. One of the class’s science labs is to dissect a sheep heart. This activity is a great hands on experience and greatly reinforces what the students learn about mammalian body parts.


Auburn City School was well represented at the 2023 Alabama Music Educators Association Professional Development Conference in Birmingham. Cary Woods Elementary School’s music teacher, Dr. Rob Lyda, served as President of the conference and presented on the topic of developing AMEA’s voice for advocacy. Ogletree Elementary School’s music teacher, Dr. Phil Wilson, led a session for future AMEA leaders, and the Auburn Junior High School Wind Symphony performed eight songs including The Star-Spangled Banner.


These outstanding teachers were honored at the Board of Education meeting. Pictured (l-r) Madison Zimmer-Morris Avenue Intermediate School, Bethany Barnes-West Forest Intermediate School, Vivian Mozeikas-Northside Intermediate School, Brenda Howell-Opelika High School-2022-23 OCS Secondary Teacher of the Year, Ecameron Dowdell-Jeter Primary School-2022-23 OCS Elementary Teacher of the Year, Emily Sanders-Opelika Middle School, Madeline Langley-Carver Primary School, and Katie Burns-Southview Primary School.


Auburn Classical Academy’s 1st grade class recently learned about artist Vincent Van Gogh. One of their focuses was his famous painting ‘Sunflowers’. Afterward, the students created their own masterpieces utilizing what they had learned about Van Gogh’s techniques.


Auburn City Schools students, dressed as centenarians, celebrated being 100 days smarter. The Auburn City Schools calendar includes 180 school days for students, which makes the 100th day of instruction a milestone and a great time to reflect on some of the significant accomplishments achieved during the academic year. This special event further develops students’ understanding and recognition of numbers up to 100 and is ideal for supporting math concepts from pre-kindergarten to second grade.


6th grade students are almost finished with etiquette lessons as they prepare for their first Cotillion. Students learn conversational skills, table manners, and how to be Godly gentlemen and ladies. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29.


Auburn High School senior, Max Hardin, has been named the 2022-2023 Gatorade Alabama Boys Cross-Country Player of the Year. Hardin is the first Gatorade Alabama Boys’ Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Auburn High School. The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Hardin as Alabama’s best high school boys’ cross-country player. The 5-foot-11, 155-pound senior raced to victory at the Class 7A State Championships with a personal-best time of 14:46.63 this past season, pacing the Tigers to a third-place team finish. Hardin also crossed the line fifth at the Champs Sports South Regionals, qualifying him for Champs nationals, where he finished 20th. He was the state’s top runner in the Gold Race at the prestigious Jesse Owens Classic, where he clocked one of his three sub-15 times. Hardin has maintained a weighted 4.30 GPA in the classroom and has signed a National Letter of Intent to run on scholarship at Auburn University this fall.


Auburn City Schools is proud of the musical talent showcased during the All-State auditions. Congratulations to the 35 Auburn High School students who will represent ACS at the District Honor Band at Auburn Junior High School and the 18 students (and 7 alternates) chosen for the Alabama All-State Band Festival in April at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. Auburn Junior High School had 38 students named to the District VI All-District Band, with 13 chosen to perform as members of the Alabama All-State Bands! All-State will take place April 27-29, 2023, in the Von Braun Center to distinguish the most outstanding band students in the State of Alabama and to give them the opportunity for a musical experience of the highest caliber.


Congratulations to the Auburn Choral Company for successful performances at the Capital City Classic in Montgomery. The Varsity Singers performed in the Large Mixed Division and won Best Visuals and 1st Runner-Up, with Serena Orantes winning Best Soloist in a Show. Solo competition winners include Faylee Crawford and Landon Bullard. Both Men at Work and Elan won their divisions, with Elan also winning Best Soloist Within a Show (Karissa King), Highest Score for Visuals, Best Show Design, and 1st Place in the Women’s Division.


Congratulations to the LSA 6th Grade Track Teams. Both the Boys Team and Girls Team had a successful day at their meet. The Boys Team won Runner-Up in the 6th Grade Tournament. Way to go, Warriors!


Auburn High School hosted the Alabama State Board of Education and State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey on campus today. The visit showcased Career Technical Education offerings in Auburn City Schools with a tour of the 15 different programs. Courses in those programs include, but are not limited to, Advertising Design, Animal Science, Building Construction, Business Marketing, Education and Training, Engineering, Environmental and Natural Resources, JROTC, Television Production, and Health Sciences. There are currently more than 1,700 students enrolled in CTE courses in ACS across three campuses (AHS, AJHS, and ESS). In the 2021-2022 school year, 351 credentials and certifications were earned by students with a calculated economic impact of $2,042,421. ACS thanks the State Board of Education, Dr. Mackey, and his staff for the opportunity to showcase excellence in the classroom!


Did you know that Opelika High School has an ambulance inside one of the classrooms? One of our health science tracks allows students to get their EMT-Basic certification which gives them the opportunity for immediate employment with Emergency Medical Services and/or allows them to go directly into advanced EMT training. This year, OHS was able to get an ambulance “box” put into Mrs. Wilson’s classroom to allow her students more real-world experience and practice. These students and Mrs. Wilson are doing great things, and we know they will impact the world for the better!


5th graders in Mrs. Parrish’s science class have been busy studying properties of matter. They used basic items to study the material a little more hands-on… It was amazing (and messy) fun while learning!


Auburn Classical Academy recently held their school-wide Spelling Bee. We are very proud of all who participated; it was clear each student was trying their best and giving 100% of their effort! Pictured are the 3 Spelling Bee Finalists: 1st place – Luke Pittman (5th grade), 2nd place – Elayna Hurley (7th grade), and 3rd place – Wheeler Frye (5th grade). Congratulations to all 3!


The tradition continues at Lee-Scott Academy, where senior basketball players chose a teacher to honor by giving a jersey to them ahead of their big senior night game. Our teachers push these students to be their best on and off their playing surfaces each day…we’re thankful for them!
Lindsey Joiner: Mrs. Bryant
Joseph Horne: Mrs. Basgier
Hutch Sprayberry: Mrs. von Gal
Payne Weissinger: Mrs. Pickard
Connor Burnett: Mrs. Payne
Alex Cash: Mrs. Armstrong


The first chapel(s) in 2023 were a special and unique experience for our Upper and Lower Schools. For the first time, we held two separate chapel services – one for the Lower School, one for the Upper School. It was an incredible morning for both schools as they were spoken to, specifically, about topics relevant to their age. Our Lower School Principal, Dr. Mary Anna Martin-Smith, talked to our Lower School about what it means when the Bible references “light” and how we can be that “light” to others. Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Opelika, Jeff Meyers, came to speak to our Upper School to answer questions they brought to staff’s attention. Dr. Meyers talked about relationships, how the Lord views those relationships in our lives, and the wide range of how those can affect our lives in high school and beyond.


St. Michael Catholic School participated in the national Celebrating Catholic Schools Week with fun activities for students and families. They coordinated a book drive for Lee County Literacy and held a ribbon cutting with the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. City Councilman and SMCS parent Tyler Adams were among notables in attendance.


Congratulations to OHS Senior Bryce Speakman on signing a baseball scholarship to Gadsden State Community College.


Parent’s Night Out is a fun, themed event hosted by Auburn Mixed Martial Arts. Each event has its own theme. This is a time for children to meet other children that have similar interests and live in the Opelika/Auburn area. Parents get a break for the evening, while their children enjoy the activities from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM.


At St. Michael Catholic School, children in the Early Learning Center learn reverence and cultivate wonder through hands-on opportunities in a program called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, focusing on their relationship with Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Using miniature, but real items such as candles, glass pitchers, and living plants, students are taught to pray through the moments of independent learning.


Lee-Scott Academy students competed exceptionally well at the AISA State Performing Arts Competition. The group placed second overall as a whole. Congratulations to Audrey Edwards & Karson Brown for placing second in the Duet Acting category and congratulations to Audrey Edwards, Campbell Thomas, Karson Brown and Reese Colley for making the AISA All-State Cast!


5th Grader Elizabeth Jones represented Lee-Scott Academy exceptionally well in the Lee County Spelling Bee. Elizabeth has worked so hard to get to this point and we are so proud of her for the commitment and dedication it has taken to get to this point! Well done, Elizabeth!


Congratulations to OHS Senior Chas Brewer on signing a cross country scholarship to North Greenville University.


During January, our students focused on building the virtue of kindness. Our RACK Challenge encouraged students to choose at least one “random act of Christian kindness” to bless a family member, a neighbor, and then someone at school. Students surprised their loved ones by cleaning their sibling’s rooms, taking out their neighbor’s trash, and saying extra prayers for their teachers. By building habits of virtue, we are building a community of spiritual and moral leaders.


Auburn Classical Academy’s sixth grade science focus is Biology. Pictured here are Maddy Hochard, Gabriella Nagy and Wyatt Saylor. They are learning all about prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells with a microscope!


Auburn Classical Academy’s Junior Kindergarteners have been learning all about dinosaurs. Pictured here is Mrs. Cunningham, Jr. K teacher, and students building a dinosaur skeleton out of paper towel rolls. The students loved putting the dinosaur together and learned so much in the process.


Students across the globe celebrated World Read Aloud Day and students in Auburn City Schools had the opportunity to meet several special guest readers!. For 13 years, World Read Aloud Day has called attention to the importance of sharing stories by challenging participants to grab a book, find an audience, and read aloud. The global effort, created by the non-profit LitWorld and sponsored by Scholastic, is celebrated annually in more than 173 countries and brings people together through the shared connection of reading aloud in all communities.


There weren’t quite 101 Pre-K Dalmatians, but there were just about that many spots! Our Pre-K friends are 101 days smarter and had a “pawsome” day celebrating.

Author: Staff

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It is our pleasure to serve you and your family as the Wiregrass's #1 Resource for local families.

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Student Spotlights – March ’23

by Staff time to read: 28 min