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Robot Dash Encourages Accurate and Proficient Coding

Congratulations to the top-scoring teams in the Fourth Grade Coding Competition. Each of the 20 teams had to complete five increasingly difficult challenges utilizing a coding robot named Dash. These challenges required teams to create a sequence of coded commands to complete a series of complex moves and tasks. Points were awarded based on accuracy and proficiency.

First place went to the Stargazers (Rebekah Brooke Benson, Crystal Gao, and Sanders Reeves).


Second place went to the Dazzling Dashes (Mary Lamar Chustz, Sara Kate Long, Chappell Lang, and Julia Thompson).


Third place went to the Bulldogs (Jack Voyles, Alex Martin, Larsen Robertson, Jake Pratt, and Evan Adams).


“Each team exercised excellent teamwork, perseverance and deductive reasoning,” said Lower School STEM instructor, Cliff Powers. “I’m so proud of each of their accomplishments.”

Intergalactic Artist Speaks in Chapel


Frank Ordaz spoke to JA’s Upper and Middle School students in chapel while visiting Mississippi to create a documentary of his journey as an artist and Christian. “I knew I was an artist by the time I was 7 years old,” he said. He painted the worlds of “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” and many more before God invaded his galaxy with the gospel of grace.

“Non-Christians want to see authentic Christians,” Ordaz told students. “They are looking to see if you walk as Jesus did.” He experimented with world religions, but when he met a true follower of Jesus Christ everything changed. The man whose faith inspired Ordaz’s was a reputable sound engineer in Hollywood, but it was his humility that earned him respect and brought the gospel to life for Ordaz.

Ordaz describes his former self as extremely arrogant, but now he displays the same humility that first drew his attention to Christ. He graciously shared wisdom gleaned from his experience with students who are interested in working in the arts. He told students that to truly thrive as a Christian artist you must have a good support system, and be excellent at what you do.

After working as a matte painter for the movies, Ordaz went on to work as an illustrator. At the request of former first lady Barbara Bush he created the artwork for the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll. In 2011, Ordaz returned to his first love: oil painting. His fine art landscapes and portraits are sold through shows he attends and his own venue in Auburn, California, where he resides with his wife Jana. The couple has two sons.

JA parent Anthony Thaxton met Ordaz at a Christian arts workshop where Ordaz invited Thaxton to help him share his story. In the three years since their first meeting the men have filmed in California, Mexico, and Mississippi and have become dear friends. Ordaz’s story includes the flamboyance of Hollywood but is ultimately a story of how one man’s humble faith set another free to discover his true Father and, through knowing him, his identity and purpose.

C Spire Coding Competition


Pepper the humanoid robot visited and even danced with JA Upper School students Preston McWilliams, Burkette Moulder, Ashton Berry, Kit McCormack, and teacher Sarah Shaw as they participated in a coding competition. C Spire hosted its second C3 high school competition at its headquarters one day before national S.T.E.M. day.

The C3 program features a computer coding challenge that students work on with the help of a C Spire employee and an adviser from their school. The students solved a series of puzzles that grew more difficult as they progressed. Competing against 29 other schools, our students placed within the top 10 teams at the event.

“It gave them exposure to coding,” said Shaw, “and kind of opened their eyes to that field and what’s available and how it works.” The all-day competition is designed to show students the career options available in tech-related fields like computer science and information technology. C Spire hopes to help students discover the world of coding as a gateway to a career.

Jackson Academy was represented by three senior students in the 2016-2017 C3 competition. Only 13 teams participated a year ago. As the program has already grown to involve 30 schools, JA students who participate in the future can anticipate friendly rivalry.

First Quarter Honor Rolls

Academy Honor Roll

Twelfth Grade
Avery Anderson, Janise Bennett, Blaine Bowman, Hadley Brennan, Hannah Collums, Ilana Dallaire, Lacey Irby, Will Laird, Braden Lewis, Dolph Maxwell, Meredith McClellan, Elizabeth McCubbins, Lindsey Nosef, Allie Perkins, Claire Ross, Maggie Smith, Lillie Walker, Emma Ward, Brehan Whitehead, Anna Claire Williams

Eleventh Grade
Ashlyn Adair, Skylar Alexander, Eeshaan Bajaj, Ashton Berry, Elliott Butler, Johnny Carpenter, Lucy Clement, Camille Couey, Mary Beth Dyess, Camille Felder, Charlie Gautier, Avery Hederman, Erin Hederman, Columbia Holeman, Megan Lacey, Anne Marie Lundy, Kit McCormack, Preston McWilliams, Brandon Miller, Gabrielle Morris, Burkette Moulder, Charlotte Palmer, McKinna Powell, Kaylan Sanders, Will Spence, Webb Strickland, Mary Lindley Tharp, Pier Thompson, Mary Parker Williams

Tenth Grade
Reese Anderson, Walker Barnes, Kelsey Burke, Steven Chustz, Carter Elliott, Courtney Francois, Simeon Gates, Trey Herrington, Miles Johnson, Case Kempthorne, Azaria McDowell, Harris McLemore, Asher Morgan, Kennedy Nations, Virginia Parry, Nora Pickering, Anna Katherine Ray, Anna Roberson, Lily Grace Thigpen, Nelson Thomas

Ninth Grade
Drew Antici, Thomas Arnold, Connor Bailey, Paul Bautista, Emmy Brown, Nicholas Bryan, Gracie Coe, Emma Collums, Ava Couey, Coleman Dinkins, Caroline Graven, Phoebe Guinn, Caroline Harrington, Sophie Hays, Avery Hendrick, Zharia Hill, Parker Kirby, Zoe Ladner, Warner Lamb, Emory Ann Laseter, Isabelle Lee, Isabel Lehman, Miles Taylor Leverette, Lachlan McLendon, Elizabeth Pedigo, Madeleine Pettus, Will Pilkington, Priya Ray, Emma Roberts, Lila Robertson, Anna Claire Seago, Lauren Anne Smith, Emery Thigpen, Wes Thomas, Ty Usey, Maysa Vivians, Alice Williams

Eighth Grade
Abigail Addison, Abby Arnett, Drew Barrentine, Cannon Bosarge, Anna Claire Bush, Gibson Cheney, Jalia Coins, Caroline Courtney, Gunner Cress, Rachel Beth Deaton, Regan Felder, Tye Gardner, Connor Gee, Ferriday Rose Green, Sandon Guild, Samuel Hadley, Reid Hewitt, Tray Holeman, Harrison Johnston, Maggie Koury, Annalee LeDuff, Davis Lee, Parker Lowe, Clayton Mahaffey, Kennedy McKee, Anna Carlisle Nichols, Anne Barret Roberson, Ashton Tate, Sarah Beth Usey, Annalee Willson

Seventh Grade
Thomas Antici, Bailey Berry, Cade Breland, Sarah Clay, Elizabeth Copeland, Lucy Brooks Elfert, Mary Manning Farese, Cooper Flechas, Jeffrey Gao, Grayce Geary, Ann Cole Hammons, Sydney Grace Hewitt, Emma Duncan Hogue, Blake Jones, Ava Ladner, Drake Lester, Samuel Long, Merritt Nations, Anna Lauren Parker, Eliza Perkins, Dev Sharma, Louis Summerford, Camille Towery, Josh Watson, Olivia Claire Williford, Parker Yarborough

Honor Roll

Twelfth Grade
De’ja Bradford, Garner Cheney, Caroline Childress, Sam Ciaccio, Garrett Clarke, Kellan Clower, Kennedy Collins, Sophie Creath, Frances Anne Fortner, Cailynn Gregory, Katherine Hudson, Katie Johnson, Kyle LeDuff, Tre Lewis, Emma Lucas, James McLemore, Blake Mills, Mary Mitchell, Gage Morgan, Kennedy Neal, Walker Pedigo, Max Rogers, TJ Smith, Olivia Stringer, Isabel Temple, Bryant Thaxton, Sarah Grea Walker, Drake Warman

Eleventh Grade
Hayden Allen, Addison Avdoyan, Lailaa Bashir, Samantha Brown, Ellie Brent Cartwright, Darby Douglas, Owen Fracchia, Ariel Hayes, Ansley Hill, Thomas Iupe, Sean Lackey, Francie LeDuff, Ashley Manning, Reese Overstreet, Isabelle Partain, Tafarri Pleas, Carneilus Powers, Dylan Ramey, Emory Rhodes, Logan Thomas

Tenth Grade
Joseph Adams, Lili Alford, Emily Burks, Brent Butler, Yazzy Chambers, Lizzy Childress, John Eric Clark, Kellum Clark, Ava Del Vecchio, Ginny Dyess, Gracie Eubank, Land Gebhart, Sydney Guy, Hannah Hardee, Logan Hatten, Russell Hawkins, Gabrielle Healy, Caroline Hill, Alayla Jackson, William Janous, Henry Lee, Christian Luckett, P.J. Martin, Sara Evelyn McClintock, Ja’Ree Myers, Douglas Noble, Keishun Pickett, Alex Rushing, Will Travelstead, Don Waller, Reed White, Mary Gray White

Ninth Grade
Simms Baker, Parker Bracken, Rosemary Caldwell, Mackenzie Coburn, Julianna Copeland, Ava Crawford, Jenna Daly, McNeill Dinkins, Mary Grace Downs, Turner Easley, Isabelle Eiland, Meredith Fielder, Tristan Foster, Krislyn Gibson, Gus Gordon, Fumilayo Hall, Garner Hixon, Michael Hogue, Andrew Holmes, Hallie Gray House, Ford Hudson, Caitlin Johnson, Graham Laseter, Nicole Lawrence, Marie Lewis, Michael Lowe, Jonathan Lucas, Pryor Mehrle, Jesse Montgomery, Hensley Moulder, Thomas Nance, Anna Blake Reed, Elena Roberts, Elise Robinson, Bryant Seago, Ally Sessums, Ella Jane Simmons, Emily Thompson, McKenna Thompson, Jack Varner, Kate White, Delaney Williams, Samia Wilson, Anne York

Eighth Grade
Jordan Bertschler, Andrew Burks, Elizabeth Castle, Davis Cress, Caroline Crisler, Ashley Crump, KD Davis, Morgan Dilworth, Matthew Frost, Parker Grant, Hudson Hadley, Anthony Jasinski, Libby Lohmeier, Brooks Magee, Daniel Martin, Molly McClure, Charlie Nutter, Hayden Parr, Olivia Quin, Will Rhodes, John Moak Scarbrough, Garrett Smith, Reed Travelstead, Banks Whittington, John Wicks, Drew Williams

Seventh Grade
Stella Allen, Molly Baldwin, Mary Peyton Barnette, Gwen Bishop, Emily Buchanan, KK Clark, Lila Eubank, Mary Grace Foster, Lilly Gebhart, Mia Healy, Houston Hearn, Win Hooker, Josie Huff, Adams Kennedy, Walker Lake, Cruise Nance, Gracie Drew Pratt, Brooke Rogers, Kendall Ross, Dane Stevens, Dajionae Weathersby, Bennett Wier

Leap of Faith Leads to Technology Advances for Students


3-D Printing. STEM. Student-authored eBooks. Math assignments illustrated in iMovie. Clay models that become animated characters in educational apps. These experiences prepare students for the future and are reasons Jackson Academy has earned the coveted Apple Distinguished School designation for the third time in a row.

JA received its first Apple Distinguished School mark in 2013, after launching the state’s first K3-12 grade one-to-one program, where every student and faculty member is provided an Apple device to enhance teaching and learning. Every two years, the school submits documentation in the form of an eBook. Apple reviews the submission and determines if the school is providing exemplary use of technology for its students. JA was Mississippi’s first K3-12 Apple Distinguished School and is one of only a few hundred K-12 schools in the world to have become an Apple Distinguished School.

“To earn this designation year after year shows that Apple sees that JA is striving every year to enhance how we incorporate technology into the best practices of teaching and learning,” said Lori Snider, instructional technologist and Tech Center administrator. “Technology is not a replacement for an outstanding teacher. It is a tool to enhance learning, to take down the walls of the classroom and open opportunities for learning. This designation shows that we have not reached a plateau in making technology a fun and exciting way to learn.”

Teachers have also stepped up to make sure they are in the best position possible to guide students in the use of technology. JA teachers are now 100 percent Apple certified. Snider, who spearheaded the Apple Teacher certification process, sees teacher certification as an important step to ensure teachers are even better prepared to guide students in the appropriate use of technology.

“Last year was the first time Apple had created free online training content geared specifically to teachers,” she said. “Our teachers got excited and jumped right on it. I was really proud of them.”

Dean of Technology Eddie Wettach sent a message to faculty and staff thanking them for their commitment. “I would personally like to thank and congratulate each faculty member on this amazing feat,” he wrote. “Almost six years ago we entered into the start of modifying teaching and learning so that we could better engage students and give them the tools they needed to express their learning in new and creative ways.  Without our incredible faculty and staff putting in countless hours of professional development, brainstorming, and taking the needed leaps of faith, we would never have achieved such an honor.”

In appreciation of teachers’ efforts, Apple will send personalized certificates to each Apple Teacher.  

Read more to see examples of today’s exciting classrooms. 

Global Inventors with Level Up Village

Students in Katie Chustz’s Middle School STEM lab use their computers and a CAD application to design individual solar powered flashlights. Chustz wrote and was awarded a grant to integrate additional technology and use the 3-D printer for a project. In addition, students record videos about the project and send them to a partner school in Zimbabwe. Students in Zimbabwe will receive the solar powered flashlights created by students at JA.

Creating and Publishing eBooks

Fifth grade students in Grace Simmons literature class are working to become published authors. Each wrote an individual eBook creating both the illustrations and authoring the story. Students scanned their original illustrations and produced the book in Pages. Through ITunes U they are working to publish their eBooks.

Blending Hands-On and Technological Learning

Four year olds love to create with Play-Doh. Using an app called Play-Doh Touch, students create a figure using clay and then that figure “magically” becomes a character in the educational app that they access on their iPad. Once they have created a clay character, the app scans their character and puts it into the game that they play. “Teachers wanted technology that would be fun and educational, but would also be hands-on along with the technology,” said Lori Snider. “Students loved it.”

Learning Math with iMovie

To enliven math lessons, fifth grade faculty member Amanda Smithers has students do a math assignment in iMovie. Students use the program to convert the assignment into a movie. They have to act out the problem and be creative in presenting the solution.

Introducing Students to Safely Navigate a Digital World

All fifth graders take a digital citizenship class during their special subjects period. During this year when fifth graders first get their Macbook Air laptops, they are given guidance in a class that covers all things digital including cell phone usage. The class is a way to model safe behavior online as well as good online manners. Students are reminded that individuals often feel braver in what they will say in the seemingly anonymous online environment. However, through this class, digital usage policies, and parent reinforcement, JA encourages online behavior that is safe and practices good manners.

Online Learning and Digital Responsibility

Bronwyn Burford offers an online digital citizenship course for ninth grade. She says it is to remind and refresh what students learned when taking their first digital citizenship class in fifth grade, yet offering more in-depth topics. Students are encouraged to take this class in ninth and required to take it before they graduate. The course gives them an experience similar to a college online course, which requires paying attention to due dates and becoming accustomed to a self-paced course.  

Classroom Management Tools

Teachers manage screen use with the Apple Classroom App, which gives them the ability to observe live views of students’ screens. Teachers can see if students are in the right lesson. If not they are not, teachers can lock them into the correct one. This tool helps teachers keep students on task and using the appropriate application for the lesson.

Filtering and Rules Guide Usage

JA wants students to see their laptop as their personal device so they will use it, but employs filters, rules, and time constraints. JA uses content filtering software to safeguard students’ access. Everything a student does on his or her JA computer whether on campus, at home, or five states away, it is always going to come through JA servers and be filtered. At the same time, JA has rules set in the filter. Social media sites open at 4 p.m. and close at 7:30 a.m. JA has rules set for certain ages. Some grades have access to things that others do not, such as YouTube, all with age appropriateness and need for access in mind.

Meeting the Mac for the First Time

The Tech Center does Meet Your Mac with the fifth grade. Lori Snider meet with students in their Language Lab or the Learning Commons every month. In Meet Your Mac sessions, students learn about workflow, calendars, and reminders, for example. The tips help students know about tips on turning in projects and assignments on time, and even managing out-of-class activities and schedules. Snider goes to their Language Lab or to the Learning Commons to meet with the students.

Other Usage for Teachers

An Upper School science teacher has an iPad on a stand and she uses it to put an object under the iPad and then draw on the iPad to illustrate something about the object she is showing.  Upper School teachers use AirDrop to send documents, links, or a photo to all students. “It is a faster way to get a group all together on the same website or bring their focus to a particular image, Keynote, or document,” said Lori Snider.

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