Each month, we will travel to an extraordinary corner of Anova's world. We will be highlighting Anova students, parents, staff, and alumnus that represent some of the special people that emulate the true heart and spirit of Anova.
That's because he placed 15th in an international competition, solving one in only 6 seconds! A Pyraminx is a puzzle similar to a Rubik's Cube, but shaped like a pyramid. Patrick is an impressive 14 year old student at ACE Contra Costa with an IQ similar to Albert Einstein’s. Solving multi-layered Rubik's cubes is just the start of Patrick's myriad of talents. His parents gave him a Rubik's cube for Christmas when he was 10 years old that compelled him to learn how to conquer that cube in about 20 seconds! He then started taking on bigger challenges such as competitions and solving cubes one-handed and even blind-folded! He also designs and creates his own handmade cubes. His collection is quite amazing with everything from a 2 layered to a 10 layered cube, mirror blocks, and an evil 3x4x5 twin. He can tell you how many quintillion or googolplex combinations there are in the various puzzles, but his true favorite to solve is a special 6 x 6 layered cube.
As if that isn't amazing enough, Patrick also taught himself the programming language Java when he was just 11, and within six months he was writing programs and developing his own games. One of the programs he designed is a timing application for solving cubes which many people are now using to help improve their game. Minecraft gamers have also benefited from the many game modifications Patrick has submitted earning him the opportunity to be a programming advisor for online forums.
Another major passion for Patrick is 3D roller coaster simulation. He talks about the physics and gravitational forces of a roller coaster like he is a seasoned engineer. He recently built a large 3D K’Nex model of a roller coaster with fully functioning cars and up to 200 feet of track. This particular design recently placed him as one of five winners in the world in a K’Nex roller coaster simulation contest. He also made a tutorial for a popular roller coaster simulation game that appeared on the front page of No Limits Coaster Website. It seems that there are no limits to what Patrick can achieve!
Patrick and his family moved to California from the UK about four years ago. His mother, Angela, said she knew Patrick was extremely intelligent at only 6 months of age when she witnessed him taking the batteries out of the remote control and trying to figure out how to put them back in! Prior to enrolling at ACE, Patrick had a hard time at school. He was placed in special education classes where he was not being academically challenged and his abilities failed to be nurtured. This experience caused him great social and academic anxiety. Angela says that Patrick loves going to ACE. His self-esteem has blossomed, he has made friends, and he is challenged academically. ACE also has a positive reward system where he can earn Anova points that can be converted to money to buy more cubes!
Patrick just turned 14 years old a few weeks ago and competed in another Rubik's Cube competition. Happy belated birthday, Patrick and congratulations on beating your personal record at 19.06 seconds! Check out the article and a couple of pictures of Patrick in the the Bay Area Speedcubin' Contest in the San Jose Mercury News. Below is also a video of his award-winning Smiler K'Nex Roller Coaster Recreation. What will blow you away even more is that it only took him one month to build it from scratch! Thank you Patrick for sharing your incredible talents with us!
ACE Alumni Parker Neece –
Making the world a healthier place.
It’s safe to say that being healthy and fit is important to most people, but getting there can be the hardest part! ACE Sonoma Alumni, Parker Neece, is a Wellness Coach with all the right tools to help people reach their health goals easily. Parker is also one of the most positive and inspiring young men you will ever meet. He will make a great motivational speaker someday! His empowering words come from his own journey in personal growth inspiring him to start his budding career as an Independent Wellness Coach at Live it Up Wellness in Santa Rosa. Although you may also spot him working at Costco, it is improving others' lives that lights him up the most. Parker’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and personal experience will inspire anyone to look at their lifestyle more closely.
I attended a free nutrition workshop at Live it Up Wellness to get the inside scoop and was treated to a delicious nutritional shake and complete body analysis. They also provide free fitness classes and running groups. Parker says their motto is to "help people lose weight, gain weight, and gain energy." Parker loves changing lives for the better, including his own, even though it was quite a bumpy road along the way.
Parker was in the graduating class at ACE Sonoma in 2007. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 14 and felt lost in public school. He said he felt alone, afraid, anxious, had no friends, and considered himself depressed and suicidal just prior to starting at ACE. When his father read about Anova in a Press Democrat article, he signed Parker up immediately. Parker came to Anova as a sophomore and said he quickly made friends and found a nurturing environment that showed him the way to a better life. It was a new beginning. Parker still visits Anova often to say hi to everyone and attends our graduation ceremonies every year to express his gratitude and extend his congratulations to the new graduates.
Parker says he had to work hard to overcome the negative baggage carried over from his previous school experiences and the labels associated with autism. He used to introduce himself as, “I’m Parker and I have autism.” Parker doesn’t identify himself anymore with people’s opinion of what autism means. He says everyone has their struggles, and it depends on what you do with them. He’s decided to dedicate himself to making the world a healthier place and we wish him great success! Thank you Parker for showing us that anyone can be happy and healthy with hard work and dedication to their passions.
If you are interested in looking or feeling healthier, please call Parker at 707-695-2725. Attached is the Live it Up Wellness calendar of free fitness classes, nutritional workshops, and running groups. They are located at 711 Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa.
Watch your inbox for the new monthly e-Newsletter that will be sent out to all parents and staff for the latest information on all Anova happenings! There will be specific newsletters for each campus. If you would like to receive newsletters for more than the campus you are associated with, or have something you would like to include, please email Jackie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website is also a great place to find up-to-date information. Look for each school's custom page under the ACE Schools tab as well as our Facebook page. You can find the Anova Matters Blog on our website under the News tab.
ACE Contra Costa Parent Heather Koenig -
BINGO! ACE wins!
Heather Koenig is responsible for creating a lot of big smiles and great memories. I checked Heather for angel wings but couldn’t find any despite the fact she has made some real wishes come true for many students. Heather’s son Brandon started 7th grade at the former ACE school in American Canyon four years ago, and now attends the ACE Contra Costa campus. Prior to ACE, Brandon hated school because he was bullied by other students. Now he loves going to school so much that he never wants to miss a day! Heather is very proud of Brandon and how much he has flourished into a bright and happy teenager.
Heather’s big, generous heart has enabled ACE students to go on many fun field trips. Every week that she works at the Vaca Valley Bingo in Vacaville, ACE Contra Costa comes out a winner! For the last four years, Heather has selflessly donated all her earnings to the school. For every hour she works, they donate $10 to ACE adding up to a lot of field trips!
Because of Heather, students have been treated to many activities including trips to the movies, bowling, Discovery Kingdom, painting pottery, and visiting an animal farm in American Canyon. Last year in Concord, students went to a Pumpkin Patch, bowling, and the Lawrence Hall of Science. They also had an on-campus presentation about oceans and what we can do to protect them. The students were exposed to fossils, whale bones, sea lion and otter pelts, and various “specimens” from the ocean brought in jars. This year, the elementary students returned to the pumpkin patch and had an on-campus puppet show. They are also working on a trip to Diablo Valley College for the high school students to have a tour and talk with counselors about admission requirements and services that will be available to them.
Heather also enjoys helping out at the school in any way she can from the Thanksgiving Feast to the Teacher Appreciation Lunch. She feels lucky that there is strong support among ACE Contra Costa parents to help each other and all of the students. Heather’s proud that her main job is being a full time mother of four children. Heather said that although both of her sons, Brandon and her five year old Jake have autism, their personalities are polar opposites. Many people react by expressing how sorry they are for her predicament, but Heather feels she has two truly gifted and wonderful sons and doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. She says she learns something every day from her children and always keeps a positive attitude.
Heather and her husband Mark will soon be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary by taking the entire family to Disney World in Florida. When Brandon told his mom that he thought it would be cool to see a real rocket take off, she decided to make his wish come true. Although Brandon is bummed at the thought of missing school, he is excited to see a live rocket launch. Thank you Heather for also making so many wishes come true at ACE Contra Costa. Your generosity has given our students so many fun experiences they would not have had otherwise. Move over Fairy Godmother, we have a Fairy ACEmother! Thank you, Heather for all you have done!
Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!
ACE Sonoma Teacher Mesa Whitt –
Stay Flexible and Game On!
Imagine going to school and getting to play a video game all day! If you’re in Mesa Whitt’s class, she’s made learning fun by incorporating a cool video game into her classroom curriculum. Mesa has been teaching at the ACE Sonoma campus for over nine years and currently teaches 5th, 6th, and 7th grades in Room 3. She is always thinking of creative ways to keep her students motivated and engaged. This year, the entire back wall of her classroom is designed as an interactive video game that the students play individually as well as collectively. Mesa, together with her instructional team, Jon Sherman, Cailin Maloney, and Auburn Kennedy, developed the fun game as an incentive for good behavior and to get students excited about learning. It’s based on positive reinforcement with rewards for the “Big 5” expected behaviors: Safe Body, Friendly Words, Following Directions, Finished Work, and Flexible Brain. The goal is to accumulate points to advance through levels that ultimately unveils a big bonus prize for the classroom at the end of the game.
At the beginning of the school year, each student designed their own special avatar for the game. The game allows students to accumulate points for expected behavior and unlock prizes like homework passes, extra computer time, or even a special lunch at various levels. The big reward is when the entire class earns 5,000 points to reveal letters which they must unscramble to see the secret grand prize!
Just like in real video games, students can lose lives or not earn points. This happens when they exhibit unexpected behaviors. When the unexpected behavior ends, they have the opportunity to refresh and reset their lives. The class actively participated in deciding the game rules, and how points would be earned or not earned. Every two weeks, they also introduce a new unthinkable character to defeat using Michelle Garcia Winner‘s Superflex Curriculum.
Room 3 is well on their way and will soon reach the 5,000 points needed to unlock their grand prize! Next semester, they get to design their own personal Unthinkable Character to defeat based on their own individual struggles. Thank you Mesa, Jon, Cailin, and Auburn for bringing a unique way to have fun in the classroom! The true prize of the game is the creativity and collaboration that you spark in every student.