Moore offers helping hand to those in need

New Fine Arts Academy assistant warms up to Austin, maintains lifelong focus on aiding others


Grayson Cruise

New Fine Arts Academy assistant Tonya Moore sits at her desk in the Fine Arts Office in the 600 hall. Moore has spent the last decade helping students stay on track academically and socially.

Grayson Cruise, staff reporter

Tonya Moore, the new Fine Arts Academy assistant, is new to Austin as well as McCallum, so everything she has encountered in the city has been new and exciting.

Her first discovery about her new city occurred upon her arrival when she first experienced an Austin winter.

“When I moved from Nebraska to here, it was minus-3 degrees!,” Moore said. “When we got here, and I think it was probably 60 degrees, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I don’t have to wear a coat!’”

Moore left her coat in the car and was surprised to see people bundled up as if they were walking across frozen tundra.

“I saw all of these people with their parkas on!” Moore said. “I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me, it’s only 60!’”

It wasn’t just the jackets either. Back in Nebraska, snow was no big deal.

“We could have like three feet of snow, but it was usually like, 10, 12 inches of snow, but nothing stopped. … they just put the salt down, and … because they’re used to it.”

Every day is a different day, so you never know what’s gonna be on the calendar for the day, or who’s going to need help.

— Tonya Moore

She was also surprised at the rash of snow days that Austin experienced in weather conditions that seemed to her like nothing.

“When [school] closed here, you know, last year, I was like ‘The grass isn’t even covered and they closing school!…It must not snow here!’”

Now, that she’s lived through an Austin summer, she understands better.

“Once you get used to it being like, 190 degrees, 60 degrees is probably cold for some people, but … I’m used to it being below zero.”

Moore loves the Austin heat, but the weather is not the only adjustment she’s had to make.

“I’m not used to being in a big city, so I’m still getting used to being in a big city, because where I came from was not as big as Austin, But it’s pretty cool…I’ve lived in Nebraska for over 20 years.”

While her surroundings may have changed, her career focus and motivation hasn’t.

With more than a decade of experience helping students stay on track, Moore has long been committed to helping any students who needing guidance. In her new post at McCallum, Moore not only helps the fine arts students who need guidance but anyone on campus who needs her help.

“Every day is a different day, so you never know what’s gonna be on the calendar for the day, or who’s going to need assistance or help, so I just like working with people. I get to meet, like, almost new people every day. So that’s pretty cool! I’ll meet somebody new that I haven’t known. Every day I’ve been here I’ve met somebody new, so I enjoy that because I love people.”

Which is good but in her new job, she doesn’t just help students. She helps everyone connected to the academy. Moore said she is responsible for maintaining the student database in the academy. That includes student applications, auditions schedules and acceptance records. She schedules appointments for director Heather Ramsey and she monitors the grades of all Fine Arts Academy students. She fields all parent phone calls, sets up school tours and provides supports when teachers need it.

It’s a lot, but Moore said she has enjoyed the work so far.

Mr. Garrison, he’s always like in the hallways, and talking to the kids, and he doesn’t just sit in his office, I mean he’s out there with the kids.

— Tonya Moore

“It’s been great! … I enjoy people; I’m a good communicator, so I just enjoy being around people, and meeting people. … I enjoy working with youths, and I enjoy, like, doing administrative stuff, so I like to keep things organized, I like to be able to, like, find stuff when we need it,… making sure Ms. Heather has what she needs, and getting to know the staff has been great. … I think it’s fun just to work with the kids, and the staff, and the parents.”

It’s not just fun for Moore. It’s what she’s good at. She worked in Nebraska as a Youth Education Coordinator at the Nebraska Children’s Home, where she worked with kids of all ages. Before coming to Mac, she worked for Side-by-Side Kids, a faith-based after-school program where she made sure that elementary-aged kids are on track academically.

While there, Moore said she was searching for an opportunity to work with teenagers again. She really enjoyed that McCallum has performing-arts integrated into the system, as her own children had loved the performing arts aspects of their schools. She only knew that she wanted to work with teens, but why did she want to work with teens rather than other age groups?

“I enjoy working with teenagers because … they are at a crucial time in their lives, where they’re making a lot of choices,” she said. “I think they need a lot of mentorship, and I feel like I can help [them]. … I am a parent myself, and I’ve raised my two kids, and some of the things that my kids went through was tough, so I want to be a support to that age-group because they are going through a LOT of stuff, and I want to be able to be there and be like ‘Hey, if you just need somebody to talk, and need some support, I can share things that I know I’ve experienced with my own kids.’ … I’ve worked with teenagers for over 10 years, and … so just sharing… my experience and being able to be a resource to teenagers when I think need it.”

So what does she like about McCallum?

Don’t be afraid to leave the group you’re in. I think that’s probably the hardest thing.

— Tonya Moore

“I think it has a really nice culture; I think it’s very creative, and that I’ve seen some things here that I haven’t seen like in some of the other high schools that I’ve been at. I think that a lot of the kids are very, very creative and that they are leaders here.”

Moore said she has been impressed with how students here have helped out other students and how helpful the faculty is … beginning with the principal.

“Mr. Garrison, he’s always like in the hallways, and talking to the kids, and he doesn’t just sit in his office,” Moore said. “I mean he’s out there with the kids. You can tell that he has passion, and wants the kids to be safe, and he, you know…engages with them. … I think it’s really cool. And so I think a lot of the staff engages with their students, their kids.”

She thinks the culture here in McCallum is really helpful for the students, as it allows them to express their concerns and get the help they need.

Although Moore enjoys her work life, away from work she loves to shop. “Clothes, jewelry, you name it.”

She also likes watching movies off of her favorite TV channel, Lifetime. She calls her friends and family as often as she can.

“I enjoy being able to talk to them and hearing their voices, and be like, ‘Oh my god, I haven’t talked to you in like, three weeks!’ I talk to my sister, my mom like, every other day.”

Though she loves and misses her family, she is here for helping the students in-need to get on track.  To those who may be struggling academically or socially, Moore offers the following advice.

“Learn from your mistakes. I feel a lot of kids, like, make certain mistakes, and then they do the same things over and over again. At that point, it’s just more of a choice that you are making. … Don’t be afraid to leave the group you’re in. I think that’s probably the hardest thing; I think sometimes the kids ran into groups and it’s like ‘I’m in here now, and I can’t leave,’ but you can! It’s hard to do, but you can.”

What else should students know about Moore?

“They should know that I’m a good communicator, that I’m friendly, I’m fun, that I’m honest, very, very honest. I can be a momma-bear, so that’s a big one for me, because I can just…take kids under my wing, and… love on them, you know.”