The months of January and February flew by at a hurried pace. And although the outside weather fluctuated greatly – from cold temperatures and snow/ice to spring-like temperatures, the inside of our schools remained consistently busy and true to our mission. Students in all schools were highly involved in many different learning activities.
During January and February, I had the opportunity to spend time at Nitrauer, Bucher, Brecht, and Neff elementary schools visiting classes and meeting with staff members. It was exciting to see so many students engaged in their learning. There were students in 2nd grade involved in coding, using words like “algorithm” and “three-step process” in their explanations about what they were learning. Other students were showing me the Venn Diagrams, story maps, and organizational charts they were designing on their iPads to organize content. I also had a chance to join 1st graders who were taking a “brain break,” which involved doing push-ups and sit-ups on the floor. A student grabbed my hand and told me to join her on the floor, which I gladly did! This teacher later explained that she was very passionate about using movement to enhance student learning and tried to integrate the six different purposes for movement (preparing the brain, brain breaks, class cohesion, exercise and fitness, teaching the content and reviewing the content) into her daily lesson plans. Needless to say, her students were highly engaged in their academic learning both before and after the planned “brain breaks.”
As I reflected on these school visits, I recognized the dedication of our staff to making learning well-rounded and 21st century focused. Technology was used in numerous classrooms in a variety of ways; it was a tool to enhance student learning. Therefore, when our Board of School Directors unanimously voted approval in January for the purchase of iPads for each student over the next two years, I knew we were embarking upon an exciting new venture. This endeavor promotes a strong instructional focus on building the essential 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity within our students. These skills can be taught in all subject areas, in all classrooms, to students of all ages.
The month of February also brought great recognition to students for their achievements in the fine and performing arts, athletic field/arena, and in the classroom. Within the High School Scholastic Art Show and the Lancaster County Young Artist (LCYA) events, there were 15 students recognized for their talent; the artwork for the Scholastic Art Show is displayed at the Demuth Museum and the work for LCYA show is at the Lancaster Museum of Art. Three 8th grade students won an award for the LYCA Awards, with their artwork also displayed at the Lancaster Museum of Art. I witnessed our Middle School students perform exceptionally well in a challenging Quiz Bowl competition. The Middle School Aevidum Club hung hearts with compassionate messages onto each student’s locker in preparation for Valentines Day – “so everyone knows they are cared about … ” (as shared by a student). I participated in the National Signing Day event on February 1, witnessing 25 students commit to playing a sport at various Division I/II/III colleges and universities. Ten High School students and three Middle School students were named Scholastic Writing Contest winners. And all five of our National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalists at the high school have moved on to become finalists and will be considered for National Merit Scholarships offered in 2017. These five (5) students have been chosen out of 16,000 semi-finalists across the nation.
I continue to be proud of our hardworking students and dedicated staff members who often go beyond expectations to either excel or help others succeed.