Making Today Count: Fostering Kindness through Student Leadership at Landis Run & the Middle School

Posted Posted in 2019-2020 School Year


Student leaders making a difference at Landis Run Intermediate School. Student-created messages to promote positive school climate at Landis Run Intermediate School.


I recently had the opportunity to participate in a presentation by Mr. Will Gillis, Principal at Landis Run Intermediate School, as he was sharing meaningful information about the opportunities for students to develop leadership skills within the building. Specifically, Mr. Gillis was talking about the various activities in place for 5th and 6th grade students to become leaders – activities that empower students to create a positive school environment that is less susceptible to bullying, and engage in simple acts of kindness regularly and intentionally. With the support of a community organization, the Landis Run Intermediate School expanded their after-school student leadership program this year to continue specific student-organized and facilitated activities for bringing the school together and eliminating bullying. The student leaders met after school to plan activities that promote a positive school culture, including events where staff members and students are recognized, and student-created banners and signs with positive messages are posted throughout the school – “Smile and Be Kind,” “Be Cool, Not Cruel,” and “We’re Here to Help.” The Leading Hands student leaders made several “Buddy Benches” and placed them throughout the school.

Our Middle School has a student group called the Sunshine Club. They work together to spread kind messages throughout the school, hanging uplifting posters and signs in the hallways. They recently created bracelets with positive messages for others, and developed banners and signs that reinforce the importance of resiliency.


Students working together to make special signage throughout the Middle School.


Middle School students signed the banner accepting the mission of Rachel’s Challenge.

In past blogs I have shared various ways in which our district students demonstrate acts of kindness, such as participation in Kindness Clubs, the “Kindness Rocks” Project, the “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” Project, and many different school and community service projects.  One of our larger district initiatives this school year is to promote Rachel’s Challenge projects within both Landis Run Intermediate School and the Middle School. The Rachel’s Challenge program was brought to our district last year through the support and assistance of the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (IU13).  Various members of our Leadership Team attended a Rachel’s Challenge program at the IU13, and heard a presentation by Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Joy Scott who died at age 17 as the first victim of the April 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. His powerful message focused on the need to start a “chain reaction of kindness and compassion,” which aligns with a message found in Rachel’s journal after her death:

I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same … People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

Darrell Scott developed the Rachel’s Challenge program for schools with the mission to “make schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect, and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.” His message during the IU13 presentation resonated with all of us, and we decided to bring Rachel’s Challenge program to Manheim Township School District as a means to encourage and teach kindness, compassion, and empathy among the student body. We believe that these character traits can be modeled and taught to students via the classroom, extracurricular activities, and in the larger community. Promoting and recognizing these important qualities occurs through monthly and/or quarterly Student Recognition Breakfasts at the Middle School and High School.

School signage at the Middle School promoting Rachel’s Challenge and speaking with kindness. Lots of applause for our students during the February Middle School Student Recognition Breakfast.

Rachel’s Challenge also teaches students to recognize that words have the power to hurt and the power to heal.  Each person must choose how we use that power for the positive. Our Middle School Principal, Mrs. Christine Resh, has shared that this year our middle school has expanded the Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club which empowers students to create and foster a school culture marked by kindness and compassion. The FOR Club has been busy spreading kindness throughout the school by hanging signs that spread positive messages about social and emotional learning and the importance of relationships.  They are creating banners to thank students and staff for what they do every day to encourage each other and make the community a better place for everyone.

The staff and students at Landis Run and the Middle School have also opened “Rachel’s Closets” – a special room filled with clothing, personal care items, toiletries, and food for our students and families in need. We are so happy to have our families and the community continue to donate items for the Rachel’s Closets. Our data shows that between 35-40 visits have been made to the Landis Run Rachel’s Closet, and the same number of visits have occurred so far at the Middle School Rachel’s Closet.  The Rachel’s Closets are making a difference in our community.  Students and staff are keeping the closets stocked and organized for these important visits.

Rachel’s Closet at Landis Run Intermediate School. Rachel’s Closet at the Middle School.


Students organizing clothing within the Middle School Rachel’s Closet.

Both schools have “High Five Zones” and student videos or music highlighting Rachel’s Challenge (in process). At Landis Run Intermediate, students have organized a “winter gloves and hats” drive and a Thanksgiving drive for families in need. They are also making chain link slips for acts of kindness identified throughout the school (to start a “chain reaction of kindness and compassion”).

The Rachel’s Challenge program is providing our district with a sustainable, research-based, framework for building positive climate and culture in our schools.  They help make safer, more connected schools through intentional meaningful connections between student-to-student and student-to-teacher/staff relationships.

Employee of the Month

Our employee recognition for February goes to Kylie Chew, music teacher at Brecht and Schaeffer Elementary Schools.  Kylie’s colleagues nominated her by submitting this special message:

“The students at Brecht Elementary are incredibly enthusiastic about music class and their teacher Mrs. Kylie Chew. Kylie makes music class fun and exciting for kids. She has her finger on the pulse of what is interesting and popular.  Even though she teaches all the students at Brecht (and all the students at Schaeffer), Kylie makes an effort to get to know her students so that she can connect with them outside of music class. Furthermore, Kylie is full of positive energy and enthusiasm throughout the day.  She consistently has something fun and exciting planned for music class that keeps students engaged and looking forward to the next time they will be in her room. Teachers can feel Kylie’s excitement for teaching and learning rubbing off on their shared students when they pick them up from music class. Her passion is infectious and can even lift up a fellow teacher or administrator. Gracious with her personal time, Kylie also leads a choir of 4th grade students one morning per week in each of her buildings. Choir gives our students a chance to spend time on something they love outside the school day. She truly embraces the commitment to doing whatever it takes for our students. As a colleague, Kylie is often the first to offer to fill in for staff when needed and can also be found helping with PTO meetings and events and assemblies to enrich our school climate. Another colleague said that when she walks past Kylie’s classroom she sees and hears joy — joy from both the students and from Kylie. It is evident that Kylie loves the art of teaching, music, and her students. Kylie goes above and beyond for Manheim Township School District. We are lucky to have her on our team!”

Brecht Elementary teacher, Kylie Chew, was named the February Employee of the Month. Kylie was recognized at the February School Board meeting by Brecht Principal, Ms. Nicole Reinking. Kylie is also the music teacher at Schaeffer Elementary School.

Making Today Count: Facilitating a Mid-Point Review of Progress

Posted Posted in 2019-2020 School Year
A visual showing our Comprehensive Plan goals which are posted on the Comprehensive Plan webpage on the district website. A picture of Marcie Brody, Manheim Township Communication Specialist, interviewing Superintendent Dr. Robin Felty for the district’s first podcast, “State of the District 2020”.

Just as our secondary level students are finishing their mid-term or general course exams, and our intermediate and elementary students are completing their common assessments, we are conducting a mid-point review of the progress made toward achieving our three-year district Comprehensive (Strategic) Plan. Mid-point reviews of curriculum content operate as important markers of achievement, offering evidence of growth and/or mastery of the learned content and skills. For our Comprehensive Plan, the mid-point review provides a marker of achievement relative to our progress or achievement of the established goals and objectives. As we formally review our accomplishments at the mid-point of the Comprehensive Plan, which covers the three school years 2018-2019, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021, we are pleased with our progress. Even further, reflection of our work thus far this school year (2019-2020) shows strong progress toward achievement of the overall goals established by the district-wide committee.

As a way to share our achievements toward these goals, and provide an update on the state of the district for this school year, we have hosted a podcast interview where information is shared about specific initiatives and projects within our district. In an effort to keep our staff, families, and larger community updated on our progress as a district, the State of the District 2020 podcast offers a 14-minute interview that covers our progress in the following areas:

·      increasing student enrollment,
·      district’s growing diversity,
·      middle school construction project,
·      Whole Child approach to education,
·      social-emotional wellbeing of students,
·      early literacy, and,
·      district Equity Leadership Team.

The use of a podcast to provide information to our community is a new communication tool for the district. We hope that our internal and external stakeholders find the information within the podcast to be both informative and helpful. We strive to be open and communicative about the progress made toward the achievement of our goals, and to celebrate with our community the accomplishments made thus far. The success we are experiencing at this mid-point of the Comprehensive Plan can be attributed to the dedicated and unfaltering work of our district faculty and staff, as well as the support received from students, families, and community partnerships.

Our State of the District 2020 podcast can be found here.

Maintaining a strong communication system is important to our district. We continue to focus on the goals of our district Communication Plan which are posted on the district website: Manheim Township School District Communication Plan. The Communication Plan holds goals to achieve the following:

·      Provide a communications program that directly helps the district achieve its strategic goals,
·      Foster strong relationships with district stakeholders,
·      Provide a focus and direction for messages/methods in support of the district’s goals, and,
·      Enable the district to present itself accurately to audiences.

Communication about our district in general is important to our existing community as well as incoming residents and community members. Social media (Facebook and Twitter) and our website are essential tools for sharing information with our community. New residents of Manheim Township often share that they spent much time researching locations and school districts in which to build or buy a new home, and used our website or social media as a source of information. Most recently, a family shared with me that their decision to move to Manheim Township School District was predicated on information obtained from our website, as well as the student achievement data gathered from Future Ready PA Index (our accountability system established by the PA Department of Education). We strive to keep our staff, families, and the community apprised of important information about Manheim Township’s activities, current organizational status, growth toward goal achievement, and issues affecting the district.

Employees of the Month for December and January

Our employee recognition for December and January goes to two staff members – Cindy Berlot and Sara Eddy.

Schaeffer Elementary Principal, Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards is with December EOM Cindy Berlot
Schaeffer Elementary Principal, Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards is with December EOM Cindy Berlot

Cindy is a building aide at Schaeffer Elementary.  Her colleagues have provided the following accolades in recognition of her character and performance:
“Cindy goes above and beyond to identify where help is needed.  She has encouraged others to
remain positive and to be an engaged member of the team.  She believes in helping
wherever help is needed regardless of whether or not it is the part of the usual routine. 
Cindy is flexible, willing to complete any task asked of her, and takes a leadership role within this position. 
As student’s needs change, Cindy has been willing to alter her working hours [to accommodate the needs].  She maintains a positive attitude and genuinely expresses a joy for helping the students.  She has a strong work ethic.” 



From left to right, LRIS Assistant Principal, Mr. Dana Schrodel, Assistant Principal Dr. Erin Birk, January EOM Sara Eddy, and Principal Mr. Will Gillis.

Sara Eddy is a 6th grade teacher at Landis Run Intermediate School.  She was nominated by her colleagues for “quickly acclimating herself to Landis Run. In just her second year with us, she has taken a leading role in several different areas, including but not limited to, the F.O.R. Club and Rachael’s Closet, while also being a strong team player offering a great deal of assistance to the numerous substitutes on our team.”  Her colleagues shared that “Sara goes above and beyond to meet the needs of all students; she consistently shares ideas for Morning Meetings and does an impressive job leading our F.O.R. Club.  Sara has stood before our student body multiple times to encourage kindness and helping others. With a staff member out on her team for several months, Sara took on a leadership role by serving as a contact person and stepped in to help out wherever she could.”

Making Today Count: Effective Transitions for Students that Promote Positive Social-Emotional Health

Posted Posted in 2019-2020 School Year

photo of high school students participating in a Link Crew activity
High school students engaged in a Link Crew activity.

WEB in action at the middle school!

As we are in the midst of the second marking period of the school year, and preparing for parent-teacher conferences, I am continually amazed at how fast time goes. This reflection also leads me to review the evidence of success related to our transition activities that were designed and implemented to help students effectively transition during the key time periods of their educational career. Our focus for this school year was on the transition for students entering the middle school and the high school. Much time and energy were spent by staff and administrators in developing these important transition plans. These plans continue to be a work-in-progress, recognizing that transitions are a part of life, and a very important factor in the academic success students experience during the middle and high school years.

During our large-scale planning for the current Comprehensive Plan, our district staff, parents, and community members identified the need to focus on these key time periods, noting the significance of an effective transition on academic achievement , physical development, and social and emotional well-being. Thus, much time was spent in the development of structured transition activities for this school year. The activities for the targeted two levels included the following:

Transition Planning for Incoming 7th graders
Incoming 7th graders participated in Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) team-building and orientation activities. WEB is a structured middle school orientation and transition program that welcomes incoming students and makes them feel comfortable throughout their first year in the building. It holds the philosophy that “students can help students succeed” using a leadership development framework that trains 8th grade students to be mentors and leaders. These 8th grade student leaders assist the new students in a variety of ways throughout the school year, including the teaching of four academic lessons to their assigned 7th grade student groups. These 8th grade student leaders also lead a faculty exercise at an after-school middle school staff meeting, and model positive, growth mindset behaviors at WEB social activities. The WEB program activities are ongoing from August through June. Middle school teachers Renee Engle and Alyx Brehman were recently awarded funds through a Manheim Township Educational Foundation (MTEF) grant to continue expanding our WEB program. We are grateful to our Manheim Township Educational Foundation (MTEF) for financially supporting the program and its planned activities this year.

Transition Planning for Incoming 9th Graders
Our incoming 9th graders participated in Link Crew team-building activities. Link Crew is the upper-level extension of the WEB program, a high school transition, orientation, and mentoring program that welcomes new students and builds a comfort level during their first year at the high school. This high school program trains mentors from the 11th and 12th grade classes to be Link Crew leaders who facilitate various activities with the new students throughout the school year. The stronghold of the Link Crew program is its Student Leadership Program. The “Link Leaders” connect with their assigned 9th grade students throughout the school year on an individual basis. These leaders have experienced the challenges that a high school can pose to a new student, and understand the importance of relationships in building a smooth transition.

High school teachers Jennifer Deibler and Nicole Eshelman were instrumental in helping to bring Link Crew to the high school. They are both dedicated Link Crew Team Leaders, as shared by colleagues when nominating both of them for Employees of the Month in September.

In our continued effort to promote positive social-emotional health and well-being in our students, we recognize the need for them to feel safe and secure during these important transition periods. The WEB and Link Crew programs offer frameworks to make this happen. Adolescence is a critical time period in a child’s life, a time when social-emotional competence is necessary in order to experience success in school and in his/her personal and family life. Effective transitioning promotes a positive feeling of self-worth, thereby helping to create healthy peer and youth-adult relationships. It also helps to leverage the unique needs of adolescents, their internal search for identity, and their mindsets toward self and others.

The transition-related support my husband and I provide to our adolescent son involves helping him to be his own advocate. We encourage him to discuss problems and solutions with teachers on his own, but assist the process when needed. He is reminded that the school and the teachers want him to be successful; they believe in his success. We also help develop a positive attitude about school through empathizing with him about his feelings, and connecting on an emotional level. Reminders of how we felt as an adolescent – happy and secure, awkward and self-conscious – help bring a sense of normalcy to him during adolescence. The way he perceives himself directly affects how he acts and behaves.

Parenting a student in adolescence is both challenging and rewarding. Guiding them through the key transition periods with empathy, open communication, and acceptance are essential components for promoting success. Our WEB and Link Crew programs at the middle school and high school build upon those elements and teach the student leaders how to mentor and communicate with the new, incoming students in a meaningful way. Having empathy is an important factor in the process.

Employees of the Month for October and November

Our employee recognition for October and November goes to two educators – Lydia Meisel and Nicole Rieker.

Photo of Bucher Employee of the Month, Lydia Meisel.
Lydia Meisel, with Bucher Principal Dr. Andrew Martin, was the Bucher Employee of the Month for October.

Lydia Meisel was the Employee of the Month for October. She is a guidance counselor at Bucher Elementary, and was nominated by her colleagues for “constantly going above and beyond for our staff and our students!” They shared that “she is always ready to listen to staff members and create solutions for problems.” Her colleagues further noted, “Lydia always has so much on her plate, from scheduling class lessons, coordinating small group lessons, checking-in with students daily, contacting parents, and so much more… yet she will always find time to talk with you if you need her, or help teachers out in emergency situations. She is one of the hardest-working people at Bucher and definitely deserves this award!”




Nicole Rieker was named the Neff Employee of the Month for November.
Neff Elementary Principal, Ms. Travis Bash, is with Nicole Rieker who was named the Neff Employee of the Month for November.

Nicole Rieker is a 3rd grade teacher at Neff Elementary. One of Nicole’s colleagues stated, “She takes current research and blends best practices through creative and collaborative ways. She puts an emphasis on students demonstrating their thinking and responds with positive feedback. She works tirelessly to make sure her students have engaging lessons which leads them to desire to work hard for her. Nicole looks at each student’s individual needs and finds the best strategies to help them be successful. Finally, she’s a fantastic teammate.”

Making Today Count: New Beginnings

Posted Posted in 2019-2020 School Year

High Students smiling on first day of school
We love to see students’ smiling faces on the first day of school!

My visit to Ms. Shannon Wright’s class at Nitrauer Elementary finds a group of happy, excited students who are enjoying a special lunch with their teacher (known as the “Lunch Bunch”)

The promise of a new school year brings fresh possibilities, renewed excitement, and the wonderful opportunity to establish new relationships with others. The 2019-2020 school year is off to a great start.

At Manheim Township, we are rolling out quite a few new learning opportunities for our students K-12 this year in our continued work to meet the goals of our district Comprehensive (Strategic) Plan.  A highlight of several of these new learning opportunities includes building the social-emotional health of our students (as part of our attention on developing the “Whole Child”), expanding our STEM/STEAM curriculum, and an expanded focus on college and career readiness. I’ll briefly summarize some of these learning opportunities in this blog, and will introduce more of our new K-12 learning opportunities in future blogs (i.e. expanded early learning programs and partnerships, new Grades 1-12 virtual learning program, NuPaths Information Technology certification program with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Link Crew and WEB programs at the middle school and high school, organizational framework for trauma-informed care and practices, and more).

Regarding our focus on the “Whole Child” and building positive social-emotional health in our students, last year our K-4 elementary schools implemented daily Class Meetings that promote relationship building, social-emotional development, and positive learning behaviors. This year we are implementing these daily Class Meetings in grades 5 and 6 at Landis Run Intermediate School. The new schedule offers the ability for teachers to facilitate these Class Meetings, and also allows for the incorporation of two new STEM/STEAM (a.k.a. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) courses for all students in grades 5 and 6. We are grateful to our Manheim Township Educational Foundation (MTEF) for providing funding and support for these new courses. Our Educational Foundation continues to financially support our innovative programs and enrich the education our students receive.

Our middle school has a new College and Career Readiness course with a focus on career pathways, time management, organization, and goal setting for our students in grade 7.  This course actually replaces the former Study Skills course, and aligns nicely with our College and Career Readiness course implemented last year for 8th grade students.

Similarly, our high school is offering an expanded internship and apprenticeship program through a partnership with the Lancaster Chamber and Lancaster County STEM Alliance. These organizations have collaborated to develop a work-based learning network for employers and schools in Lancaster County, and through the use of the “Inspire” software program, students can access workplace internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and other employment opportunities. The Inspire platform allows local employers to connect with interested students and their career counselor. You can read more about this beneficial program at Inspire Platform.

It’s exciting to be able to share these introductions to our new and/or expanded student offerings. Many of our district educators and administrators have dedicated much time and energy to the creation of these learning opportunities (and ones not yet introduced). We thank them for their continued commitment to the further development of an incredible school district – one that values an intentional focus on meeting the learning needs of the Whole Child, as well as increasing the opportunities for them grow academically and socially for lifelong success.

Employees of the Month

Our employee recognition this month goes to two educators – Jennifer Deibler and Nicole Eshelman. They were co-nominated by their colleagues for “their teamwork to successfully bring Link Crew, a transition, orientation, and mentoring program, to  the high school.” Jennifer and Nicole are both teachers at the high school and Link Crew Team Leaders. For the past 5 years, Jennifer and Nicole have advised the school’s Connect Club, supporting new students and incoming 9th graders to the high school.  While the Connect Club was successful, Jennifer and Nicole were constantly looking for ways to improve our transition program. Inspired by a transfer student to Manheim Township High School, a young lady who had experienced a program called Link Crew at her former school, Jennifer and Nicole approached the administration on several occasions with the vision to bring Link Crew to the building. Their perseverance paid off and this past spring semester, Jennifer and Nicole, along with two Middle School teachers and administrators, were trained in a transition, orientation, and mentoring program through Project Boomerang. Project Boomerang’s Motto is, “you get back what you give.” Jennifer and Nicole have given their time, energy, and dedication into a new initiative, and in return, our high school now has Link Crew. Their colleagues and school administrators have shared that, “Jennifer and Nicole have been TREMENDOUS additions to our building as teachers, leaders, and student advocates; they are excellent examples of educators who demonstrate a commitment to the students of Manheim Township that goes far beyond the classroom walls and the academic day.”

Making Today Count: Planning for 2019-2020 School Year

Posted Posted in 2019-2020 School Year

Our Leadership Team working together with Jordan Steffy and his team from the Atollo Program, planning for new ways to embrace the diversity within our district and further promote equity and inclusion.
Our Leadership Team working together with Jordan Steffy and his team from the Atollo Program, planning for new ways to embrace the diversity within our district and further promote equity and inclusion.

Some of our Leadership Team members engaging in community service at a local park in Manheim Township. We were excited to see of our families in the park that day!
Some of our Leadership Team members engaging in community service at a local park in Manheim Township. We were excited to see our families in the park that day!

Our summer is break is almost over, and students will soon be arriving back to school on August 26 (kindergarten on August 27).  It has been a busy three months, June through August, as we continued working steadfastly on our middle school construction project, the high school parking lots and parent pick-up/drop-off loop, and numerous other building facility-related projects. We are pleased with the construction projects at Brecht Elementary and the High School, which were focused on promoting front entrance security through safety-related structures and procedures at both locations. All nine schools at Manheim Township now have “three points of entry” in order to access the schools, thereby, further ensuring safety and security in all of our buildings.

Our Facilities/Plant Services staff worked tirelessly all summer to clean, make repairs, and prepare our schools for the upcoming year. Their job never ends, and we appreciate all that they do to make our schools and District Office a pleasant, welcoming environment for everyone who enters the buildings.

Members of our Food Services department, along with other volunteers, worked throughout the summer to provide free lunches to students who visited our “Summer Food Service Program” at Brecht Elementary, Bucher Elementary, Neff Elementary, and Schaeffer Elementary School.  We are proud to share that collectively our four schools served 8,446 free student meals this summer! Our data shows that participation in this free lunch program has grown over the four years of its implementation. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federally funded program operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. The meals we served were free to our students, with the funding fully provided to the district by the federal SFSP.

Our Student Enrollment Office was quite busy this summer enrolling new students to our district. As we continue to monitor the increasing enrollment in our district, we find that our student enrollment has grown by 110 students from last year at this time (when we had 5,747 students).  Our student enrollment as of this date is 5,857, with another 110 appointments currently scheduled for enrollment over the next two weeks or so. This additional growth in enrollment may decrease slightly due to any possible withdraws that are pending in the system. Our administration is continuing to plan for options long-term to address this consistent increase in student enrollment.

Some of our Leadership Team members delivering backpacks of school supplies to our families. Some of our Leadership Team members delivering backpacks of school supplies to our families.
Some of our Leadership Team members delivering backpacks of school supplies to our families.

Also, our district Leadership Team spent two full days this summer planning for the upcoming school year and developing strategies to promote success in Year 2 of the district’s Comprehensive (Strategic) Plan. Given our focus on community outreach and involvement, the Leadership Team spent time together engaged in community service projects and activities that benefit the families of Manheim Township.  Additionally, the team spent time with Jordan Steffy and his Attollo Team discussing the important topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially as it relates to addressing the needs of the “whole child.” Since MTSD proudly experiences growing diversity in its student body and the community, with students from various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, it is working collaboratively through community partnerships to provide new and meaningful opportunities for students that embrace equity in our educational system.  Equity in education requires putting systems in place to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success. This requires an understanding of the unique challenges and barriers faced by individual students or populations of students, and providing additional supports to help them overcome barriers. We are promoting academic success in school for all students through fostering a heightened sense of belonging and school connectedness. All students need to feel connected and valued.

Our new staff to Manheim Township is eager for the school year to begin, and readily embraces our focus on the whole child and the need for a learning environment that welcomes diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are excited to welcome our new staff to the district!

Our new staff for the 2019-2020 school year.
Our new staff for the 2019-2020 school year.


The Power of Positive Relationships on Students’ Well-Being

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: The Power of Positive Relationships on Students’ Well-Being

Picture of superintendent with three MTHS graduates from 2019
This picture shows some of our excited graduates from the Class of 2019

The last several months of the school year flew by, and our students continued to flourish and grow academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. We had a wonderful graduation ceremony on Wednesday, June 5, for our Class of 2019.

As I reflect on these past several months, and identify special moments that encapsulate our year and set the scene for the next school year, a conversation with an articulate, enthusiastic elementary student comes to mind. During one of my visits to our elementary schools, a student proudly showed me his writing samples from September through May, speaking with astute seriousness about how his writing has grown throughout the school year. He explained in detail how his spelling skills, length of sentences, and vocabulary have improved. When asked how such progress was made, his endearing comment attributed his growth to the teacher who “gives us a lot of writing time,” and his grandmother who “makes me write at home, and says, ‘Every opportunity to write is an opportunity to write better than the last time’”.  He then spontaneously began talking about his special relationship with his grandmother who “helps me to make the right choices about things.”

This conversation allowed me to further recognize the importance of a positive support system for students.  This support system is paramount to helping build healthy students. A student’s home structure may involve people beyond the immediate family structure, including grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, close family friends, youth pastors, etc. This positive support system is the “community structure” surrounding the student.

My oldest son had the opportunity to spend a meaningful amount of time with my parents as he was growing up, and now, as a young adult, highly values that special relationship. When home from his post-secondary education in Pittsburgh, he often immediately tries to schedule time to visit with his grandparents. This warms my heart both as a parent and an educator. The power of family relationships is vital to students’ emotional and mental wellbeing.

As a district, we spent time this past school year in professional development at the Kindergarten-Grade 6 level on the topic of building positive relationships with students, particularly related to “trauma-informed education.” Our professional development focused on gaining knowledge about the negative impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on students’ learning, and the need for implementation of trauma-informed approaches to teaching. These Adverse Childhood Experiences, known as ACEs, involve experiences of neglect, abuse, chronic poverty, and other significantly adverse situations that negatively impact students’ mental, social-emotional, and physical wellbeing. Thus, students may struggle academically and behaviorally, causing issues with learning, social interactions, and mental and physical health development. When students come to school with these ACEs, there are approaches that we can use to meet their varied needs and build positive, sustainable relationships.

The need for trauma-informed approaches in schools is so important that recent Pennsylvania legislation (via Senate Bill 144) now requires school systems to provide training to school staff, administration, and School Board members in how to identify the signs and symptoms of student trauma. At Manheim Township, our trauma-informed training has already occurred at the Kindergarten-Grade 6 level during this past school year, as shared earlier. Our staff in the Grades 7-12 level will be trained this upcoming school year (2019-2020 year), along with the entire district administration and School Board members. Many staff members also gained knowledge about trauma-informed care through a district-wide book study using the text The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. The content of the book had a profound positive impact on me. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the book, you might want to add it to your summer reading list.

Enjoy the summer months, spending time together and rejuvenating your relationships with family and friends. I’m already looking forward to our 2019-2020 school year!

Our Employees of the Month

Reidenbaugh teacher Mrs. Kelli Eachus pictured with Mrs. Trudi Smith, Principal
Mrs. Kelli Eachus is our April 2019 Employee of the Month

We have had three wonderful Employees of the Month during our last several months of the school year. They were recognized by the Board of School Directors at our public meetings. The first Employee of the Month was Mrs. Kelli Eachus. Kelli is a Reading Specialist at Reidenbaugh Elementary, and was nominated by her co-workers for being “such an asset to Reidenbaugh!” Her colleagues noted that “not only is she an amazing teacher, but always goes above and beyond to help the staff and the students.” At Reidenbaugh she coordinates the Literacy Olympics and the Books for Breakfast initiatives in order to keep a strong focus on literacy and families.  They shared that Kelli is very patient, a great team player and always does everything she can for the “Reidenbaugh Hoppers.” She always has words of encouragement for others.


MTMS French teacher Jenni Steeley is pictured with MTMS Principal, Christine Resh
Ms. Jennie Steely is our May 2019 Employee of the Month

The next Employee of the Month was Ms. Jennie Steeley. Jennie is a World Language teacher at the Middle School.  Jennie’s coworkers have shared that she goes above and beyond in both her role as a teacher and a member of our school community.  She is deeply beloved by her students and colleagues, and is always looking for ways to serve others.  Jennie makes learning French fun and engaging for students. Her colleagues state that “she is solution based – when something is not working, she comes up with a solution that can work for staff and students; she attends many student activities such as dances, Mini-thon, field trips, and zombie run.”  Jennie consistently has a positive demeanor and others view her as a “great person to bounce ideas around with … She’s the best!”



Photo of Brad Rhine
Mr. Brad Rhine, the district’s Database Administrator/Webmaster was the June 2019 Employee of the Month

The final Employee of the Month for our 2018-2019 school year was Mr. Brad Rhine. Brad is the Database Administrator/Webmaster at the District Office. Brad was nominated by his co-workers for being “a definite team player in the District Office; whenever anyone has a question or technology issue, Brad will stop what he is doing and help out.”  Considering his role is web development and database and not technology support, he does not “bat an eye when someone asks for help on their software programs or hardware support.”  He has helped to make things efficient, always ready to help others with a smile. Brad has assisted the District Office with various important projects outside of his job scope when needed. In addition, Brad redesigned the entire district website; there were many components of the website that included integrating new software programs into the website platform.  His colleagues shared that “he is the guru that our building staff rely on for questions regarding the Sapphire program, district website, and other technology support items — Brad is well deserving of this accolade!”

Balancing our Digital Learners

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: Balancing our Digital Learners

March was a busy month as we finally embraced regular school schedules with the hope that inclement weather was behind us. Sunny days, without piles of snow, brought more time outside for recess, physical education classes, and the beginning of spring sports. It’s so important for students to have time away from their academic studies, including the technology that is used to assist or enrich their learning. The time away is part of a balancing act.

We need to support students in finding “tech-life balance” – developing a schedule that allows them to balance their time looking at various technology screens (smartphones, iPads, laptops) and engaging in other physical activities. When our district involved stakeholders (district staff and parents) in the planning for our 1:1 iPad initiative in the schools (a.k.a. mobile learning), the group discussed the need to ensure students do not spend too much time during class on their iPads, especially at the K-6 level. This involves finding a balance between in-class instruction and time dedicated to research, design, and communication using technology.

At home, there also needs to be a tech-life balance. My husband and I work with our 7th grade son to achieve this balance, limiting his screen time so more time is spent in his academic work along with his athletic and musical activities. As a family we’ve tried to designate a certain amount of time (or specific time frame) for his technology usage so it doesn’t take a toll on his schoolwork, personal development and interactions, and overall health. Spending too much time in using technology can leave students (and adults) feeling stressed and tired. He already spends a good amount of his time using technology as part of his school course work, so finding additional time for the non-academic technology-based activities he enjoys (texting friends, posting on Snapchat and Instagram, etc.) is a balancing feat. We’ve found that parenting in the digital age comes with many challenges.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers recommendations and resources for helping families (children and adults) find tech-life balance while still honoring the needs of students who are growing up in a world of digital media. This involves recognizing the mindful use of media while also monitoring screen time. These resources can be found here.

Another resource for parents includes the information offered by the Society for Social Implications for Technology (SSIT). The organization offers ideas for appropriate activities for digital learners from birth through age 18, including information about maintaining a student’s healthy “digital diet.” The information can be found here.

An American teacher by the name of Mary Garza conducted an in-class experiment to show how learning can be affected adversely by cell phones. The teacher had her students turn up the volume of their cell phones during a 4th period class, and every time they received a notification on their phones they placed a tally mark under the appropriate category on a class poster (Snapchat, text, email, Facebook, etc.). This picture, which she posted on her Facebook page, provides a sobering image of the number of interruptions in a student’s education during one class period of the day.

In education we are sensitive to the amount of time students spend on technology, and recognize the value of technology as an instructional tool when used accordingly. At MTSD, our staff has spent much time in professional development that offers strategies for technology integration in the curriculum, including a focus on the 4 C’s – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  This planning allows teachers to use technology to support and enrich student learning when it’s appropriate within the curriculum. The technology usage is balanced with direct instruction from teachers. From time to time we receive questions from parents about students’ “screen time” in the K-6 grades, seeking affirmation that students are not watching small iPad screens for a significant amount of time during the school day. Our teachers plan strategically for the use of technology in their classrooms, striving for balance as they teach their grade level/course skills and content while using the iPads (or other technology) to assist and extend learning. Technology is not used every single period of the day, or during each subject every day. Digital citizenship is taught at various grade levels throughout the curriculum to promote safe digital learning.

Of course, we do have students enrolled either part-time or full-time in our MTSD virtual academy. Our virtual academy consists of students who participate in online learning for part of their school day while others engage in online learning throughout most of the day. Although screen time varies for these students in our virtual academy, we hope they too find tech-life balance so an appropriate amount of screen time can be achieved. Engaging in after school activities without screen time will help achieve that goal. Some of our full-time virtual academy students participate in competitive out-of-school sports/activities that occur during the school day, and need access to online learning that fits their busy schedules.  Some of our virtual learning students may also just prefer to learn at a self-selected pace that is different than the schedule within the typical classroom, and online learning offers this opportunity.

Technology enhances educational opportunity and educational access. We must be cautious and prudent in our efforts to prepare these digital natives to use their personal and school devices, social media, and the Internet in safe, healthy ways. A tech-life balance is also essential for promoting their positive health.

Employee of the Month

Dr. Wendy Hancock with first grade teacher Liz Ducey
Nitrauer Elementary Principal, Dr. Wendy Hancock, is with our March Employee of the Month Liz Ducey.

Our Employee of the Month, Liz Ducey, is a first grade teacher at Nitrauer Elementary School, an assistant coach for the MT Age Group Swim Program, and an assistant with the field hockey program.  Her colleagues share that Mrs. Ducey is an incredible first grade teacher, colleague, and mentor. She creates a community in her classroom that fosters social and emotional growth within her students. Her colleagues share that she “pushes students to reach their full potential every day, and teaches them to be good citizens that care about each other and the world around them.” They further note that “she does whatever it takes to make learning fun and meaningful for her students.”

The Nitrauer staff share that Mrs. Ducey is a true professional that loves her job and unselfishly and passionately supports all students and staff.

February 2019

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: Expressing Appreciation

The month of February has flown by quickly, especially given the number of days we were addressing inclement weather. We are looking forward to the milder temperatures that spring will bring.

Special messages of appreciation written by students for their peers.
Special messages of appreciation written by students for their peers.

February is often dedicated to events that show appreciation for others. Our younger students make special Valentines for their peers and parents. Our older students express appreciation through cards, descriptive writing, and poems.

In some of our schools students read books and wrote stories about gratitude and generosity. They engaged in “Random Acts of Kindness” or expressed their appreciation of others through participation in the Kindness Club. Watching students thoughtfully plan activities to show appreciation for others is heart-warming, especially knowing that these behaviors contribute to the development of caring, considerate children. Students of all ages spent time this month, and many other months as well, showing appreciation for others in a variety of ways, from community service events to school/classroom-wide activities. Some of our student clubs, such as the Aevidum Club and Interact Club, facilitate specific activities that promote the positive recognition of others.

I would also like to share my personal appreciation this month of our Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO’s), Booster Clubs, and other parent organizations. Our district is extremely blessed to have such supportive, generous parents that offer countless hours to our schools, athletic programs, performing arts program, and various clubs. Because of their ongoing positive support of our students, our district benefits in so many ways. Our students see the value of collaborative home-school relationships.

On a similar note, I would like to express appreciation to our parents who have willingly offered their time and support to join our parent task force dedicated to building a strong structure and communication framework for the planning of our new district early learning center for kindergarten. Although the planning for the early learning center is in its infancy stage, we value the input of our parents from the conceptual stage of planning through the final stages. Our district has spent a significant amount of time dialoguing and planning for how to address our growing student population. Recognizing our continued focus on early learning programs and building partnerships with families and local community organizations, the development of a kindergarten early learning center that is solely focused on addressing the unique needs of our youngest learners will greatly benefit our children and the overall community. Our parent task force will help us construct a model for active parental involvement in the early learning center, creating a framework that values and appreciates family connections at this critical point in a child’s life.  As our district moves forward in the planning of the early learning center, I will continue to provide updates on our website and in my blog.

Employee of the Month

February Employee of the Month
February Employee of the Month, Mrs. Dyan Branstetter is with Brecht Principal Mrs. Sharon Schaefer.

Our Employee of the Month, Dyan Branstetter, is a third-grade teacher at Brecht Elementary School. She was nominated by her colleagues for “sharing her passion for the arts with the Brecht community.” Every spring, Mrs. Branstetter organizes a school community arts night, and find various Artists in Residence to visit Brecht. These special opportunities provide enriching experiences for our students. For years, Mrs. Branstetter has coordinated a performance of the Nutcracker where third grade students integrated music and dance with research, reading, and writing.  She is always willing to share technology and arts integration tips at her staff development meetings and individually with her colleagues. Her colleagues share that “Mrs. Branstetter does whatever it takes to challenge her students to make learning relevant, meaningful and fun.” They further note, “Mrs. Branstetter is a wonderful colleague and teacher; we appreciate and would like to recognize her expertise, dedication and work.” I also want to express my appreciation for Mrs. Branstetter who always has a smile on her face, and a consistent heart of giving.

January 2019

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: Defining Student Success

Students actively engaged in their Monday Morning Meeting activity.
Students actively engaged in their Monday Morning Meeting activity.

In November, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) launched a new system for measuring school performance – the Future Ready PA Index. This system is an improvement from the previous accountability system that ranked schools by a single score, weighted heavily by standardized assessment results. The Future Ready PA Index goes beyond the framework of issuing a single score by offering a more comprehensive focus on three essential areas for measuring school performance: (a) academic performance, (b) student progress/growth, and (c) college and career readiness.

Having an accountability system for school performance that offers more meaningful, holistic data, including various measures of student growth, college and career readiness, and early indicators of success (grade 3 reading and grade 7 mathematics), provides important information to parents, school educators, and administrators. This information is essential for building successful educational programs for students K-12. Even further, the student growth measures at the elementary level, as well as the “Grade 3 Reading-Early Indicator of Success” data, help us identify areas of improvement for our early learners (PreK-Grade 2 students). Given our strong focus on expanding early learning initiatives at MTSD, and ensuring academically at-risk students are identified earlier and effectively supported, this data helps our pursuit to increase proficiency in grade 3 literacy for all students.

Beyond the focus on the younger learners and the early identification of students in need, our district Comprehensive (Strategic) Plan also addresses the desire for increasing the graduation rate and overall academic achievement through provision of additional learning opportunities. These opportunities may serve as learning interventions as well as new, meaningful job-embedded experiences that promote college and career readiness. The PDE continues to emphasize the significance of offering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) experiences in grades K-12, and computer science education, especially given the growing workforce demands in these areas.  We are pleased with PDE’s emphasis on promoting college and career preparation skills; it supports our district and high school goal to build more internship and apprenticeship opportunities for students within their local community. Partnerships with local businesses and organizations offer engaging, meaningful, real-life experiences that will ultimately challenge and prepare students for life after graduation.

We are in the process of developing several exciting new opportunities that provide the rigor and application of real-world/career-focused learning experiences. Some examples of these opportunities include building career development and college preparation skills through additional dual enrollment and College in the High School opportunities, as well as new partnerships for student internships and apprenticeships. These career-focused learning experiences are not solely for high school students; we recently involved middle school students in visits to local industries. On January 11, about 95 MT middle school 7th graders participated in workplace tours within the Lancaster area. This experience was made possible by a grant through our MT Educational Foundation. The students visited TE Connectivity in Manheim, PBZ Manufacturing in Lititz, and Flex/Cell in Lancaster. Students learned about careers available in our Lancaster area and toured each facility. Junior Achievement activities at Landis Run Intermediate School offer additional opportunities for students to be introduced to real-world, career-related skills.

Employee of the Month

Beth Faehling is Landis Run Intermediate's Employee of the Month for the month of January.
Beth Faehling, with LRIS Principal Mr. Will Gillis, is Landis Run Intermediate’s Employee of the Month for the month of January.

An example of a MTSD educator who consistently provides engaging, meaningful instruction that provides students with a strong foundation for learning is Mrs. Beth Faehling, a fifth grade teacher at Landis Run Intermediate School. Mrs. Faehling is our “Employee of the Month” for January. The Board of School Directors honored her at the January 17 public meeting.

Mrs. Faehling was nominated by her colleagues for “always going above and beyond for her students and our school; she cares deeply about each of her students and believes in teaching the ‘whole’ child.” Her fellow educators shared that “her positive energy is contagious!” She demonstrates great compassion and patience with the students who need it most. They further noted that she is a great leader, and “always knows the right thing to say in any situation.” One teacher offered, “Mrs. Faehling shares her knowledge with passion and positivity.”

Throughout our district we continue to be relentless in our work to provide multiple opportunities for student success. There is not a lone pathway that meets the needs of all students.

November/December 2018

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: A Heart of Giving

Our MT Marching Band students volunteering on the 2018 Day of Caring at the Whittel Farm, Elizabethtown.

I was reminded today of the positive power of giving. At the drive-in window of a local Starbucks, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my grande vanilla latte and hot chocolate drinks were fully paid for by an anonymous giver who had driven through the lane several cars ahead of me. The passengers in the two cars between the generous giver and I had their bills covered, with no expectation of any expression of gratitude.  Spurned by intense feelings of personal gratitude, I decided to pay for the bills of the two cars that pulled in behind me at the window, with the same expectation for anonymity. My 12-year old son was quite enthralled by the whole activity, including the mindset for why a complete stranger would pay for everyone’s bill, and then have his mother follow suit. The whole activity caused an interesting conversation between my son and I about the concept of paying it forward, and why people would be motivated to do a good deed for others as a result of someone doing a good deed for them.  After my son stopped trying to calculate how much money the original giver might have paid for everyone’s bill (drinks, bakery items, etc.), he began reflecting on the benefits of doing good deeds for other people, and how these actions could cause a positive chain reaction. Such generosity can be socially contagious, especially recognizing the impact of a single act of kindness among others. We talked about ideas for paying it forward at his school.

Our MT cross country team organizing and boxing food items donated for the local food bank.
Our MT cross country team organizing and boxing food items donated for the local food bank.

At Manheim Township, our schools are filled with examples of ways that students are focused on showing acts of kindness to others: buddy benches on our elementary playgrounds, the Kindness Rocks Project ( at some of our elementary schools, the “Kindness Clubs”, the “Have You Filled A Bucket Today” project, and the many different community service projects our students perform weekly at various locations. At the secondary level, many of our students in clubs, performing arts, and athletics spend a meaningful amount of time giving back to the community in a variety of ways.

As we approach the holiday season, our students will continue to be quite active in serving their community. Just as paying it forward provides a strong feeling of generosity and giving, serving others through community service also benefits the students, our local community, and the larger community itself. Students grow individually as they become actively involved citizens, thereby, developing a sense of civic responsibility. We are proud that so many of our students volunteer their time and energy to making a positive impact in a world much larger than their own.

The mindset of giving to others is part of our continued focus on the development of the “whole child.” Educating students at Manheim Township involves building district-wide systems and programs that promote life long learning so they are healthy, safe, and engaged in their school and local communities. Through involvement in service activities, students apply their academic learning to the world around them, thus, developing social awareness and responsibility. Our students are tomorrow’s leaders, and their heart of giving and kindness to others gives me hope for a continued positive future.

Terri Sies Neff Elementary November Employee of the Month
Terri Sies
Neff Elementary November Employee of the Month

An example of two district educators who work diligently to help build healthy, socially aware students, are our district Employees of the Month for November and December. Ms. Terri Sies, our Employee of the Month for November, is currently a para-educator in the Learning Support program at Neff Elementary School, and has worked in this capacity throughout the district in various programs, such as multiple disabilities, life skills, and learning support. She was nominated by her colleagues for ” taking the time to get to know each student on a personal level so she can incorporate their interests into their work.” They shared that Ms. Sies is “encouraging, yet has high expectations for behavior and achievement, and hold kids accountable … she is an amazing asset to our special education program, the teachers, and especially the students.”

Schaeffer Elementary Principal, Elizabeth Edwards, congratulations December Employee of the Month Megan Bingham.
Schaeffer Elementary Principal, Elizabeth Edwards, congratulations December Employee of the Month Megan Bingham.

The Employee of the Month for December, Ms. Megan Bingham, guidance counselor, was nominated by her colleagues at Schaeffer Elementary School for “upholding the vision and values of our district and our school.”  They shared that “she knows all of the Schaeffer students and families really well and is willing to help anyone in need; she treats every child as if they were her own. Ms. Bingham is gentle, kind, and empathetic. Students are comfortable talking to her, and she is attentive their needs.” Even further, they noted, “her accessibility for meeting with students and classroom presence is greatly appreciated.”

May you have a peaceful, joyous holiday season and a new year filled with happiness!