May/June 2017: End of Year Reflections

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

The 2016-2017 school year has come to a close. Reflection on this exciting year shows many notable student accomplishments within our classrooms, performing arts, athletic arenas, and community work programs. We celebrate our students’ growth and achievements.

Viewing a sea of dark blue graduation hats, with many smiling faces, is inspirational to anyone participating in one of the most monumental moments of a child’s life.  Their visible eagerness to be graduates represents the grand finale of a long educational journey – a journey that made them more well rounded, resilient, and ready to enter the next phase of their life.

Watching those graduates cross the stage to accept their diplomas prompted me to think about the learning opportunities we offer students at Manheim Township School District. What does it take to effectively prepare them for college, career, and life? How are we equipping them with the necessary 21st century skills to be successful in a connected, rapidly changing world? This planning begins at an early age through providing opportunities for students to collaborate, think creatively and critically, and communicate with one another. Our incoming kindergarten students – the Class of 2030, will need to be prepared for a world that doesn’t yet exist.  The jobs we know today will be different and/or nonexistent 20 years from now.

We must provide our students with skills to learn, work and live in an ever changing world. Students need opportunities to find their passion – to try new things and develop their interests. Such opportunities make well rounded children and adolescents. And they need experiences that teach how to effectively handle change. Their life journey – their educational journey – is full of ups and downs. They have daily bumps in the road – academic highs and lows, and relationship highs and lows. But if students are taught to follow their dreams, and cultivate their passions, we will undoubtedly contribute to their educational preparation for an exciting, unknown world.

We are proud that our school district collectively values the whole child, building skills and knowledge that contribute to the development of emotionally and physically healthy, motivated, and well-educated students. The many hours spent in community service projects and school-based activities focused on creating positive student relationships, accomplishments within our performing/fine arts and the athletic programs, and national and statewide academic achievements offer testament to the district’s focus on the whole child. We care about all of our students and strive to make school a great place to be every day.

The 2016-2017 has been a wonderful school year. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year as Superintendent of the district. The dedication of our staff, students, and families to the continued growth of a strong school district is paramount to our success. Our community embraces the district and offers support in so many ways. Thank you to our staff, students, families, and community members for your ongoing commitment.

We are proud of our Blue Streaks! 

April 2017

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

The month of April brought warmer weather and excitement by many students and staff that the spring season has arrived! On some of the warmer school days, groups of teachers at various grade levels took advantage of the warm weather and facilitated their planned lessons outside with the students. Some classes took iPads outside and used the technology tool as part of the lesson. The size and functionality of the iPads allow for this to occur with ease.

In dialogue with a teacher during one my school visits, she offered the personal belief that “technology in education is the great equalizer.” Horace Mann, pioneering American educator, offered the belief in 1848 that “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” Americans believed that education was the key factor to ensure all children had the opportunity to learn and experience success. This belief holds true in today’s society.

Technology is the great equalizer of people, allowing equal opportunities for communication, research, and advanced learning opportunities. It is constantly evolving to remove barriers that emerge due to a person’s social characteristics, geographic location, physical or sensory abilities. Technology is an important tool for personalized instruction for students with learning and physical disabilities, providing them with the resources to succeed at their instructional level similar to general education peers.

I asked the teacher to explain why she felt that technology in education was the great equalizer, specific to her classroom. She explained how all students in her class have access to the same instructional resources when provided with technology. They have equal opportunity to collaborate and communicate with other students when researching a given topic, to think critically when given the same scenario-based problems to solve, and to access and read the same information online using resources that address personal learning/physical needs (ex. enlarged text for visual impairment, highlighted/bold vocabulary terms for recognizing key words, speech to text options, etc.). She has students with reading disabilities who have highlighted text read aloud to them through an iPad app. Some students use the iPad voice dictation to help with written assignments. Such technological resources allow for all students to experience success in the learning process, thereby, leveling the playing field for all students. I loved this comment since one of my goals, as a Superintendent, is to help ensure that we have leveled the educational playing fields for all students regardless of their ability level, educational background, etc.

Another way in which we have addressed equalizing the learning experiences is our continued development of STEM/STEAM curriculum opportunities. On April 19, two teachers, a school administrator, and two students spent the evening at Lancaster Lebanon Intermediate Unit (IU13) showcasing various components of our innovative elementary STEAM curriculum at Neff Elementary School. The “Reinventing Learning” event brought many school district central office administrators and School Board members to IU13 to see the table displays and mini-presentations conducted by Lancaster and Lebanon County school districts. Our teachers (Mrs. Bridget Kaufhold and Mr. Taylor Good) and two elementary students offered demonstrations and presentations throughout the evening. Our students caught the eye of many individuals who stopped by the Manheim Township table display to hear our STEAM presentations. We received much positive feedback about the elementary STEAM initiative, including our plans to establish a STEAM lab in every elementary school (with the support of our MT Educational Foundation)!

Given the increased number of competitive jobs within the STEM/STEAM and technology-related fields, it is essential that we continue to build curricular opportunities for our students K-12 that prepare them for post-secondary success – within higher education and the workplace. This is another example of how we are making technology be the great equalizer in our district.

Our STEAM tabletop display at the IU13 Reinventing Learning event

March 2017

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

The month of March reminded us that winter was not over yet – our students and staff experienced delays and a cancellation due to snowy and icy weather. Some of our seniors who are slated to graduate in June reminded me that snow days are a blessing to “stressed-out seniors” (their words), recognizing that the make-up days in June will not affect their graduation date of June 6!

A wonderful student-created book given to me by students in Mrs. Anders’s class at Nitrauer Elementary
A wonderful student-created book given to me by students in Mrs. Anders’s class at Nitrauer Elementary

As I continued to spend time in our schools meeting with staff and visiting classes, it became readily apparent how invested our students are in their learning and co-curricular/extracurricular activities. In addition to demonstrating ongoing learning in their reading, math, and content area coursework, students at various grade levels also engaged in higher level thinking through experiences within the specialty area subjects (music, art, technology education, etc.). In one technology education classroom, students collaborated with each other while building individual projects using a variety of tools and procedures. They were invested in the success of their partner’s project as much as their own. As I walked around the classroom interacting with students in the learning process, I witnessed numerous students communicating and collaborating with each other. When one student began using the tool incorrectly, a peer redirected her and modeled the accurate procedure.

The students’ interest and skill sets exhibited in the specialty areas offer a testament to the significance of co-curricular and extracurricular March 2017 photoactivities. Many of our students spend hours outside of the school day engaged in activities related to music, theater, athletics, clubs, etc.  Most recently, some of our middle school and high school students offered a talented performance in their schools’ musicals. Sitting in the audience watching the high school performance of The Pirates of Penzance, I was truly amazed at the talent of our students. The same applies to our students’ performance on the athletic courts, pool, and fields, and on the pottery wheel or art canvas. The number of students recognized in March for their artistic achievements in the Scholastic Art Show and Lancaster County Young Artists illustrates this talent.

Our students also demonstrated incredible community outreach through their fundraising efforts for Four Diamonds and Penn State Children’s Hospital. The middle school students raised $28,979.79, almost tripling last year’s fundraising efforts. The high school students raised $107,588.66 – over half a million dollars has been attained over a 7 year period! And the high school Key Club received the following recognitions for its service and leadership to the community:

  1. most service hours by a club in PA (3,595.5 hrs.), with the 3rd highest hours per member average (45.51 hrs.);
  2. most money raised toward our Youth Serving Youth Project in PA ($2,848.09), with the highest amount raised per member average ($36.05);
  3. one of four distinguished clubs in the state, honor given to clubs with outstanding overall service, fundraising, and leadership;
  4. Bill Brandamore Kiwanis Family Award for the club’s work with the Lititz Area Kiwanis Club; and
  5. UNICEF Banner Patch for raising $625 for The Eliminate Project (helping to eradicate neonatal/maternal tetanus in third world countries).

These examples of community support exemplify our students’ desire for helping others.

One final example of community outreach occurred in our elementary knitting club at Reidenbaugh Elementary. The students invited me to join them on a cold Thursday afternoon for knitting scarves and other items. The elementary club had previously donated hundreds of their self-created scarves to the Lancaster YWCA for the Wrap Up, Lancaster! project that is now in its third year of “scarf-bombing” needy areas of the city and Columbia Borough.  This act of giving was even highlighted in an article by Lancaster Newspapers in February.

Our students continue to make us proud in so many ways.

Reidenbaugh Elementary Knitting Club
Reidenbaugh Elementary Knitting Club

March 2017 photo1

January-February 2017

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

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 Jan-Feb-2017-photoNitrauer, 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.

Feb 2017 heartsThe 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.

December 2016 Edition

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

December brought three weeks of busy schedules and events across our District, as staff and students worked hard to achieve planned goals and activities before the holiday break. In early December our high school Quiz Bowl Team competed in the Quaker Fall Open at the University of Pennsylvania, and placed first out of 36 other teams! Our underclassmen finished in second place in the novice division. What an accomplishment for our Quiz Bowl students!

The National Merit Scholarship Program each year recognizes and honors the most academically talented students across the United States, those showing academic excellence and scholastic ability. Nine of our high school students were chosen as National Merit Scholars – five students were named National Merit Semi-finalists, and four were named National Merit Commended Students. Hats off to our students for this incredible achievement!

December also brought great opportunities for our students to shine publicly in the arts. Third grade students in Mrs. Branstetter’s Language Arts class at Brecht Elementary School had their artwork on display at Millersville University’s Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center. Students at Landis Run Intermediate School and the Middle School had their artwork on display at the Demuth Museum in Lancaster as part of the museum’s Art-in-a-Box exhibition. They participated in lessons inspired by the art of Lancaster artist, Charles Demuth, and focused on observational drawings of the students’ surroundings. We are proud to see their art displayed in such a prominent way, representing our district!

Our fall athletes had a very successful season – there were too many to mention by name in this short blog! These student athletes represented us well with their great effort, perseverance, and athletic achievements. These achievements were shared publicly at our November School Board Meeting, with many of the students and their families in attendance for the recognition. Their athletic accomplishments make us proud to wear blue and white!

And we must also recognize the wonderful performances by our high school students in their Winter Concert, and the Landis Run sixth graders and Middle School Students for their band concerts. The music was uplifting and inspiring. Our students continue to entertain and bring joy to us through music during the holidays!

december-2016-photo-for-blogMy visits to our schools in December included Landis Run Intermediate School and Reidenbaugh Elementary School. Time was spent meeting with teachers and visiting classrooms. At Landis Run I saw busy students in classrooms where posters reminded them to use a growth mindset to assist their learning. It was great to see such positive, visual reminders to our students about the power of maintaining a growth mindset!

At Reidenbaugh Elementary some of the students were prepared for my classroom visit with challenging questions, such as “Do you have to pay a lot of bills to run our school?” “What’s the hardest part of your job?” and “What kinds of things do you do all day long?” These classroom visits and conversations were priceless.

I’m looking forward to January and the promise of what an exciting new year can bring us.

November 2016 Edition

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

In November I had the opportunity to visit both the middle school and high school for two full days, spending time meeting with teachers and visiting classrooms. During my class visits I saw highly engaged students who were applying learned knowledge in a variety of meaningful ways.

november-2016a-photoSocial Studies classes at the middle school involved several hands-on activities where students were engaged in interactive mapping, organizing information in a note-taking outline, and watching portions of a famous Broadway musical linked to the topic of study. The enthusiasm of the teachers as they taught and reinforced the content through showing part of the Broadway show had all students motivated and learning.

Students in 7th Grade Technology Education were engaged in an activity november-2016b-photothat required making a circuit that launched a fan blade, thereby simulating a flying saucer. One of the students initially stated that her circuit “would never be able to launch a blade!” After much deliberation with her partner and numerous test trials, she was able to effectively launch her fan blade. The excitement on the faces of these two students was priceless. The lesson learned: Success comes with diligence and much effort.

One of the highlights from the high school visit consisted of my observation in a co-taught Social Studies class. In this co-teaching class, both the regular education teacher and the special education teacher work together to plan strong academic lessons that use effective instructional strategies that meet the needs of students at various ability levels. During my visit students were learning how to invest in the stock market; all students were applying higher-order thinking skills at their individual levels.

november-2016c-photo november-2016d-photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m looking forward to visiting two more schools in December – Landis Run Intermediate School and Reidenbaugh Elementary School.

 

 

October 2016 Edition

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

The month of October quickly flew by, with many activities occurring both in our classrooms and in the co-curricular/extra-curricular programs. Our students are working hard and achieving success in multiple areas!

During my visits to the schools this month, I focused on meeting with staff at Neff Elementary and Schaeffer Elementary and spending time in classrooms. Some of the highlights from these visits involved seeing student-created family trees, skill-based learning stations in Physical Education (PE) class, and the fun hands-on learning activities in the STEAM Lab.

october-2016kid-photo

The STEAM activities (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Math) are part of a grant written by several elementary teachers and approved by the Manheim Township Educational Foundation (MTEF). Through the financial support of MTEF, we have an expanding “STEAM Lab” that teoctober-2016a-photoachers can use with project-based learning focused on concepts in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. The teachers are currently writing curriculum for multiple grade levels that offer enrichment in these areas. For example, kindergarten students complete a Goldilocks and the Three Bears STEAM lesson where they build a bed for Goldilocks that holds the weight of two pennies. Third grade students demonstrate creativity and innovation by designing a bridge-like structure using existing materials that can hold a specified amount of weight. Students calculate their weight of the objects and record the data on charts.

My extended visit to this learning environment found much excitement and learning on behalf of all students.

During one of the visits I found a wonderful resource for students posted on a bulletin board. The visual showed strategies for helping students maintain a growth mindset — “change your words – change your october-2016b-photomindset.” This strategy corresponds with the growth mindset research conducted by the Stanford University psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck. As shared in my September 2016 blog, a growth mindset in children and adults creates motivation and improves productivity.

My visits to the schools in October showed great productivity!

Welcoming the 2016-2017 School Year! September 2016 Edition

Posted Posted in 2016-2017 School Year

September 2016

We have had a wonderful start to the 2016-2017 school year. When our doors opened on August 29th for school, our clean, shiny hallways and colorful classrooms were filled with excited voices and much energy. We joke about wanting to capture this youthful fresh energy and save it for when the school year becomes more intense and challenging. Their excitement motivates us.

While busy in our daily work, we remain focused on building and maintaining a growth mindset within our students and ourselves. The term Growth Mindset derives from the research of the world-renowned growth-mindset-imageStanford University psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck has conducted extensive research into mental mindsets and delineated the differences between a Fixed Mindset (the belief that intelligence is fixed) and a Growth Mindset (the belief that intelligence can grow).  A growth mindset in children and adults creates motivation and improves productivity. Striving to use a growth mindset in our classrooms and within various roles will ultimately encourage and challenge students to push themselves and reach new potential.

sept-2016-photoDuring the month of September I have spent time in several of our schools meeting with teachers and staff, and visiting classrooms. In mid-September I visited Brecht Elementary and Bucher Elementary, enjoying the day with staff and students. One of my favorite moments occurred at Bucher where a third grader approached me while I was spending time in his classroom and gave me a “big bear hug” (his term for a “big hug”). His care for others was infectious in that classroom and the school.

In October I will be spending two days visiting at Neff Elementary and Schaeffer Elementary, followed by the middle school and high school in November. Each month holds two more school visits, so by the end of the year I will have spent 18 full days in schools with staff and students. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see firsthand the dedicated work of our staff and the academic, social, and behavioral growth of our students.