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!

October 2018

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: Planning for Continuous Improvement!

As I am sitting outside on my front porch enjoying the mild fall-like temperatures of the weekend, watching my 12-year old son contently shooting basketball in the driveway, my mind shifts to thinking about the importance of both physical and mental well-being for children. Just as my son is exerting physical energy running up and down the driveway with the goal of achieving his left-hand basketball layups, his mind is continuously thinking about the placement of his feet as he dribbles the ball with his left hand approaching the basket. His mental state shows concentration and determination as he approaches the net, feeling the sensation of the ball rolling off of his fingers with intended directional control. When the left-hand layup is successful, he looks at me with a jubilant smile and goes through the movement all over again. The following several successful attempts at making layups help him persevere through the unsuccessful attempts. He knows that continued effort and practice can bring improvement in speed, footwork, and ball control. And his growth in building resiliency helps him maintain focus and determination even after many failed attempts to achieve the shot.

These are key elements for consideration when striving to help students develop their emotional health and well-being. We know from research that students who are socially and emotionally healthy tend to demonstrate skills that help them be more successful in their academic learning, relationships with peers and adults, and overall motivation. Social emotional learning is essential in helping students become strong, healthy adults. In order for this to occur, schools need to address any barriers that inhibit healthy social, emotional, and academic development in children of all ages. Addressing barriers involves the need for equity in the school system. Equity in students’ access to educational programs and equity in the provision of interventions and supports when students are struggling. Equity benefits all students.

Thus, when the Manheim Township School District came together last school year to develop a new Nitrauer Students on First Daythree-year Comprehensive (Strategic) Plan, the district and school-level planning teams addressed the need for continued academic growth at all grade levels. The planning for continuous improvement in learning across the district focused on the need for promoting equity and removing barriers to student learning. The title “Pursuing Excellence and Equity for All” was given to the Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a blueprint for promoting student learning and well-being over the next three years. Below are the three overarching goals of the Comprehensive Plan:

  1. Implementing effective instructional strategies district-wide incorporating 21st century learning and innovation skills;
  2. Addressing barriers to student learning in order to increase student achievement & graduation rates; and,
  3. Ensuring academically at-risk students are identified early and are supported with needs-based interventions.

The specific strategies and initiatives designed for the schools and the district to achieve the three goals can be found on the district website: Some of these important initiatives include (but are not limited to) our focus on the following: implementation of early learning programs, a grades K-6 Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS), Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), trauma-informed care/practices, college and career readiness skills, student transitions between key grade levels, technology integration, meaningful professional learning for staff, and community partnerships.

MTSD October Employee of the Month Annette Frey with Bucher Elementary Principal Mr. Andrew Martin.

An example of a district educator who strives to eliminate barriers to learning is our district October Employee of the Month, Mrs. Annette Frey, who was nominated by her colleagues at Bucher Elementary School for the ability to make a positive impact on students. They noted that Mrs. Frey is dedicated to providing interventions and supports to her students with special needs. During our October 18th Board Meeting, Mr. Andy Martin, Principal at Bucher Elementary School, shared comments from her colleagues such as “Mrs. Frey has an excellent rapport with her students. She clearly makes a positive impact on students, not only in their learning but in their daily lives as well.” He further shared that Mrs. Frey “truly cares about each student as an individual, and wants to see them succeed.” She knows when to provide extra accommodations for them, and when to “push a bit.” Her colleagues further noted that “she is always ready with a listening ear, a hug, or even a fidget toy when it is needed.” They shared that she has a great sense of humor, and can usually manage to laugh about something from even the most difficult days.” She is modeling for students how to develop a positive attitude and strengthen their social-emotional health.

We recognize the significance of social and emotional health on a student’s ability to develop secure relationships, regulate their emotions, and increase the capacity to learn. Connectedness is important to us at Manheim Township, and our new Comprehensive Plan guides the way for continued improvement in academic learning and positive social-emotional health.

September 2018

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: Educators Impacting Students!

Our 2018-2019 school year is off to a great start!

The year has started with great positive energy and vigor by both staff and students. As I walked through our nine buildings on that first day of school welcoming staff and students, accompanied by several of our School Board members, the excitement was palpable. The enthusiasm demonstrated by our staff created a warm welcoming environment for students of all ages.

While students were enjoying their summer breaks, there were many teachers and staff members at Manheim Township taking graduate level classes, attending professional development workshops and conferences, and participating in research studies, training programs, and national/international educational trips. Our staff was busy! Examples of these professional development activities include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Anita Shoemaker, Nitrauer Elementary, participated in the Keystones Technology Innovator STAR Summit at Shippensburg University;
  • Dyan Branstetter, Brecht Elementary, participated as an Arts Integration and STEAM Specialist/Personal Coach for EducationCloset, an online resource for arts integration and STEAM;
  • Olivia Good, Manheim Township Middle School, participated in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s week-long summer institute at the University of Virginia studying the American Civil War, the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Teacher Institute at the University of Massachusetts, and the Lowell National Historic Park studying the rise of reform movements during the Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, Olivia and middle school teacher Brian Booker, both attended the Days with Documents seminar at Gettysburg National Military Park to study the use of primary documents for learning in the classroom;
  • Brian Booker also attended the 2018 PA Art Education Leadership Retreat at Kutztown University, learning about policies and strategies from impacting art education across the state;
  • Ben Parker, Manheim Township Middle School, attended a research conference at the University of Missouri-St. Louis titled “Cultivating Equitable Research Opportunities” that focused on the development of research ideas and academic publications that address educational issues present in marginalized communities;
  • Donny Himelright, Manheim Township Middle School, participated in the PA Master Naturalist Training Program, a statewide partnership initiative that connects people with their local ecosystems through intensive natural science training and local conservation service work;
  • Amanda Stine, Manheim Township Middle School, attended the 2018 Art Education National Leadership Conference titled “The Artistry of Leadership” in Charleston, South Carolina, and learned strategies for building leadership skills and advocating for art education;
  • Alex Swavely, Manheim Township Middle School, participated in a local training titled “Wellness Works in Schools: Mindful Choices;”
  • Rich Nolt and Bill Ziegler, Manheim Township High School, spent three days at the STEM Teacher Externship at CNH Industrial, New Holland, learning about product lifecycle, engineering, and advanced manufacturing;
  • Chris Manning and Missy Doll, Manheim Township High School, attended the American Association of Physics Teacher Summer Meeting in Washington, D.C. to develop and strengthen professional connections, learn from internationally renowned speakers, and attend workshops that provide opportunities to improve our physics curriculum;
  • Lisa Lyons, Manheim Township High School, participated in a three-day “Computer Science for All Summit-National Initiative,” focused on providing equity in computer science for all students K-12 (including a strong foundation for grades K-5 students);
  • Jen Breton, Rachelle Impick, Emily Heisler, & Kristin Bell, Manheim Township High School, participated in an EdCamp at Derry Township School District on the topic of Technology Integration;
  • Ked Kantz, Manheim Township High School, joined educators from across the U.S. on a two-week educational tour of Germany with the Transatlantic Outreach Program, visiting German schools, historical monuments, museums, and German corporations, and meeting with contemporary historical witnesses. The experiences provided him with resources for enriching the relevant district International Baccalaureate courses and promoting global mindedness among students and colleagues;
  • Nicole Eshelman, Manheim Township High School, attended a training to prepare her for a December 2018 trip to the Antartica, as part of her Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions;
  • Steve Schulz, Manheim Township High School, participated in a two-week training at the U.S. Naval Academy involving the “Maury Project” (named after the Navy Officer Matthew Fontaine Maury) that provided him with a framework to lead teacher workshops that embed Oceanography concepts into STEM courses. The training program also involved the collection of data from a YP 686, the touring of the Goddard Space Flight Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facilities in Washington, D.C., and a visit to the Baltimore Aquarium;
  • Wayne Kantz, Manheim Township High School, continued his work as a Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, utilizing the resources of the Lancaster Historical Society to develop curriculum.

As you can see, the summer was a busy time for educators desiring to grow in their academic fields and interest areas, for the benefit of the students with whom they work. Even further, this list is just a snapshot of learning activities conducted by 21 educators – they were many more activities completed by Manheim Township staff over the summer in preparation for their work with students during the 2018-2019 school year.

Ginny Wilson

Another example of teachers making a difference is Ms. Ginny Wilson who was recently selected by high school staff and administration to be formally recognized as the Employee of the Month during our September 20 School Board Meeting. Ms. Wilson, a high school Health and Physical Education teacher, was honored for her ongoing service to students, leadership in the Health and Physical Education Department, leadership within the school, and mentorship to fellow teachers and coaches. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Wilson has served as the Manheim Township Assistant and Head Girls’ Softball Coach, Head Junior High Girls’ Basketball Coach, and Cross Country Coach. She has numerous accolades for winning seasons for several of her sports.

Ms. Wilson also works with the students in our Life Skills Program and other students to provide specialized Physical Education programs. Her colleagues shared that Ms. Wilson is very deserving of the recognition, noting that, “she always includes all students into every activity, and modifies as needed.” Other staff members added, “Ginny has been a stabilizing force within the Health and Physical Education Department,” and “She puts students first and always has time for them … she is well respected and is a positive role model for her students.” Given that this is Ms. Wilson’s 33rd year in education, she is well deserving of this honor as a Manheim Township Employee of the Month!

Each month our Board of School Directors recognizes the “Employee of the Month,” an employee who is nominated for recognition by his/her colleagues. These individuals have made a positive impact on students, staff, and their overall building. My blog this school year will include a feature on each of these nominated employees – their recognition needs to continue beyond the monthly Board Meetings.

Our school district is blessed to have highly dedicated educators and staff who are devoted to making a difference for children.

August 2018

Posted Posted in 2018-2019 School Year

Making Today Count: Preparing for Back-to-School!

photo of books to complement blog

The 2018-2019 school year is upon us!

I have always looked forward to the start of a new school year, as a teacher, administrator, and Superintendent of Schools. The excitement is contagious for both our school staff and students. I recently spoke with a student and her mother at the local Target store while they were purchasing school materials in preparation for the upcoming school year. Both the student and parent were enthusiastically talking about the possibilities that the new school year could bring, from time spent in the school marching band to new challenges from an Advanced Placement course. I felt the excitement of the student as she spoke about her hopes for the upcoming year. It reminded me of the excitement felt each year as I plan for the implementation of our annual goals, initiatives, and planned visits to each of our schools. Expecting the unknown, and experiencing feelings of uncertainty, can be both invigorating and a bit worrisome.

Feelings of uncertainly can be heightened for our students in the “transition years,” – students entering kindergarten or first grade, students moving from elementary to the intermediate school, or students entering middle school and high school. We recognize that these transition years bring more challenges to students as they enter a larger building with more students and staff, encounter different expectations, and experience new self-management skills. The anxiety that students may feel in anticipation of this transition is quite normal, and they need to be reminded that school staff will support them during this important time.

I recently read an informational article about back-to-school planning published by MindShift, an educational podcast focused on the exploration on the future of learning, cultural and technological trends, and innovation in education:  The article titled “Tips to help kids with back to school anxiety,” offers strategies to help students make the transition effectively back to school. As noted in the article by Lynn Bufka, a practicing psychologist who also works at the American Psychological Association, “Going back to school is a transition for everyone …. no matter the age of the child or if they’ve been to school before.” This applies to both students and their parents. The transition can be significant to everyone in the family, but there are proven tips for making the transition successful, from creating a positive expectation to starting the back-to-school routine early.

We have been busy preparing for the start of the school year, and are excited for students to arrive on August 27. The day will be special for everyone, both students and staff!