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 (https://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com/) 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: https://www.mtwp.net/about/comprehensive-plan/ 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 Lancasterhistory.org-National 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: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/49130/tips-to-help-kids-with-back-to-school-anxiety.  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!