In the News
[June 26, 2015] From fifth-grade moving up celebrations to the eighth-grade advancement ceremony to Suffern High School’s graduation, hundreds of Ramapo Central students marked the beginning of the next step in their academic careers over the past week.
View photos from the ceremonies on the District home page slideshow.
Congratulations to all!
Viola’s fourth grade team—teachers Christine Kear, Kate Kratchman, Julie Lent and Rosan Shedler—had students include a number of components in their personal portfolios, including: individual goal setting plans, baseline writing pieces, exit tickets, Expeditionary Learning module sample work, unit exams, Achieve thought questions, NWEA results, Read 180 results, report cards, reflective writing pieces, trimester reflections, letters to future 5th grade teachers, and a overall portfolio reflection.
Last week, the fourth-graders shared their comprehensive portfolios with third-graders and discussed what they’d learned over the year. Here are just a few of the comments overheard by Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Lisa Weber:
“Starts out as a bumpy road, but then it gets smoother.”
“Goals are important so you get an idea of what you want to work on.”
“I had a goal of reading for longer periods of time. I read longer, got smarter and started enjoying reading.”
Weber—and the teachers—were impressed.
“Our fourth grade team portfolio reflection was very positive. We believe our students know themselves very well as learners and saw many of their goals come to life this year due to their portfolios. Their hard work and dedication paid off for them and they were very excited to have tangible evidence of this process,” the teaching team noted. “Many students felt much more confident in their ability to set and reach goals. For our team to witness this during the Portfolio Share with the incoming 4th graders was a beautiful feeling. We all felt very successful seeing our students beaming about their work!”
Stay tuned: Viola plans to continue portfolios next year…and maybe even include a few more initiatives in the mix!
Over the past month, students worked with Franco during their art classes on the design, themed “Go Green.” Eighteen fifth-graders were randomly selected to transfer students’ art work onto the mural canvas; all students had the opportunity to paint a portion of the mural during their June art classes.
Display boards bearing student designs are showcased in the school lobby; designs will also be compiled into a book by Instructional Facilitator Lynda Hammond.
“With our location at the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains, the ‘Going Green’ sense of purpose in our school seems fitting,” Hammond explained. “Cool air from the mountains, the abundance of wildlife that children watch from their classroom windows—red-tailed hawks, blue herons, groundhogs, deer, red foxes, crows, black-capped chickadees and wild turkeys—and the trees and plant life in the Nature Center give all a sense of how we, as humans, are an important part of our world's cycle of life and interdependence. A child's sense of wonder and curiosity is heightened in Viola school's setting. What better way to learn how we all fit into the big picture and the sense of our responsibilities on this planet?”
The mural was sponsored by Viola’s Fifth Grade Class and the PTA.
Photo caption: Viola students viewing their school's beautiful new mural, paying tribute to the importance of our environment.
The Rockland Recycles Award recognizes excellence in recycling and/or waste prevention/reduction programs and highlight their success as models for other institutions. This is the second award for the Green Team, which was first recognized in 2011.
The Green Team is comprised of more than two dozen students who collect bottles and cans from the cafeteria, classrooms and outdoors during their lunch period and after school on Wednesday afternoons. In addition to this recycling effort, the Green Team also manages an on-site composting and gardening program, with support from faculty advisors Faith Braut, Elio Ficarella and Karen Mena.
Photo caption: Earlier this year, the Green Team struck a pose near the SMS student garden.
“We start with a big question, then people start thinking about their opinion,” explained Joseph.
Will added, “There’s no right answer to any of these questions, though.”
Each session begins with Ha presenting a question for the enrichment group students to mull over and debate. The June 11 discussion focused on the characteristics of a good friend and why friendship is valued in our world.
Common interests, a sense of humor and trustworthiness were among the qualities named by the young philosophers.
“Someone who continues to act like a friend even when you’re not at your best moment,” offered Sophia.
Ha says that the idea is to encourage younger students to think more deeply about what they believe and why.
“I like how we can openly share our thoughts without anyone judging,” Nick reflected.
Philosophizing also aligns with curriculum.
“The benefits of this club is that it allows kids a forum to openly discuss pre-selected topics, formulate opinions and then, consequently, create arguments that support their point of view,” said Bean. “This correlates beautifully to our New York State Social Studies Frameworks which have students engaging in discussions/inquiries and then as a result of those things, being able to formulate arguments.”
A founder of Veritas, Suffern High School’s philosophy club, Ha was inspired to start the elementary school group based on her tutoring experience and some homework of her own.
“As I researched how to improve the philosophy club in the high school, I came across information that said that engaging in philosophical discussions from a young age has been proven beneficial and intellectually stimulating—and all-around “plus” for students—so this type of research encouraged to me to really push for a program in the elementary school,” she explained. “The students at Connor are very bright and I wanted to give back to my elementary school.”
With the support of RP Connor Principal Mary DiPersio, the club launched in late February.
“Listening to the students explore the concept of ‘truth’ and whether something is true because many people claim it to be was very interesting. As students shared their thoughts, they clearly demonstrated their ability to engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions, building on each other’s ideas and expressing their own clearly,” DiPersio noted. “It’s wonderful to have You Jeen back at Connor, even for just a few days to facilitate various talking points.”
For Ha, the most important purpose of the club is to provide students with an open space to think deeply.
“Through guiding questions, they reach their own conclusions and learn how to think for them which, I believe, is critical for students who will be responsible for asking and addressing tough questions later in life, not just in school,” Ha said. “More than anything, I learned even to a greater degree that the means by which youth are educated is particularly important, especially in an age when tests and assessments are increasingly dominating young students’ lives. Time for discussions is crucial, and tests aren't everything in educating students.”
RP Connor rising fifth-graders, stay tuned: Ha hopes to continue Philosophy Club next year.
Photo caption: Suffern High School junior You Jeen Ha facilitated a Philosophy Club discussion on friendship with RP Connor fifth-graders on June 11.
As first-graders, Simmons’ students wrote or drew a message for her family expressing what she had meant to them. Now seniors, these students wrote a second letter, reflecting on their past how the love of learning Simmons instilled in them remains alive. The new letters were added to the 11-year-old scrapbook.
Of Simmons’ original class of sixteen students, ten remain in the District. Among these are three college-recruited athletes, a Certified Nurse Assistant, an Eagle Scout, a Girl Scout and several aspiring entrepreneurs. All are college-bound.
In her remarks at an afternoon ceremony on June 16 at RP Connor, Simmons’ sister Joan Silvestri noted that Simmons was an average student in high school, but found her passion in college.
“If you remember, my sister would start each day saying ‘Good morning and I love you,’” and she meant it. She loved you all and wanted all of you to be successful,” Silvestri said. “Find and embrace your passion, laugh and share your gifts.”
Congratulations to the Theresa Morahan Simmons Foundation 2015 Memorial Scholarship recipients:
Photo caption: Ten Suffern High School students were presented with Theresa Morahan Simmons Foundation 2015 Memorial Scholarships by the Morahan and Simmons families on June 16.
Other photos: Suffern High School seniors pored over a scrapbook they’d created as first-graders in Theresa Morahan Simmons’ class at RP Connor Elementary School.
Seventh-graders donned soldiers’ caps, read personal letters and handled an array of artifacts as part of what has become a much anticipated, annual event.
“Playing with the stereoscope helped my students experience entertainment of the 1860s and touching the heavy dresses, shoes and uniforms made us understand how tiring it must have been for women and soldiers to wear,” noted ESL teacher Michele McElhatton.
This academic enrichment program was made possible through the generosity of the Suffern Middle School PTA.
"The Civil War Living Museum is a unique opportunity for our seventh-graders to bring their learning to life by providing a hands-on exhibit of authentic Civil War artifacts,” said social studies teacher KC Davan. “This event has become a wonderful tradition here at Suffern Middle School and I hope we are able to continue it for many years to come.”
Photo caption: Seventh-graders were transported to the mid-1800s through hands-on exploration of with Civil War-era Americans through artifacts June 11-12.
Bota was one of ten local high school science teachers to be awarded a Hudson Valley STEM Teaching Fellowship last fall. The year-long, professional development experience focused on developing lesson plans aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). A key component of NGSS is providing students with the opportunity to work with real-time data and make their own discoveries.
Following is a quick Q&A with Bota about this new approach:
Can you describe this curriculum?
Through the STEM Fellowship/NASA Endeavor, I was trained on the Animals in Curriculum-based Ecosystem Studies (ACES) Signals of Spring course and used the curriculum with my students this spring. ACES uses data from NOAA, NASA and other scientific groups to track animals and teach students about the oceans. It’s perfect because it represents the NGSS. Students use authentic data to study ocean ecosystems; they must make observations, predictions and justify their position by analyzing data.
I also used an original lesson on ethics and responsibility for the oceans that I’d created during the ACES course.
Is the approach different from how you’ve taught about oceans and ecology in the past?
In prior years, I would only briefly touch on ocean systems by teaching about coral reefs.
This year, we went into a lot more depth. Students have been learning about different aspects of the ocean and how it impacts ecology. They have done presentations on marine ecosystems, made food webs, and used satellite imagery to learn about the features they shared. The animal tracking presentations were condensed versions of more formal reports that students wrote and posted on the ACES website, along the lines of a journal submission.
I really like tying in real data and challenging students to justify their own ideas. It’s more representative of what scientists do.
How have students responded?
The students were more engaged compared with when we did other activities. Some of them had fun researching their own animals--I heard and saw them looking up videos and cool facts on their own, just because they were interested!
For two weeks this summer, I’ll be doing lab research at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown—the final component of the STEM Fellowship.
My professor, Dr. Meghan Marrero (adjunct professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University) is a co-creator of the ACES curriculum. She’s conducting a study on high schools using it and will be including our class in her sample.
Photo caption: AP Biology students presented their analyses of animal tracking data, as part of a new oceans literacy unit introduced by science teacher and Hudson Valley STEM Fellow Natascha Bota.
“This is a wonderful celebration of the academic achievements of the members of the Class of 2015,” noted Principal Patrick Breen.
Seniors comprising the academic Top 10% of their class were recognized and presented with the Principal’s Medallion—the only medal worn by students at graduation.
Fully 33% of the Class of 2015 were recognized at this year’s Evening of Excellence. In addition to the awards listed in the program, a four-year Army ROTC scholarship totaling $146,000 was presented to Kevin O’Connor, who will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and earn an officer’s commission upon his graduation there.
Presenters also offered encouragement and advice to the soon-to-be grads.
“From this point on, whatever you choose to do, give it focus, give it energy, give it all you’ve got!” counseled American Legion Fromm-Maxwell-DeBaun Post 859 representative Carl Kaplan.
Congratulations, scholarship winners!
Click here to view the list of awardees.
Photo caption1: Kevin O’Connor was awarded a four-year Army ROTC scholarship totaling $146,000 to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Photo caption2: Principal Patrick Breen presents the academic Top 10% of the Class of 2015.
Photo caption3: Paula Feder’s husband and daughter presented a $500 “Leave Your Mark” scholarship in her memory at the June 2 ceremony.
Photo caption4: Scholarship winners shared their excitement with friends and family.
Six of the nine retirees attended the event; several brought family members to share in the celebration, which featured the Suffern High School Chamber Orchestra.
“It’s a bittersweet night; we’re saying goodbye to folks who have been here a long time and excited about what’s to come for each of them,” noted Superintendent Dr. Douglas Adams.
Administrators described the many accomplishments of each of the retirees present, emphasizing how their work raised the bar for professional practice and made a difference for their students:
-Sally Rubin-Richards was recognized for her pedagogical expertise, dedication and leadership of the Sunrise Scholars, a targeted, before-school literacy support program for Cherry Lane students
-Suffern High School Principal Patrick Breen recalled that speech and language specialist Susan Kuzmik asked to trade her private office for classroom space to better meet students’ needs as a classic example of her steadfast “students come first” ethos
-Veteran educator and Ramapo Central alumna Dara Santoro was commended for her commitment and versatility for having taught Spanish language at virtually every level at the high school
-Suffern High School English and social studies teacher Dr. Robert Wilson was honored for “doubling down on constitutional law” and founding the constitutional law program in 2006 and the elite Cambridge Pre-U program in 2012
-At Suffern Middle School, technology teacher Steve Bower was applauded as “an integral part of the shift” from traditional industrial arts to the rigorous, Project Lead the Way engineering program and a “driving force in encouraging students to pursue engineering in college and careers”
-As one of “the kindest, most energetic and respected” members of the District’s Facilities staff, Suffern High School custodian Leo Curley was noted for both his painting prowess and tireless perseverance in helping students find lost belongings
After the speeches, handshakes and hugs, the event drew to a close.
“On behalf of our students and schools, thank you for your service,” Adams said. “We wish you good luck with your next step.”
Best wishes to all of our 2015 retirees:
Steve Bower - Technology teacher, Suffern Middle School
Photo caption: Cherry Lane literacy specialist Sally Rubin-Richards was joined by family and friends at the June 2 reception honoring the District’s 2015 retirees.