• Pennell Elementary: A special grant for a special mission

    Posted by Lisa Palmarini on 12/7/2018

    Pennell Elementary Grant

    Catherine Furia, and teachers like her at Penn-Delco, do special work.  Her classroom at Pennell Elementary is a multiple disabilities support classroom for kindergarten thru fifth grade that serves students from throughout the district, including all four elementary schools.  Special education is her daily mission. “The students in my classroom have a range of disabilities including, but not limited to, learning disabilities, intellectual disability, autism, speech and language disabilities, ADHD, seizure disorders, etc.” she explains.  “I am responsible for teaching not just academics, but also functional life skills.”


    It is those functional life skills that often require creative tools and teaching methods to accomplish, but are not part of the overall special education budget.  Furia’s students often need explicit instruction in skills that other students may just pick up. “Due to the range of student ages and their disabilities, I need a wide range of materials. And the type of materials I need change year to year.”


    Tools for teaching skills

    Furia had hoped to acquire three functional skills programs: Edmark Telling Time, Touch Money, and Edmark Restaurant and Menu words program.  “All three of these programs greatly assist in the teaching of functional skills in the classroom.” So she decided to apply for a mini-grant from the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union through their foundation that supports education in the classroom. “The FMFCU grant process involved asking for specific materials for the classroom and how they would benefit students.”  


    In December, Catherine’s wish for her students came true.   Her application for a grant was selected by the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union to receive a $496 mini-grant to support her instruction with time, money, and community-based experiences to benefit Pennell’s students with autism and multiple disabilities.   The official grant was awarded to her, Pennell Elementary Principal Josh Leight, and Assistant Superintendent Eric Kuminka on December 5th.


    Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union Foundation announces the award of mini-grants totaling nearly five thousand dollars to a dozen teachers across the region. In its inaugural mini-grant offering, the Foundation received 85 applications from kindergarten through twelfth grade teachers to help fund innovative student-oriented educational experiences that might not otherwise be funded.  Foundation Executive Director Rick Durante presented the check in person. He is proud of the work his organization does because of the broad need for classroom funding. On their website he remarks: “We know there are a lot of innovative projects that teachers would like to implement that simply need a small financial boost to get off the ground or to be completed.”


    Pennell Principal Leight agrees. “Grants like this generous one from the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union make it possible for our teachers to enrich the educational experiences of our students in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Ms.Furia will be able to use the materials provided by the FMFCU’s grant to bolster her community-based instruction including lessons on time and money in real world settings.”


    A gift in action

    Catherine believes that these materials will make an immense difference in the lives of her students: “We take community based instruction trips so my students can go out in the community with me,” she said.  “We can go to a restaurant, for instance, and they can utilize the skills that they have learned thru the restaurant and menu words program in a real-world setting.”


    She also runs a mini "store" that her students, along with the autistic support classroom students at Pennell, run every other week.  Her students bag and sell the treats during lunch waves.  They need to make sure they are on time for their selling "shift" as well as handle money. “These are skills the students will need later in life in a real-world job situation,” she explains.  “The programs that I requested through the grant will explicitly teach these skills.”


     The mini-grant program aligns well with Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union’s charge to lead with education. “FMFCU exemplifies the credit union philosophy, ‘people helping people,’ and what better way for us to support our community than through education,” Durante explains on their website.  Mini-grant requests have ranged from $51 to the cap of $500. 


    FMFCU Foundation is also responsible for operation and funding of the annual Delaware County Excellence in Teaching Awards, which awards 21 teachers and their schools $1,500, the annual John D. Unangst Memorial Scholarship which awards five high school seniors $3,000 each, and directly funds a number of other educational initiatives and awards.


    Catherine Furia is grateful for the additional support and is amazed at the impact that such a mini-grant will have on so many.  “The materials will also be shared with the two autistic support classrooms, so it’s not just my students who will benefit but also the students in those two classrooms.”

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  • Aston Elementary: Hosting an honorable Veterans Day

    Posted by Penn-Delco Communications on 12/3/2018 8:00:00 AM

    veterans 1

    As rain threatened, the hundreds of students at Aston Elementary began lining up in the front parking lot near the flag pole. More than 30 veterans, men and women of all ages, many with caps and jackets emblazoned with their military branch, stood chatting quietly nearby.  The second annual Veterans Day ceremony, the hard work of Aston Elementary first grade teacher Tamara Scheuermann and her committee, would not be halted by the cold drizzle spreading over the crowd.


    “A little rain shouldn’t stop us from honoring years of service,” exclaimed principal Sue Phillips to the excited students looking skyward.  Visibly moved, Ms. Scheuermann took the mic to welcome the mass of people who now filled the entire front area, including uniformed Aston police officers and her fellow teachers.  A sweet and solemn ceremony followed. 

    veterans 3

    The folded flag was carried by Aston third grade student Seamus Gray whose Navy veteran grandfather, Dan Rush,  then raised skyward.   Veterans saluted the waving colors while a recorded version of the National Anthem played.   The Pledge of Allegiance was followed by the students own Aston pledge.    The youngest students held up artwork that they created thanking their visitors.

    For veterans like Aston resident Megan Kazinski, it was a chance to join her kids on a day that had personal meaning.  Both Megan and her husband Mark served a combined ten years in the United States Army.  Both were Army Captains and have shared their experiences with their three children Emma, Jonah and Landon.  

     “My boys wanted me to come. They were so proud,” beamed Megan. That response is exactly what Ms. Scheuermann hoped to inspire with this unique event. 


      “I was raised with a respect for veterans,” explained Ms. Scheuermann.  “My Aunt Jane used to teach.  Whenever she taught a war, she brought in a veteran from that war to tell their story.  Her students were always so impacted by these visits, year after year.  She took history and put it right in front of them in a way students couldn’t ignore.”  Later, Ms. Scheuermann was inspired by a mentor who also saw Veterans Day as a teaching opportunity.  “I saw what one teacher can do if they take the lead, bring people together, and make something happen.” 


    A civics lesson

    Ms. Scheuermann also noticed that many students had no idea what a veteran was or meant.  So, she took it upon herself to create a school-wide experience that would serve as a teaching moment too.  “If we don’t teach it, they won’t carry it on.  The hardships and sacrifices these men and women went through shouldn’t be forgotten.”


    Aston Principal Sue Phillips was pleased to repeat the ceremony from last year to remind the entire school community about the importance of recognizing the veterans in our midst.  “The staff and students have really embraced this event.  It is an incredible teaching moment and it allows us to honor our community members who are veterans.”


    It was a group effort for sure. Committee member Morgan Zimmerman, a reading specialist at Aston Elementary, was honored to support the effort.  “I do not feel like we do enough for the men and women who have served our country. It's a way to say thank you to them and to honor them publically in front of our students and staff.”


    After the short ceremony, the veterans were led inside from the worsening weather to enjoy a special breakfast set up in the school library.  Decorated with balloons and red white and blue, the honorary guests were seated at long tables where they could meet one another and enjoy a continental breakfast served by the Aston Elementary safeties.  It was a meaningful and symbolic way for the students to acknowledge their gratitude and meet some veterans from the community.


    Serving those who have servedveterans blog 4

    Ms. Scheuermann and other committee members assisted the students as they coordinated the breakfast and took orders.   This, perhaps, was the best part of the experience for the older students.  “I love watching the kids’ faces when they see the veterans,” she said.  “After being taught what they’ve done and their significance, these young students look to them like celebrities.  They really do see them as heroes.”


    Fifth grade student safety Emily Weisenberger understood the importance of the experience.  “I learned that veterans are more than just someone who served.  They are someone who protected us.  It was really cool.  We got to say thank you.”              

    Ava Schinkle, also a fifth grader agreed.  “It was actually exciting.  We were meeting someone who is important and fought for our country. They need to be cared for because not many people would step up to do what they did."

    Many of the veterans who attended seemed moved by the entire experience of being served breakfast, and understood the value of spending time with the students.  Airforce veteran Frank Metzger, a resident of Aston who was stationed in Germany for 4 years, enjoyed the morning meeting other veterans and chatting with the young servers.  “I think it is awesome,” he gushed. “For everyone to come out and honor veterans.  And I’m not saying just for me.  For all of the veterans here today.”


    Northeast Philadelphia resident Ron Hoffman who served in the Army and whose grandson is in the fourth grade at Aston, agreed.   “This is a wonderful event.  And I am proud to be here.”  Ms. Scheuermannwas proud to be there too, to teach the students, honor veterans, and live true to what she learned while growing up, particularly from her grandfather.


    “I don’t know much about my grandfather’s service years,” she explained.   “He was in Germany and served in the Army but I’m not even sure how long.  A few of his brothers also served.  One was a bomber pilot. My grandfather led by example when it came to acknowledging veterans.”


    Now Ms. Scheuermannand her team at Aston are leading by example, and ensuring that their students know and understand the impact that veterans have in our lives.  She plans to continue this event as long as there are veterans to honor, and feels pride in how her students and the entire school community has responded.  “It is enough proof for me that this event works.”

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  • Sun Valley: Competing for PMEA District Spots

    Posted by PDSD Communications on 12/3/2018 8:00:00 AM


    PMEA band


    Imagine what it is like to show up to a weekend sleep-over with dozens of people you mostly don’t know, spend hours practicing music you had to learn on your own, then perform in front of an audience of people you mostly never met. 


    Five Sun Valley student musicians were selected this year to do just that as part of the 2019 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District 12 Chorus and Band festivals.



    Musicians from Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia counties prepared for the blind auditions held at Rustin High School Saturday, November 17.  Sun Valley High School sent 14 students to the auditions to qualify. 


    Levi Das, Billy Fisher and Senta Johnson were selected to attend the District 12 Chorus festival February 7 – 9, 2019 at West Chester University (hosted by West Chester Henderson High School).  All will be directed by a director selected from a university music program.


    Zack Volturo and Claudia Miller will represent Sun Valley at the District 12 Band festival January 24 – 26, 2019 at the festival at Owen J. Roberts High School. 


    Contributing to growth


     Zack Volturo, a senior, is a district pro, being selected for multiple district festivals in 2018.  His experience with the PMEA festivals has been a formative one.


    “Last year I participated in district band, chorus, and orchestra-- and was accepted to region band. I had a great experience working with fantastic directors and learning new perspectives on the art of performing.”


    Concentrating on band this year, Zack will be a member of the percussion section playing a variety of instruments such as snare drums, marimbas, Timpani, and more.   It’s an opportunity that continues to contribute to his growth.


    “It is a much more professional environment than what I am used to in my own high school concert band. It has allowed me to see further past the notes and rhythms and understand what will really move the audience.  Districts has significantly impacted my musicianship.”


    Zack believes his experience also impacts his fellow musicians at Sun Valley.


    “I am able to apply this information at Sun Valley and bring more to the table during our own concerts, as well as share it with my peers to help them grow.”


    Senta Johnson, chosen as an alto for the district chorus, agrees that the district experience builds character.


    “This experience has made me step up as a leader. My work ethic is something I would like to pass down to the underclassmen. I only hope they are inspired by how ambition pays off.”


    Strengthening music programs

    PMEA chorus  

    The challenge of the PMEA audition and festival experience is an important one for the music teachers at Sun Valley.  Nicole Moyer, chorus teacher at the high school, supports her students who are willing to work hard for the experience. 


    “I believe having students involved in the PMEA ensembles helps strengthen my program overall,” said Moyer.


    “Whenever one of my students has a positive "outside of school" musical experience it helps improve my program.” 


    Moyer has seen a growth in interest in the PMEA chorus festivals at Sun Valley, watching two students even reach states in recent years.  She sees the experience as one she can support and share with all students in the chorus classes.


    “My students have become more and more interested in auditioning for these ensembles. So, I have begun to teach some of the audition music and program some of it into our winter concert,” said Moyer.


    “When I program a piece of music that an honor choir is expected to sing, it challenges my choir and brings them to a new level.”


    Moyer knows the pressure of auditioning with peers from all over the area.


    “It can be very competitive. The top 20 of each section make it into the district honor choir,” she said.   “Sometimes there are about 40-50 students auditioning for 20 spots.  At regional auditions only 10 make it.  It is a very hard thing do.”


    A total of 160 students from Chester, Delaware and Chester Counties will convene to learn and rehearse select music that will be performed on February 9. Vocalists will audition for the Regional Chorus Festival to be held on March 21 – 23, 2019 at Haverford HS. 


    Moyer is thrilled with the results for Sun Valley this year.  Not only is she sending three students to districts, many of her students placed very high or are alternates. 

    Victoria Carrillo, Tommy Christladi, Ryan Costigan, Michael DiFurio, and Zack Volturo all are possible inclusions in the festival as they ranked either 21stor 22ndin the auditions.


    A memorable experience 


    Tommy Christaldi, an alternate for Tenor 2, has had the district experience in his sophomore and junior years.  While he is disappointed in not placing in the top 20 this year, he is appreciative of the entire experience of auditioning and attending districts while at Sun Valley.


    “To some, coming this close might be disappointing, but in my book it's a win,” said Tommy. 


    “Districts both last year and the year before were really unique experiences,” he said. “It made me more driven and focused on improving my choral technique rather than just looking at chorus as a place to have fun.  It was an eye-opening experience, seeing what so many other performers are capable of.”


    The hard work prior and during the festival has stuck with him.


    “You have to deal with the stress and responsibility of learning four or five new pieces of music,” he remembers.  “You meet a lot of really cool and talented people.  And working with college choir directors was an experience I really appreciated.  It made me more appreciative of the work Mrs. Moyer puts in, as well as thankful for the familial atmosphere within our own choir.”


    For Zack, that familial atmosphere can extend to the district experience as well.


    “What I enjoy most about districts is the bridges I am able to build with students who share the same interest as me and are doing the things I do. I am able to keep in contact with them without seeing them at my own school on a day-to-day basis.”


    Zack will be part of the 125-piece ensemble band who will perform on January 26 withDr. Will Wrap from Kutztown Universitydirecting.  Musicians will audition at the festival to be part of the prestigious Regional Band Festival March 7 – 9 at Central Bucks West High School which combines the top half of both District 12 and District 11 adding Montgomery and Bucks counties. 

    His band teacher, Mr. Pry, is proud of the extra effort all his students put in to audition:


    “It is the students who are responsible for the audition material. The music comes out in May and they begin work on their own to prepare the solo, making it more satisfying for them to succeed in the audition.”


    It is the fruit of that success that Senta Johnson will appreciate in her first District experience.


    “I look forward to surrounding myself with other students who share the same interest and ethic. This is an amazing opportunity to work alongside other devoted individuals from other schools doing what we love, and I am so excited to be a part of it.”


    All musicians will audition and can qualify for Regional festivals at the district events.  Congratulations and good luck to our talented and hard-working students representing Sun Valley this year!



    About PMEA District 12


    Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) is an affiliate of the nearly 80,000 member National Association for Music Education (NAfME). PMEA is a service organization to music education in the Commonwealth. The membership includes those engaged in music instruction at all levels, from preschool through college and university, retired educators, as well as those in the music industry. In addition, students enrolled in music education may participate in collegiate chapters and secondary students may participate in Tri-M Honor Society. PMEA provides leadership in professional growth and offers special opportunities for musical development to school students. PMEA District 12 serves the music educators and students of Philadelphia, Delaware and Chester counties.

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