By Miriam Longobardi
When people imagine teachers in the summer, they would not envision someone spending six hours on a hot August day rejuvenating old desks with multiple coats of primer and write and wipe paint, yet this is exactly what Ann Marie Scalici was doing. Scalici was recently transferred to Roaring Brook fourth grade from Bell Middle School fifth grade ELA, where she and colleague Eileen Kenna (they refer to themselves as Work Wives), were named Innovative Teachers of the Year.
With adjacent classrooms, Scalici and Kenna transformed their learning environments. They spent hours after school rearranging furniture, cutting legs off old desks and bringing in items from home to create an environment to maximize student engagement and learning. Scalici said,
“Our students are nine and ten years old and they definetly need to move to learn. They are not meant to be confined by physical spaces that bind their intellectual and physical freedom.”
The following year they were awarded a grant from the Chappaqua School Foundation (CSF) for new furniture allowing students the freedom to choose seating best suited for their individual learning as well as team collaboration and student presentations.
Teaching extends far beyond the brick and mortar of a building, and Westorchard Elementary School teachers Liz Morhardt and Erin Posner turned loss into legacy. When their beloved colleague and dear friend Alison Caso Guerra passed away suddenly and tragically last February, our school community wasdevastated, but this was especially painful for the students and staff at Westorchard.
Wanting to maintain the memory of Alison’s passion for teaching and dedication to her students, Morhardt and Posner, together with Alison’s husband, Philippe, established the Alison Caso Guerra Memorial Scholarship Fund to be awarded to a Greeley senior who had her as a teacher and embodies such qualities as well-respected, hard-working and compassionate, among many criteria.
Their original goal was to award $1,000 each year for the next ten years, thus covering the classes of students who would have had her as a teacher. Last spring alone, the Go Stride for Alison event as well as a clothing boutique raised enough money to cover the next ten year’s recipients, far surpassing their original goal.
Alison’s legacy will reach far beyond the students and lives she touched personally.
In my new role as president of the Chappaqua Congress of Teachers I have had the opportunity to get to know colleagues in all schools and witness collaboration across grade levels. Leading students to investigate problems individually and problem-solve collaboratively is only part of what Horace Greeley teacher Mike DeBellis teaches in his Intro to Engineering course.
DeBellis co-teaches Technology and Design Integration classes with Kevin Kuczma and Paul Bianchi where students grow from learning introductory skills such as sewing, electronics, robotics and 3-D printing first semester, to designing their own problem using a well thought-out plan to solve second semester. Examples of their work include designing watch gears using computer-aided drafting (CAD), creating a fully automated greenhouse, and building a working model of an airplane. Robotics students learn how to code solutions a robot may encounter and investigate real-world problems that may be solved using robotics.
DeBellis, Kuczma and Bianchi work closely with middle school Technology Education teachers Chris Stasi and Bob Raguette.“They run terrific programs; the students they send us are fantastic,” DeBellis reports.
The district has made a huge commitment to this work and staff developers Zach Arnold, Josh Block and Ellen Moskowitz are spearheading the STEAM initiative. With all these moving parts working together, Chappaqua is moving full STEAM ahead!
These teachers are merely a few examples of the hundreds of outstanding and dedicated educators that define the excellence of the Chappaqua Central School District. Their passion, innovation, and commitment to children inspire me daily and I am honored to be among them.