Manatee Academy K8 newlyweds Caleb Bihari and Ashley Drum spent part of their honeymoon teaching impoverished children on the island of St. Lucia. Their experience was made possible by the Sandals Foundation and their “Reading Road Trip” excursion. Every Thursday a van leaves the comfort and luxury of the Sandals resort to go to Balata Primary school in Babonneau. Volunteers sign up in the resort lobby for the opportunity to interact with the faculty and students and see what schooling is like for children in St. Lucia.
“When I heard that this was a possibility I absolutely wanted to go,” Bihari said. “It isn’t often that I am out of the country and have a chance to visit a school.”
When the couple arrived after a forty-five minute van ride though winding mountainous roads, they were shocked at how different it was from a typical school in Saint Lucie County. Parts of the building were surrounded by a barbed wire fence to prevent thieves from stealing books and computers. There was a huge container behind the school that collected rain water from the gutters. This was their water supply. Classrooms were open-air. There were no doors or windows, just large openings in the concrete walls. Feral dogs and cats, along with chickens freely roamed the premises and “A chicken walked into class as I was teaching! It was crazy,” says Caleb. There was no cafeteria, but there was a kitchen where a cook came in and made lunch for the K-6 school of about two-hundred students. Students who choose to purchase a lunch may do so for 1 EC (Eastern Caribbean dollar).
Caleb, Ashley, and four other volunteers toured the school, met the staff, and were introduced to their classrooms for the morning. “We got to meet the faculty and principal and when they found out that we were teachers back in the states they were so excited. Instead of just reading or talking to the students, they told us we could teach any lesson we wanted,” said Drum, a fifth grade teacher. “I gave a quick lesson review on friendly letters and had the students write to my class at Manatee. I have the address of the school and plan for my class to start a pen pal relationship with those students for the rest of the year.”
Caleb, a first grade teacher, read and taught a mini-comprehension lesson to the second grade class he was visiting. “I was surprised at how well behaved the students were. They called me ‘sir’ and always raised their hands to be called on. Not one student shouted out the whole time I was there. I was also a little surprised at how smart the students were, they had excellent vocabulary and very fine tuned writing skills.”
At the end of their lessons, the Manatee teachers passed out books and school supplies that they had brought along to donate. “The kids went crazy,” Ashley said. “We brought a few packs of pencils and paper and about 50 books and everyone was so excited, like it was Christmas morning.” “That is when it really hit home the most that these students have a rough life,” Caleb added. “I got the sense of that when I first arrived at the school and saw just how different it was from what I am used to in Florida. But when I showed the class the books I had brought, you could tell it really made a difference for them. The simple things we don’t even think about meant the world to those kids. It was a really powerful experience.”
“One of the highlights of our honeymoon was going to that school and having the opportunity to teach students who come from a whole different world than what I am used to,” says Ashley. “Both Caleb and I were touched by this experience and made us realize how lucky we are to be teachers.” Caleb adds, “I will never complain about lack of resources or funds again because we are lucky with what we do have. Those teachers have to come up with everything on their own and if they want something they either have to buy it or hope more donations will come the next Thursday they have visitors because their school just doesn’t have the funds. It was both eye-opening and rewarding and definitely something I will always take with me.”
First grade students from Terra Zdenek’s class at Palm Pointe Educational Research School @ Tradition dress up to participate in “ Green Day” along with the administrators for $1. The money collected is being donated to the Relay for Life program to help in cancer research.
Kindergartners from Fairlawn Elementary recently experienced Colombian culture by watching a Colombian dance company preform many traditional dance from Columbia at the Sunrise Theater in Fort Pierce. The students were mesmerized by the music and the brightness of the costumes. It was truly a wonderful experience for these young students.
Palm Pointe Educational Research School @ Tradition second grade students Hayden Tate, from left, Riley Holtzclaw and Matthew Tucker are learning about graphing. Students in Lorrie Rudzinski’s class did a science experiment with blubber. They estimated how long they could keep their hand in ice water with and without the blubber, graphing their results.
The Northport K-8 Media Center radiated beauty, power, strength and a sense of family recently as the students and teachers celebrated and honored Women’s History. Each year during March, Northport Media Center transforms into a center for women’s culture. The program this year was dedicated to Connithea Arrindell and also to the strong, powerful and fearless women of the United States military. The acts in the program included Spanish teacher, Vicki Baird singing “I Am The One,” third grade teacher Tiffany Tredor playing her violin, eighth grade student Taylor Greger singing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” seventh grade girls in Dot Still’s class performing Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal
Woman,” a PowerPoint presentation by Mala Woessner’s students on the birth of Women’s History, kindergarten teacher Staci Saunders singing “Greatest Love Of All,” a tribute to Lucille Ball by sixth graders on the Starfish team, a talk about Sacajawea and Rachel Carson by Mike and Moriah Weir, a Susan B. Anthony tribute and beat rap by fourth and fifth graders in Juliette Thelusma and Nichole Robinson’s classes and a variety of other poems and skits. The program was a wonderful celebration of women, family, love and standing strong and brave. Pictured are instructors Mala Woessner, left, and Josie Bailey and some of the Northstar team girls.
Gaines Academy recently intalled new picnic tables outside the gym to help promote a positive school environment. Some of Kimberly Masters’ third grade students were the first to take advantage of using these tables while enjoying their lunch. Pictured, left side front to back, are Fernanda Carrasco, Daisy Guzman-Esquivel, and Gabriela Armendariz. Right side, front to back, are Lopez Bourjolly, Edwin Lozano, Kaitlyn Logan, Kimberly Masters.
Gaines Academy kindergartners, from left, Mauricio Murillo-Rojo, Angel Raya, and Roberto Luna Jr. from Tracy Davis’ class were full of excitement flying their paper-bag kites. The students made the kites during a writing assignment where they had to write step by step directions on how to make a paper-bag kite.
Samuel Gaines Academy offers an after school tutoring program called A+ Tutor U. Participating students were recognized with medallions and gift cards for the academic growth they have made in the program throughout the year. Pictured, top row from left, are Matt Roy, Yohan Purkiss, Jesus Cuevas, Kemmy Brianvil, and teacher Kimberly Masters. Bottom row, from left, are Jesicca Pena-Altamirano, Tomarrow Flucker, and Tom Flucker.
Kudos for Sam Gaines Academy AVID students for volunteering to tutor struggling students during seventh period, two days per week, for three weeks prior FCAT Writes! The awesome student tutors are, from left, Jesus Gill, David
Osorio, Wayne Farmer, Allison Schiavi, Dana Bennett, Sherneice Robins, Bianca Castillo, and Shania Farmer. Without the
one-on-one tutorial ESE and ESOL student received by these outstanding and unselfish students, these struggling students would not achieve the writing scores they will achieve when test score come back. Pictured, Sherneice Robin and
Shania Farmer tutor Kenia Santizo Guerra, an ESOL student for the FCAT Writes test.
Windmill Point Elementary School invited students from Treasure Coast High School to join the elementary school students. These older “book buddies” had a wonderful time reading with their new friends!
Kindergarten students at Windmill Point Elementary School enjoyed a visit from Josh the Otter. Students learned all about the Water Safety and Literacy Project!
Windmill Point Elementary School and business partner, the Big Apple Pizza on Gatlin Boulevard, sponsored a Kids at Hope Night. Families and the community were delighted as faculty and staff served guests their dinners. Talented paraprofessional Sara Cruz and her husband did free face painting and balloon creations for all chidren. The event was spearheaded by the Kids at Hope Committee organized by St. Lucie County’s Teacher of the Year, Mary Trubisky. 10% of all proceeds from the evening came back to our school’s Kids at Hope fund. The fund is utilized for student incentives, awards and special events designed to reinforce the school-wide belief that all children are capable of success, no exceptions! Pictured, from left, are kindergarten teacher Carmela Innamorato and first grade students Rania Khawaja.
Northport K-8 Teacher of the Year Mala Woessner joined First Year Teacher of the Year Cheryl Salerno from Samuel Gaines Academy, and Distinguished Minority Teacher of the Year from Allapattah Flats Tekia Montgomery, in a panel
discussion at the St. Lucie County Republican’s Club Dinner recently. The dinner and panel was hosted by Mary Anne Patan, Republican Club president, and moderated by Dr. Mike Salerno from Barry University. The discussion with
question and answer period was dynamic with topics such as FCAT testing, homelessness in St. Lucie County, Project Citizen civics requirements and Arts in Education, as well as veterans programming in the school. The meeting
included area Republicans as well as senatorial and congressional candidates and future city council hopefuls.
Northport K-8 School administrators and staff gave a big boost to literacy and offered a “Get Fit” challenge to students at the school. Students participated in a reading marathon to read 5,000 books before race day. The mission was accomplished, and Principal Glenn Rustay donned a pink tutu to complete the run. Also dressed for the occasion were Assistant Principals Benigna Mentengro and Doug Shook, as well as ESE chairperson Sherri Yakovino, and several instructors. Principal Rustay’s father and his son also competed in the Torrey Pines Race For Research with him. The Get Fit For Literacy Challenge was a dynamic and exciting way to get students and families involved in the school community. Pictured, from left, are Northport instructors Rachel Ellsworth, Mary Ellsworth, Principal Glenn Rustay, Assistant Principal Bennie Montenegro, Sherri Yakovino and speech specialist Jennifer Carey.
Thanks to a generous grant from FPL in conjunction with N.E.E.D., students in Mary McCartney’s music class have been learning about recycling, conservation, and renewable energy sources through the fine arts of music and dance. To deepen and extend their own learning, and to enlighten others about this topic, students shared their knowledge through a musical performance at Floresta Elementary’s Spring Concert.
Three new teachers achieving National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) status were recognized at the March 13, 2012, St. Lucie Public Schools board meeting. Pictured, from left, front row, are Hall Riediger, father to Jean Emerson, Alan Emerson holding daughter Grace with NBCT Jean Emerson, NBCT Theresa Brandifino, Joseph Brandifino, and Jill Prisco, president of the National Board Certified Teachers of St. Lucie County. Back row, from left, Garden City Early Learning Academy principal Teri Barenborg, Superintendent Michael Lannon, school board members Kathryn Hensley, Debbie Hawley and Dr. Donna Mills, school board chairman Carol Hilson, and school board member Troy Ingersoll.
The Spring Book Fair at Palm Pointe Educational Research School @ Tradition had a tropical theme this year and students and staff were excited about all the choices in books. Pictured, from left, media clerk Kathy Ferguson, media specialist Elsie Garber, and fourth grade students from Allison Snyder’s class Maria Prussing and Natalie Hernandez enjoy browsing through one of the books.
Bayshore Elementary School is excited to announce that students in third through fifth grade had the opportunity to learn the civic importance of voting while participating in a mock election. St. Lucie County’s Supervisor of Elections office provided voting booths, ballots and machine tabulators for students to use. In conjunction with the Sunshine State Young Readers Awards program, students went to the polls to vote for their favorite Sunshine Book. Students were excited for the opportunity to participate in the voting process and can’t wait until they can register to vote! Pictured are fourth grade students Hannah Salik (left) and Andres Gonzalez.
With almost 600 people in attendance, Palm Pointe Educational Research School @ Tradition’s CSI Family Mystery Night was a huge success! Assistant principal Latricia Thompson and fifth grade teacher Michelle Powers organized the event, which encourages critical thinking and the scientific process skills. There were many different labs set up for parents and students to test their observations, collect data and use deductive reasoning to do their investigation. Families completed the different labs and eliminated “suspects” accused of stealing the Palm Pointe rocket. CSI night incorporated drama and mystery in a realistic application of science investigations. This was educational fun for the whole family! Pictured is second grade teacher Lorri Rudzinskias she assists kindergartner Hunter Darville.
Northport K-8 kindergartners in Megan Castiglia’s class showed off their writing skills to parents and grandparents at a Young Authors mini program recently. Students in Mrs. Castiglia’s class, affectionately known as Mrs. M.C.’s Little Hammers, wrote Young Author books following the school-wide rubric. They also made a main character poster following in the footsteps of Dr. Seuss. As students read their books aloud, parents moved to visit each student and hear the stories read aloud by the students. Also on hand to listen to the students work were principal Glenn Rustay, assistant principal Bennie Montenegro, media specialist Lynne Gruszka, media clerk Pam Crum and a variety of older students. Kindergartners showed off sentence structure, good conventions and a nicely focused story. Pictured are three generations of the Baskett family, father Rick Baskett, son, Morgan Baskett and grandfather, Randy Baskett enjoying Morgan’s book.