Newsworthy

National Liberty Museum honors 4 Bucks, Montco teachers

National Liberty Museum honors 4 Bucks, Montco teachers

Educators from Bensalem, North Penn and Abington high schools received “Teacher as Hero” awards.

George Daka recalls sitting through “boring” government classes during his high school years in Philadelphia.

Years later when he joined the social studies department in the Bensalem Township School District and started teaching government, history and other classes, Daka remembered that earlier time and vowed to make his classes as interactive and engaging as possible.

He’s been successful in that endeavor, and it’s been noticed. Daka was one of four high school teachers from Bucks or Eastern Montgomery counties to recently receive “Teacher as Hero” awards from The National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. Also recognized were Abington High School special education teachers Caroline Gimbel and Kathy Rafter and North Penn High School English teacher Sakita Tinsley.

They were among 13 Philadelphia area teachers to be honored from among 77 nominations received from fellow educators, administrators, students and residents in the contest sponsored by State Farm.

“I was really surprised by the honor, absolutely taken aback by it,” said Daka, who now teaches mostly Advanced Placement government but also AP history classes at Bensalem High School.

To make those subjects come alive for students, Daka makes frequent use of things like classroom visits from local and state government officials and field trips. The idea is to not just learn about government, but see it in action and hear about how it works from those who are part of it, he said.

Within the last year, visitors to Daka’s classes included lobbyists David Kralle and Sean Schafer and state Secretary of Labor and Industry Jerry Oleksiak.

“I think about what can excite students, what makes government meaningful?” Daka said. “It’s actually bringing in live people who have a real relationship with government, not just notes on a page. I want students to realize their world isn’t just the four walls of the classroom. We’re a 20-minute train ride from one of the largest cities in the U.S.”

Daka has spent his entire 20-year teaching career in Bensalem.

“I don’t even look at it as work,” he said. “I enjoy coming to school every day and thinking what else can I do to help my students. It’s about giving students as many opportunities as possible. These are our next leaders, and the next people who will be teaching our kids.”

Teacher as Hero awards recognize outstanding educators who represent best practices in teaching and serve as role models to their colleagues and students, a National Liberty Museum news release stated.

“George Daka is recognized as an innovator in the classroom, taking advantage of every resource and opportunity to better the learning environment for his students and, on his own time, arranging for weekend field trips and guest speakers,” it said.

Abington High School special education teachers Gimbel and Rafter started a program four years ago that teaches job and independent living skills to students ages 18 to 21. Through various means, the program strives to make the students active and productive members of their communities, the two teachers said.

Students in the program spend four days a week at jobs and the other day going to restaurants, grocery stores and other locations, the two teachers said. The trips are meant to increase financial literacy and other life skills, they added.

The program has been challenging but very rewarding, Gimbel and Rafter said.

“It’s about meeting them where they are and making the most of what skills they have,” Rafter said. “We want them to grow in their strengths and be able to adapt to different situations and reach their maximum potential. I’m so happy to come to work every day and work with these kind, hard working and wonderful young people.”

Watching the students celebrate their successes and learn from their mistakes has been gratifying, Gimbel added.

“Our mission is to make sure these students don’t end up sitting on a couch every day,” she said. “They need to have jobs, participate in community activities and have friends.”

In addition to her English classes, North Penn’s Tinsley is also advisor to the high school’s African American Advocacy Club and the Muslim Student Association, the museum news release said.

“Her personal connections and influence with each of her students continues well past their years in her classroom,” it said.

Unbridled joy is how Tinsley describes the experience she gets from her job.

“My students are a priority in my life,” she said. “Their academic and social needs are always at the forefront of my mind when I am planning lessons and considering ancillary materials that can be connected to the curriculum that I am responsible for teaching. I am positive that engaging in discourse with their peers will lead to a sense of empathy that can be the impetus of understanding someone that does not look like them or come from a similar place.

“I love that I get to be around kids every day. I love that we get to explore literature and have awesome discussions. I love to watch them mature and gain confidence in themselves that they simply didn’t have at the start of the year; and I love to seem them become the leaders that they were born to be.”

The 13 teachers will be honored during an awards ceremony at the National Liberty Museum at 321 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia on May 11. Their awards will become part of a museum exhibit for a year, and they will also receive a family museum membership, a guided tour for one of their classes and a glass trophy.

All 13 are also in the running for Exceptional Teacher, Caring Classroom and Good Neighbor awards of $500 each. Winners of those awards will be announced at the May 11 event.

Credit: Bucks County Courier Times/Intelligencer

 

Sakita Tinsley - TeacherTuesday
Teacher Tuesday

TeacherTueaday: May 14, 2019

In keeping with our “Heroes” theme, we’re proud to introduce you to Sakita Tinsley, an English and Multicultural Voices teacher at North Penn High School as this week’s #TeacherTuesday. A member of the North Penn Education Association-NPEA, she received the “Exceptional Teacher Award” on Saturday in the National Liberty Museum‘s Teacher as Hero Award program honoring outstanding educators in the Delaware Valley. The program was sponsored by State Farm.

This co-advisor to the NPHS African American Awareness Club talks about becoming an avid reader as a child and how it broadened her horizons. She says, “Not everyone is born into a family of prominence or great financial comfort, but everyone is entitled to a useful, pragmatic, skill-based and adventure-filled education; that is the blessing and necessity of public education.” And she adds, “My students are so AMAZING! I look into their faces and I see them changing the world. I visualize how their very specific talents will actually make America what it was intended to be — a place where everyone deserves to live their version of the American Dream — one that involves equity and empathy, acceptance and access, pride and possibility.”

Know other inspiring educators like Sakita who change the world through their daily interactions with students? Let us know and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.

Newsworthy

Central Bucks school counselor wins “Unsung Heroes” campaign

Tamanend Middle School counselor Jeff Klein will use the $2,000 grant that comes with the award to help with painting a mural depicting an annual fundraising school basketball tournament.

A Central Bucks School District counselor has received prestigious recognition for his efforts in helping others.

Tamanend Middle School counselor Jeff Klein has been named winner of the “Unsung Heroes” campaign after getting the most online votes from among four finalists in the competition, all education professionals from schools in Bucks or Eastern Montgomery counties.

Klein said he will use the $2,000 grant that comes with the award toward the design and painting of a mural in the Tamanend gym to honor past participants and encourage future involvement in a basketball tournament he runs that benefits the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial and other aid to families caring for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and injuries in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

The “Unsung Heroes” competition was sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Education Association/Mideastern Region and the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools. The two sponsors asked for nominations of non-teacher education professionals from throughout Bucks and Montgomery counties, and four finalists were chosen from 14 nominations received from colleagues and peers.

The other three finalists were Bensalem School District social worker Jacqui Owens; Katie Engelhardt, a nurse at Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township; and Ellen Zschunke, a librarian/media specialist at Pine Road Elementary School in the Lower Moreland School District. They will all receive $1,000 grants to use on projects of their choice within their schools.

Klein thanked the two sponsoring organizations for “supporting public education and highlighting the work of librarians, nurses, social workers and school counselors.

“I am so appreciative of all who voted for me and look forward to using the generous prize to fund our school’s mural commemorating the 20-year partnership between Tamanend and the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund. I am also thankful to be surrounded by such a wonderful community of students, parents and colleagues who make my job so incredibly enjoyable and rewarding,” he said.

Central Bucks officials describe Klein as the “go-to guy when a student is in need of a friend, requires support for a variety of issues, wants to escalate his or her academic or outside pursuits or has other needs.”

One of his nominators said Klein is a “great colleague and amazing teacher and counselor.”

Credit: Bucks County Courier Times/Intelligencer

Teacher Tuesday

TeacherTuesday: May 7, 2019

Over the past month, we’ve been happy to shine a spotlight on four extraordinary individuals through our Unsung Heroes campaign. We asked you to vote and you did, with the highest number of votes going to Jeff Klein, a school counselor at Tamanend Middle School, and a member of the Central Bucks Education Association. He will receive a grant of $2,000 toward the painting of a mural to honor the 20-year fund-raising partnership with the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund which supports families with seriously and chronically ill children. Over the course of 19 years, during which Jeff has taken the lead for 15, the school has raised about $475,000 for this charity.

Congrats to Jeff and the other nominees who are all so impressive! Each of them will receive a $1,000 grant for their pet project:

Ellen Zschunke – Librarian/Media Specialist, Pine Road Elementary School, Lower Moreland Education Association co-president – Purchase Playaways, (MP3 players with preloaded books)

Jacqui Owens – Social Worker, Bensalem Township Education Association member – Add more mindfulness materials and resources to libraries in every district building

Katie Engelhardt – Nurse, Bucks County Technical High School Education Association member – Replace the AED (automated external defibrillator) and build the resources of the Comfort Closet

Thanks for helping us to honor these wonderful educators and the more than 15,000 members in the region who do remarkable things daily to ensure that every student has what he or she needs to succeed.

 

Learn why Unsung Heroes are so important:

Newsworthy

Four Bucks, Montco school employees named ‘Unsung Heroes’

Employees from the Bensalem, Central Bucks and Lower Moreland school districts and Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township each received $1,000 grants and are in the running for another $2,000.

Four school employees from Bucks or Eastern Montgomery counties have been named “Unsung Heroes” in a competition sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Education Association/Mideastern Region and the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools.

Receiving $1,000 grants were Jacqui Owens, a social worker in the Bensalem district; Katie Engelhardt, nurse at Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township; Jeff Klein, a school counselor at Tamanend Middle School in the Central Bucks district and Ellen Zschunke, a librarian/media specialist at Pine Road Elementary School in the Lower Moreland district.

The two sponsors asked for nominations of non-teachers from throughout Bucks and Montgomery counties and these four were chosen by a PSEA/MER panel from among 14 nominations received by peers and colleagues.

They are now in the running for one grand prize, which will be another $2,000 grant. The four are using the grant money for improvement projects within their schools.

The grand prize will be awarded on the basis of online voting. The public is invited to see videos and vote for their favorite at friendsofpubliced.org/unsung-heroes-of-bucks-and-montgomery-county-schools/. The grand prize winner will be announced Monday.

“We want to bring attention to and thank these very valuable professionals who are so critical to the success of our students, and who are often not as visible to the general public as our classroom teachers,” PSEA/MER President Alan Malachowski said. “Without them and their
colleagues across the region who serve in so many different capacities, the school experience would not be as enriching for our students.”

Engelhardt has “totally transformed our nursing suite into a nurturing place where students feel very comfortable and supported. She also started a comfort closet to assist our students with personal care items, clothes, book bags, etc.” one of her nominators from the tech school said.

She plans to use her grant money for replacing an automated external defibrillator and buying female and male-specific hygiene and laundry products for the comfort closet. If Engelhardt wins the additional $2,000, she will use it to expand a program of support and preventive services for at-risk students.

Owens is one of only two social workers in the Bensalem district and is described by officials there as a “relentless advocate for students and families, worrying about those who do not have adequate food, shelter and utilities and students who are not attending school.”

“She is one of the hardest working employees I have ever met,” Owens’ nominator said.

She is using the grant money to build libraries of mindfulness materials at every Bensalem school, including workbooks, storybooks and meditation materials like CDs, guided meditations and calming resources like stress balls and brain break activities.

Central Bucks officials describe Klein as the “go-to guy when a student is in need of a friend, requires support for a variety of issues, wants to escalate his or her academic or outside pursuits or has other needs.”

One of his nominators said Klein is a “great colleague and amazing teacher and counselor.”

He plans to use his grant money toward the design and painting of a mural in the Tamanend gym to honor past participants and encourage future involvement in a basketball tournament he runs that benefits a memorial fund.

Zschunke is “always willing to help colleagues and students alike and is constantly positive, down to earth and honest,” Lower Moreland officials and her nominator said.

She will use the grant money to purchase either 16 or 31 (if she wins the additional $2,000) Playaway MP3 players with preloaded books to aid students with dyslexia or other disabilities.

Credit: Bucks County Courier Times/Intelligencer

CAPS Original

Bucks and Montco Schools Rate High in US News Rankings

Fourteen public high schools in Bucks and Montgomery counties were ranked among the Top 50 high schools in Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools Rankings released recently. Top schools included New Hope-Solebury at #8 in the state and #356 nationally, and Wissahickon at #11 statewide and #502 nationally. More than 17,000 public high schools were ranked across 50 states and the District of Columbia. Because of the increase in the size of the survey, and a change in methodology, the magazine urged readers not to compare the results to previous years.

Twenty-eight percent of the Top 50 schools in the state are located in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Overall, the survey included an examination of 688 high schools statewide.

To compare high schools around the state and across the country, the rankings take into consideration factors such as college readiness, math and reading proficiency as well as performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth and graduation rate.

“We are so proud of these schools, our teachers and students,” said Alan M. Malachowski, a music teacher in the North Penn School District and president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association – Mideastern Region. “These results are just one more indication that the students in Bucks and Montgomery counties receive an outstanding education that prepares them for the future and enhances the value of our communities,” he added.

The rankings included the following schools among the Top 100 in Pennsylvania:

  • #8 — New Hope-Solebury
  • #11 — Wissahickon
  • #12– Central Bucks East
  • #16 — Lower Moreland
  • #24– Central Bucks West
  • #25 — Harriton
  • #26 — Spring-Ford
  • #27 — Plymouth Whitemarsh
  • #28 — Lower Merion
  • #34 — Perkiomen Valley
  • #45 — Central Bucks South
  • #47 — Abington
  • #48 — Jenkintown Middle/High School
  • #50 — North Penn
  • #51 — Council Rock North
  • #52 — Souderton
  • #54 — Upper Dublin
  • #59 — Methacton
  • #76 — Upper Merion
  • #93 — Council Rock South
  • #96 – Pennsbury

 

For the full list, visit the rankings at US News and World Report.

Teacher Tuesday

TeacherTuesday: April 30, 2019

For Katie Engelhardt, kindness is key and she always wants to make a difference for every single person whom she meets every single day. This week’s Unsung Hero is one of the certified school nurses and a member of the Bucks County Technical School Education Association partially responsible for the school health care needs of 1,500 students. She believes that academics come first and that physical and mental health conditions can prevent students from meeting their goals.

The students recognize her importance in their lives and the ones who know her best say she is “like a second Mom.” Her nominator noted, “Katie has totally transformed our nursing suite into a nurturing place where students feel very comfortable and supported.” In recognition of the importance of personal hygiene, she also “started a Comfort Closet to assist our students with personal care items, clothes, book bags, and more.” Katie says that so many of the visits to the suite are for issues related to mental health and her students say that she really knows how to make them feel better.

With the $1,000 grant, this Unsung Hero will be able to accomplish two important things. She’ll improve school safety by replacing an older model automated external defibrillator (AED) with a new model geared specifically for use by nonmedical personnel. She will also be able to enhance the offerings of the Comfort Closet to include female and male-specific hygiene and laundry products to increase the health, wellness, and self-esteem of the students. Earning the second $1,000 grant would help to defray the $3,000 to $4,000 cost of expanding the Student Assistance Program of support and preventive services available for at-risk students.

Check out Katie’s video, and the rest of the Unsung Hero videos, and don’t forget to vote! The contest will close at midnight DST on Sunday, May 5. The winner of our Unsung Heroes contest will be announced on Teacher Appreciation Day, Tuesday, May 7.

The link to vote is: https://bit.ly/2Id51E9

Teacher Tuesday

TeacherTuesday: April 23, 2019

We’re delighted to feature Jacqui Owens this week, a member of the Bensalem Education Association and one of only two school social workers in the district serving nine schools. Jacqui “works primarily with families that are struggling with something – homelessness, attendance issues, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal charges, domestic violence, loss of a friend or family member,” and more, said her nominator.

Jacqui Owens – 2019 Unsung Hero

We’re delighted to feature Jacqui Owens this week, a member of the Bensalem Education Association and one of only two school social workers in the district serving nine schools. Jacqui “works primarily with families that are struggling with something – homelessness, attendance issues, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal charges, domestic violence, loss of a friend or family member,” and more, said her nominator.She added, “Jacqui is a relentless advocate for students and families. She takes to heart those who do not have adequate food, shelter and utilities.” She worries about students who haven’t been attending school and is often on the road for a home visit, a truancy court date, or obtaining needed food, supplies, clothing and personal items for families in need.She also works with outside agencies to help establish services for students and families, as well as the @Bensalem Police department and school resource officers to ensure the safety of students and families. “Her professionalism and resourcefulness are astounding,” says her nominator, and she’s an unsung hero to her family and friends on so many levels.Research indicates that mindfulness can be beneficial to students’ emotional and physical well-being as well as their ability to focus and learn. This extraordinary school social worker will use the grant she’ll receive to expand the work already begun with the community coalition, Building a Better Bensalem Together, so that all students in the district can benefit. The additional funding will allow her to expand the library of mindfulness materials she’s acquiring for every building. She’ll be able to purchase mindfulness workbooks, elementary school story books and meditation materials such as CDs, guided meditations and calming resources like stress balls and brain break activities. Teachers are able to easily access these materials and incorporate them into their routines and lessons.View the videos about Jacqui and our other Unsung Heroes and vote at the link below. There is no limit to the number of times that you can cast a ballot.

Posted by Council for the Advancement of Public Schools on Tuesday, April 23, 2019

She added, “Jacqui is a relentless advocate for students and families. She takes to heart those who do not have adequate food, shelter and utilities.” She worries about students who haven’t been attending school and is often on the road for a home visit, a truancy court date, or obtaining needed food, supplies, clothing and personal items for families in need.

She also works with outside agencies to help establish services for students and families, as well as the @Bensalem Police department and school resource officers to ensure the safety of students and families. “Her professionalism and resourcefulness are astounding,” says her nominator, and she’s an unsung hero to her family and friends on so many levels.

Research indicates that mindfulness can be beneficial to students’ emotional and physical well-being as well as their ability to focus and learn. This extraordinary school social worker will use the grant she’ll receive to expand the work already begun with the community coalition, Building a Better Bensalem Together, so that all students in the district can benefit. The additional funding will allow her to expand the library of mindfulness materials she’s acquiring for every building. She’ll be able to purchase mindfulness workbooks, elementary school story books and meditation materials such as CDs, guided meditations and calming resources like stress balls and brain break activities. Teachers are able to easily access these materials and incorporate them into their routines and lessons.

View the videos about Jacqui and our other Unsung Heroes and vote at the link below. There is no limit to the number of times that you can cast a ballot.

Teacher Tuesday

TeacherTuesday: April 16, 2019

This week’s Unsung Hero, Ellen Zschunke is the librarian and media specialist at the Pine RoadElementarySchool in Huntingdon Valley, and co-president of the Lower Moreland Township Education Association. She is beloved by her colleagues and students alike for her sunny personality and positive and down-to-earth approach to work and to life.

This week’s Unsung Hero, Ellen Zschunke is the librarian and media specialist at the Pine RoadElementarySchool in Huntingdon Valley, and co-president of the Lower Moreland Township Education Association. She is beloved by her colleagues and students alike for her sunny personality and positive and down-to-earth approach to work and to life.Regardless of how much she has scheduled, Ellen is always eager to help colleagues and students, “whether it’s with technology, locating a book, union questions, etc.,” said her nominator, and if she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll find out. She produces a morning television show every day of the week featuring fifth graders and “is just an all-around hero in the ways she handles life and is involved in so much.”Besides her full-time teaching job, Ellen also coaches diving for Hatboro-Horsham School District and loves to cheer on other teachers and students, whether it’s a district musical, fundraiser, or other after school event. Her nominator added, “I wish I was as cool, calm and collected as she. She’s a rock star!”With the grant money she’ll receive, Ellen plans to purchase Playaways, MP3 players with pre-loaded books. This format supports English Language Learners, those with learning needs like dyslexia or other print disabilities, and readers looking for a different way to enjoy the printed word. The $1,000 award will fund 16 Playaways. and the $2,000 award will fund 31 of these devices to help all learners access materials in a meaningful way. Be sure to view the videos about Ellen and our other Unsung Heroes and vote at the link below. There is no limit to the number of times that you can cast a ballot.https://bit.ly/2Id51E9

Posted by Council for the Advancement of Public Schools on Friday, April 12, 2019

Regardless of how much she has scheduled, Ellen is always eager to help colleagues and students, “whether it’s with technology, locating a book, union questions, etc.,” said her nominator, and if she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll find out. She produces a morning television show every day of the week featuring fifth graders and “is just an all-around hero in the ways she handles life and is involved in so much.”

Besides her full-time teaching job, Ellen also coaches diving for Hatboro-Horsham School District and loves to cheer on other teachers and students, whether it’s a district musical, fundraiser, or other after school event. Her nominator added, “I wish I was as cool, calm and collected as she. She’s a rock star!”

With the grant money she’ll receive, Ellen plans to purchase Playaways, MP3 players with pre-loaded books. This format supports English Language Learners, those with learning needs like dyslexia or other print disabilities, and readers looking for a different way to enjoy the printed word. The $1,000 award will fund 16 Playaways. and the $2,000 award will fund 31 of these devices to help all learners access materials in a meaningful way.

Be sure to view the videos about Ellen and our other Unsung Heroes and vote at the link below. There is no limit to the number of times that you can cast a ballot.

Teacher Tuesday

TeacherTuesday: April 9, 2019

During the first week of our Unsung Heroes campaign, we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Klein, the amazing school counselor from Tamanend Middle School and member of the Central Bucks Education Association. Jeff has unbounded energy, unbelievable organizational skills, and is a friend to students and colleagues alike.

Jeff Klein – 2019 Unsung Hero

The amazing school counselor from Tamanend Middle School and member of the Central Bucks Education Association.Vote here: https://bit.ly/2Uty3FP

Posted by Council for the Advancement of Public Schools on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

His nominator said, “He is the person we all go to if there is a student we are struggling to reach and he will give us a list of strategies to try, as well as meet with the student personally.” She added, “He is more organized than any human I know, so he is able to take on more than anyone I’ve ever known.” In addition to coaching basketball, Jeff became the school’s athletic director this year, coordinates the PSSA and Keystone testing for the school, and organizes an annual Veteran’s Day Assembly. He also manages a 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise funds for the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund which supports families with seriously and chronically ill children. Over the course of 19 years, during which Jeff has taken the lead for 15, the school has raised about $475,000 for this charity.

One of his nominators notes, “He’s involved with almost every aspect of the school, and he does it all with a sense of humor and a huge heart. Students, teachers, administrators, parents and other community members respect and admire Jeff.”

He plans to use the $1,000 or $2,000 grant that he will win for the school toward the design and painting of a mural for the gym. It will celebrate the school’s 20-year partnership with the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund and encourage future students to get involved. Check out the video about this amazing professional and our other Unsung Heroes and be sure to vote.