It is that time of the year once again where our Rider family comes together to reflect on what we are most appreciative of, and then we turn that gratitude outward to help our school and community members most in need.
I am grateful for the generosity and compassion of our students and staff who each year do whatever they can to help our families, as well as many of our community members, to feel less stressed and thus more able to enjoy the holiday season.
Across all of our buildings, staff and students have been working hard, collecting food, clothing, gift cards, wrapped presents, and more. Keep reading to see what they have already accomplished so far during this holiday season!
I am also appreciative of the High School staff, and the hours they have spent training and piloting a new community-building approach, called Circles. Circles aims to develop a stronger sense of belonging and connectedness by creating a safe, judgment-free environment, where all students feel comfortable and able to contribute to discussions around difficult or important issues. You can learn more about Circles below.
I also want to personally thank the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation for the $12,000 in grant funding, which has made possible a wide range of arts and humanities programs and opportunities that go beyond typical academic offerings. This year, the grant will bring in an outside author and teaching artist; continued support for our beloved Flying Deer program; and robots!
We have much to be appreciative of here at Ichabod Crane, from the kindness and empathy that we share with our fellow Riders to the outside organizations that expand the enrichment opportunities available for our students.
Lastly, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season to you and your families. We have many festive and beautiful events coming up, including our winter concerts and the annual Festival of the Trees on Dec. 13 at the Primary School, indoors again. I am so grateful that many of our in-person events have returned and we can again gather and celebrate the holidays together. Please mark your calendar and come enjoy this season with us all.
Also in this issue:
- 2022 Arts and Humanities grant recipients announced
Spotlight on our new Teaching Assistants
Chain of Kindness brings HS students together
Basketball Championship banner proudly on display
The Power of Circles
Our staff began training in Circles in August, during the first week of professional development, and have continued to attend in-house workshops since then. The district has brought in Common Thread Consulting and CASDA to facilitate the Circles training.
The approach – used across the country – aims to bring together staff and students in a circular configuration to talk, which allows staff to develop even more authentic relationships with their students — getting to know their students beyond how they interact within the content of the course they are teaching.
At ICC, the hope is to build our own approach to Circles, where teachers feel equipped and empowered to facilitate Circles conversations when necessary. Sometimes, the discussion may be catalyzed by a topic on the lighter-side, but this approach really promotes creating spaces in our classrooms where our students and staff can discuss tough topics that need to be addressed in the moment. This program also aims to enhance students' listening skills, their ability to learn from what is being discussed, which doesn't mean they have to agree. Disagreement in a respectful manner and discourse are encouraged.
“It is okay to live with disagreement, but we want to equip our students with the skills to learn from each other, even when we respectfully disagree,” Superintendent Suzanne Guntlow said. “We want to give our students the time and space, and our staff the training and confidence, to discuss the difficult happenings that occur in this world. We know that these tumultuous events will impact instruction within our classrooms. Circles gives us another tool for our students and staff to process whatever arises, in a respectful and effective manner.”
The approach allows us to be better connected to each other and the school community; fosters peaceful learning classroom environments; and supports social emotional development.
“We want our students and staff to feel comfortable talking about the tough stuff, no matter when it comes up. It might sound simple, but it isn't. We are always brainstorming about how we can create different supportive environments within our building. We know what might feel supportive and safe for one person, won’t for another,” HS Principal Craig Shull said.
“Circles will create another option for our students and staff. We are confident that it will be another way we continue to strengthen and connect our Rider community. The more that our students feel connected, especially in the classroom, the more supported they will feel, which is a critical component of our mission here at ICC,” he added.
Turning our appreciation outward
A hallmark of our Rider community is the genuine compassion and generosity that is particularly evident this time of the year, when students and staff across the district find so many ways to help each other, especially when someone is in need.
Once again, a variety of High School clubs and classes have “adopted” the residents at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing home at Barnwell in Valatie. The students are working together to collect items to make 240 gift bags. The bags will be full of items, including hand cream, magazines, lip balm, card games, blankets, slippers and so much more.
At the Middle School, the students are participating in an array of holiday activities, including the Holiday Kindness Challenge. Starting tomorrow, some teachers in the Elementary Wing are encouraging their classes to complete a different act of kindness each day in December. The acts of kindness include: Decorate the cafeteria with paper snowflakes, Ask three people about their day, and Clean up the trash around the school.
"It's so wonderful to see our students spreading acts of kindness throughout the building. Just one small act of kindness can spark many acts of kindness," Co-Principal Timothy Farley said.
Across the district, students have collected food for Rider families and outside organizations. At the High School, the Interact Club collected over 1,200 canned food items for Ichabod’s Table, which provides food for 25 HS students and their families weekly; and for the Valatie Food Bank.
The K-12 annual Giving Tree Program is also in full swing. The K-12 team meets early in the fall to identify the families who will participate in the program. Each building has a team of people responsible for organizing all the details, which includes identifying families, organizing their needs, pick-ups and more.
From there, staff send out letters asking the identified families if they would like to participate. If the family accepts, they also ask for a wish list of items. This year, nearly 70 families are participating.
At the Primary School, each item was labeled on an ornament and was hung on a tree that temporarily stood in the lobby. PS families, teachers, staff and some local organizations took the tags, bought the listed items, and will return them wrapped to the school for pick-up in mid-December. All of the gifts are given to the families anonymously.
This annual tradition not only provides gifts and other items to our Rider families, but it also teaches our students the importance of appreciation and generosity.
“This is an opportunity for our community to demonstrate what the holidays are all about, which is giving," PS Principal Andrea Williams said. “Each year I am so amazed, but not surprised, by how many community members participate in the program. We get the chance to make someone else's holiday a bit more special and that is truly magical!”
2022 Arts and Humanities Grant Recipients
This year, the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation awarded $12,000 in a series of grants to district staff to help enrich our students’ experiences in the art and humanities.
Each year, staff can apply for grants through the foundation’s dedicated Ichabod Crane Central School District Arts and Humanities Fund. We are grateful once again for this annual opportunity. This year’s grants will help continue existing programs, as well as create brand new offerings across K-12.
This year’s awards will serve just over 1,200 students district-wide during the 2022-23 school year. The grants typically range from $100 to $2,500.
Congratulations to this year’s recipients!
Patrick Sanger for the High School Model UN, which will provide funding for participation at the 70th session of the Harvard Model UN Conference. This conference allows our students to interact with about 4,000 students from around the world.
Melanie Moon, 6th grade teacher, for the “Chariot of the Sun” program, which enriches students through access to a teaching artist. The students benefit from a live performance that incorporates the use of poetry, masks, mime, while intertwining audience participation to create a theatrical learning experience. Prior to the performance, the students learn about ancient civilizations in their social studies classes.
Gayle Abrams, High School art teacher, for “Inheritances XVI.” Inheritances is a collaborative book created by the High School’s Illustration and ENL classes. The English Language Learners write their stories, inspired by their personal histories and cultures. The illustrators create several illustrations based on the writing and conversations with the authors. This project, now in its 16th year, helps students enhance their writing, editing, illustrating skills, while using research and conversation to bring together the written word and art.
Andrea Williams, Primary School Principal, for the Flying Deer Program, which serves about 600 students in grades K-4. Flying Deer runs an on-campus, nature-based learning program, engaging students in instruction framed around nature, problem solving, all while incorporating the Science Standards.
Lorraine Warner, Spanish teacher, for ¡Leer para ganar! Reading for the Win! Students will work with an accomplished author to practice their second language skills. Jen Degenhardt, an author of several novels used by Ichabod’s World Language Department, will lead discussions in Spanish, as well as facilitate a group activity that will require our students to collaborate and report their findings in their second language.
Lauren Miller, Elementary School Teacher, for Creative Coding. This project will use coding robots to teach children in grades 4 and 5 an array of skills. By learning how to code, students also learn how to be digital creators, and will eventually be able to create their own websites, apps, and programs. The students also get practice working collaboratively as they code their robots.
Learn all about our new TAs!
We are continuing our monthly spotlight of new hires by introducing you to our newest Teaching Assistants! Another Rider welcome to all of you!
Christie Lynch-Sanford previously worked at the elementary school in Chatham as a TA. During her time at Chatham, she met and became friends with a teacher at the Ichabod Primary School, who informed Christie about TA openings at the PS. She applied and started as a Primary School TA this past September. She lives in Old Chatham with her husband, two sons, three cats, and a crazy puppy that they rescued a little over a year ago. "A fun fact about me is that my family owns S&S Farm Brewery, where I am a manager at and work on the weekends."
Emma Accuosti, a new Middle School TA, graduated from ICC in 2020, and has worked at the district since 2018. She began working with OK Kids Inc during her junior year of high school, and she still continues to work there now. She has a dog named Sasha, who is a chihuahua/Italian greyhound mix who she adopted back in the fall. She is the sweetest soul, and quickly became her best friend. "A fun fact about me is that I love animals, especially dogs. I initially went to college to become a veterinarian, but I ended up taking the path of childhood education instead. My love for dogs truly shapes who I am as a person, and my dog especially is a big source of my happiness!"
Nicholas Funk began his education career at the same school he went to as a child – Ichabod Crane Primary School. He started as a substitute teacher in March 2022, before filling in as a building substitute teacher for the rest of that school year. He loves his new full-time position as a Teaching Assistant in the Middle School. He lives with parents and two sisters. He loves to run, and recently participated in his first marathon and plans to run many more in the future. He aspires to be a kindergarten teacher; “I love working at Ichabod Crane because Ichabod is my home and I love seeing my students grow! I went to school here and had an amazing experience with my teachers. I want to give that same amazing experience to my students.”
Heather LaTorre started at the Primary School as a substitute in fall 2021, and then took a part-time TA position with the kindergarten team. She is now a full-time TA in the Middle School’s self-contained classroom. Prior to her time at ICC, she was able to stay home with her two daughters, Elliot and Harper, until the youngest started school. She also has worked in a clinical capacity with adults with developmental disabilities. "A few fun facts about me: I love reading historical fiction, I love Mexican food and having lived in Florida until I was 14, I love the beach!"
Susan LaSalvia started at Ichabod as a substitute teacher in 2019, and is now a TA in the Middle School. Before that, she was the main caregiver for her elderly grandmother and her daughter, who was a toddler at the time. It made for some great memories and some fun and interesting days! She lives in Valatie with her fiancé, Carlou, and their two children, Brandon and Rylee, and their dog, Barkley. They enjoy camping with family and friends, playing board and care games, and hanging out in their yard and by the pool. Her favorite color is black, her favorite food is Mexican and she loves puzzles. "I have always enjoyed working with children and the sense of joy and purpose it gives me when I put a smile on their face."
Before starting as a full-time High School TA this fall, Tahnee (Heins) Bickerton was a stay-at-home mom to her three kids: Addi, Ella and Sawyer. For the past 12 years, she coached modified soccer, basketball, and track. She lives in Valatie, less than a mile from where she grew up, with her husband and their three children. She loves working out, especially lifting, playing sports and being outdoors. She loves the south, living in North and South Carolina before moving back to her hometown. "I truly enjoy working with kids in the classroom and on the field, court or track!"
As a High School TA, Devyn Fernandez, teaches Senior Seminar, working with the students to help them plan for life after high school. Before ICC, he worked for nine years in retail, and spent the last three years of that career working as a sales and hospitality manager. Fun fact – he joined the police academy, but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right path for him. For the last eight years, he has coached cross country, indoor track and outdoor track and field. He lives locally and is an ICC alum. "I care deeply about working with kids and it makes me very happy to see them succeed."
Connected through kindness
Rachel Joy Scott was born in Denver, Colorado in August 1982. She exemplified her middle name, and at an early age learned the power of simple compliments and acts of kindness.
On April 20, 1999, Rachel was the first of 12 students killed in the Columbine High School shooting. After her death, her family discovered that she left behind a legacy of kindness and compassion – through her life, her writings, and the people she had reached out to. One after another, stories emerged about the profound impact of her simple acts of kindness.
In what would be her final essay, Rachel wrote about the power of kindness and compassion, and challenged her reader to, “start a chain reaction.”
After the tragedy, Rachel’s Challenge was created by her father, Darrell Scott, and her step-mother, Sandy. The nonprofit organization focuses on school violence prevention through Rachel’s legacy.
Recently, the ICC High School Friends of Rachel Club started its own "chain reaction" by constructing a vibrant and colorful paper chain of kindness, which is on display in the library.
During the students’ lunches, they had the opportunity to write a friend’s or teacher’s name on a paper strip with a kind or thankful message. The dozens of strips were linked together to create a beautiful paper chain, bringing together all the students' messages of gratitude and kindness.
We shared our Club’s creation on social media, tagging Rachel’s Challenge in our Instagram post. To our great surprise, Rachel’s Challenge shared our post on their own account, which reaches more than 10,000 people.
We are so grateful that they took the time to share what our students created, and for all they do every day to keep school students and staff safe across the United States.
Boys Basketball State Championship banner unveiled
The winter sports season is here, and the Boys Varsity Basketball team got to kick-off the season with a special event to once again celebrate last year’s momentous victory.
Last March, Ichabod Crane beat Friends Academy 64-63 to capture the NYSPHSAA Class B state championship. It was the Riders first boys' basketball state championship in school history!
During a recent ceremony, the banner was unveiled in the newly renovated Middle School gym. That weekend, the Rider boys went on to win the Thanksgiving Tip-Off Tournament. Alex Schmidt was named Tournament MVP.
Congrats again to everyone!
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