One to One

Portage Township Schools District Newsletter | December

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Aylesworth's Kindness Club making the world a happier place

By Carly Jones

PTS Public Relations Intern

Third and fourth graders from Aylesworth Elementary School are determined to make their school, community, and world a happier place.

The Kindness Club, which began around four or five years ago, has three main goals. To reach, connect, and be kind to people at the school, people in the community, and people around the world. The group is asked to participate in local service projects that accomplish one of the three Mission Statement goals.

The group is made up of fourth graders in the first half of the year and third graders in the second half. So far this school year, the fourth graders have participated in two projects; the Aylesworth Water Wars, a friendly competition between classes that ended up raising $965 dollars for the charity World Vision, and making fleece blankets for the local veterans hospice organization. World Vision is an organization dedicated to bringing clean water to villages in Africa, and the kids were able to make 20 red, white, and blue blankets for veterans in need. Last month, the group participated in a Community Leaf Raking event at Woodland Park to accomplish the goal of reaching, connecting, and being kind to the community.

Beth Hufford, one of the teachers sponsoring the Kindness club, explained what the club is trying to accomplish.

“We will continue all year finding ways to make the world here at Aylesworth and the world all around us, a little kinder,” she said.

West renovation provides flexible learning environments

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By Evan Gerike

PTS Public Relations Intern

The remodel of Portage High School’s West building has allowed teachers to become much more flexible in how they teach their classes.

West’s flexible learning plan is set up for furniture and walls to be rearranged based on the needs of the teacher on a certain day. There are four different learning communities, and each community has a commons area, a Makerspace, a conference room, a teacher workroom, storage areas and a charging station. Two of the classrooms each have a retractable wall that allows them to be combined into one, and the 80-inch 4K TVs in each room can connect to each other and show the same screen at once. With tables on wheels and lightweight chairs with storage, classrooms can easily be rearranged to fit each day’s needs.

The teachers have taken advantage of the different opportunities the new floorplan has provided.

“With the commons area, we can send students to make up tests, so I use that, and we shuffle around our rooms a lot to use the Makerspace or the labs,” science teacher Rachel Rohaley said. “We definitely move around for our needs.”

The classrooms also have retractable glass walls that open up into the commons area. Math teacher Jay Hodges says his class uses the walls often to expand their classroom learning style.

“The number one thing I like about this room is that it interconnects using the whiteboard, and on the other side is [math teacher Darryl] Schultz, who teaches the same class I teach, so a lot of times we will open up that wall,” Hodges said. “Our TVs are connected so we can show the same thing on both TVs at the same time, so we can team teach two classes at once.”

Hodges also says he will open up his glass wall, and his and Schultz’s classes can work together.

“Now we have different kids working together; they get to work with friends they don’t always see and they get new perspectives on their math,” Hodges said.

PTS receives "B" from Indiana Department of Education

By Carly Jones

PTS Public Relations Intern

Portage Township Schools has received an overall grade of a B from the state for the 2017-2018 school year. State and federal school grades are given to schools to determine eligibility for grants or scholarships, such as 21st Century Scholars and Title I.

Federal grades are calculated in six categories: achievement, growth, graduation rate, college and career readiness, English language proficiency progress, and addressing chronic absenteeism. The district received a passing grade in all of these categories for the federal grade and all four of the categories for the state grade. For a state grade, English language proficiency and addressing chronic absenteeism is not factored in.

Ten schools received a B for both the state and federal grade. The Indiana Department of Education awards district grades, and PTS earned a B.

The district is very proud of the school grades that it has received and credits the students and staff that make the success of all of the schools possible. We look forward to continually helping our students reach their fullest potential.

"Ah! Zombies!"

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Congratulations to the Portage High School Thespians on their success fall play production of "Ah! Zombies! A series of one acts." We would like to thank them and their director, Mahaffa Thompson, on a wonderful production! We will have more information in the coming newsletters on this year's Spring Musical and how you can help support our theater program.

MindUp helps students take control of their emotions

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By Carly Jones

PTS Public Relations Intern

Portage Township Schools elementary students are learning more about the role the brain plays in dictating their emotions, and their new MindUp curriculum is showing the students how this knowledge can help them control of their emotions.

The MindUp curriculum has a set of 15 lessons where each section of the human brain is highlighted and explained to students through activities they can complete in class. Before every activity, students participate in a “core practice” where they learn the importance of and practice deep breathing techniques. Incorporating deep breathing into daily routines is encouraged by teachers as a way of working MindUp skill sets into different subjects.

MindUp also offers a variety of activities that are based on students interests. For example, a reading activity could be used to prepare students for future language arts classes, and a group discussion could be based around sparking an interest in social emotional learning.

Jones Elementary School Adviser Pam Carpenter said MindUp is not just a way to prepare students for different types of situations in the future, but that the main message of the program is to better help students understand themselves.

“A sense of hopefulness is what MindUp conveys to students,” Carpenter said. “It conveys that our brains are fantastic, elastic organs that can grow, especially when we struggle and make mistakes. It teaches us that our brains love to learn new things, and that practice only makes us grow as people, both academically and socially.”

MindUp has helped students take control of their own behavior, and many students can be seen deep breathing on their own without an adult figure prompting them to do so. With encouragement from staff and enthusiasm from students, more self-regulatory behaviors are being practiced. Carpenter also said that there has been fewer disciplinary referrals for impulsive negative behaviors, which reduces the amount of time students spend out of the classroom.

MindUp is one part of Portage Township Schools’ focus on social and emotional learning throughout the district. Next month, we will highlight how the guidance department at the middle schools and high school are working to align themselves with the standards set by the American School Counseling Association and how that will benefit our students.

Annual Coin Wars benefits the Portage Backpack Program

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By Evan Gerike

PTS Public Relations Intern

All eight elementary schools participated in their annual Coin Wars competition during the week of Nov. 12 to benefit the Portage Backpack Program.

The elementary schools competed throughout the whole district, with the school with the highest total amount per student being crowned Coin Wars champion. Each school also rewarded their own highest earning grade level with a prize of the school’s choice.

Myers Elementary brought in the most money, raising a total of $1,784.01. Their second graders were the highest raising grade level, bringing in $509.28. Myers secretary Sondra Berquist said they were rewarded with a pizza party.

In South Haven, a competition was held between the two elementaries to see which school would raise the most money. Saylor Elementary principal John Zack and South Haven Elementary principal Phil Misecko made a deal that the losing school’s principal would walk to the winning school wearing a hot dog costume and eat lunch with the winning grade level.

To make the friendly competition fair, the schools found the average amount per student. South Haven raised $2.81 per student, barely beating Saylor, who raised $2.78 per student.

Zack will take his stroll in the hot dog costume on Dec. 19.

Crisman and Central raised the next highest totals, bringing in $1,499.92 and $1,077.22 respectively. Aylesworth’s top grade, their third graders, were rewarded with free popcorn on popcorn day.

The competition brought in $7,524.19 for the Portage Backpack Program, which provides weekend meals to students in need. The program currently supports 160 students across all 11 schools; the money raised will provide additional support to the program.

Restorative Justice circles help students take ownership of their actions

By Emily Extin

PTS Public Relations Intern

Portage Township Schools started their use of Restorative Justice Circles in 2012 in conjunction with the Teen Court Program. Today, the program is still going strong, and students are learning ways to improve their behavior and make good choices.

Social and Emotional Specialist Sandra Porter-Phillips says the Circles are meant to represent an essential change in the student’s and authority figure’s relationship. It also allows for a cooperative atmosphere in which the students respond, as they feel respected and realize that what they say matters, causing them to take responsibility for their actions.

“By expressing feelings and getting acknowledgment from others, most students are then able to put their problems aside and move on with the school day,” Porter-Phillips said.

Restorative Justice Circles do not replace common disciplinary tactics; instead, the Circles help the students figure out the reason for their offense and develop an action plan to make more positive choices in the future.

The Circles allow students to express their feelings and realize that they are not alone in their issues.

The restorative approach is a philosophical shift away from the traditional, corrective approach to the misconduct, with the approach maintaining a focus on liability of actions with a larger emphasis on empathy and repairing of harm. Research shows that this leads to fewer repeat offenses and improved school attendance.

“As teachers and administrators, we know that a safe and orderly educational environment is vital to effectively and efficiently deliver high-quality instruction,” Porter-Phillips said.

Fall athletes earn #FaceOfSportsmanship honors from IHSAA

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Mackenzie McCarty-Hubbard

By Tori Henderson

PTS Public Relations Intern

Senior Mackenzie McCarty-Hubbard was awarded the IHSAA Sportsmanship Award for her outstanding performance and leadership during her senior volleyball season.

McCarty-Hubbard has been playing volleyball for eight years, with this being her senior year. She has played varsity for the Indians all four years of her high school career and was named captain this year.

However, McCarty-Hubbard couldn’t do it all on her own, and attributes much of her success to her parents.

“They always helped me keep my cool in a match and taught me how to properly manage stressful situations,” she said.

According to McCarty-Hubbard, volleyball is not an easy sport, but she enjoys it because of “the level of intensity of every point in every game. It’s a high pressure situation that a player is placed in, and I like the challenge of that.”

She is also involved in Science Olympiad at Portage High School, which assists her in her endeavors to be a better role model for her teammates.

“That makes me a better leader because there are many stressful moments in the experiment process,” McCarty-Hubbard said. “It teaches you to have patience and to never give up.”

McCarty-Hubbard is very grateful for the award, not for the recognition, but because it shows her hard work is paying off.

“The award showed that not only do I believe in positivity, my teammates can see that I believe in it, too, and that means the most to me,” she said. “If I believe, they can, too, and that’s how you win the game.”

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Brandon English

By Tori Henderson

PTS Public Relations Intern

Senior Brandon English was awarded IHSAA’s Sportsmanship Award for his outstanding leadership both on and off the football field. English has been playing since seventh grade and was named one of four captains for the 2018 season.

English did not have an easy senior season, but he didn’t let that stop him from stepping up and leading his team to a number of victories.

“I was out due to an injury, and I would always keep my head up when we lost and stayed humble when we won,” he said.

English said his parents played a big role in his success as a leader and player.

“I’ve just always been told by my parents to keep my head up after a loss and to never get too cocky after a win,” he said.

English is also vice president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, part of the football leadership council, a Natural Helpers Tribe Time mentor, and part of his youth group at church. He attributes all of these to his success as a leader and player.

He is glad he received the award, and it helps him “finally see that others notice that I’m always doing the right thing.”

English plans on playing football in college, although he has not chosen where he will continue his education and football career yet.

Even though he will soon be celebrating with a new team, he will never forget “the brotherhood you make with your teammates and celebrating with them after a win.”

PHS MCJROTC program named Naval Honor School

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By Emily Extin

PTS Public Relations Intern

Portage High School’s MCJROTC program is no stranger to success, and this year’s cadets are already receiving honors, including several awards at competitions and a very honorable distinction.

The programs various cadet teams, such as the Drill Team, 3-Position Air Rifle Team & the Raider Team all participate in nearly 20 competitions. This year, the teams have placed in multiple competitions this year and plan to continue this streak of excellence as the year goes on.

On Oct. 20, the Portage Marine Corps Junior ROTC Raider Team competed in the Hobart Raider Meet hosted by the Hobart Army Junior ROTC. Raider meets are demanding events that are designed to be physically exhausting for cadets. The Portage Raiders made a very strong showing this year against 12 very competitive teams from Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. The Portage Raiders finished 2nd Place in Pull-Ups, 3rd Place in the Fitness Challenge, 3rd Place in the Casualty Evacuation Event, 4th Place in the 1-Rope Bridge & 5th Place Overall.

On top of their accolades, Portage High School has been named a Naval Honor School for the last decade, which meant they were one of Top Ten MCJROTC programs in the region, with each region having 65 to 70 schools.

The program’s Senior Marine instructor Thomas Gualandi said that the Naval Honor School designation means that the cadets have worked incredibly hard by being dedicated to the program and the community.

There is a good amount of work that goes into the NHS designation, as it is very competitive and has weighted scoring.

“For the latest 2018 designation we scored very high in our Inspector General Inspection results,” Gualandi said.

The program was rated ‘Mission Capable’ and had zero discrepancies.

“In my opinion the recognition is not enough,” Gualandi said, as he has cadets who average 200 to 300 hours of community service a year doing activities after school and on the weekends.

The cadets’ dedication continues after their high school career, as many of them continue on to serve in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps.

For the class of 2019, 13 out of 31 cadets have already committed to the various branches of service. There are also several cadets that have been accepted to various colleges and trade schools.

“I think that is a great indicator of success: Cadets who have committed and who leave PHS and go on to be productive citizens,” Gualandi said.

Gualandi has served at the high school since fall of 2014. Gualandi is a retired Marine Instructor, along with Master Sergeant Bowers, who is a retired enlisted Marine. Bowers has been at the high school for ten years. The PHS Marine Corps JROTC team also has Christina Smith, who serves as their instructional aide and secretary. Smith started at the high school in the fall of 2016.

PHS Cheerleaders help local organization Hannah's Hope

By Rebecca Rosado

PTS Public Relations Intern

For the past few years, Portage High School’s varsity cheer team has been involved in Hannah’s Hope, a local charity organization that serves to help children, newborn to 18 year old, with special needs.

Assistant coach Jennifer Willis says that the cheer team tries to help when they can.

“For the past several years, we have helped Hannah's Hope with their Craft Fair at the high school,” Willis said. “We come and help the vendors bring in all their stuff to sell. We haul everything in and then they set up their booths. Some of the vendors give us tips for helping them. We in turn give them back to Hannah's Hope. When they have other activities, we like to help out any way we can, when possible.”

This is just a short depiction of what cheer does for Hannah’s Hope. Last year, Hannah’s Hope built a park that is handicap accessible at Founder's Square in Portage. This park give all children the opportunity to use the equipment, regardless if they have a disability or not. The cheer team was able to be a part of the unveiling of the park.

Alongside helping Hannah’s Hope, the team also organizes Sparkle Cheer, an event in which the cheerleaders work with students with special needs on various routines and invite them to cheer with the team at a game during the school year.

The cheer team hopes to continue helping with Hannah’s Hope as long as they can.

Plans for South Haven Elementary library moving forward

By Tori Henderson

PTS Public Relations Intern

South Haven Elementary School’s library will soon be sporting a new look, as the district is currently in the design phrase of the project.

The school’s faculty has held meetings to determine how the space will best serve their students, including equipment, furniture and the layout of the district's first future-ready library. PTS will work with Director Innovative Learning Michael DePasquale to create a space that combines STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) with literacy. The space will serve as a place where reading encourages creativity and innovative thinking.

South Haven Elementary School Principal Philip Misecko said that although the remodel is a process and is going to take a bit of time to complete, it will be well worth it in the end.

“I do want to thank everyone that has offered to help in some way,” Misecko said. “There have been many that reached out.”

South Haven Elementary School was one of the three finalists in the Scott Brother’s Heart of America Library Makeover contest, but did not win. Even though they didn’t win first place, the Scott Brothers and the Heart of America Foundation will still be donating new books to the school.

Are you receiving our Peachjar emails?

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Check your're receiving important communications from Portage Township Schools through Peachjar!

PTS is now using Peachjar to send home flyers, newsletters, and more. These are sent to the email you provided at registration. All flyers are archived on each school's website.

If you're not receiving the Peachjar emails, check your spam folder and mark the emails as "not spam." If you're still not receiving them, contact the Communications Department at

Have a wonderful Holiday Break! (Dec. 22-Jan. 6)

All PTS students will be on Holiday Break from December 22 through January 6. We hope you take this opportunity to spend time with family and friends during this holiday season.

Aylesworth Elementary kicked off the holiday season with a visit from The Grinch! He made appearances throughout the week of December 3 while the students did all things Grinch style! The Grinch even took over the morning announcements! On Friday morning, he announced he was sending all of the students and staff to the movies to see his new movie, "The Grinch!" When they returned, they had green Grinch popcorn and took pictures with the Grinch! Check out the photos and video below!

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Mobile Marketplace

Thursday, Dec. 20th, 4pm

5962 Central Avenue

Portage, IN

Portage Township School's next Mobile Marketplace will be Dec. 20 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Willowcreek Middle School. Bring your proof of Indiana residency, and our PHS MCJROTC cadets will be on hand to help you with your selections. See you there!