Avonworth School District News

March 2021

Happy Spring Break

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Student & Staff Recognition

Lea Helsel Earns Top Spot in the State

It is extremely rare to have a student recognized as the best in the state who also earns recognition on the national level. However, when you are fortunate enough to have amazingly talented musicians like Lea Helsel and her brother Lukas (Avonworth Grad), it actually becomes commonplace. That said, we have to recognize the incredible accomplishment it is to be recognized as the best at what you do, and that is exactly what Avonworth's Lea Helsel is recognized as - the best!


Not only has Lea been selected to the PMEA All-State Wind Ensemble, but Lea has also been selected as the first chair Horn Player. In the music world, that means you have earned the top spot! Earlier this year, we shared that Lea was selected to play in NAfME All-Eastern Honors Orchestra, where she also played first horn. Lea has followed in her brother's footsteps making All-State twice, All-East, and All-Nationals!


Leah is currently deciding between Eastman School of Music, University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, New England Conservatory of Music, and one other school. She has received merit scholarships for all the schools she is currently considering.


Congratulations Lea! This is simply amazing & incredible!

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Chintha Kathiresan Earns Girl Scout of Distinction Award

Congratulations to Chintha Kathiresan for earning the Girl Scout of Distinction Award for her Gold Award Project: Hindu Pre-K Educational Resources. This award honors recent Gold Award Girl Scouts whose projects were exceptional in terms of sustainability and community impact or promoting the welfare of others.


Chintha used her Girl Scout Gold Award as a forum to celebrate her Hindu faith and develop pre-K religious education resources for use throughout North America. She saw a need for educational activities at her local Hindu Sunday school program, which she has attended for more than a decade. She developed an activities book in collaboration with Hindu religious educators from 3 centers in Pittsburgh. It was so successful that the Pittsburgh administration approached her to share the book across the continent via a teachers portal with Chinmaya Mission of North America which has multiple centers across 54 cities.


The Girl Scouts of America stated, "We had an extraordinary group of Gold Award Girl Scouts this past year who persevered through a pandemic to complete their projects. We congratulate all Gold Award Girl Scouts for your achievement and thank you for the positive change you have led in your communities!"


Congratulations Chintha! This is an amazing accomplishment!

Avonworth's Jana Stahl Receives a Shout-Out from CSinPA

Last school year, Avonworth received a PAsmart Targeted Grant. The focus of this grant was on computer science. Over the last year, we have had a group of educators engaged in professional learning and planning to address various goals developed to address identified needs in our computer science pathway.


Avonworth Elementary School's computer science teacher, Ms. Stahl, established a goal to increase the engagement of underrepresented populations. CSinPA recently recognized her efforts. Please click on the link below to read the "shout out" Mrs. Stahl received from CSinPA.

Groundbreaking Avonworth Esports Team is Undefeated

We are excited to announce Avonworth High School’s first Esports team! The team is currently competing in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association(PIEA) tournament in Overwatch. PIEA is the first and only statewide Interscholastic Esports League in Pennsylvania. Our team is comprised of juniors: Jon Bellotti, Hunter Brace, Clayton Dexter (captain), Jeremy Fresh, Tyler Schleis, and Ezra Tomko.

Overwatch is a highly competitive game where players work in 2 teams of 6 against each other to complete map-specific objectives within a limited time frame. Each player can select from a large roster of characters or “heroes” who have their own unique abilities. The game requires a lot of teamwork, strategy, and balanced team composition. At the beginning of each game, players must decide which characters will work best with the map selected for the match, with the other characters your team has chosen, and against what the enemy team has chosen.

Our students compete each week in a best of three matches competition where teams take turns attacking and defending until the match is decided. The competition runs from March through May. Division playoffs will be held mid-May, and the Grand Finals will be near the end of May. Our team is currently 2-0 and hoping to win the scholarship money at the end of May.


Go, Lopes!


Team Photo Below

From left to right: Hunter Brace (seated), Clayton Dexter (captain), Tyler Schleis, Ezra Tomko, and Jeremy Fresh (seated). Jon Bellotti was not in the photo but is a part of the team.

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Avonews Staff Included in Student Journalism Video from Penn State, PA News Association, and PA School Press

The PANewsMedia Association highlighted Sunshine Week with a special program called Witness to History - PA Student Journalism in 2020-2021. Featured are collegiate and high school journalists across Pennsylvania. The following Avonews staff and AHS contributors included: Keyaira Cameron, Danica Raich, Allison Beck, Peyton Bauer, Halle Archey, Madison Perry, Carly Spahr, and Alec Kreutzer (Carly and Alec are on the laptop).


Use the link below to view the video.

An Evening with Candi Castleberry Singleton: How Dignity & Respect Create a Sense of Belonging for Everyone

On March 18, the Avonworth School District's Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee hosted a guided Q&A discussion on the pillars of "Dignity & Respect" with superintendent Thomas Ralston, school board member Yu-Ling Cheng, and featured speaker Candi Castleberry Singleton. This conversation focused on creating an environment that helps navigate courageous conversations around different intersectionalities of inclusion.


Candi Castleberry Singleton is the Vice President of Diversity Partnership Strategy & Engagement at Twitter. She is also the founder of the award-winning Dignity & Respect Campaign, which has helped organizations create more inclusive work environments. As an experienced diversity and inclusion leader, she created The Bolt-On to Built-In Model™ featured in her chapter of Crossing the Divide: Intergroup Leadership in a World of Difference. She has developed successful strategies and initiatives in technology, telecommunications, and healthcare, including Xerox, Sun Microsystems, Motorola, and UPMC. Candi has served as an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University. She received an MBA from Pepperdine, a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, and completed the Stanford Executive Human Resources program.


This event can be viewed using the link below.

Candi Castleberry Singleton March 18, 2021

What's Happening Around our Schools

Annual First Grade Egg Drop Challenge

Avonworth Primary first graders were given the challenge of creating a way to package a raw egg so that it would survive a fall from the roof of the Primary Center. A discussion led up to their creations. Predictions were then made about whether their egg would survive, and the final test came right before spring break as their packaged eggs were dropped off of the Primary Center roof. The overwhelming majority of eggs survived this great fall!

Second Grade Works for Equality

In second grade, students have been learning so much in reading and math, where both of our topics have been deeply rooted in the importance of equality.

In reading class, students have been continuing to learn about the Civil Rights movement and the amazing Americans that fought for equal rights in our country. Most recently, students have been studying two different texts about Ruby Bridges. If you don’t know who Ruby Bridges is, she was one of four black students chosen to integrate into the public school system in New Orleans, LA. Students have studied both an autobiography and a biography about Ruby Bridges. Students have been able to study the point of view used in both texts. Additionally, students used the first person point of view to create their own narratives about what Ruby Bridges’ first day of school may have been like. Beyond the excitement of writing a narrative of Ruby’s first day, students also enhanced their writing by learning how to use descriptive language with adjectives and adverbs. Students learned that adding thoughts, emotions, and actions to their writing provides a more in-depth understanding of what happened in a text. Our writing has grown leaps and bounds in second grade! Please take a look at a piece of our shared writing (above)!

In math class, students have been learning the important foundational skills of multiplication and division. Students worked on grouping items from a set into an array model. These models represent equal groups. The models support students understanding of repeated addition problems and will lay the foundation for the math to come in third grade. Also, these array models have supported students’ understanding of even and odd numbers. We are often taught that the numbers 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 are even, while the remaining digits are odd. Our students in second grade have learned strategies to prove a number’s evenness or oddness. In math, we continue to shift away from memorization and encourage deep problem solving and strategies to prove math patterns as true.

In both reading and math, the study of equality has played a key part in making sure things are fair. Our students are working hard to create a more fair and more equal world.

Primary Center Students Donate Books to Children

Inspired by an article about a woman sewing and filling book pillows for children in need, Avonworth community member Debbie Cuteri approached primary center librarian Jennifer Gould to see if she would be interested in trying something similar. The idea was to create book bags and incorporate them into one of the theme days for Read Across America week. The school celebrated with the theme Reading Is... One day, the theme was Reading is for Sharing, and children were asked to donate a gently used book for another child. Over 500 books were collected in just one day! In the meantime, using material of her own and some donated from the Antiquarian Shop in Sewickley, Mrs. Cuteri was able to sew 90 bags. The bags were filled with books and donated to children in the Pittsburgh area.

AES Celebrates Read Across America

During the first week of March, Avonworth Elementary Students celebrated Read Across America in many different ways. Through the work of the Game Changers and Mrs. Sara Osborn, the school dressed in a different theme the entire week. The themes ranged from Reading is Out of this World (space theme) to Oh the Place We Will Go (Future career or College theme). Also, the school did a community service project through Progress Through Pages. Progress Through Pages is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting reading for children. Avonworth Elementary students donated hundreds of gently used books for the organization. The teachers also did their own fundraiser that week and raised over $250 for Meals on Wheels. The week's final excitement was when every student in the entire school received a new book from the PTA!!
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Third Graders - Engaged in Engineering

Third-grade scientists recently tackled an engineering challenge in their Motion and Matter Foss Science investigations unit. Students were given a criterion to create a cart that must roll from one place to another with a small push or pull. Then, students were given two constraints with a restricted amount of materials and a time limit. Students quickly learned that it is important to acknowledge that design problems would require collaboration, problem-solving, and perseverance as an engineer. Solving problems, they soon discovered, was a natural part of the engineering process and not a failure.


Students also explored many different types of engineering jobs. Students noticed all engineers solve different types of problems. After researching various engineering types, students filled out a job application for the type of engineer that interested them the most. Motivation to keep trying came from Thomas Edison, a famous engineer and inventor, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Sharing STEM Virtually

Students in the 6th-grade virtual program have had several speakers and virtual experiences to add to their academic classes in March. SWE Speaker, Mary Zies, spoke about the math involved in different types of engineering. NASA Engineer, Tessa Rundle, spoke of NASA's STEM opportunities and her work in designing spacesuits. We are excited for more special speakers to come this spring!
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Reconsidering Rosie the Riveter

6th-grade students enjoyed Reconsidering Rosie the Riveter, a virtual program through the Heinz History Center. This program explored the legacy of Rosie and the many women who took on industrial jobs during WWII. We also learned about the Pittsburgh connection to Rosie the Riveter and heard stories of local women who contributed to the war effort.

AES Students & Families Practice Mindfulness for #MindfulMarch

AES students & parents have been building a new habit of practicing mindfulness throughout the month of March.
AES Mindful March Recap 2021

8th Grade Examines the Presidency

In March, 8th Grade ELA Civics students learned about the Executive Branch of the United States Government. Students completed two mini-projects during the unit to demonstrate their understanding of a presidential administration's roles and responsibilities.

After struggling to define what makes a president "good" or "bad," students created a series of rubrics that would objectively evaluate a president's effectiveness. Some students chose to judge a president on their handling of roles such as commander-in-chief and legislative leader. Others decided to evaluate a president on their personality traits such as honesty and empathy. Students were randomly assigned a president to research and then apply that leader's accomplishments against their created rubrics. According to students, some presidents exceeded expectations with a very high score, while other presidents failed their course on American leadership.

After further study of the president's cabinet and other executive agencies, students were placed in charge of the Oval Office and asked to make their own decisions while acting as the president. They were given a very realistic scenario with a series of crises unfolding across the country. Students had to prioritize their response, call on government agencies to assist, and deliver a primetime speech to the American people to reassure a frightened nation.

8th Grade Studies the Civil Rights Movement and Overcoming Adversity

Last month, 8th grade ELA Civics students studied past & present Civil Rights Movements through the theme of Overcoming Adversity.

Students selected an individual, event, or organization representing the theme of Overcoming Adversity and Civil Rights. In previous years, students would have presented their work in-person at a local museum such as the Heinz History Center. However, due to coronavirus restrictions, the project had to be completed virtually.

After students researched their topic and wrote an essay, they also selected an artifact to represent their topic and recorded a video to explain it for a virtual audience. Then, Robert Stakeley, Affiliates Program Manager for the Heinz History Center, led an online workshop with students to develop their docent-style videos and provided guidance on selecting engaging artifacts for the exhibit.

The students' virtual museum is now open to visitors! You can visit their virtual museum at this link: www.TinyURL.com/ELACivics

Before visiting, we suggest viewing the introductory video and the navigation instructions videos found below.

Enjoy your virtual visit to our students' museum!

Point Park University Leads Student Journalism Workshops With Avonews Every Wednesday Throughout March

Avonews staff and students in Journalism 1 and 2 in grades 9 through 12 were invited to weekly Zoom workshops every Wednesday with professors in Point Park's School of Journalism and the Center for Media Innovation. Workshops also included segments with Point Park alumni and working journalists from across the Pittsburgh area.

Avonworth Art Students Participate in Vans Custom Culture Competition

Avonworth High School art students have made it to the second round of the Vans Custom Culture Contest. We are one of 250 schools chosen to proceed in this competition. Students have until April 9th to complete their designs on the shoes Vans sent us. Once students complete their design, the entire high school will vote on their favorite two designs. The two designs chosen will be entered into the contest. Voting on the final designs chosen by Vans will be opened up to the entire U.S. We will keep you posted if one of our student's designs is selected.

Galleries Project Museum Visit

The Avonworth High School Galleries Project group attended the Swoon exhibition at the Contemporary Craft museum this month. Some students even brought along their parents to experience this wonderful installation. Contemporary Craft has been an amazing organization to work with this year. They have provided unique resources and safe experiences such as this visit. Our group is excited to move forward and begin planning our own installation at the school!

Winter Sports Recap

Another Stellar Season for Avonworth/Northgate Swimming

The Avonworth/Northgate Swim Teams enjoyed another successful season in the pool and clinched another WPIAL title. The girls’ swim team won WPIALs and the boys' swim team finished second while setting a collection of new school records.


Congratulations to all of our amazing Avonworth swimmers on their team and individual achievements this year!


WPIAL Championship Results


Girls overall team rank- 1 - WPIAL Champion (254 points)

  • 200 medley relay: Carly Spahr, Danica Raich, Anna Kohler, Catrina Raich- 4th
  • 200 free: Elise Nardozzi- 2nd, Kendall McKelvey 7th
  • 50 free: Anna Neiss 3rd, Danica Raich 15th
  • 100 fly: Catrina Raich 7th, Anna Kohler 9th
  • 200 free relay: Elise Nardozzi, Danica Raich, Kendall McKelvey, Anna Neiss 2nd
  • 100 free: Elise Nardozzi 2nd, Anna Neiss 7th
  • 500 free: Kendall McKelvey 5th, Amelia Hardiman 9th
  • 100 backstroke: Carly Spahr 6th
  • 100 breaststroke: Danica Raich 9th
  • 400 free relay: Anna Neiss, Catrina Raich, Kendall McKelvey, Elise Nardozzi 2nd


Boys overall team rank- 2nd - Runner Up (201.5 Points)

  • 200 free relay: Matthew Purcell, Zach Schuster, Cooper Groll, Clark Bernauer 3rd
  • 200 free: Cooper Groll (School record- 1:43.72) 2nd, Zach Schuster 10th
  • 200 IM: Matthew Purcell (School record- 1:57.02) 4th
  • 100 fly: Cooper Groll and Herzing (School record- 51:38) 3rd
  • 200 free relay: Graham Herzig, Sam Kohler, Baldauff, Clark Bernauer 6th
  • 100 free: Clark Bernauer 7th
  • 500 Free: Zach Schuster 8th
  • 100 breaststroke: Jack Blaser 12th
  • 100 backstroke: Matthew Purcell (School record- 52.45) 3rd
  • 400 relay: Zach Schuster, Clark Bernauer, Matthew Purcell, Cooper Groll (school record- 3:15.83) 2nd


PIAA Championship Results


Girls overall team rank- 9th

  • 200 free: Elise Nardozzi 6th
  • 50 free: Anna Neiss 6th
  • 200 free relay: Elise Nardozzi, Danica Raich, Kendall McKelvey, Anna Neiss 9th
  • 100 free: Elise Nardozzi 5th
  • 400 free relay: Anna Neiss, Catrina Raich, Kendall McKelvey, Elise Nardozzi 7th

Boys overall team rank- 9th

  • Medley Relay: Matthew Purcell, Zach Schuster, Cooper Groll, Clark Bernauer 6th
  • 200 free: Cooper Groll 4th
  • 200 IM: Matthew Purcell 9th
  • 100 fly: Cooper Groll 5th
  • 100 back: Matthew Purcell 10th
  • 400 free relay: ZachSchuster, Clark Bernauer, Matthew Purcell, Cooper Groll 10th

Wrestlers Place in Section and WPIAL Tournaments

Avonworth wrestlers ended their team season 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the section. Avonworth advanced six individual wrestlers to the Section 2 tournament, with all six of those wrestlers placing.


Congratulations to our wrestlers on their team and individual accomplishments this season!


Section 2 Tournament Results:

  • Luke Hollywood- 1st
  • Joey Boughton- 2nd
  • Timmy Eng- 3rd
  • Anthony Mundorf- 3rd
  • Eli Kauer- 4th
  • Gavin Mee- 4th

The following wrestlers advanced to the WPIAL tournament:
  • Luke Hollywood- 4th
  • Joey Boughton- 5th/ 6th
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Successful Seasons for the Boys' and Girls' Basketball Teams

The Avonworth Varsity Boys' Basketball Team finished their season 12-5 overall and 6-2 in the conference. The boys made a run at a WPIAL section title but fell short to Aliquippa 53-47. The boys made it to the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A Tournament losing to the eventual WPIAL Champions, Ellwood City, 58-53.


The Avonworth Varsity Girls’ Basketball Team finished their season 8-7 overall and 7-4 in the conference. The girls made it to the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A Tournament and played hard in their loss against Freedom.


Congratulations to both teams on their successful seasons!

Mark Your Calendar

3/29-4/2: Spring Break, No School

4/5: Schools In Session

4/5: Curriculum Committee Meeting, 6:30 PM

4/5: Athletic Committee Meeting, 7:00 PM

4/5: School Board Meeting, 7:30 PM

4/19: Buildings & Grounds Committee Meeting, 6:45 PM