One to One

Portage Township Schools District Newsletter

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Our Aylesworth Elementary students had a great time at Woodland Park last month! Students who met their Accelerated Reader goals for the first quarter had a pizza party in one of the shelters and enjoyed the park there. More photos from the day are below.

Meet the Portage SROs

View the graphics below to learn more about the full-time officers stationed at Portage High School East and Willowcreek Middle School. Click on the link to access the bios of our rotational officers, who provide full-time coverage at Fegely Middle School and Portage High School West. They have been doing a great job and go above and beyond their assigned duties every day. We want to thank them for their dedication to our students' safety!
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Come to our next Mobile Marketplace!

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The Portage Township Schools Mobile Marketplace has been a success since we began offering the service this summer. Last week, 65 families stopped by to take home some delicious food.

Next month's Mobile Marketplace will be held at Portage High School on Nov. 15 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. This month's market will be held inside the school through Door B. Please bring bags or boxes to carry your food and proof of Indiana residency, such as a drivers license or utility bill.

PTS would like to extend a huge thank you to the PHS MCJROTC and National Honor Society for sending volunteers last month. They helped hand out food and haul boxes to our families' cars. Anyone interested in volunteering each month with our Mobile Marketplace should contact our Food Service Department at 763-8008.

Social and emotional learning programs provide students with help in school and at home

Portage Township Schools is adding new social and emotional learning programs to provide for students in the district.

“[The social and emotional learning programs are] a model that should really always change to the needs of our students, but the core values of how we treat each other are the main lessons that we want to put out there,” said Director of Student Achievement and Innovation Robert Wilson. “We’re trying to really systematize them to show the use of them.”

Each level of schooling throughout the district has their own programs. Some are classroom-based, while some programs are more individualized to each student.

“At the elementary level, they adopted a curriculum from the Goldie Hawn institution called Mind Up,” Wilson said. “Teachers are going to be learning about that and they will be delivering those lessons to students in their classrooms and supporting that through the whole school.”

At the middle school and high school levels, a life skills program which takes a crosswalk on social and emotional learning standards has been adopted. The program will be making sure that the needs of social and emotional learning are met by the current curriculum in each school.

“[The programs are] going to be something that’s going to snowball and grow,” Wilson said. “That’s a big part of my job, and it is something I’m still learning. How can we get people to engage and take away some of those stigmas that people have of certain issues? How can we support our students so that they can be successful students and hopefully successful later on in life?”

The district is looking to partner with the Department of Children and Family Services as well. This partnership will be used to train teachers to recognize the problems they are dealing with when it comes to social and emotional learning and will lead them to understanding those problems and how to help the students through them.

“For instance, at Willowcreek once a week the social studies teachers deliver the lesson, then it is a whole team effort in the school community to promote that lesson of the week and make sure it is incorporated throughout the week in the school,” Wilson said.

Wilson hopes these programs not only involve teachers and students, but the entire community.

“Everyone from the custodian to the principal should really be promoting these skills that are learned,” Wilson said.

Another social and emotional learning program includes bringing in court-appointed special advocates to speak to teachers and principals about the foster care system, what the children go through, and how teachers can help the students who may be in the foster care system. Across the rest of the school district, new programs include Dunebrook, Natural Helpers mentors, and Positive Approach to Teen Health.

“We have an agreement with PATH, and they are actually going to be training students at the high school to be mentors,” Wilson said. “We’ll be focusing on mentoring a freshmen group of 50, and will be looking at primarily juniors to be mentors for these freshmen.”

These social and emotional learning programs, aimed at mental health and providing for students, are just the beginning of what Portage hopes to implement. Once the training for these programs and the programs themselves become set, more programs should be added to increase aid for students who need it.

“The core function is to get people to interact with each other respectfully and honestly, and that’s all social and emotional learning,” Wilson said. “It's more of a process of learning to support students and families in terms of where they are, not where they should be. It’s really empathy training and tolerance training, and accepting people of their differences.”

These new programs work in coordination with existing initiatives, such as implementation of the ASCA standards with guidance counselors and Restorative Justice practices. All of these initiatives and new programs are part of the district’s Comprehensive and Collaborative Approach to School Safety, particularly the aspect that calls for additional mental health services for students.

Saylor students "Start with Hello"
One way our School Advisers enhance our students' social and emotional well-being is through anti-bulling programs such as Start with Hello. Start with Hello is a week-long anti-bullying campaign that encourages students to meet new people. Watch the above video to see what our students at Saylor Elementary School learned during their Start with Hello week!

PTS to begin Portage Ambassadors program

Portage Township Schools has recently started a new program for the community. The PTS Ambassadors Program is a group of Portage community members who currently have a stake in Portage schools and may be interested in learning more about the mission and operations of the district.

The program was designed to give the stakeholders accurate information about the schools. Melissa Deavers-Lowie is the Director of Communications at Portage and is now the founder of the program. As Director of Communications, Deavers-Lowie works to inform the community of what is going on in Portage schools.

“This is one avenue for me to be able to accomplish that,” she said.

In starting the program, Deavers-Lowie is excited to be able to have a new way of communicating with the community. The group of individuals that are eager to learn more and share the new information will allow for that by having the information spread in person.

Beginning in January, Deavers-Lowie will ask the districts principals for recommendations for participants, along with including an application for different community members, such as business owners, city and township leaders, and community organizations. The group will then meet once a month for about an hour to discuss different topics and a variety of facilities.The topics will include STEM Learning, High Reliability Schools, school safety and security, and nutrition.

The PTS Ambassadors Program will continue through the 2018-2019 school year, and Deavers-Lowie hopes to expand it to a full-year program in the future.

Any community member interested in participating should contact Deavers-Lowie at

Congratulations to our fall State athletes!

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Kyle Gutierrez | Boys Cross Country

Junior Kyle Gutierrez placed 116th out of 206 runners in the IHSAA boys cross country individual state finals in Terre Haute last Saturday. Gutierrez crossed the finish line with a time of 17:13.4.

In his sixth year of running cross country, Gutierrez finished his year with a season record of 16:18.0, just 15 seconds shy of his personal record of 16:03.0. Gutierrez took the lead on the team this season, finishing in the top ten in five out of eight meets this year, capping at third place in the IHSAA sectional in New Prairie.

Gutierrez can be found running year round, as he is also a distance runner for both the indoor and outdoor track teams. For indoor track, Gutierrez runs the 3200 meter race, and for outdoor track he previously ran the 1600 meter race and was part of the 4x800 relay team.

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Morgan McCulloch | Girls Cross Country

Sophomore Morgan McCulloch placed 52nd out of 208 runners in the IHSAA Cross Country State finals on Saturday. She was the only girl from Portage to run in the race.

Going into the race, McCulloch was looking forward to running at a higher level and seeing where she compares to the other girls in the state.

“To get to the point I am [at] now came from a lot of dedication and determination to want to get to state and doing all the little things to help get there,” McCulloch said.

McCulloch said that she had to make some changes this season in order to make it through sectionals and regionals and make it to state.

“This season [differed] from last season because I was more determined and focused on state than I was last year,” McCulloch said. “Just the fact knowing I had to give everything I had to make it to state and to be there with my friends and team.”

McCulloch’s team played a major role in her success.

“They pushed me harder in practices and in meets and always encouraged me to do more. I wouldn’t be where I am without them,” McCulloch said.

McCulloch took fellow teammate Brisa Martinez to the race with her because she felt Martinez “would make this experience fun and still keep calm at the same time.”

While McCulloch’s experience was different than she expected, but it was still one she’ll always remember.

“It was so surreal and it was such an amazing experience and just gave [me] the feeling of something so incredible that you don’t experience in any other meet throughout the season,” McCulloch said.

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Olivia Wood | Girls Golf

Senior Olivia Wood placed 44th at the IHSAA girls golf state tournament last month. She was the first girls golfer to advance to state since 1999, and the second in Portage history.

Wood qualified for state after placing third in regionals. Wood said that she has been working to make it to state since freshman year, but believing in herself gave her the final boost needed to make it all the way.

“The only thing different is that I trusted myself,” Wood said. “I knew I had what it takes to make it to state if I could just play golf like I do with my dad.”

Wood said coach Jovanny Gonzalez was also an instrumental part of her success both before and after advancing to state.

“He was right by my side at sectionals and regionals calming me down and talking me through my shots. At state however, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get through it without him. He walked every hole by my side each day just keeping me out of my head and encouraging me every hole,” Wood said.

Wood said that although she didn’t do as well as she had hoped, she is grateful for the experience and is happy she met her goal.

"Working four years for a goal, and [it] finally comes down to the last year I have and I finally do it,” Wood said. “I’ve had many followers in the community and seeing my name around business in the community makes this whole thing an actual dream come true.”

PTS students learn about Dia de los Muertos

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Dia de Los Muertos [Day of the Dead] is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the lives of those who’ve passed. It takes place over the course of three-days from October 31 through November 2, and is celebrated with music, food, and bright colors.

Portage High School Spanish teacher Brighitte Snemis is bring this celebraction to her classroom. Snemis uses multiple activities to show how the students can celebrate this event.

“In class we discuss and learn about different countries and the traditions or holidays that they have,” Snemis said, “ and while I have a lot of Mexican students I figured why not, even if it’s not the exact country we are on at the time.”

There are many similarities of Dia de Los Muertos to Halloween, and this is one of the reasons why Snemis decided to teach the kids about this tradition.

“It’s something the kids can relate to,” Snemis said, “ but I want them to know the difference so I try to do some activities such as: making skull cookies, or papel picado, that shows the uniqueness of it. It goes to show how it’s not like Halloween, it’s not a scary time, it’s happy fun and colorful.”

In Snemis’ AP Spanish IV class, she had them decorate cookies that looked like skulls and make papel picado [tissue paper with cut-out shapes].

“My other classes colored calaveras and watched movies related to Dia de Los Muertos,” Snemis said. “The movie ‘CoCo’ or ‘The Book of Life’ help them understand the holiday a little more. They [the students] may be confused why they decorate the cemetary or why they’re happy, not sad. I think these movies explain it a little more.”

While the high school students made cookies and papel picado, the students at Fegely Elementary School created masks and Kyle Elementary School students turned pictures of themselves in to Dia de los Muertos creations. Check out the photos below from the projects.

High school robotics students encourage girls to participate in STEM activities through She Can Tech

With growing opportunities for Project Lead the Way and STEM programs throughout the district comes increasing participation with students. Whether it is to get involved with an extra curricular, work towards a technical honors diploma or beginning to gain experience for a future career, there is growing interest in these programs from young women.

Aside from the classes offered during the school day, there are new school programs that are becoming available as well. A new STEM mentoring/coaching program called She Can Tech has been started by a group of girls from the high school robotics team and is being sponsored by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) and the Portage Boys and Girls Club for any 5th to 8th grade girls that have an interest in being involved in PLTW and STEM projects. This program is a way to reach out to more girls who need to at least pick up an interest, if not excitement, for STEM as well as necessary skills and tools that are best developed early.

Within the last four years, the involvement of girls in these programs has steadily increased. Senior Porta-Botz member Sanja Kirova mentions that She Can Tech is reaching girls at a critical age where they can encourage more girls to express their interest in PLTW activities and hopefully lead them into one of the high school programs.

“When I first joined our high school robotics team, I was one of two girls,” Kirova said. “It took a lot of work, and a lot of proving that I deserved a seat at the table of robotics competitions. When more girls joined, this social divide became more apparent. I want to be there for these younger girls with my friends in the program to mentor them on choosing a career pathway in STEM and to encourage them when the material is all new, becomes difficult, and they need to ask for help.”

Senior Kassandra Garay-Diaz believes that it is extremely important that young girls do not get discouraged if they hear that engineering is typically a male dominated field.

“If you are a girl interested in engineering or computer sciences, then that is the profession you aspire to, you do not have to change your personality or habits or interests to fit in with what society believes.” said Garay-Diaz.

Kirova also thinks that young girls should not listen to the gender roles and limits that society may set for them.

“I like math and science, I enjoy participating in these programs. There is no second thought about it. If you have an interest in this type of thing, you do it. Nobody should be able to tell you no or talk you out of doing things you enjoy no matter what it is.” said Kirova.