Austin Road News & Headlines

  • Gardening Across The Curriculum

    When the fifth graders in Beth Doré’s class start to garden, they learn about more than getting their hands dirty. 

    Doré, who has been the garden coordinator at Austin Road Elementary School for 1o years, turns gardening into an opportunity for hands-on learning and incorporates most subjects in the curriculum into the experience. 

    “The students start by writing a story we call “Hello Garden,” Doré said. “It's about using your five senses in the garden. Then they learn about plant parts for science, distances and measuring for math and healthy eating for health and nutrition.”  

    Along the way, she works some history and geography into the lessons. It is a lot to pack into a small plot of land, but somehow she manages to plant the seeds of learning along with the tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, herbs and flowers that grow in abundance.

    On a recent morning, the students harvested the bounty. They washed, dried and prepared it into a salad before serving it to their schoolmates. To them, it seemed, the gardening experience was all about the fun. 

    “We planted everything in the spring,” said Aidan, who is 11. “Now we’re going to harvest chives and lettuce and Swiss chard.” 

    Doré taught her class to test the soil, make the compost, fill the beds and lay the irrigation system.

    “They do all the behind the scenes work, then the other fifth grade classes get a chance to do the planting and all the kids get a chance to harvest,” she said. 

    When Lisa Coen’s fifth graders came out for their turn at harvesting, Sophia, a 10-year-old in Doré’s class, explained the right way to harvest lettuce. 

    “It grows from the middle, so you take the leaves from the outside first,” Sophia said. “You go from the outside to the inside.”  

    Then she stood back and smiled as the other students picked lettuce leaves for their own salad. 

    “The best part of this is that the students feel so proud,” Doré said. 

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  • School Cafeteria Reopens to Students

    “Oh, wow!” “No way!” “This is so cool!” 

    To hear the kindergartners at Austin Road Elementary School tell it, eating lunch in the school cafeteria on Monday was nothing short of amazing.  

    “They have never eaten in the cafeteria,” said Kindergarten teacher Diane Binns. “This is a really big deal to them.” 

    For the first time since the pandemic upended regular life in March 2020, elementary students throughout the Mahopac Central School District returned to their school cafeterias for lunch on Monday, March 7. While the schools reopened in full in September, lunch had been restricted to the classroom, where students sometimes ate in shifts. 

    “This is exciting,” said Caltha, a kindergartner who waited on a brief line to pick up a sunflower butter sandwich, a carton of chocolate milk and an apple. “It’s like a restaurant.”

    A restaurant with rules, perhaps. 

    Austin Road Interim Principal Robert Meyer greeted the children and spelled out the dos and don'ts of cafeteria dining. 

    “Raise your hand if you need to get up from the table,” he said. “See how clean this room is? That’s because we all clean up after ourselves.” 

    The students didn’t seem to mind a chore if it meant they could sit with their friends in a big, noisy, happy room.

    “This is so great for them,” said Nancy Libertino, a monitor. “In the classroom, one half of the class would eat for fifteen minutes and then they’d switch and the other half would eat. We got used to it, but this is so much better.”   

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  • What could be more fun for a first grader than having a high school student for a pen pal?

    Students at Austin Road Elementary School recently expanded their writing abilities by exchanging letters with Child Development and Education students at PNW BOCES, providing both younger and older students with educational opportunities.
    Students in Laura Scampoli’s and Lisa LaPadula’s first-grade class partnered with high school juniors in the  Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program run by teacher Melissa Davis.
    “My students and the first graders wrote back and forth to each other,” said Davis. “Now my students are preparing worksheets for the read-aloud books the younger students are working on.”
    The Education students met remotely with their first-grade pals to give a face-to-face aspect to the assignment. They will collaborate on books and lessons on vocabulary for the elementary school students among other things.

    “Our class was beyond excited to get letters from their pen pals,” said Scampoli. “It was extra-special because each student got one written to them.” 
    She said her students particularly appreciated the cards’ decorations. “Our class couldn't wait to write and decorate cards to send back to
    The CTE students were equally excited by the connection. Faith Marchioni, of Mahopac, is one of the CTE juniors working on the project. 
    “This program really helps us gain knowledge about the teaching environment,” Faith said. "I love this assignment because it really shows me what teaching will be like. Working with the Austin Road students has been amazing." 
    At Austin Road, the feeling is mutual. 
    “It has been so helpful to have the high school students working with our class,” said Scampoli. “The activities have been engaging and fun for the kids,and it gives them something new to look forward to. We are so lucky that we get to work with these students.”
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  • Austin Road Fifth Grader Gives Special Gift

    In this holiday season, Mahopac Central School District students had many ways to show their gratitude and give to others. There were toy drives in each building and food and clothing drives throughout the community.

    But, Yulisa, a fifth grader at Austin Road Elementary School, wanted to give something unique. She wanted it to be something that would help another person long after the holidays passed, and so the 10-year-old decided to cut her beautiful waist-length hair and donate it to someone who has lost their own hair. 

    “It makes me happy to help other people,” said Yulisa, whose shiny, jet-black hair is now chin-length. “I went to my aunt’s hair salon and she cut 10 and a half inches. Then we wrapped it in bubble wrap and mailed it off.” 

    With her mother’s help, Yulisa chose Locks of Love, a Florida-based nonprofit that makes wigs for children who suffer medical hair loss. 

    “We did it in honor of my grandmother who has cancer and is starting to lose her hair and also in honor of my grandfather who died from cancer,” Yulisa said.  

    Bryan Gilligan, the principal at Austin Road Elementary School, said Yulisa showed a lot of initiative for a girl her age.

    “We were so impressed that Yulisa was the one who suggested it,” said. “She was the one who went to her mother to ask if she could donate her hair.”  

    Yulisa said she felt so good about giving her hair to someone in need that she is thinking about growing her hair long again – just to cut it and donate it. The hair donation has to be at least 10 inches in length for Locks of Love to accept it.  

    “My hair grows very fast,” Yulisa said.

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  • Austin Road Students Give Thanks

    In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, teachers throughout the Mahopac Central School District talked to their classes about the importance of gratitude.

    In Carolyn Ryan and Tiffany Ziegelhofer’s fourth grade class at Austin Road Elementary School, the discussion led to feathers -- “Thankful For Feathers,” that is.

    Some children in the class pasted photos of beloved family members, pets, favorite foods, games and more on a feather-shaped piece of construction paper. Others drew their own pictures, of flags, trees, school buildings and nature. The feathers were then assembled around a turkey cut-out for all to see and discuss.

    Paige said she was thankful for her dog Charlie, a German Shepherd. She was also thankful for her parents, who are both police officers, her brother, friends and teachers.

    Lilliana said she was thankful for her older brother, who teaches her what he already learned in fourth grade.

    Throughout the district, children were likely also thankful that they had a long holiday weekend coming up.

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  • Austin Road Classrooms Stocked with Books

    If you want to know what it means to fourth graders to have the chance to pick their own reading books, just ask Anthony, a 9-year-old at Austin Road Elementary School. 

    “I love that no one forces me to pick a book they think I should read,” Anthony said, while skimming through a story about a robot in a science fair.  “When I’m reading a book I like, I can really focus. Even if I’m riding on a loud bus, the noise doesn’t bother me. I just concentrate on the book.” 

    Anthony recently chose to read the Project Droid series of books that he found in his class, where hundreds of picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and non-fiction books line the shelves. 

    A classroom library stocked with high-interest books in a range of reading levels is the bedrock of the The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which was launched in kindergarten and first grades in the Mahopac schools in 2019. The workshop-style program was added to second and third grades last year and introduced in the fourth and fifth grades this fall. It is now the reading curriculum for all elementary grades districtwide.  

    “It was important to align the reading curriculum in all three elementary schools,” said Michael Tromblee, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Learning. “Mahopac has made a commitment to the Reading and Writing Project. We’ve brought in a literacy coach to work with teachers, given teachers extra time to learn and purchased hundreds of books for each classroom so all students will have access to books that interest and engage them.”  

    Austin Road fourth grade teacher Katie Douma unpacked dozens of boxes of books last month to line the shelves in her classroom. 

    “Their love of reading has really increased,” Douma said. “We teach them how to pick a book that’s not too hard, not too easy and is interesting to them. It is such a shift from the rote reading program we used to use.” 

    Instead of using a textbook that contains passages of books that are chosen to illustrate a literary concept, the children read whole books. That doesn’t mean they don’t get instruction.  

    Reading time starts with a lesson on a topic such as character development or finding the main idea. Then the students read independently -- 20 minutes a day in class and 20 minutes a day at home. Students write about what they have read and teachers conference with students one-on-one to ensure they understand what they are reading. At the end of each book, there is a test of comprehension. 

    At the heart of it all, however, is the freedom to choose their own books. 

    “We are trying to teach them to be lifelong learners,” Douma said. “I tell them: ‘If you don’t like reading, it just means that you haven’t found the right book yet.’”

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  • All-Elementary Race is a Long Tradition

    First, the Lakeview Elementary School runners camped on the hill started chanting “Let’s go Lakeview, Let’s go!” Not to be outdone, rivals Austin Road and Fulmar Road elementary schools got loud with cheers of their own. 

    The Annual All-Elementary Cross Country race at Lakeview Elementary School is the biggest good-time, healthy sporting event in Mahopac for the second-to-fifth-grade crowd. More than 300 students competed and it drew families, friends and neighbors from all over the district. Some lined up along the field waving signs, others had cameras outfitted with long zoom lenses; one spectator even launched a drone that followed the racers around the course. 

    “It’s great to see you all out here,” school Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo said before the races began. “It’s not about winning or losing. It’s just about having a good time.” 

    Tell that to Dylan, a 10-year-old in Mary Moriarty’s class at Lakeview who was the fastest boy in the fifth grade. Dylan trained every Friday afternoon with his mother, Angela O’Keefe, and it paid off when he came in first in his race. 

    “I heard the cheering and I got so excited,” Dylan said. “I looked one time and I got very distracted, so I tried not to look again. I just concentrated on running.” 

    For Kaitlin, a fifth grader in Vanessa Stavisky’s class, the race was all about school spirit. If the green t-shirt didn’t give away Kaitlin’s school allegiance, the Fulmar name in erasable marker on each of her arms might have.  

    “I came in as number 31,” Kaitlin said. “I count that as good. I don’t compare myself to others.”

    The race, planned by the elementary school physical education teachers, is a long tradition in Mahopac. 

    “This event has been going on for well over 26 years,” Lauren Kittredge, a physical education teacher at Austin Road Elementary School, said. “Children in grades two to five competed in a race according to their age.”

    Those ages 10 and older ran a mile. Those eight and nine years old ran three-quarters of a mile and the youngest runners, six and seven-year-olds, ran a half mile.  

    Alexa, a Lakewview second grader whose father stood at the sidelines with a brightly colored sign, came in fourth. 

    She mock-collapsed on the ground as if the race had taken all the energy she had. 

    Still, she will be back for more. Students from Austin, Fulmar & Lakeview schools will compete at The Mahopac Elementary 5K Run at FDR Park in Yorktown on Wednesday, Oct. 27.

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  • Putting Out Fires

    After examining the ladder and shiny dials of a fire engine, piling into an ambulance and climbing an escape ladder, it was time for the Austin Road Elementary School kindergartners to grab a hose and shoot out the flames of a burning building.

    One by one, they lined up for their chance to wrestle the hose and aim it at windows that were red with flame.   

    “That was a piece of cake,” said Christian, a 6-year-old in Daniella Morgante’s class. “It was not hard at all. I didn’t even get wet.” 

    The building, of course, was a wooden prop and the flames were cutouts set in windows that the stream of water could easily knock down.

    The Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Department came to Austin Road Elementary School to teach the children about fire prevention. Every fall, the department offers fire safety training to children in pre-kindergarten to second grade, Jason Stasiak, a captain of the department, said. 

    “This training really pays off,” Stasiak said  “We have actually seen kids who we taught fire prevention come across a fire and use what they learned. One kid, when he grew up, helped get an elderly woman out of a burning house.”  

    Austin Road’s teachers use the visit as a jumping off point for several lessons. 

    “We integrate this into all the subjects,” Morgante said. “We read books about firefighters and books about fire safety. We incorporate it into writing. The children write about what they want to be when they grow up, or about firefighters they know. Many of them have firefighters in the family. We even used the fire department’s visit to do math, counting the firefighters and fire trucks as they came in.” 

    As important as the fire safety training was for the Austin Road Elementary School children, it was equally meaningful for the firefighters to train the next generation in their own community.  Some of the firefighters were Austin Road alumni, others the parents of children who attend the school. 

    “It’s great to come back here every year,” Stasiak said. 

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  • Austin Road Legacy Project: The Little Free Library

    For their 2021 legacy project, the Austin Road fifth grade class collaborated on an outdoor lending library lovingly named “The Little Free Library.” The final idea and design came together as a result of wanting to find an appropriate way to connect to the elementary schools' Teachers College reading and writing implementation and have enough space to uniquely represent each student.
    The planning and design was spearheaded by Principal Bryan Gilligan, Assistant Principal Michelle Tween, and Austin Road art teacher Tess Zinzi who were all in agreement that the final design must have enough space on the roof to fit the one roof tile for each student. Aaron Wisotsky donated his time and design and carpentry skills to make the dream a reality and each student was asked to create the artwork for the roof tiles during virtual art classes. The roof consists of 56 tiles on each side of the roof, one for each fifth grader.
    “Each student's tile is a unique "inhabited initial" that tells us something about them,” said Assistant Principal Michelle Tween. “Every book in the Little Free Library tells a different story, just like our students' tiles. Austin Road is a beautifully connected and caring community. In a special way, The Little Free Library invites our Mahopac neighbors, of all ages, to be a part of that community.”
    The Little Free Library will be outside of Austin Road main building, so be sure to take a look next time you drive by the school.
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  • Congratulations Austin Road 5th Graders

    The Moving Up Ceremony at Austin Road gathered parents and family members in the auditorium as fifth graders were congratulated on all they accomplished during their time at Austin Road, but especially the last two years

    Mr. DiCarlo greeted families and congratulated students and teachers called names and attendees cheered for six great years at Austin. Mr. Gilligan handed each student a certificate and shook his or her hand, but not before he reminded the class how much he will miss them and how special they are to him since their first year at Austin Road was also his.

    After the ceremony, families moved outside where students picked up their commemorative beach blankets provided by the PTO and gathered for pictures under a balloon arch. On the way out families admired the “Little Free Library,” a gift from the Class of 2021 to their school.

    Congratulations Austin Road!

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  • MCSD 2020-2021 District-wide Art Show

    MCSD 2020-2021 District-wide Art Show

    The Mahopac Central School District believes that Art education is an essential component of human development. Through Visual Art, students are empowered to be creative, “out of the box” thinkers and conscious designers; they are able to discover and express who they are, communicate their ideas, understand the visual, cultural, and virtual world, take risks, work collaboratively, make connections in their learning, innovate, develop an increasing sense of their own aesthetic, and authentically engage in their education.

    The inaugural District-wide Art Show centralizes all the a talent district wide from Kindergarten to 12th Grade. Click the link below, explore, and enjoy!

    2020-2021 MCSD District-wide Art Show:

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  • Six-Degrees of Musical Separation

    Austin Road Music Teacher Elizabeth Day challenged her students to combine the music they enjoy with critical thinking and research skills they had developed throughout the year, “The musician's timeline was a project that Austin Road Elementary 4th and 5th graders started by sharing with the class who their favorite artist is, and then adding pictures, videos, and music into a YouTube-type template and being prepared to describe their favorite music and why they liked it.”  

    Part of the research included reviewing infographics of how different musicians are connected, in formats similar to family trees or a six degrees of separation-type layouts. Students were then asked to think about gaining information in a casual, social setting.

    "I asked my students to picture themselves at a backyard barbecue or a party at your favorite artist's house and to describe the kind of music they thought would be playing,"  Day said. “This required researching who their favorite artist listened to, and then we took it a step further. I challenged them to take it to the next level, having them hypothesize who would their favorite artist's favorite artist listen to, and on and one for several ‘degrees.’ They also had to be prepared to defend their choices.

    The project was both eye-opening and fun for both students and Day. “ For me as their teacher, it gave me a way to connect to the music that is relevant to them and actually learn of some new artists and bands I did not know about.  For the students, especially those who said they did not listen to music, it inspired  conversations about where they might hear music with something they enjoy, like movies or video games.” 

    Day described this as opening  them up to a new perspective on music in their lives. “By the end of the timeline project, students were finding that many of their favorite artists, although they were different, seemed to be influenced by the same people in history.”

    Check out these timelines her class created!

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  • The Study of Animal Adaptations Science in Posters

    Susan Downey’s fifth grade students shared the projects that were the culmination of their Animal Adaptations Science Unit with the entire Austin Road community by displaying them in the main hallway.

    Throughout the unit they learned about the different types of adaptation including physical, behavioral, mimicry, camouflage, hibernation, migration, and dormancy. The children were asked to select a non-domesticated animal and create a poster that showcased how it adapted. Their final score on the project was based on how well they followed the project rubric. Once the posters were completed, each child presented his/hers to the class (both in person and virtually).

    “Every single student earned the highest possible score of 4, something that has never happened before in Downey's class!” Mrs. Downey raved about this year’s students’ efforts and final projects, “They crushed the project this year too. All of the work, with the exception of some research, was done at home.”

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  • Austin Celebrates World Autism Day

    April is World Autism Month, beginning with United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Throughout the month, people are encouraged to focus on sharing stories and providing opportunities to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, fostering worldwide support.

    Austin Road special education teacher Amanda Giacquinta snapped these fabulous pictures of the hallway decorations and said, “I love walking through the halls and seeing this in honor of Autism Awareness Month!”

    We agree, Mrs. Giacquinta!

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  • Reading and then becoming a "Marble Champ"

    Students in Beth Doré’s class read The Marble Champ, by Gary Soto which is a story about a girl named Lupe who wants to be good at a sport. She decides to try marbles. The story first tells how Lupe becomes a good marbles player. She strengthens her thumb and practices marbles every day. It’s a little suspenseful in the middle when she has a few competitions. At the end, Lupe is proud that she has finally become good at a sport.
    After reading and discussing the book, the class studied the game of marbles and played together at recess outside and during free time inside.
    “It is the perfect responsible, socially distant game,” said Ms. Doré, “and best of all it’s fun!”
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  • Students Sign Song of Thanks

    When Austin Road Elementary students can't sing together (check out the video here!), they sign together instead! Music teacher Elizabeth Day, using technology and sign language, helped her students perform "Thanks a Lot" by Raffi in celebration of Thanksgiving and in gratitude. Enjoy!

    The Lyrics of the song are:

    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for Sun in the sky.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for clouds so high.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for whispering wind.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for the birds in the spring.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for the moonlit night.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for the stars so bright.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for the wondering me.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for the way I feel.
    Thanks for the animals,
    Thanks for the land,
    Thanks for the people everywhere.
    Thanks a lot,
    Thanks for all I've got.
    Thanks for all I've got.
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  • 2020-2021 One Page Calendar

    This Calendar includes school breaks, holidays, and color cohort days for the entire 2020-2021 school year. *Please refer to specific communications from schools for building specific changes and updates.* 

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  • Welcome Assistant Principal Michelle Tween

    Michelle Tween has joined Austin Road Elementary as the school’s new assistant principal. 

    “I speak for everyone at  Austin Road in saying that I am pleased to welcome Michelle to the Austin Road Family,” said Principal Bryan Gilligan. “I am grateful to the administration and The Board of Education for working diligently to select someone with the combination of educational experience and philosophy that she brings. I look forward to working closely with her to continue the good work being done at Austin Road to the benefit of all our students. I believe that her passion and dedication to early childhood and elementary education is well-aligned with mine and am confident will make a great team.”

    Prior to joining Austin Road, Mrs.Tween spent nearly a decade as Director of Early Childhood Education at the Chapel School in Bronxville supervising and supporting preschool and K-2 team leaders, teachers, and teacher aides. Her other duties included coaching and observing teachers in instruction, management, and planning. She also created and implemented a schedule and protocol for school-wide faculty instructional rounds to create a culture of collegiality and collaboration. She was a reading specialist and a classroom teacher for Kindergarten, first, and second grades and participated on and led several educational and community committees including chairing the Cultural Competence Curriculum Review Committee.

    I am thrilled to be joining the Austin Road team. The warm welcome I received from Mr. Gilligan, the staff, and all of the teachers has been nothing short of amazing,” said Mrs. Tween.   “Everything that I was told about the culture of Austin Road is what drew me here, and my experience so far is better than I could have imagined.  Austin Road’s commitment to each other, to our students, and to our families will continue to keep us a truly connected and strong community.” 

    Mrs. Tween, who lives in Eastchester, NY, earned both a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fordham University and a master’s degree in early childhood education and early childhood special education as well as an advanced diploma in school building leadership from The College of New Rochelle. She returned to Fordham to earn an Ed.D in Educational Leadership, Administration & Policy and is planning to graduate in 2021.

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  • Spotlight Special Edition: Austin Road Reopening

    Please enjoy this Spotlight especially for Austin Road Families about the Reopening.

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  • Austin Road will unfortunately NOT be open for self-guided walk-throughs this summer.

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  • Elementary Schools Parade a Success!

    Teachers and staff from all three of Mahopac’s elementary schools - Lakeview, Austin Road, and Fulmer Road - held a parade on Friday, June 5, to pay tribute and say goodbye to their students, who they haven’t seen in person since the pandemic shutdown began. Students lined Route 6 with signs so they could say “goodbye” as well in a touching tribute. 

    Check out pictures of the parade - with many pictures submitted by YOU - here!

    Read more about it and see even more pictures in the Mahopac News:


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