Austin Road News & Headlines

  • A Lesson From an Author

    When Roseanne Hall’s fifth grade class heard that they would be having a lesson with Sarah Weeks—bestselling author of “Pie,” “Save Me a Seat” and “So B. It” —the students were excited to get started.

    In events organized by PTO Co-President Susan Downey, Weeks has been video calling into fourth and fifth grade classes to provide students with tips and lessons on writing. Many of Hall's fifth graders are excited to write but struggle to find the spark to start their stories, so the class was all ears when Weeks introduced that topic. Her answer, however, wasn’t quite what they were expecting.

    Weeks told the students that in order to find something to start writing about, they only needed to look up from their notebooks. The class was presented with an image that Weeks had taken of the front of an abandoned bowling ball; visible within the gripping holes of the ball was a spider web.

    Weeks told students that when she saw the bowling ball, she felt compelled to take a picture of it and to use it as a basis for writing. She speculated as to what kind of spider might make its home in such an odd place. From there, all of the details and characters and story flowed. The lesson was simple: all that the students need to do to start writing is to take a close look at the world around them.

    The next image to go up on the smartboard was of cookies shaped like animals on a baking sheet. That was when Weeks handed the reins over to the students and told them that they should search for inspiration in the image and write a story from the perspective of one of the cookies with the added challenge of not explicitly stating which cookie each student had chosen.

    With only five minutes before they would start to share their writing, the room hummed with the sounds of scratching pencils and turning pages. Every student focused in on their unique cookie and perspective. Once time was up, students began to share their stories with Weeks and their peers.

    While only a brave few students raised their hands initially, after the first volunteer, almost every student in the class wanted to share their work. The time went by quickly and there was too much enthusiasm for writing for everyone to be able to share their pieces with Weeks.

    It seems that the author’s lesson had the desired effect.

    Sarah Weeks will continue to speak with students in Austin road's fourth and fifth grade classes in the coming weeks.

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  • It All Starts with Dots and Lines

    How do you express yourself through art? Start small.

    That was the lesson that Chris Williams, Austin Road Elementary’s new art teacher, shared with kindergartners Wednesday. Williams began the class by reading “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds, a picture book that describes the struggle of Vashti, a student who finds it hard to express herself through art. Eventually, Vashti’s teacher convinces her to start with a simple dot and then to sign the paper, helping her take ownership of her work.

    One dot became two, small dots became large dots and all sorts of colors were used and she even made an inverted dot by surrounding the blank space with other dots. Vashti made all sorts of images from dots and found that she could make bigger images from smaller, easier shapes. While showing off her art, Vashti gets to take on the role of teacher for another student who is just as nervous as she was.

    While art class isn’t necessarily the place that you would normally expect to find a read aloud, the story was the foundation of the lesson and the kindergarteners easily found their groove drawing with lines and dots with all sorts of colors and techniques. When quizzed, some students had a very clear idea of the images that they were creating, like Jack, who pointed to the concentric lines on his page and declared, “This is the outer core and the inner core of the Earth!”

    Williams also took the time to explain that the author of The Dot also illustrated it. The students couldn’t believe that someone could write and illustrate. Later, this prompted a student named Teagan to claim that she was going to grow up to be “an artist and a principal!”

    By the end of the lesson, (and the end of several paint sticks), some students had to be pulled away from the art that they were creating. In stacking so many dots and lines on top of one another, the kindergarten students learned an important lesson: lots of small, simple skills build into more complicated and difficult ones over time.

    The message was clear, in order to become good at something, you have to start small.

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  • 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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  • 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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