Austin Road News & Headlines

  • High School Students Make Learning Fun at Austin Road

    American systems of government were never rendered more exciting than when Mahopac High School students visited Austin Road third graders recently, bringing lessons they designed themselves for the younger students to view on their Chromebook laptop computers.

    “I think it is a great idea to have our students serve as role models,” said Mahopac High School social studies teacher Michael Hunt, who in prior years has taught American History lessons to Austin Road students himself. “The Mahopac district commitment to technology really allows us to bring this all together.”

    Each high school student visitor prepared a lesson on Google Slides for the third graders, complete with photos, songs and vibrant content.

    “This really is a unique opportunity for our third graders to learn from the high school students,” said Austin Road Principal Jim Gardineer. “It is a very special event for us.”

    The high school students agreed. “I think this is a good way for kids to learn—especially with the songs and graphics,” said Mahopac High School junior Sam Colatruglio.

    Senior Jillian Sedran echoed that sentiment. “This is going to help the children be better prepared for the future and will help them get ready for high school.”

    The Austin Road students will continue to keep in touch with their high school visitors through the use of technology. “The third graders will send the high school students thank you notes through Google docs, so they will be like virtual pen pals,” said third grade teacher Marisa Horvath. They can also use Google Hangout to message each other about the lessons.

    The third grade teachers were impressed with the high schoolers’ teaching abilities. Said third grade teacher Kerri Bilyeu, “Some of the high school students teaching today used to be in our third grade class!”

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  • Mahopac Teaches Importance of Digital Citizenship

    As students of all ages increase their use of social media, the Internet, and technology in general, online safety is becoming more crucial. To address this issue, all three Mahopac elementary schools participated in Digital Citizenship Week, where each school held lessons on Internet safety for every student.

    Digital Citizenship Week is sponsored by, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children get the most out of technology in the safest possible environment.

    “It is really important that students know how to behave when they’re online,” said Mahopac School District Instructional Technology Specialist John Sebalos.

    Sebalos hosted a Digital Citizenship day at Lakeview, Austin Road and Fulmar Road elementary schools, along with each school’s building technology officers and staff.

    “Each student, from kindergarten through fifth grade, got an age-appropriate lesson on safe, appropriate Internet use,” said Sebalos.  “With Mahopac’s innovative and expansive use of technology within the K-5 classrooms, digital citizenship becomes increasingly important.  It sets a model of how we want our students to behave and interact online both in and out of school while being able to collaborate and work in a 21st century learning environment.”

    For younger students, talking about privacy online is particularly important. “Sharing things like your name, address, school or other personal information is never OK,” Sebalos told students.

    “Through humor and interactive activities, our students were able to grasp the basic concepts of how to behave responsibly online,” said Austin Road teacher and safety presenter Tiffany Ziegelhofer, who was impressed by students’ reception of the day. “They were really attentive and motivated to learn.” 

    For older students, the lesson was more focused on appropriate behavior online and avoiding cyberbullying.

    Addressing a group of fifth graders at Fulmar Road, Sebalos showed a film about Internet safety and then gave out game cards with prompts asking students what they would do in certain scenarios. “I wanted them to work as a group,” Sebalos said, “ so they could really discuss the options.”

    Students were asked to consider what they would do if a person they did not know asked for personal information online; how to handle a fellow student making a rude comment about a teacher on a social media site; and what type of information is private versus public.

    “The students did really well with their responses in class, but the real test will be how they respond when there is no teacher or friend around,” said Fulmar Road Principal Gary Chadwick, who also led a class on Internet safety.

    Fifth grader Gabby said she thought people should use discretion when they are using social media. “There are some things we shouldn’t say online because they just aren’t nice,” she said.

    Fifth grader Jayson said, “You can’t give out personal information online because you can’t trust someone you don’t know.”

    Lakeview teacher Jenn Borst said she thought the day gave students a real understanding of what is expected of them and what is safe. “It was great hearing the children talk about their digital footprint,” she said. “They walked away with a real understanding of private information versus personal information.”

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  • Austin Road Drives Home Bus Safety

    In a virtual race where behavior determines the winner, students at Austin Road Elementary School are competing to see whose bus is triumphant. Each day bus drivers will evaluate their buses, and the bus with the most rewards for the month will get a breakfast celebration. The buses are represented in miniature form on a bulletin board in the hallway, and each day buses are moved up according to behavior of its passengers.

    A team at Austin Road, including Principal Jim Gardineer, Assistant Principal Bryan Gilligan, teacher Amy Morrison, and speech pathologist Rebecca Kassirer, identified the bus and cafeteria as the two areas where students can benefit the most from the positive behavior reinforcement (PBIS) program.

    “We have a new Austin Road PRIDE initiative, which centers around improving behavior in the cafeteria and bus,” said Austin Road Principal James Gardineer. The school also has a new acronym—PRIDE—which stands for Positive Attitude, Respect for yourself and others, Individual Uniqueness, Difference Maker and Effort.

    Kassirer, who attended a PBIS showcase at SUNY New Palz last summer, suggested Austin Road adapt this program, a similar version of which is already being used in Lakeview Elementary. “We educate students in Math and ELA,” said Kassirer, “so it makes sense to educate them in positive behavior as well.”

    Gilligan said the program will foster a sense of community. “The nice part is students are encouraged to act as a community and are rewarded as a community,” said Gilligan.

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