‘Change Starts Small’

School Board Honors Southwestern Project

The New York State School Boards Association honored Southwestern Central School District staff members for organizing a STEAM Wars event for elementary school students. From left to right are: Easton Rapp; Shannon Sauder, elementary technology integrator; Aubree Thompson; Ellie Rounds; and Matt Langworthy, elementary principal. Submitted photo

A project spearheaded by a teacher and principal in the Southwestern Central School district received recognition from the New York State School Boards Association during the district’s board of education meeting Tuesday night.

Patrick Longo, member relations specialist for the association, recognized the efforts of technology integrator Shannon Sauder and principal Matt Langworthy for their work in helping to produce a STEAM Wars event for elementary school students held last winter by awarding the district’s board of education with the Champions of Change for Kids Award.

“Change starts small,” Longo said via Zoom during the meeting. “It starts with the schools. These are ripple effects. We have a committee and formed a committee to look at programs across the state and this is completely unsolicited. There are so many good things going on not just across but the state but across the country, especially in our schools. We wanted to shine a light on the positive things that you guys are doing.”

Schools in the region often hold competitive STEAM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) events each year. Southwestern has often participated in those by sending its middle school and high school students to compete. However, the district’s event looked to engage elementary students.

“One of the things we loved about it is that it appears from the article we saw is that the kids brought it to you as something that was going on in 7th through 12th grades and younger kids said, ‘Hey, we want to bring this here,’ and in so doing you also brought change to six or seven other districts because they also were included in this as well,” Longo said. “We thought it was fantastic that this was kid driven and the staff and the board got behind them. We loved the program.”

He added, “During a worldwide pandemic I think it’s much more important when kids understand science and learn it and get excited about it because through these kinds of programs, they will change the world. Without a doubt.”

Superintendent Maureen Donahue praised Sauder and Langworthy for their efforts.

“Shannon is the worker bee behind that and she worked closely with Mr. Langworthy to then pull it off, something we didn’t know that we could do,” she said. “We had seven districts from all over the county. We had different businesses. We had Cummins Engine here. It was a great day for our elementary kiddos. Thank you to both Mr. Sauder and to Mr. Langworthy for pulling that off. It really is what has evolved in our Makerspace.”

Sauder has also been instrumental in helping teachers become innovative throughout the process of education amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s one of our lead teachers for our elementary


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