‘Absolutely Unprecedented’

NYSSBA Recognizes Two JPS Programs

Christine Schnars, a member of the Jamestown Public Schools and New York State School Association boards, speaks about two awards NYSSBA presented to the Jamestown Public Schools District. P-J photo by John Whittaker

Jamestown teachers are being honored with two awards for finding new ways to engage students in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During Tuesday’s Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education meeting, Christine Schnars presented Champions of Change for Kids awards on behalf of the New York State School Boards Association. Schnars is a board member of both the Jamestown Public Schools board as well as the NYSSBA board.

A banner from NYSSBA was given to Marc Lentsch, Persell Middle School band director, who along with Carrie Pawelski, Jefferson Middle School band director, and Gina Wakefield, Washington Middle School band director; and Megan Murray, Jamestown High School band director, led more than 100 students playing “Taps” outside their houses in the first “Taps” Across Jamestown. A banner was also presented to Jason Kathman and Cristin Hockenberry, who led Bush Elementary School fourth graders through exercise to create Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons.

“The honorees were chosen by committee from submissions all over the state,” Schnars said. “These are not submitted by the school district themselves; they’re submitted by people who have seen or heard about those programs and send them in to the NYSBBA offices. There are many fine programs submitted each quarter and it is indeed a great honor to be selected to receive one of these awards. But it’s absolutely unprecedented for Jamestown to have two awards presented in this same quarter. During a very difficult year our teachers here have continued to be creative in initiating exciting and meaningful lessons for their students. I am so very proud of their accomplishments and know that I share that pride with our entire board.”

The awards are part of the Be the Change for Kids initiative which celebrates programs at optimize existing resources, demonstrate strong student academic performance and introduce unique learning environments that are cutting-edge and future-oriented.

From left, Marc Lentsch, Persell Middle School band director; Carrie Pawelski, Jefferson Middle School band director; Meghan Murray, JHS Band Director; Gina Wakefield, Washington Middle School band director; and Christine Schnars, NYSSBA Area 3 director and JPS Board of Education member. P-J photo by John Whittaker

Bush Elementary School fourth graders became Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon makers in Hockenberry’s class. Students wrote a persuasive essay for the Macy’s parade committee explaining why their balloon should be included in the annual parade. Mrs. Hockenberry collaborated with Jason Kathman, Jamestown Public Schools technology integration specialist, to have the students create a photograph of their balloons, complete with a new background, using their iPads.

“I want to give Cristin Hockenberry credit for the project that got recognized today,” Kathman said. “This was her brainchild. Their job was to write a persuasive essay to a fictitious group of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. Their job was to find something in their house that should be a balloon and then write their essay. My job is to help them photograph it and drop that into their essay. I’m really glad that Cristin is getting this kind of recognition and that her class is getting this kind of recognition. She’s a creative and thoughtful educator. This was a really fun project and I want to thank all of your for your support for how much you support and use instructional technology and devices in the classroom. We wouldn’t be able to do this kind of thing if every kid didn’t have a device and if we didn’t have creative teachers like Cristin working alongside our kids”

The “Taps Across Jamestown” program was a collaborative effort between Lentsch, Pawelski, Wakefield and Murray. There was a video of each student who participated as well as videos of the teachers playing. Students were instructed to play “Taps” outside their houses at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day to coincide with the official date and time of the nationwide celebration, also coinciding with the 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice of World War I, the original impetus for Veterans Day. Lentsch said the teachers were in regular communication with parents who helped us record the performances and keep everything on schedule.

“This is great,” Lentsch said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “We appreciate how much you support the music department with your time and everything that you do for us. We struggle every year to try to put together what I term authentic music-making experiences for our kids — something that relates music and music education to everyday life. So when we got the chance this year, were almost forced to do something different because of COVID, to combine music and music education along with history and what Veterans Day has turned into all the way from World War I into Veterans Day, with civic responsibility, it was a win for us — for our kids and for our community.”

The proposed 2021-22 school budget also includes money for additional devices for students to replace devices that are aging out of circulation. Later during Tuesday’s meeting, school board members approved roughly $50,600 for new music equipment as part of the district’s music equipment replacement plan.

From left, Jason Kathman, Jamestown Public Schools technology integration specialist, Cristin Hockenberry, Bush Elementary School fourth grade teacher, accepting a Champions of Change for Kids Award from Christine Schnars, a member of the Jamestown Public Schools and New York State School Association boards. P-J photo by John Whittaker

“Mr. (Dana) Williams (Jamestown High School principal) contacted me today and he couldn’t be here tonight, but he echoed our sentiments about how proud we are of our music program,” said Paul Abbott, Jamestown Public Schools board president. “We always talk about the things that give our district curb appeal and our music program certainly is right there front and center. My own children experienced it and so many of us up here have children who have experienced it. We do know how hard all of you work and I’m especially proud in these difficult times that we’re not just shrugging our shoulders and (saying) ‘Well, we’ll get back to our music program when these times pass.’ We’re continuing with the great work that you’ve always performed. I want to thank you for that. I’m very happy that recognition is being spread throughout the state.”


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