• CUFSD Newsletter

    January 2024 - Home of the Hambletonians

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    Cover of January 2024 newsletter

Students learn together across schools, grades

  • CA, CES collaborate on projects that teach them leadership and higher-level thinking skills

    Students and teachers across grades and schools are participating in team-driven, collaborative learning projects where they are supporting one another. One of those projects, the Monster Exchange, involved first-grade students at Chester Elementary School designing monsters for seventh grade students at Chester Academy to produce.

    “The kids really love being able to support each other, and they love that connection,” said Crisseda Besson, who organizes the Monster Exchange – which is in its second year – and teaches the Advanced Foods Class at Chester Academy.

    The first graders designed what they wanted their monsters to look like. The middle school students then took the designs and sewed the monsters together.

    Later, the seventh graders visited CES to give them to the students.

    “I really liked participating in this project because it was really nice to see the students' faces when they got their monster,” said Jazalynn Hernandez, a seventh grader. “It was a little hard to create the monster because the elementary school students were very detailed, but I would definitely do it again,” she said.

    “It was really exciting to work with the students, even though I wasn’t sure how it would turn out,” said Surilyn Cespedes, a seventh grader. “The student who got my monster said that it was even better than he imagined, which was really nice.”

    Collaborative learning among grade levels is apparent in other projects as well. Jennifer Daly, who teaches the Introduction to Health Careers class, has her seniors and juniors collaborate with the first and second graders at the elementary school on a book project.

    One of the things we work on are soft skills like communication, time management, and organization,” said Mrs. Daly. “Their final project is to create a children’s book based on a soft skill.” The seniors in her class design a children’s book with their own illustrations and writing.”

    “They’re reading to the elementary school students because it’s nice community building for them and it’s a nice way to give back,” said Mrs. Daly.

    Stephanie Steiler, who teaches seventh grade English at CA, has her students write, “Where I’m From” poems and read them to the first graders.

    In May, students in this class will write the poems that detail different unique experiences related to their background, culture and home. Then, they share these poems with first graders at CES.

    “It’s nice for the students because they get to go back to the elementary school, where they used to be and some of them even see their old teachers,” said Ms. Steiler. “So it’s a nice moment for them.”

    All of these projects focus on community service and giving students in CA and CES a unique learning experience.

    “The collaboration between our young learners at CES and our students at Chester Academy is an opportunity to foster growth and unity within our school community,” said Superintendent Catherine O’Hara.

    “These innovative projects not only ignite the creative spark within our students but also cultivate their communication, collaboration, and leadership skills. Our teachers and staff continue to provide engaging learning experiences both within and outside the classroom, underscoring our student-centered, future-focused, and team-driven mission.”

    Two boys with projects

    Two girls with projeccts

    Two students with projects

Important Dates

  • February 5- 8th Grade Parents Night
    February 7- SEPTSA Meeting
    February 12-16- Multicultural Week
    February 13- PTSA Meeting
    February 14- Board of Education
    February 15- PTA Meeting
    February 19-23- February Recess
    February 28- Board of Education
    February 29- Junior Parent Night
    March 11- V/JV Spring Season, Pre-K/ K Registration
    March 13- Board of Education Meeting
    March 15- Frozen Kids- 5th Grade Musical
    March 25-29- Spring Recess

Fifth-grade class representatives express their voice, opinions

  • Fifth-grade class representatives at Chester Elementary School have the opportunity to voice their opinions and suggestions on behalf of their grade-level peers this year during monthly lunches. Students work together to plan what the end of their year is going to look like, including fifth-grade graduation and activities during the last week of school.

    Students must be in good academic standing to participate, which motivates them to get good grades and have their voices heard. Students work together to lead school-wide initiatives as well as provide input on fifth grade graduation and end-of-year activities.

    Representatives from CES, through their engagement in campaigns, not only learned the art of speech-writing and public speaking but also gained insights into the significance of advocating for others.

    These students, positioned as leaders within their grade level and school, are committed to sustaining the CES culture of continuous growth while fostering a positive and welcoming school environment.

    “You want someone who will have your voice heard and distribute ideas fairly,” said Emalie Baez, a fifth-grade class representative at CES.

    Throughout the campaigning process students must show good sportsmanship, responsibility, respect, readiness and honesty.

    Students who campaigned successfully and got selected as class representatives were able to organize the Human Rights March in December, which took place in honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students hope to be able to organize a trip to the United Nations building in New York City, where the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights document is housed.

    “We collaborate to work together to come up with different ideas to present to the School Board and other adults that will help us with our ideas,” said Arielle Thomas, a fifth-grade student representative.

    “We look forward to seeing what these students and the fifth-grade class will take on this year,” said Mary Kate Boesch, principal of Chester Elementary School.

    A boy speaks at a podium

TSTT focuses on authentic teaching experiences

  • The Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT) program is in its second successful year at Chester Academy. The program is focused on identifying students of diverse backgrounds and inviting them into the field of education through authentic experiences.

    As highlighted on their website, TSTT boasts a track record of producing over 250 graduates, all of whom are now teachers, with a remarkable 100% placement rate.

    The program has garnered national recognition from the US Department of Education, noted as “an innovative program that embodies many of the goals and objectives for educational excellence.”

    In the TSTT program, students are required to begin their journey in either 9th or 10th grade, marked by the program’s high expectations for internship hours and project completion within a set timeframe. TSTT prides itself on a mission dedicated to “recruiting, mentoring, and training culturally diverse students from high school through college,” aiming to place them as effective teachers and committed leaders who strengthen schools and communities.

    Students enrolled in the program must fulfill a 20-hour summer internship, facilitated with the support of Chester Union Free School District teachers leading the summer school program. Throughout the school year, students shadow teachers to observe and learn the many aspects involved in being a teacher. Second-year students contribute to the program by offering peer tutoring sessions.

    Upon completion of the TSTT program at Chester Academy, students gain the valuable opportunity for reduced tuition at 50 colleges and universities currently partnered with TSTT. This not only provides real-world application for students, but also opens doors to future opportunities beyond high school and college.

    The program is spearheaded by Dayanara Garcia, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and district mentor of the program. Leiny Valet, an English teacher at Chester Academy, is the teacher mentor of the program. Ms. Valet participated in a similar program, New York City Teaching Fellows, and is able to give students advice from her experience in New York Teaching Fellows and the transition to teaching in real time.

    During the school year, students shadow a teacher in the class and take notes. They have the option to shadow math, science or English classes. Second-year students conduct peer tutoring. Through these different opportunities, students receive real-world teaching experience before starting their own careers.

    “One of the internships was at the Academy and I worked with the middle schoolers. The other one was at the elementary school,” said Faith Villanueva, a junior, who is in her second year of the TSTT program.

    “Everyone is around to help,” said Christian Calloway, a 10th grade student in the program. “One thing that I really liked is that during the summer we went over to the elementary school. I felt like I was in the teacher’s shoes and it felt nice to be a part of it.”

    two students sitting at desk looking over papers

    student reading to elementary school students

CA students explore new opportunities in Makerspace

  • The new Chester Academy Makerspace has been a vibrant hub of creativity and innovation, serving as a multi-purpose area that cultivates a collaborative environment for students, teachers, and staff.

    Several noteworthy projects have already come to life within the makerspace incorporating collaboration between Family & Consumer Sciences, Art and Music classes. Some examples include seventh-grade students designing and creating their own personalized FUNKO pop figures representing their dream careers, and engineering globally inspired pan flutes as a component of their general music class. The technological applications of AutoCAD and 3D printing were incorporated throughout these projects.

    Digital design proficiency while using the vinyl cutter was evidenced in projects such as the Drumline T-shirts in grade 12, while laser cutters were used by ninth-grade students in Creative Arts as they worked to design their own abstract monograms.

    In Family and Consumer Science, middle school students collaborated with high school students to design and create custom-themed cookie cutters.

    Looking forward, many more projects are coming up in the makerspace. Students will be using the laser cutter for a mythological card exchange, grade 6 will be creating an Egyptian typography map using the CNC router in their social studies classes, where students will feel the Nile as well as hills and other geographical features. Ninth grade ecology will also be creating artisan syrup bottles using laser cutters.

    These diverse projects underscore the versatility of the makerspace, and continued opportunities for students to explore their interests across disciplines.

    students talking near desktop computer

    student working on a digital design on desktop computer

CES Makerspace program continues growth across all grades

  • The Chester Elementary School Makerspace is thriving with creativity and innovation. Students continue to engage in learning experiences that include the Engineering Design Process, Problem-Based Learning, Robotics and Business/Career partnerships.

    Students in kindergarten through fifth grade participate in weekly challenges in robotics aligned to content area skills while reinforcing programming, precision, critical thinking and problem solving.

    First and second grade students have been working with the robot Indi. First grade is learning about color and how color sensors work. They were able to learn and experiment with commands that varied command sequences using colored pads.

    Fourth grade went on a trip in November on a sailboat called the Sloop, located in the Hudson Valley. With robotics, they’ll be creating a ferryboat that moves. This is an effort to incorporate what students are learning in their social studies classes into their robotics class as well. They will also be creating commercials using a green screen and video editing software.

    Fifth grade will be getting to know the robot, Root, made by the company Roomba. The same company that makes the popular robotic vacuums used in homes.

    A number of these students have Roomba’s,” said Ms. Rende. “So they’re able to make those connections and say, ‘Oh, the same company? They applied it from the vacuum to make this and improved it?’ They’re able to see those steps.”

    As students are able to make these connections, they are introduced to the different varieties of how robots function and their different uses.

    “One of the projects that fifth graders will be doing is that they are going to program Root to draw a shape,” said Ms. Rende. “Then they will be playing shape charades with preschool. We’ll have pre-schoolers come in, have the robot do the charade, and the pre-schoolers will have to guess what the shape is.”

    students playing with robot car


2 Students to Attend Youth Seminar in Albany

  • Two Chester Academy students – Zia Ohene and Brooke Battiato – will be attending this year’s Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership Seminar, a three-day seminar in May where students will live on campus at SUNY Albany and develop their leadership skills and strengths.

    The Chester Union Free School District was able to fund one student to attend and worked with the Kiwanis Club of Chester to fund a second student.

    In order to get into the program students write an essay answering the prompt, “Describe the most rewarding and challenging aspects of being a leader in your school community.”

    “I really like this program specifically because they send sophomore students,” said Jenny McKenzie, a school counselor at Chester Academy. “HOBY’s main goal is ‘growth’ so sending students who are sophomores really relates back to that and it’s great that they get to have this experience.”

    At the seminar, students will be able to participate in many different workshops and activities and get to know other students from all over New York State.

Voice Ensemble performs at Radio City

  • Voice Ensemble students from Chester Academy embarked on an extraordinary journey to Radio City Music Hall, where they took center stage as the opening act for The Christmas Spectacular on December 11, 2023. Here is what a few students who performed had to say about their performance!

    David Bermudez: “It was a very warm welcome, especially for something like that happening for the first time. It was really nice. As we were walking up to the stage, there were people saying, ‘You guys are going to be great,’ and cheering us on before we got on the stage. And, that was a really nice experience.”

    Krista Bucci: “Being able to perform in such a beautiful hall, and having the acoustics in there – our voices sounded so much better than normal. We were really surprised at how talented we were and how good we sounded.”

    Imani Curtis “At first it was really scary as we were walking up and we saw how many people were in the crowd. I think it went really well and our nerves went away.”

    Michael Miller: “I think it was a very exciting experience for all of us to come together and be able to have this opportunity. We fundraised for months to get to where we were and it was such an awesome experience for us to go and have that experience. It was breathtaking, for me, especially, because I want to go into musical education and theater. It was such a wild experience, especially being a senior. It’s something I’ll be able to take with me forever and tell my future students.”

    Joella Podolsky: “It felt like a dream from the day that we found out we were going to go to the day that we were actually up on the stage. It felt surreal and it felt like a great thrill.”

    Under the guidance of their instructor, Rachel Scali, this marks a significant achievement for our talented students. Congratulations to the Voice Ensemble class for their amazing performance!

    students on stage at Radio City music hall

Students respond to Multicultural Club’s first survey

  • The Multicultural Club at Chester Academy continues to support a welcoming and inclusive environment district-wide.

    The club sent out a survey to both middle school and high school students to gain more input regarding culture, climate, perspectives and activities, and how the Multicultural Club can help.

    “I started it because there was a student who was concerned about not seeing their specific culture being represented,” said Elijah Curtis, a member of the club. “I wanted to use the survey as a specific way to gather what the school thought about the Multicultural Club and also ask them if there were different things they wanted to see in the school. Things they thought we were doing well and things they thought we could improve on. Just an overall review.”

    The anonymous survey gained about 60 responses from Academy students. The club is already planning ideas to launch and promote a second survey to gather more input from students.

    “I want to create papers with the question, ‘What do you want to have shown in the school.’ I want to have those around so people can pick it up, fill it out and put it in a box. So they can visualize it,” said Elijah.

    The Multicultural Club is also planning a week of events and an assembly during February in honor of Black History Month. The assembly will be held February 16, the last day before break. The middle school segment will be held periods 2-5 and the high school segment will be held periods 6-9.

    In hoping for more results for the survey, Ms. Leiny Valet, the club advisor, suggested sending a second survey after the Black History Month assembly as another way to gain more student feedback. The assembly will include different opportunities for students and staff to perform or share something with their school community. There will be a “Still I Rise” open mic poetry segment, a music game of old school vs. new school and a fashion show. The assembly will also feature performances from the Voice Ensemble class and the Chester Step Club.

    “Black History Month is so much more than a learning opportunity for the history classroom,” said Ms. Valet.

    The Multicultural Club continues its efforts to celebrate all students to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment at Chester.

Imani Curtis engaging students, teachers on Board of Education

  • Imani Curtis, a senior at Chester Academy, is an engaged student representative of the Board of Education. Her main job as a student representative is gathering feedback from her peers and teachers and bringing that information to the Board to ensure that their thoughts and opinions about what’s going on in the school are heard.

    “I go around to the teachers and students and talk about the student experience at the school,” said Imani. “How certain events went and the students' reaction to it. For example, advisory, because it’s new. I want to give the student experience and tell the Board how it’s going. And, possibly give ideas of how things could go better.”

    She presents this information to the board at meetings during its roundtable segment.

    Imani is involved in the school’s track team, National Honor Society and Multicultural Club as well as the community Key Club. One of her main goals has been to spread the word about opportunities in clubs within the school, so that clubs run by seniors will have more underclassmen to carry on.

    “When she applied (to be the student rep for the Board), it was hard not to recognize how invaluable she would be on the Board,” said CA Principal John Flanagan. “One thing she’s really working on is trying to get the younger kids involved in clubs and get them out there. As the younger kids are coming in, she’s getting the word out so kids can know about the clubs and what they’re about.”

    Imani has worked to share club fliers and promote the events that clubs are holding.

    “I think it’s important for students to have a voice because a lot of things that happen in the school affect us,” said Imani. “Having a say in what works best for you, especially since everyone learns differently and everyone has a different level of comfortability when it comes to participation. I want to keep reaching out and try to bring a different perspective every time.”

    student smiling for camera

CES recycles plastic for Trex bench

  • The Chester Elementary School Green Team is partnering with Kiwanis Club of Chester to participate in the NexTrex Recycling Challenge.

    CES is working to collect 1,000 pounds of plastic film. Once they reach their goal, they will receive a Trex Buddy bench for their school. Trex is a company that creates eco-friendly outdoor living products. They started the NexTrex program, which sponsors recycling programs throughout the country. Then they partner with different counties, cities, localities, or municipalities for the program to collect 1,000 pounds of plastic film. Once that community collects 1,000 pounds, they are awarded with a Trex buddy bench.

    “It’s a great way to partner with the community, and support the students’ learning by a hands-on activity,” said Sandy Nagler, President of the School Board and project volunteer. “Students are able to participate in a project where they are involved and learn why we should recycle.”

    Mrs. Nagler is also a member of Kiwanis and Northeast USA District Chair for Kiwanis Children’s Fund. The Kiwanis is partnering with Chester Elementary School for the recycling challenge. She as well as other Kiwanians help with transportation of the plastic to the drop-off location in Middletown.

    In addition to Kiwanis, the Chester Food Pantry is also participating in this challenge.

    CES Principal Mary Kate Boesch, third-grade teacher Lori Bonito and the Green Team are working hard to make this initiative a success.

    This project started in November, and they have 12 months to collect all 1,000 pounds. In November, they collected 73.5 pounds and in December, they collected 94.5 pounds. The Green Team only has 832 pounds to go for their 1,000 pound goal. Once the plastic film is collected at CES, members of Kiwanis take the bags to the drop off site.

    CES remains steadfast in its "Go Green" initiatives, as students, staff, parents, and families work together to achieve a sustainable and environmentally friendly future. CES invites students and families to participate in the challenge by bringing in plastic. All plastic must be clean, dry and free of food residue. Please keep sending in plastic so that CES can reach its goal!

    recycling bags filled with recycling

  • Scholar Athlete Teams are determined every winter, fall and spring season. In order to qualify as a Scholar Athlete Team, 75% of the roster must have a cumulative average above 90.

    |his fall, every one of the Chester Academy fall varsity teams – Boys Cross Country, Girls Soccer, Boys Soccer, Volleyball, Football and Girl Swimming – qualified as an NYSPHSAA Scholar Athlete Team. Congratulations!

    Boys soccer team

    swimmer diving into pool

    girls volleyball team posing for picture