Tag Archives: Plank North Elementary

On ducklings and merry-go-rounds

6 May

Today I bring you a short tale about a young Plank North family, a bully, and resilience.

The central characters of our story are Mama and Papa Duck. For at least ten years now, these two mallards (we assume they’re the same two) have been returning every spring to Plank North Elementary School to build their nest.

They usually choose a different location on the school grounds every year to settle down. Twice they’ve nested near the second grade classrooms on the west side of the building, once under the pear tree by the receiving doors, and once in front of the office window. One year they even made their nest on the school’s roof, which became obvious when staff members saw the ducklings jumping off the roof one day.

Second grade teacher Sheila O’Hanlon has kind of become the ducks’ overseer, keeping an eye out for them every year, and making sure everyone knows where they are so students don’t get too near the nest and spook Mama and Papa.

“It’s always about this time of year” that the ducks return, Sheila said. “The eggs take about 28 days to mature, and they usually stay for a few days until the babies are big enough to waddle off. We think they head down Scribner to a little pond by the side of the road.”

Sure enough, about three weeks ago, Mama and Papa Duck returned, this time tucking their nest under the merry-go-round on one of the school’s playgrounds. As soon as the new nest was discovered, staff members put up signs and yellow warning tape to keep kids away.

For a couple of weeks, Mama could be seen every day sitting on her nest, protecting what we all suspected was a clutch of eggs.

Then, one day, a fox was spotted on the school grounds. Not long after that, Mama and Papa Duck were gone and the nest was empty.

For a while the ducks were nowhere to be seen. But recently, we saw Mama and Papa again, exploring the school grounds. The nest is still empty, but at least the young parents are still around. We all hope they’ve made another nest somewhere, better hidden from Mr. Fox. Maybe it’s down by that little pond.

In any case, we fully expect these resilient young parents to return again next year to raise an adorable family of fluffy ducklings. Perhaps they should go back to the roof…..

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Schlegel and Plank North staff members are running around the Great Lakes!

28 Mar

Well, not really. They’re talking virtually running, and it’s actually only around Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. But still, it’s a pretty big challenge.

The event is being called the “Tour Around the Lakes,” a virtual race designed to promote teamwork and community, while encouraging everyone to get out and exercise and have a little fun.

The idea is based on the many virtual distance races that have been organized during the pandemic. In those, racers would track their daily miles over a period of several weeks in an effort to travel a pre-determined route — like, for example, from Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park or around the Ring of Kerry. For the Tour Around the Lakes, over the next 11 weeks, racers — working in teams of seven or eight — will try to log enough miles by running, walking or cycling to virtually circumnavigate Lakes Ontario and Erie, a distance of 1100 miles. Progress will be updated every week on the Tour Around the Lakes bulletin boards posted at each school.

The race began last Monday and will continue through June 11. Schlegel Rd. Elementary is fielding six teams, and Plank Rd. North has four. The competition was fierce from the start. It started heating up even before the race started when word got out that bonus points were being handed out for the first teams to come up with team names and photos. The schools will not be competing against each other, but only within their buildings … or at least that’s the plan right now. (An inter-school rivalry might be an extra incentive, however.) I expect much trash-talking will ensue.

The team names already show how much fun everyone is having. The Schlegel teams are Sole Sisters, Fueled by Caffeine, Chicks With Kicks, Ready for Anything, Not Fast Just Furious, and Are We There Yet? At Plank North the teams are Green and Bold, Sore Today, Strong Tomorrow, Heart and Sole, and Get Me an Uber.

The Tour Around the Lakes is similar to an event both schools participated in last spring, a virtual relay. For that challenge, everyone who wanted to take part first signed up for a half-hour relay “leg.” Then on one day April, you would run, walk or bike during your appointed time, and “hand off” the virtual baton to the next relay participant via a text or phone call.

It was a great way to keep staff members connected after the schools shut down in March. Everyone had a terrific time and appreciated having an excuse to get outside and get a little exercise. This year’s Tour Around the Lakes should be no different.

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Were you at Plank North in 1976? You’re in this time capsule.

18 Oct
The time capsule was actually a large Thermos cooler.

Do you remember 1976? Happy Days was one of the most popular shows on TV. A first-class stamp cost 13 cents. The $2 bill was introduced with great fanfare. Ross Willink was Webster School District’s superintendent.

And, of course, 1976 was the year of our nation’s bicentennial. It was probably that fact in particular which motivated Plank North Elementary School to create a time capsule, filled with items depicting world events, school life and pop culture of the time.

The school chose to “plant” its time capsule — actually a large, red, white and blue Thermos cooler — on June 14, 1976, where the event took center stage at the annual Flag Day ceremony. Each class had chosen a different object to include in the capsule. The objects were presented one at a time, along with an explanation of why each had been chosen.

Some of the more than two dozen items included in the time capsule. Click below to see a gallery of everything.

No one seems to know where the time capsule spent the next 25 years. But we do know that in 2001, on the appointed day, it was opened at a school-wide assembly to the delight of students and teachers alike.

That was not the end of its travels, however. Some time after that assembly, the time capsule found its way to the Webster Museum, where is has spent much of the last 19 years in the museum’s attic.

Last week, it came back home to Plank North again, courtesy Bill Schoff, a former Plank North second grade teacher, and currently a volunteer for the Webster Museum.

Schoff is part of the museum’s “attic and inventory” crew, who are working on clearing out a lot of stuff to make more space. When they came across the cooler, they thought Plank North would like it back, and perhaps share some of the items with today’s students.

Schoff was on staff at Plank North that day in 2001 when teachers and students gathered for the assembly to open the 25-year old time capsule.

He remembers, “When the poster of Fonzie was pulled out, we asked the kids if they knew who it was. One student replied, ‘One of the teachers?'” We adults got a kick out of that one.”

Sharing the cooler with the Fonzie posted was a TV Guide with Sonny and Cher on the cover, a Holly Hobbie doll, copies of the Democrat and Chronicle and the Webster Herald, and almost two dozen other items. Each class’s written description of their object was included in a folder with a class photo. And someone had compiled a scrapbook of playground photos, complete with captions.

I took photos of everything in the time capsule, so you can check them all out for yourself. CLICK HERE to see that photo gallery.

Please feel free to share this blog with anyone you know who attended or taught at Plank North back then (I was out of town, graduating high school). And if you have any stories to share about the assembly or the time capsule, drop me a line!

It’s very interesting to read the explanations of why each object was chosen and what children thought the world would look like in 2001.

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Things are looking good this COVID school year

3 Oct

So we’ve made it to October.

We’re several weeks into the new school year and things — at least from my perspective — are going pretty well.

I’m sure I’m not the only one pleasantly surprised that we’ve gotten this far before having to shut down again due to the virus. I credit that success to the behaviors I have seen in the two elementary schools I work at.

When classes move through the halls, often times the children have their hands out in front of them to maintain social distancing. They are paying attention to the little spots on the floor which tell them where to stand when they’re waiting in line for the restroom. They don’t seem to mind sitting widely spaced from their friends while they’re in their room.

But I’m particularly impressed by the way young students have come to accept the need to wear masks.

The teachers have done a wonderful job making the need for masks seem normal, incorporating it into their class songs and bulletin boards. I haven’t heard about any pushback from the students about the masks (even though the pre-K and kindergarten kiddoes often have to be reminded to pull it up over their noses). Clearly, putting on a mask for school has become as normal for them as bringing their backpack. (Thank you also to parents for supporting that!)

There have been some rough spots, of course. Elementary school arrival and dismissal procedures were rather inefficient for the first week or so as schools tried to streamline their procedures for the large number of children being dropped off and picked up by parents. But things seem to be running pretty smoothly now, allowing teachers their maximum opportunity to be with their morning and afternoon classes.

I understand that accommodating the large number of remote students at the middle and high school levels has also been a challenge which we’re still trying to work through.

Most definitely this year has dealt some very real difficulties to our Webster CSD families, especially those with very young children. But, given the circumstances, I think everyone is doing the best they can.

We just have to keep doing that for as long as we need to. We will weather this storm together.

Schlegel Elementary School staff members rocking their masks for a group photo on opening day.

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The best gifts a teacher could ask for

9 Sep
Plank North Principal “Mr. B” greets a young student

“This is like Christmas Day, and the presents are going to keep coming until 3:00.”

That’s the way Plank North Elementary School Principal Craig Bodensteiner put it yesterday morning, as he greeted students arriving for the school’s pre-opening-day meet-and greet, a chance for the kids to drop off some supplies and check in with their new teachers.

That feeling was evident in room after room as teachers enthusiastically welcomed their students back into their classrooms. You could almost feel the entire school heave a huge sigh of happiness as rooms were — finally — filled with laughter and chatter once again.

Some of Plank North’s youngest students check out their new kindergarten room.

As Plank North Assistant Principal Heather Balsamo said, “We’ve been waiting for this day since March 16.”

Teacher and student smiles were so big, they almost burst through the masks. Clearly the students were as excited as the teachers to be back.

Things are going to be different this year, in so many ways. But one main thing will not have changed: how much our teachers and staff members love our students, and how dedicated they are to making sure every single one gets a quality education this fall, whether they’re in a classroom or studying remotely.

Plank North’s kindergarten students even got a chance to check out a school bus during their visit.

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Plank North celebrates their fifth graders

7 Jun

Much like our high school seniors, Webster’s fifth graders are losing out on a lot of celebration as they near the end of this school year.

Normally these last few weeks of fifth grade would be filled with awards ceremonies, field days and parties. But of course nothing like that can happen this year thanks to the pandemic. So elementary schools across the district are coming up with creative ways to celebrate our fifth graders’ achievements. On Friday night, Plank North Elementary did that by hosting a fifth grade parade through the bus loop.

Staff members spread out along the entire length of the bus loop with banners, flags and decorated cars, and welcomed students and their families with big waves and cheers as they drove through the bus loop. (Most of the families decorated their cars for the celebration as well.) Upon reaching the front of the building, “graduating” fifth grader received awards and gifts from the school, and wished good luck as they head off to Spry Middle School.

Clearly the teachers enjoyed the evening as much of the kids. Even under all the masks they were wearing, you could tell that the staff members’ grins were a mile wide.

Here are some photos from the evening:

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Golden Apple Award follow-up

30 Apr

CindyAs I ramp my blogging back up from my newly situated dining room table/office, I’d like to begin by posting a long-overdue follow-up.

Back on April 8, my good friend and Plank Rd. North teaching colleague Cindy Barnard was surprised with a Golden Apple Award from WROC-TV channel 8. She was in the school’s library with her kindergarten class when the news crew arrived to present the award. You can read more about that happy event in this blog I wrote.

It took a few weeks for film of the presentation to make it to the newscast, but WROC did finally run it last week. Click here to see it.

It was a fitting tribute to an excellent teacher and an even better person.

film of Cindy

Click here to see video of Cindy Barnard’s Golden Apple award presentation. 

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Plank North teacher earns Golden Apple

8 Apr

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Plank North kindergarten teacher Cindy Barnard with Brooklyn

I am pleased and proud to spread the news that my good friend and Plank Rd. North Elementary School teaching colleague Cindy Barnard received a Golden Apple Award from WROC-TV Channel 8 Friday morning!

Cindy was in the school library with her kindergarten class, lured down there by an admitted “fib” from Principal Craig Bodensteiner,  when Channel 8 came in to present the award.

Brooklyn Lown’s mother Lindsay nominated Cindy for the award.

It was clearly an emotional moment for Cindy; after the requisite interviews and photos were completed, she had her class help her do some mindful breathing to calm her nerves.

Afterwards, she told me, “I feel blessed to have been working for Webster for 22 years, and I have been at Plank North the entire time. I call everyone at Plank North my family.”

The presentation and interview were captured on camera, and will be aired in a few weeks. As soon as I know when it will be on, I will be sure to share that information.

 

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Webster teachers take the plunge

11 Feb

We got some of the greatest teachers in the world here in Webster.

Sunday at noon, I joined about a dozen of my Webster school district teaching colleagues to participate in the 2019 Polar Plunge at Ontario Beach Park to benefit Special Olympics.

If you consider how bad the weather could have been (think back to our recent cold snap and high winds), it actually was a pretty nice day to go take a dip in a frozen lake. I mean, we had bright sunshine, the temperature was in the mid-20s, and there was barely any wind to speak of.

But let me be clear. It was cold. Teeth-chattering cold. Especially when all you’re wearing is a t-shirt and shorts. And that was before you actually went into the lake. The nice Rochester City Parks folks were kind enough to carve a swimming area out of the ice for all the plungers, but it was still like wading through a Slushie.

This was my first Polar Plunge, as it was for most of my colleagues. I believe I speak for many of us when I say I probably would not have done it alone. But having a supportive group of friends shivering right along with me made the whole experience a lot more bearable — and dare I say it? — enjoyable.

But here’s the best part: thanks to the generosity of our friends and Webster colleagues, our WTA team raised $5,000 for Special Olympics, placing us on the top-10 honor roll for team donations. 

These are your kids’ teachers, folks. We are lucky to live and work in the Webster Central School District.

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Two holiday events to start the season

1 Dec

IMG_9869

At St. Martin last night, this young lady had to make sure her letter to Santa was placed in his mailbox before visiting with him. 

Happy December!

There are so many holiday events on the calendar over the next few weeks. This weekend is a particularly busy one, with the White Christmas in the Village celebration today leading the list.

I can’t make it to every one, but I did catch a few community parties last night at St. Martin Lutheran Church and Plank Rd. North Elementary School.

St. Martin’s annual Christmas party is terrific. And it’s always the first place every Christmas season that I get to see Santa. The church’s community room is nicely decorated, the volunteers are dressed like elves, there’s free pizza and cookies, and the Girl Scouts run games for the children.

I was really impressed how volunteers were taking beautiful photos of children with Santa, then immediately running them off on a color printer for parents to take home with them. What a treasure.

Here’s a little video of photos from the evening:

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Plank North’s Share the Season is always fun as well. There’s caroling around the piano, Christmas cookies to be frosted and sprinkled, and lots of holiday crafts — ornaments and wreaths — which kids and adults make to be donated to different community agencies.

Here are some photos from last night:

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I’ll be walking around with my camera all afternoon today, and definitely during the parade of lights tonight. Hope to see you all!

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