Little Free Library set up at Harry Hoag Elementary School

Jackie Kennedy once said, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

Gallup and her class with the new Little Free Library.
Gallup and her class with the new Little Free Library.

Since October is National Book Month, Fort Plain first-grade teacher Kyra Gallup took the first lady’s thought to heart. She and her class put the finishing touches on their own Little Free Library on the Harry Hoag Elementary School playground last Wednesday.

“I started working on it over the summer and my class and I were so excited to go out and stock it full of great books,” Gallup said. “The hope is that the box stays constantly filled with great books and that our children get the chance to be exposed to more books than before.”

The new Little Free Library.
The new Little Free Library.

The concept of a Little Free Library – a free standing outdoor cabinet where books can be taken and left for others free of charge – is an international movement that started in 2009 to give as many people access to books and knowledge as possible. More details about the project are available at littlefreelibrary.org.

“Our Little Free Library has books for every children of all grade levels from preschool up to sixth grade,” Gallup said. “We stocked ours with chapter, nonfiction, story, and joke books.”

Currently, one of Fort Plain’s current first graders, Molly Shults, is working on getting another Little Free Library built in Haslett Park next to Main Street. Shults has even gone before the Fort Plain Village Board to get approval for the project.

“That is just the beginning. You never know what other books might appear,” Gallup said. “We are hoping that there will be even more Little Free Libraries popping up around Fort Plain. Anyone can make one!”

Students helping students: Jr./Sr. High Schoolers pack food for Harry Hoag students

Students in Lisa Petty’s Life Skills class at the Junior/Senior High School pack up bags once a week.

Life Skills students pack bags of food for Harry Hoag students to take home.The seventh graders through seniors aren’t packing up to go on a vacation every Tuesday or Thursday mornings. Instead, they stuff macaroni and cheese, Ramen noodles, oatmeal, granola bars, and fruit snacks into decorated paper bags for selected Harry Hoag Elementary School students to eat over the weekend.

“This is something that we started doing three years ago. It is a small gesture that, we hope, makes a big difference,” Petty said. “These kids love to help others. That is something we all need in our lives.”

The food items are purchased every week by Liberty ARC, the Montgomery County Chapter of NYSARC, Inc., which is a statewide advocacy organization serving people with disabilities through 48 member Chapters. After all the food is packed the Life Skills students take it up the road to Harry Hoag to be distributed to elementary students on Fridays.

Life Skills students pack up food for Harry Hoag students.“One of the things I appreciate most about the Fort Plain Central School District is the emphasis we place on supporting our students in and out of the classroom,” said Harry Hoag Elementary School Principal Lauren Chrisman who coordinates which students receive packages. “This program provides children with comfort beyond the school day. From my interactions with students there is a sincere gratitude for these care packages.  Healthy students are happy learners and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to help our students in this way.”

The Life Skills class is planning a roast beef dinner fundraiser at the Canajoharie-Fort Plain Elk Lodge on Thursday, November 9 to support the efforts. People are invited to eat in or take out for $10 per adults and $5 per child.

Those interested in helping in anyway with the fundraiser or the food program can contact Petty at lisa.petty@fortplain.org.

“These [older] kids are always looking out for others and that is the kind of thing that really makes this all worthwhile,” Petty said. “We are all here to help each other.”

Faculty, Staff gather for first Superintendent’s Conference Day of the year

Even though students weren’t in classes, teachers and administrators in the Fort Plain Central School District still came together for the first Superintendent’s Conference Day of the 2017-18 academic year on October 6.

David Wallace delivers his presentation to Fort Plain faculty.The day was highlighted by a pair of presentations to all Fort Plain teachers and aides about the continuation of the district’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) training from David Wallace. Wallace is the Associate Executive Director for Program Development for the LaSalle School in Albany.

“These are the kind of days where we get to go beyond the day-to-day tasks that we have and explore areas that require deeper exploration,” said Fort Plain Superintendent David Ziskin. “Days like this give us a chance to focus our efforts on topics that we might not otherwise have a chance to think about.”

Faculty and administrators in each of the school’s buildings also had breakout sessions. The Junior/Senior High School staff worked on, “Grading Smarter, Not Harder,” to assess the values of what is graded and what those grades mean. While the Harry Hoag Elementary staff had sessions about Close Readers, student management support and motivational tools, and data-driven instruction among other things.

The conference day is one of four scheduled staff development days spread throughout the school year.

“I would like to extend a great, ‘Thank You,’ to our faculty and staff for their attention and participation in all of our activities. These are the kinds of meetings and discussions that will make our schools even stronger than they already are,” Ziskin said. “I would also like to thank David Wallace for coming and speaking with us. I think that some of the perspectives and thoughts he shared will help us in the future to continue to prepare Fort Plain students for success during their time here and after graduation.”

Fort Plain wins $2,500 literacy grant

The Fort Plain Central School District has won a $2,500 Dollar General Youth Literacy grant.

The grant will benefit 40 readers in the Jr./Sr. High School in grades 8-9 who will participate in “LEGOS for Literacy.”

Instruction will take place during reading class and in the library, using LEGO WeDo 2.0 coding kits. The goal is for students to increase competency in reading fiction and functional passages. It is expected that participants will increase these reading skills by one grade level from September 2017 to May 2018.

Heroes and Sweethearts come to Harry Hoag

Facebook Gallery of the Heroes and Sweethearts Presentation

Students throughout Fort Plain’s Harry Hoag Elementary School donned capes and masks and stood up for what was right in the gymnasium on Friday.

A Fort Plain student roleplays as a superhero during an assembly at Harry hoag Elementary school.
A hero rises.

They stood up to play-acting bullies and conquered fears with self-confidence with the help of Tom Murphy, Rick Yarosh, and Amos (Yarosh’s black labrador assistant) from the Sweethearts and Heroes motivational speaking program.

“We aim to educate student not just in the traditional academics, but also in social and emotional settings. We want to help our student continue to grow into great people,” said Harry Hoag principal Lauren Chrisman. “Having Sweethearts and Heroes come in to speak with our students gives them a different perspective on the world and also the tools to be advocates for themselves and one another.”

The speaking duo and four-legged assistant are part of a group that bring a message to students around the country about the impact bullying has on schools, neighborhoods, and individuals. On Friday, they spoke about bystander empowerment, empathy and leadership to all of the elementary audiences.

A pair of Fort Plain students role play in the Heroes and Sweethearts presentation.
A hero stands up.

“Through knowledge and communication, we are committed to bringing our message to communities — not only to help the victims, but especially to empower bystanders to make a difference,” the group’s website sweetheartsandheroes.com says. “We all have the potential to be someone’s hero. The message is so universal that it can help create climates of empathy, kindness and leadership in all settings.”

A Fort Plain student talks to Amos the dog during the presentation on Friday.Murphy, who graduated from Cooperstown High School, was an academic and athletic star at the State University of New York at Brockport. With a variety of professional interests – he is a railroad control specialist, martial artist, and restaurateur – he brought passion and comedy along with his message of heroes having empathy and compassion for others.

Yarosh, who was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2006, delivered his own message about sweethearts giving him self-confidence and how Fort Plain students can do that for each other. He told a story about a five-year old girl accepting him despite the fact that he looks different due to his injuries.

“Sweethearts like her are unforgettable. A five-year old girl changed a 24-year old guy’s life,” he said. “You can do that too. You can do that everyday. You can help make another person’s life better.”

Three new teachers join Harry Hoag faculty

The school year isn’t new for just the students at the Fort Plain Central School District’s Harry Hoag Elementary School.

Four new teachers are entering their first year with the district across the school and they all come from a variety of backgrounds.

Ashley Smith

Photo of new teacher Ashley SmithSmith will teach kindergarten this year.

After getting her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the State University of New York at Cobleskill she earned her master’s from the College of St. Rose (Albany) also in Early Childhood Education.

“My favorite kind of ice cream is chocolate peanut butter cup from Stewarts,” she said. “I like to hang out with friends, go fishing, and spend time with my family. I am looking forward to working with my fellow kindergarten teachers, meeting all of my new students and their families, and fulfilling my dream of being a teacher.”

Smith grew up in Fort Plain and has always wanted to be a teacher in her hometown.

Denis DeRider

Photo of new teacher Denis DeRiderDeRider will be a 15:1 Special Education teacher this year.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Cortland where he majored in Sports Management and Marketing. He stayed on at Cortland to get his master’s degree.

“I am looking forward to meeting all of my new students,” Rider said. “I really enjoy coaching soccer, hiking, kayaking, and anything else outside.”

Incidentally, his favorite kind of ice cream is Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.

Elizabeth Bauer

Photo of new teacher Elizabeth BauerBauer joins the Harry Hoag team as a new speech and language teacher.

“I’m looking forward to helping students learn and grow their vocabulary and improve their verbal and written communication skills while doing things that are fun and interesting,” Bauer said.

She majored in Communication Disorders and Sciences at the State University of New York at Geneseo as an undergraduate and then earned a masters in Speech/Language Pathology from the College of St. Rose.

Bauer enjoys chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, hiking, camping, skiing, and playing with her sons.