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Fourth graders in Jeanne Russo’s class at Lakeview Elementary had the chance to see Assistant Superintendent Michael Tromblee in a new light when he made a Veterans Day visit to speak about his own military experience.
“All military branches have their specialty,” Tromblee said, “but they also have a lot of cross-over… In the Air Force we have ground troops just like the Army does. I was a ground troop, I flew in helicopters and operated communication equipment.”
Tromblee showed students pictures from when he served as an Airman in the United States Air Force in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Why aren’t you smiling?” a student named Emily asked as she looked at an old photo of the assistant superintendent in his dress uniform.
Without any hesitation, Tromblee said, “Because I’m trying to look tough.”
He explained the concept of ‘military bearing’, saying that it was important to exhibit a professional demeanor and not to reveal one's emotions.
The Lakeview fourth graders listened closely as Tromblee’s described his experiences in the mountains of Montana, in Italy, and even during his forward deployment to war-torn Bosnia.
“Anybody see the guy in war movies with the radio on his back,” he asked. “That was me. Talking to planes, talking to helicopters, talking to other units, that was my job.”
Tromblee described a deployment activity to Bosnia where he aided special forces operators participating in anti-sniping missions, working to address communication equipment issues their team was having.
Tromblee passed around a ‘shadow box’, containing his commendations and medals as well as a photograph of his grandfather, who served in Europe during World War II and in the Korean War.
As the class ended, Tromblee revealed a final gift for the students. He had a pile of special Mahopac ‘challenge coins’ which he handed out for the class’s excellent questions.
When the students received the substantial, shiny coins, their eyes went wide and smiles spread across their faces.
“When you get a challenge coin in the military,” the assistant superintendent said, “you have to keep it on you and always be prepared for a member of your team to ask you to show it.”
Colorful pumpkins lined the windows and walls of Susan Soltis and Danielle Romano's fourth grade class in Lakeview Elementary School.
The pumpkins were part of a creative twist on the traditional book report. Having chosen a book to read and report on, students were asked to paint a pumpkin to resemble a character from their chosen book, and then present it to the rest of the class.
Kaylee presented first.
“She’s a pug who wants to be a pumpkin,” Kaylee said, showing off her pug-faced squash. “I picked this one because Peggy the pug was afraid of Halloween, but then she overcame her fear.”
In an interesting turn of events, Kaylee’s pumpkin had become a pug for her report, much to the amusement of her classmates.
The next student to present was Francesca. She painted her pumpkin to resemble the teddy bear from a story with special significance to her.
“It’s about these children who move to a new house and accidentally leave their teddy bear behind…” Francesca said.
Francesca recently moved, so the teddy bear’s adventure spoke to the her.
The Lakeview fourth graders might have only seen one image, if any, of these characters and yet they captured their mental image and, with paint, pipe cleaners, and pumpkins, brought them to life.
A flurry of yellow and red leaves fell around the students from Mahopac’s three elementary schools as they waited for the event that they had spent weeks preparing for to begin. Students were wearing their elementary school colors: green T-shirts for Fulmar Road, black for Austin Road and yellow for Lakeview.
The 145 second, third, fourth, and fifth-grade students sat on the grass at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park listening as physical education teacher Bill Huestis prepared them for the run.
“When can we go?” one Austin Road student called out.
The students were about to run 3.1 miles in two laps around a paved, flat, circular route. Some of the students were nervous, while those who had run the 5K before were excited. After some final words of encouragement from Superintendent Christine Tona, students took to the starting line.
The shrill sound of a whistle carried across the park. The runners were off. They began in a pack but stretched out as the race progressed. Parents and teachers waited by the finish line.
After less than half an hour, students began to cross the finish line, beginning with Isaiah Mitchell who said that “the race was only a little hard.”
Mitchell and his classmates had been training for the run in the weeks leading up to the event and had participated in the run at Lakeview Elementary School the prior week.
Parents and teachers congratulated students as they poured across the finish line, handing out ribbons and medals.
When asked how he was feeling after the race, Fulmar Road student Jonathan said that he felt good about his performance, but that “I kept looking back for other runners.”
That was when another Lakeview fourth grader chimed in, saying, “I’m happy and I’m hungry.”
By 3:10 pm on Tuesday, three groups of Mahopac students had collected on the grassy hill outside of Lakeview Elementary.
Each group wore T Shirts corresponding to their elementary school, green for Lakeview, Black for Austin Road, and Yellow for Fulmar Road. All three crowds cheered and looked on in anticipation at the grass field and array of cones below. It was a day that they had been training for, the day of the Lakeview Run, which had been organized by all of the Mahopac elementary physical education teachers.
“I want to go first!” one Lakeview student called out.
That was when the first heat was called up, the oldest of the elementary school runners, the 10 to 11-year-olds. Once all of the students were corralled behind the starting line, Donn Tobin held his flag up and signaled for the first run to begin.
The oldest group ran a 1-mile-long course, while the two younger groups ran three quarters of a mile and half of a mile respectively. There was a healthy sense of competition as each of the races began and the runners spread out.
Some students slowed down, encouraging their winded classmates who were struggling to keep up and pushing them to make it to the end.
By the end the runners were exhausted. Students collected their award certificates and then made their way back to their spots on the hill to rest.
“Waiting was really nerve wracking!” fourth grader Fiona said after the race.
While many students were challenged by the distance, others were looking forward to next week’s run, the FDR Park 5k.
“I was tired,” fourth grader Scarlet said, “but I was ready for it to be harder!”
The scent of hot chocolate wafted from Robin Ambrosi’s classroom as her students filed in for a special lesson. The class was all about reading, but the Lakeview fourth graders were surprised by what their teacher had in store.
Students were greeted by jazzy coffee shop music and desks covered with “menus” and small stacks of books. Ambrosi welcomed her students to the aptly named “Starbooks” before she explained the lesson.
All of the students were instructed to sit at their assigned tables and look at the book in front of them. Each looked at the book’s title, then the text on the back cover, and then began reading the first chapter. They read for six minutes before taking a few notes about their book in the “menus” that had been provided to them. Students wrote the name of the book that they read so that they could find it again if they were interested reading it.
Ambrosi, wearing a barista apron, called each table up for some hot chocolate to enjoy while they read. Some students were already so engrossed in their reading however, that they completely missed the first call. After six minutes was up, Ambrosi got all of her students’ attention and told them to finish writing about their first book and to move on to the next table, where another book awaited them.
Once each student had traveled to their next seat, hot chocolate in hand, the process began all over again: front cover, back cover, first chapter. Principal Jennifer Pontillo stopped by as an added treat, reading part of one of her favorite stories, “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli. She, told the fourth graders that not every book could be judged by just its cover.
Just as the fourth graders were really getting into their next books, they wrote down what they thought and then went off to the next table. The exercise served to foster a sense of literary exploration in the fourth graders and expose them to many different stories that they might not have sought out on their own.
Given that several students had to be reminded repeatedly that they needed to leave one of their books behind to move on to the next table, it’s safe to say that this “book tasting” was a success.
Children are like sponges, they’ll pick up all sorts of things in their environment. Elementary school age students love to see the adults in their lives take time out of their day to involve them. Role models who set a positive example to follow are a critical part of childhood development, and children will often take words and behaviors directly from the adults around them. If mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, then that makes kindergarteners the compliment kings.
So when the principal of Lakeview Elementary School came down to Mrs. Jennifer Borst’s kindergarten class to read to the students, the entire class was listening. Principals have a lot of different responsibilities and classes to attend to, so when Principal Jen Pontillo came into this particular kindergarten classroom in person, the students were certainly surprised.
She immediately captured their attention when she announced that she was going to read them a story called, “It’s Hard to Be Five.” In an instant, the energetic kindergarteners were hypnotized; seating quickly on the carpet they began to listen intently.
“It’s Hard to Be Five” discusses the many trials and tribulations of being a 5-year-old, such as starting school and having to listen to adults. The magic of the lesson was evident each time she turned the book to show the class; all the students sat up to try and read the text on the page. They were all so interested in reading, you would have thought that you were in a room full of book worms!
The visit concluded with a conversation concerning the many ups and downs of being a 5-year-old. At the request of a student named Jojo, the conversation shifted to the exceedingly important topic of hedgehogs and what exactly they look like. When Mrs. Jennifer Borst put up an image of the prickly animal on the screen, there was a marked division among the class about the nuanced differences between hedgehogs and porcupines.
Today was a good day in kindergarten.
September 13th, 2022
Some teachers introduce their students to fish or amphibians to teach them science, but Arielle Goldstein, a special education teacher at Lakeview Elementary School in Mahopac, brought a bunch of mini farm animals from her home to teach her students about animal care.
“I grew up working at Muscoot Farm in Somers,” said Goldstein. “I think it is so great to expose kids to animals that they would not normally see.”
A year ago, Goldstein and her fiance, Dan Honovich, who is a veterinarian, bought a farm in Patterson and started stocking it with dwarf goats, mini donkeys, mini cows and micro cows. They now have a collection of 30 animals at their farm, Ridge Ranch.
On a recent sunny morning the couple brought a few of the small farm animals to Lakeview for all of the second graders to see.
Samantha, 8, led a mini donkey named Caz on leash as a group of her classmates gathered round. Though only second graders, the children towered over Caz, who only stood as tall as their waists.
“My uncle’s dog is bigger than this donkey,” Samantha said. “She’s so small.”
Caz, who likes having her cheeks scratched, didn’t mind the children fussing over her. One boy, Sammy, played with the donkey’s mane and shaped it into a mohawk, but the animal didn’t seem to notice.
“They are very gentle creatures,” Honovich said. “They are great with children.”
Goldstein hopes to make the farm animal visit an annual event.
Teachers throughout the Mahopac school district were celebrated by parents, students, PTOs, the Mahopac Teachers Association and administrators during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2 to May 6, 2022.
"As teachers, it makes us feel appreciated to be recognized in such an incredible way," said Danielle Romano, a special education teacher at Lakeview. "Although we are given praise every day, a whole week of being spoiled really makes it special."
Second grader Iker Contreras couldn’t get enough of “The Lemonade War,” the book that every child at Lakeview Elementary School – from kindergarten through fifth grade – read as part of Lakeview’s One School, One Book event.
Iker discussed the book with his classmates, his family and anyone who wanted to talk about how the characters teamed up to work together toward a goal, even when they didn’t really like one another.
But the part that Iker liked the most, came after the entire school finished the book, which was written by Jaqueline Davies. The best part, he said, was “The Challenge,” in which Lakeview Principal Jennifer Pontillo and several teachers had a Lemonade War of their own.
“It was very crazy,” Iker, 7, said. “It was a race and the torture was when Mrs. Pontillo got bonked over the head with a barrel full of lemonade. That was so funny.”
All of the elementary schools in the Mahopac Central School District have been running similar one book schoolwide reading events for several years now, though each school calls it by a slightly different name and not every school has such a dramatic finish. The PTOs in each school buy the books for the entire school.
The program was a big hit right from the start. Then, during the pandemic, “One School, One Book” went high-tech. Teachers, teacher aides and school staff took turns recording chapters of the book to be placed on a website that the children could access at home. High school students read chapters in Spanish so Lakeview’s English language learners and their families could participate as well. The reading schedule was placed on the website, with chapters assigned to each day. Children and their families were asked not to jump ahead.
Patricia Huestis, Instructional Educational Technology Specialist for K-5 schools, set up the websites.
“During the pandemic, we needed a way to do read-alouds for the kids, so we decided to record teachers reading each chapter,” Huestis said. “It worked really well, and we decided to keep doing it. We Screencastify the book cover and the kids can just sit, listen and concentrate on the voice that’s reading.”
Leigh Galione, Lakeview’s building coordinator and the district’s ENL Chair said sharing one book schoolwide brings the students, teachers, staff families together.
“Our One School, One Book initiative brings our entire school community together,” Galione said. “Parents & guardians can carve out time at night to read to their younger children. Siblings read to each other. Some teachers do chapter read-alouds.“
The reading took place during the month of March, and when every student finished the book, the “OSOB Challenge” was revealed.
The challenge “Jen Pontillo vs. Paws and Friends,” pitted the principal against the school’s special area teachers in a race that involved balancing lemons on spoons, squeezing lemon juice into containers and carrying marshmallows on chopsticks – not to mention a lot of hooting and hollering from the students and teachers who lined up along the route to cheer.
At the end of the race, Pontillo was doused, NFL style, with a cooler-full of lemonade.
“Connecting to each other through common literature is a wonderful, unifying experience,” Galione said. “To have that shared experience culminate in an event that the entire school can witness and participate in was the icing on the cake!”
The challenge sparked such interest in reading that Iker is now reading the second book in the series, "The Lemonade Crime."
Lakeview Elementary School kindergartners aged about 95 years in a single day when they dressed up as 100-year-olds to celebrate the 100th day of school on March 1.
The children in the school’s five kindergarten classes started the day by donning gray wigs and bowties and marching through the school. Then they spent much of the day working on activities that involved the number 100.
“This is fun, but it’s all about learning,” said kindergarten teacher Robin Clark. “The activities include reading, writing, math, and more.”
The students found 100 words in a classroom, made necklaces out of 100 Fruit Loops, and saw how far 100 steps would take them.
Do you Believe in Wishes? Students at Lakeview Elementary School do! For the past several years, they have participated in the Macy’s Believe campaign in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“The Believe Campaign was once again a big success as students at Lakeview raised $637 for their friends at Make~A~Wish of the Hudson Valley,” said Denise Hembury, who teaches third grade at Lakeview. “They spent time giving back to others during the holidays and should be proud of their efforts and accomplishments.”
At Lakeview, it’s an annual tradition to support the Believe Campaign each November/December. Students take letter writing to a whole new level to help raise money for children with life-threatening illnesses.
For every heartfelt letter written to either Santa (letting him know they believe in the power of a wish) or Macy’s (thanking the company for hosting such a wonderful campaign), Macy’s donates $1 to Make-A-Wish (up to $1,000,000).