- Grove City, Pennsylvania

July 6, 2013

'Year in Review'

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — A "Year in Review" was hosted by the superintendent of Grove City schools on Monday evening.

Dr. Richard Mextorf had a number of teachers, administrators and the school board president speak about how the 2012-2013 school year fared - especially in the ways students were more engaged to learn.

First on the agenda was Michael Parulo, a second grade teacher who was asked to give an update on how well the elementary ST Math program was working this past year.

Parulo led a pilot program in the early part of 2012 for ST Math - which involved two classrooms from every grade level at Highland and Hillview.

The pilot was very successful and school directors approved ST Math last summer for use in all of the elementary grades, and some middle school.

Those who had already used ST Math, such as Parulo, could begin integrating it in the classroom by October; however, it was presented to all the teachers in January during an in-service day, he said.

ST Math is hosted by penguin name "Jiji."

There is no talking in the program, just animation, activities and games, to guide young minds visually to solve math problems.

One of the things Parulo loved about ST Math is that he's been able to "integrate it in my classroom, not just have it as a stand-alone tool," he said.

Children working together solving math has given them an "incredible camaraderie," he added, and they excitedly look forward to solving math with Jiji each day.

The program has helped the children have strong thinking skills and has "raised their confidence in math," which Parulo had never seen before using ST Math, he said.

Parulo is able to track student progress, as well as student errors - and ST Math shows him how those errors can be fixed, he said.

"The children in my class, on average, completed 87 percent of the program," Parulo said.

On standardized tests, they did even better, he added. 

The program "created a class of risk takers," which is unusual for that age, he said.

Parulo looks forward to what he can do with his class in the coming school year with Jiji, he said.

Hillview Principal Tammi Martin called Parulo the "expert in ST Math for us."

He developed a manual with his anecdotal experience in the classroom, and a training manual for teachers new to ST Math.

Technology pioneer Sam Mowry, an eighth grade science teacher; and Rob Haggart, high school history teacher, spoke about ways teachers are using new technology in their schools.

For instance, interesting things included collaborations with students in neighboring districts for online book talks and Skype sessions in Vickie Waugaman's class, Mowry said.

Digital library, history, science and math resources were also being used by others teachers in the middle school, he added.

Mowry had an Internet class hosted by a NASA Space Center scientist.

The scientist could see the Grove City science class and they could see him at NASA, he added.

He noted that the middle school has almost any of its technology needs met, with the help of Judy Dennis, the district's IT specialist, to help teachers learn and explore.

Haggart explained ways teachers are trying to get kids to use their devices (such as smart phones) to help them get their school work finished.

Edmoto, an online resource for kids to collaborate, receive homework assignments and take tests, is being used as normally as having a book in class, he added.

Jared Henshaw, technology and engineering teacher, is working at live streaming in the high school, Haggart added, and other instructors have been working with professors at Slippery Rock University to hone their technology skills in the classroom.

Anthony Leone, technology and engineering teacher, discussed advances in his field; and that his students did well in an annual robotics competition at Grove City College.

Principals Jennifer Connelly, Brendan Smith, Rae Lin Howard and Larry Connelly reviewed programs in their schools, including intervention protocols for students with learning problems, learning opportunities outside of the high school, online class availability, physical education advances and related arts courses.

Jim Anderson spoke about the district's new maintenance building project and school board President Sue Herman gave an update about the immediate future of the board.

"We have to manage yesterday's organization; to make sure it runs well and is efficient and eventful, but what you've enabled us to build is build tomorrow's organization," Mextorf told the board.

"You're allowing us to build the plane in the air, while it's in the air. All of this is leading us to where we are headed."

With that freedom, the district's team of teachers and administrators are making it happen, "so kids can not only be prepared to make a living but make a life," he added.

"I am so proud of this group today."

Published July 3, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.