Monday - December 11- A Day
Tuesday - December 12 - B Day
Wednesday - December 13 - C Day
Thursday - December 14 - D Day
Friday - December 15 - A Day
Falcons hunt high up in the open sky, but Mahopac Middle School sixth graders didn’t have to take anyone’s word for that. They saw it for themselves when Brian Bradley released a falcon on the field outside the school and watched as it soared up high beyond view in search of food.
“Unlike owls, who fly low, silently and hunt in the dark, falcons need a wide open space and fly high above other birds, which are their prey,” Bradley, of Skyhunters in Flight in Ulster Park, NY, told students.
Earlier Bradley explained the differences between hawks, which have excellent vision, and owls, which rely on their hearing more than their vision for hunting. Bradley brought a barn owl, spectacled owl, red-tailed hawk and a Harris’s hawk, among other birds, to show the sixth graders.
But it was the falcon, with its fierce velocity, that got to demonstrate the breadth of its flight outdoors. “Falcons continuously flap their wings in order to fly and don’t ever coast the way other birds do,” Bradley said. “This field may seem huge, but to a falcon, with its incredible speed, it is tiny.”
To promote inclusion, kindness, empathy and teamwork, Mahopac Middle School kicked off its Wingman program for the second year this week, with guest speaker and program creator Ian Hockley. Hockley, who lost his son, Dylan, in the Sandy Hook shootings, created the program in his son’s memory to train teachers and student leaders on ways to provide a more inclusive school environment. He brought with him co-speaker Eddie Slowikowski, who motivated students through stories and activities.
Hockley spoke of six-year-old Dylan, who was autistic and who benefited greatly when friends were empathetic to his differences. “Dylan was shy,” he said, “and couldn’t get involved in things easily at school. But when people took the time to explain things to him, he would get it, and he would get involved. Those types of people who step in and help—they are wingmen.”
Currently the program is in the tristate area with plans to expand throughout the country. While Hockley trains teachers in the program, he says it is the students who really are the leaders.
“The program really belongs to the them,” said Hockley. “The student leaders are the ones that set the direction for the program and decide on activities and topics.”
Five MMS teachers trained in the Wingman philosophy. Christine McNeill, Melissa Nyikos, Jenifer Maloney, Ginny Gertling and Carol Polimino are working with a number of student leaders to get the program firmly established in the school.
Slowikowski’s presentation, which motivated students with dance moves, sound effects and music, had a profound message: “Each one of you has something that makes you uniquely who you are,” he said. “And you have the opportunity each day to use those talents to do something good for someone else.”
Though Tom Cozzocrea has spent the past 12 years as a teacher and administrator in New York City public schools, being named the new principal of Mahopac Middle School is a homecoming of sorts.
“I grew up in Carmel,” said Cozzocrea, “and though I received great training in the city, I am really excited to be in Mahopac, where I already feel at home in the school community. Everyone has been so welcoming.”
Cozzocrea has worked as an elementary school teacher at PS 97 in the Bronx; as a principal mentee at PS 25 bilingual school; and as principal of PS/MS 5, a pre-K- grade 8 school also in the Bronx.
“I thought I would be a career New York City educator, but the opportunity to come to a tight-knit community like Mahopac, where technology, music and sports are all in the forefront, was too good to pass up,” Cozzocrea said.
He said he is impressed with the level of teacher involvement with students as well as the collaboration among teachers.
Cozzocrea, who lives in Pawling with his wife and two children, said he plans to continue and expand that level of teamwork. “When all of us work together, it really helps make the best experience for students. I am really looking forward to working with the community, our students and our staff.”
Welcome back to Mahopac Middle School! Have a great school year!
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