Check Out the November Spotlight on Mahopac
Check out the latest Spotlight on Mahopac.
“Most young e-cigarette users want to quit.”
This was just one of many messages written on the CoveCare Center display board at Mahopac Middle School on Wednesday, in preparation for the Great American Smokeout the following day.
Jillian Kulka, CoveCare Center Prevention Educator, was present to speak to students about the dangers of smoking and using e-cigarettes.
“Weren’t e-cigarettes supposed to help people stop smoking cigarettes?” asked sixth grader Erick Rodriguez, “Or was that just a marketing ploy?”
With a crowd of students listening intently, Kulka explained that people can be just as addicted to the nicotine in e-cigarettes as they can to the nicotine in cigarettes.
Many of the health risks associated with e-cigarettes remain unknown, but Kulka emphasized that, what is known, is that nicotine is highly addictive. After one crowd of students moved on to get their lunch, one student stepped out of the crowd to ask Kulka a question.
“Is there anything you can smoke that isn’t addictive?” the student asked.
“Our lungs are made to breathe air,” Kulka said, “anything else could cause damage and illness. Even vapes have chemicals in them, it isn’t just air. A lot of the vapes that say they don’t have nicotine, still have some nicotine in them.”
Kulka emphasized the importance of the efforts made by her team in conducting this outreach to students in schools and of students recognizing the prevention resources in their communities.
“It’s important to have a time where they are focused on thinking about substances and the impact that they can have on their lives,” Kulka said, “they can ask difficult questions because the CoveCare Prevention Team has been here before and we aren’t strangers.”
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, people from all walks of life came together to help our nation heal. Today, with war raging in Ukraine and strong political divisions at home, Mahopac Middle School students are focusing on what unites us, rather than what divides us.
Through an event known as “Inclusion in Honor of 9/11,” eighth grade students on teams 8A and 8D are engaging with one another and their community. Students have completed six activities ranging from writing letters to elected officials to creating flags that represent their individual identities.
“I reached out to the Putnam County Legislature about addiction and mental illness awareness,” said eighth grader Cira Graap. “I got a letter back from them. They said that they were working to raise awareness. And they gave me contact information for someone who I could speak with to continue to help.”
Another student, Tyler Santos, said he wrote to town officials about the state of the roads in Mahopac because his mom said they needed work. “They wrote back to me and said that they were working on it and had sent my letter to the New York State Department of Transportation,” which also maintains some roads in the area.
Students also created flags to represent their unique interests and backgrounds. “I included my ethnic background and also my interests, like reading and baking,” student Yasenia Lewis said. “It’s important to show the diversity in our community and to celebrate our differences.”
The event, organized by science teachers Margaret Fox and Kelly Kischak, is in keeping with a national day of service in memory of 9/11. As they engage with their peers and get involved in their community, Mahopac Middle School students are preparing to enter adulthood as well informed and contributing members of society.
It had been days since the beloved science class mascot Stanley Skeleton met his untimely end in Mahopac Middle School…
In the center of science teacher Patrice Butala’s classroom lay the gruesome scene. Stanley, the class’s skeletal anatomical model, lay motionless, surrounded by evidence that could lead the class of intrepid sixth grade investigators to his killer.
When asked what leads he had, sixth grader Christopher Pilato said, “It was Ms. Fallman!”
Pilato pointed toward a mugshot of the suspect on his screen. He had noticed a distinct Halloween mask in the teacher’s hand, which just so happened to be found at the scene.
“No! There was also a red fingernail!” said student Hunter Rodriguez, pointing to a picture of another suspect, “It must have been both of them!”
While the junior detectives continued their work, the dramatic sounds of harpsichords and piano played and Butala explained that she had devised the lesson with the help of Jason Zides as part of the state’s Next Generation Science Standards.
“We’re teaching claim, evidence, and reasoning.” Butala said, “Tomorrow I’m going to go into those standards with them by asking ‘What is your claim? What happened to Stanley? What is your evidence?’”
While the search for the killer is entertaining for the sixth graders, they are learning evidence-based deductive reasoning as they solve the crime.
A menagerie of monsters, superheroes, and even a person-sized block of cheese assembled in front of Mahopac Middle School awaiting judgment by school faculty and staff.
It was Halloween 2022.
And the first order of the day was the annual costume contest at Mahopac Middle School.
Judges surveyed the students, evaluating each of their costumes. While looking over the lineup of eighth graders, it was impossible to miss a student named Cooper Grimm who was dressed as a giant wedge of cheese.
“It’s all home made,” Cooper said, “My mom helped me a lot. It’s all foam and felt and it rests on these straps.”
Cooper leaned down to display his and his mother’s craftsmanship, showing off a sturdy construction that was supported by straps on his shoulders. The big cheese beamed as he spoke about his creation and the judges took note.
It isn’t just crafts skills that students get to show off during Halloween though, as one student arrived wearing some shockingly realistic injury makeup. Savannah Torres was dressed as a monstrous Queen of Hearts following an altercation involving a playing card.
“She got hit in the head while she was trying to eat someone,” Torres explained, with a Queen of Hearts playing card appearing to protrude from a gruesome wound on her forehead.
“We did the makeup… We do it every year, but it’s always a new injury.” Torres said, proudly displaying her horror movie ready fake wound.
As soon as the fifth period bell rang, discordant tunes and off key notes began to emanate from Mahopac Middle School’s band room.
Despite commanding sections of booming percussion and brass, Michael Teglasi spoke softly to the students who quieted while he described the piece they would be playing. Teglasi challenged the eighth graders to play a new, difficult song, while reassuring them that “This is the place to fail, this is the place to make mistakes.”
The piece that the students played was called “Afterburn” and the first attempt was a work in progress.
Growing as a musician has not been easy during the past two years as students had few opportunities to play their instruments, and fewer still to play with their peers. Many students said they were out of practice, and some were timid about playing the piece.
After the first attempt, one student spoke up, saying that she could not play the piece because she was not able to keep up. Teglasi replied, “You’re going to try, that’s what we do here.”
Before the next attempt, Teglasi played a recording of “Afterburn” so the students could hear professional musicians playing the piece.
It takes practice to master any skill, and in the case of musical instruments, the learning process is very audible. Missed notes and out-of-tune attempts, frustrated some students but the group’s performance improved with each effort.
To help the students improve their individual performances, Teglasi had the band play shorter sections of “Afterburn.” By the end of the class, the students were playing the piece far better than at the beginning.
“There’s no way we would have been able to do this at the beginning of last year,” Teglasi said.
Not bad for day one.
Just because summer vacation is over doesn’t mean that the fun has to end! This was the theme of the day for eighth grade students of Mahopac Middle School on a break from classes for fun and physical exercise during a field day hosted by the Loop Team teachers.
As the school year spools up and students return to classes, the eighth grade students who are a part of the Loop Team have already started working hard on a brand new year of curriculum. Many are sad to leave the summer behind, but as long as the weather is still nice, they’ll take any chance to get outside and be active with their classmates.
And active they were. Colorful bags flew during the beanbag toss, students scrambled to pass around a shirt during the T-shirt race, and the morning games culminated in a high intensity egg race.
Mr. Hafemann’s pink team began with a strong showing as their frontrunner took off from the starting line while carefully balancing his egg on a spoon. Things were going well for him right up until the moment that he dropped his egg. Things got heated as the race approached its conclusion, and multiple teams found themselves in close competition for first place. The sidelines quickly became a cacophony of cheers, with each team yelling at their final egg runner, saying, “GO! HURRY! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!” and, of course, “DON’T DROP IT!”
Later that day, the teams returned for a final series of competitions, including a delicate game of grapefruit golf, a balloon race, and a final round in which teams selected their 10 best sled pullers to haul Mr. May across the field at top speed in a snow sled. The competition was fierce, but in the end only one team could be crowned victorious.
During the award ceremony, it was revealed which team had scored the most points over the course of the day. In a moment of anticipation shared by the first and second place teams, all held their breaths while they awaited the big reveal. Congratulations to Ms. Pacheco’s green team for winning the day, and well done to all of the students who participated.
After a good day of running around and being active, students grabbed some snacks and water, posed for a picture, and made their way back up the path toward their classes. School has begun, and while students will spend most of their time exercising their minds, there is still time to get out and get active.
September 8th, 2022
Women’s rights, bullying and what it means to be a hero were the topics that won the day in the Mahopac Middle School’s Public Speaking Contest.
The contest, which has been tradition at Mahopac Middle School for 29 years, gave students up to a minute and a half each to speak and was held after school early in May.
“I gave a speech about heroes and what I think a hero is,” said Kevin Behrendt, an eighth grader who was one of three winners. “I think a hero is someone who does something without the intent of helping themselves.”
Facing a room full of students, parents, current and retired teachers and judges, did not phase Kevin who said he was always confident talking in front of a group.
“Students were invited to speak publicly about the topics of respect or about heroes and heroines,” said Mary Wheeler who teaches special education English and Social Studies at the middle school. “They could write their own speech or read from a printed work. We invite retired teachers, former students and staff to be the judges of the contest. The students are responsible for practicing prior to the contest and are able to invite friends and family to attend. Winners are tallied from the judges' scores.”
Matthia Guy, the seventh grade winner, dressed up as a suffragette and talked about women’s rights.
“I found a dress and a sash in the attic,” Matthia said. “I said that women should be just as respected as men when it comes to equal pay and. everything else.”
In prepping for the contest, the teachers gave students tips on how to calm their nerves.
“I was a little nervous up there, but I took sips from a glass of water and deep breaths,” said Matthia, who just recently moved to Mahopac. “I want to be an actress or a scientist so being able to give presentations or have better social skills overall will help me.”
Gabriella Olivieri, who won for sixth grade, said she entered the contest just to get over her stage fright.
“I wanted to do it because I have always wanted to do the school play but I was too scared,” Gabriella said. “I wanted to face my fear.”
“I talked about bullying and I shared some stuff about how I got bullied,” Gabriella said. “I feel like it’s good to admit that you’ve been bullied because kids should talk about it.”
Griffin Vennard is the kind of eighth grader who goes out of his way to keep in touch with his favorite teachers. So, when he noticed that his former math teacher, Dorothy Myler, hadn’t been in her classroom for a while, he sent her an email asking if she was ok.
“I was thinking that she might have had Covid,” Griffin said. “We’re used to kids suddenly being out for a while and then finding out that they had Covid.”
But he was surprised when Myler responded that she had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy before having surgery. Myler’s response was honest, but also upbeat.
“The way I look at it, it can always be worse,” wrote Myler, who has taught seventh grade math at Mahopac Middle School for nearly 20 years. “You guys at school are much more entertaining than nurses and doctors, LOL. Any good stories for me? I am always checking email, so feel free to email.”
Griffin, 13, was shocked to learn that Myler was sick. After seeing family friends and relatives suffer from cancer, he knew how hard chemotherapy could be.
He was determined to find a way to keep his favorite math teacher’s spirits up. Griffin remembered that his father had just sent a group e-card to someone, so Griffin decided to do the same.
Griffin contacted Assistant Principal Allyson Fallman who helped him get the email list of all the eighth graders who had Myler last year, as well as a list of the school’s teachers. He set out to round up teachers, administrators and all Myler’s former students and get them to write to her.
“Griffin is a quiet, unassuming kid,” Fallman said. “But he was so organized and thorough. He reached out to everyone and he did it all on his own. It shows a lot of maturity and a lot of empathy.”
The result was a beautiful card full of affection, jokes and wishes for a speedy recovery.
“I figured I was going to get 20 or 30 people to send her their best wishes,” Griffin said. “In the end, it was more like 100.”
Myler, who started her leave of absence on January 24 and expects to be out for the rest of the school year, said she really appreciated Griffin’s kindness.
“This was an extremely nice gesture that goes an awfully long way when you’re going through a hard time,” she said. “He’s a great kid with a really big heart.”
Not every child can afford a fancy theater camp, but students at Mahopac Middle School have the opportunity to perform in a professional quality play right on their own school stage.
"We like to involve as many students as we can," said Heather Palkewick, the middle school's musical director and chorus teacher. "This year we had about 50 in the cast and crew. This is a real school-wide event."
The Little Mermaid Jr., which dazzled Mahopac Middle School audiences on March 18 and 19, was the school's 21st musical production.
Leona Ademi dreamed for science.
Leona teamed up with fellow eighth-graders Lola Lauro and Madeline Rucker to test the hypothesis that what you eat affects how you dream. The trio were among dozens of student teams that presented projects at the Mahopac Middle School STEAM Fair.
“We wanted to do something relatable, something that people would have questions about and want to know more about,” Leona said. “We also wanted it to be something that could help in the real world so we could tell people what to eat to get the best sleep.”
The annual Middle School STEAM Fair showcases science, technology, engineering, art and math projects created by students in sixth through eighth grades. It was organized by science teachers Kelly Kischak and Margaret Fox and presented to the entire student body on Friday, Jan. 28.
“The STEAM Fair has been part of a tradition here at Mahopac Middle School for many years,” Schools Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo said. “I want to congratulate the winners, but you are all winners for being able to put it on this year.”
COVID restrictions prevented the public from attending the fair and the Saturday nor’easter interfered with the awards ceremony, which had been scheduled to be livestreamed.
Nevertheless, student projects filled gymnasiums one, two and three.
The middle school scientists sought answers to questions like: Can solar power generate heat to melt s’mores? Are makeup wipes bad for the skin? And can a 3-D printer create an iPhone stand?
“We think of the STEAM Fair as a middle school event, but it has a lot to do with the high school as well,” Principal Thomas Cozzocrea said. “We had approximately 50 middle school students who were mentored each week by more than 75 high school students from the Science National Honor Society. Now, when these middle school students move to the high school, they will want to be part of the Science National Honor Society.”
As for the results of the dream experiment, Leona’s team found that drinking milk two hours before bed produced the happiest dreams.
News reports say stress and anxiety are on the increase among students. Luckily, there’s an app for managing that – and a Mahopac native developed it.
Katherine Grill, who attended Mahopac schools and whose mother, Teresa Curtin, still works in the middle school, founded Neolth, an online platform that provides stress and mental health support to students.
Grill’s work is so timely that she was chosen as one of Forbes 30 under 30 for 2022.
A neuroscientist who worked in therapy before founding her company last year, Grill said the Mahopac community and her mother’s work in education influenced her.
“I am really proud of the work she has done, especially with children who have special needs,” said Grill, who attended Fulmar Road Elementary and Mahopac Middle School. “I remember Mahopac having a really well-rounded curriculum and so many diverse activities to get involved in – the arts, twirling, dance, soccer. I had a lot of opportunities inside and outside of the classroom to learn interpersonal and other skills that translate into business.”
Neolth’s website gives students personalized on-demand access to relaxation practices created by doctors and therapists and offers a video library, where students explore topics like managing academic stress and watch their peers talk candidly about their own mental health struggles.
“Mental health is a priority in schools now,” Grill said. “Now digital health resources can help students manage the stresses they face.”
For as long as Lynn Gilchrist has been teaching social studies in Mahopac Middle School, she has tried to turn abstract historical concepts into something tangible that her students can touch. One of her most popular projects – The Tipi Project – does exactly that.
“It visually represents the culture of the Plains Indians and the impact of Manifest Destiny,” Gilchrist said. “The unit touches on culture, Westward Expansion, the Gold Rush, the Transcontinental Railroad, cattle ranchers and the Homestead Act.”
For weeks, the students in Team 8C worked on researching, drawing and cutting out their tipis (also spelled as "tepees") finding symbols that carried meaning and adding visual elements that represented the history they were describing. Manifest Destiny – the 19th century idea that American settlers were destined to expand democracy across the entire continent – may be a difficult concept to explain, but it was easier for students to show than tell.
The Tipi Project is so popular it has become an annual middle school event, with teachers and staff voting on the winners.
The tipi Julie Fraser and Gabriella Geiger made took first place. Eric Harting and Christopher Holloway’s tipi came in second and Joshua Leviner and Celina Wendler took third place.
“We put the buffalo in the middle because that was the most important animal to the Plains Indians,” Julie Fraser said. “They made everything from the buffalo, the food they ate, the clothes they wore, their weapons, their tipis, everything.”
In addition to the art, the students created a key, which tells the story of the symbols used and what they represent.
Joshua Leviner explained why train tracks were an important symbol in his Tipi.
“When they were building the train tracks, they went through the Indians’ land so the Indians had to move to the reservation,” Joshua said.
Christopher Holloway pointed out that the Plains Indians had been nomadic. He symbolized that by showing an empty tipi next to a horse galloping toward another tipi, where a warm fire was burning.
The Tipi Project also gave students a chance to work together, which Gilchrist said was important after all the social distancing they have had to practice.
“The Tipi Project was overall fun to do,” said Celina Wendler. “I usually like to work on my own when it comes to projects, but working with a partner was a fun experience. This project gave me the opportunity to learn more about their symbols and way of life, as well as the history behind Westward Expansion and the goal of achieving Manifest Destiny.”
Mahopac Middle School seventh and eighth graders recently got to spend some time thinking about the age-old question "What do I want to do when I grow up?" At the Middle School Career Fair, held in November, the students got to meet professionals who work in a dozen diverse careers and hear what day-to-day life is like in all sorts of jobs.
“Rather than a fair where students wander from table to table, this year’s middle school career fair was held via Zoom,” said Aaron Kleinman, Director of School Counseling K-12 for the Mahopac Central School District. “It actually worked better, I think. There were no distractions. All of the children got to hear what the professionals had to say.”
The professionals included an architect, chiropractor, veterinarian, police officer, firefighter, librarian, banker, marketing executive, Putnam County Youth Bureau representative and a media person.
It was not the middle schoolers’ first exposure to career choices. They start taking career inventories in the sixth grade, via the district’s Naviance computer system. When they get to high school, career choice is among the first subjects discussed in the freshman MHS Life class, which every student is required to take.
“We want to have these conversations earlier so the students will start thinking about what classes to take that will help prepare them for their future,” Kleinman said. “Research has shown that the more information and exposure students have to career choices, the more directed they will be when it comes to what they plan to do after graduation.”
When sixth grader Chris Moran first learned that the Mahopac Middle School newspaper, The Torch, was looking for student reporters and editors, he was curious, but not convinced it was the after-school club for him.
“I thought I’d wait and see,” said Chris, who is 12. “Some of my friends joined, but that’s not what made me join. It was when I saw the first edition. I said ‘Oh, this is cool.’ I really liked the movie reviews. I want to write movie reviews, so here I am.”
That is pretty much the reaction that The Torch newspaper advisor David Gordon was aiming for. Gordon took over leadership of The Torch this year and saw it as an opportunity to update the publication.
“We are in the process of trying to make a newspaper that the kids themselves would be interested in reading,” said Gordon, an eighth grade social studies teacher. “We’ll publish reviews of movies, books and games, maybe write about new businesses in town and spotlight somebody the kids think is interesting. This has to come from them.”
Gordon recruited Michael Woodrow, another eighth grade social studies teacher, to be co-advisor.
“We really are trying to create a culture, a community with a mission,” Woodrow said. “We wanted to make them feel like they are part of something big.”
The club launched in the third week in September. Students who signed up got a Torch lapel pin and a press pass that allows them to use their phones in school to take photos if they are working on a story.
The first issue was published in November. At 16 pages, it included a poem, story and drawings by Mia Panebianco, who had just moved to Mahopac in February, and an editorial by Kylie Quackenbush, the pop culture editor, who asked “Is cereal soup?”
“That’s a popular debate right now,” she said.
Roma McConnell and Jackson Spedaliere interviewed Mahopac Schools Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo, who recently announced that he will retire in June.
“I was nervous at the start,” Roma said. “I learned a lot about what he does from talking to him. I learned that he is in charge of a lot of people. We learned a lot about the importance of decisions we make now, and how they can affect our future.”
The kickoff issue also included an inspiring front page story by advisor David Gordon that called journalists heroes, quoted the Washington Post’s slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” and referenced mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, as well as muckrakers like Nellie Bly and novelist Upton Sinclair.
“Our world needs heroes like Upton Sinclair and Nellie Bly as much as we needed them one hundred years ago,” Gordon wrote. “The Mahopac Middle School encourages students to join the ranks of the heroes who came before them.”
Judging by the group of enthusiastic students who attended a meeting in early December, The Torch will have no shortage of heroes.
William, a sixth grader at Mahopac Middle School was walking through the hallway with a friend during change of class on Friday, Nov. 12 when the friend suddenly stopped and started motioning toward his throat. Then the boy’s face turned red and a terrified look came over him.
Thinking fast, William ran into a classroom, where Jenifer Maloney was preparing to teach her MMS Success class and Michael DiLeo was gathering his things after teaching a Spanish class.
“Help, Help,” William yelled. “My friend is choking!”
Maloney has taught in the Mahopac Central School District for 22 years and, like all teachers, has had training in life saving. Mr. DiLeo, a first-year teacher in Mahopac, had also received training when he worked as a lifeguard. Still, training is one thing. Actually saving a life is another.
“We looked at each other and just said, ‘Ok, here we go,’” Mr. DiLeo recalled.
Maloney quickly jumped into action. Grabbing the boy and tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver, wrapping her arm around him and pushing her fist into his abdomen.
“He had his backpack on, and it didn’t work,” Maloney said. “It was terrifying.”
She pulled the boys’ backpack off and asked DiLeo to step in while she ushered the other students out of the classroom and into the gym.
With the backpack removed, DiLeo tried the Heimlich again, and this time, the boy started breathing.
“The lifesaver didn’t pop out,” DiLeo said. “It moved enough so he could breathe, though.”
The minute the child could catch his breath, he began to calm down.
It had all happened so fast that the teachers did not even notice 11-year-old Abby was in the classroom. When she heard the commotion, Abby did not stop to ask permission. She just ran to the school nurse’s office to get help.
“Someone’s choking,” Abby yelled to the nurse.
When asked how she knew to get the nurse, Abby said: “It was instinct.”
Abby led the school nurse back to the classroom. By the time they got there, the boy was already breathing again. Then the Sheriff’s deputy arrived and transported him to Putnam Hospital Center where he was soon released.
“It felt like it took forever,” Maloney said. “But it was probably really just seconds.”
The boy, who the district is not naming for privacy reasons, posted on Snapchat thanking his friends, teachers, first responders and others who came to his rescue.
Naturalists from the Center for Environmental Education at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES visited Mahopac Middle School recently for a team-building workshop. Students from Team 8A were presented with mental and physical challenges that could only be completed if the students all worked together.
“Teachers were only there to observe -- not to help -- and it was great to watch the students learn lessons from one another,” said Karen Haitoff, Team 8A English teacher. “At first everyone was talking at once, and doing things the way they wanted, but they quickly realized that in order to meet the challenges successfully they needed to work as a team and listen to one another.”
Students' social and emotional growth was at the forefront of the activities, which were both fun and impactful. The team-building program is a powerful and proactive tool that helps students learn and practice social skills that create a safe and supportive climate.
Team 8A is a looping group, so the students have stayed with the same group of teachers for seventh and eighth grades.
“Although we are in our second year together, we did not have a typical first year together at all,” Haitoff said. “As a result, we are especially excited to further develop the close community we value in our looping program.”
The BOCES programs put a premium on relationships between members of the group and help establish a sense of acceptance and belonging. Some of the skills and issues addressed include creating a climate of respect and acceptance, understanding and appreciating differences, tolerance, compassion, patience, support and encouragement, positive attitude, humor and flexibility. The workshop emphasizes transferring these skills from the activities to the school environment.
If you’ve been wondering about the strange looking gourds that started appearing in Mahopac Middle School last month, Kelly Kischak, the Living Environment teacher on team 8D, is the person to ask.
“We’ve done this every year for about 10 years, except for last year because of Covid, of course,” Kischak said. “It’s a way to get the kids to work together and be creative. It’s a team building exercise.”
It’s also a contest. The staff at the Middle School have until Nov. 5 to choose the best gourd. The top three winners get a goody bag. Take a look at this Google slideshow and pick your favorite. While you’re scanning, see if you can find the gourd that 8th-grader Vincent meant to look like Mr. Woodrow, another teacher on the team. Or, hunt for the gourd that Ryan made to look like the TV art teacher Bob Ross.
Math teacher Marie DeNicola and English teacher Karen Haitoff started the school year with an exercise in compassion for their 8th grade students.
DeNicola and Haitoff, loop teachers who stay with the same class of Mahopac middle schoolers for two years, have their students working on the Kindness Rocks project.
Started in Cape Cod in 2015 by author Megan Murphy, the project aims to make the world a little happier by painting inspiring messages on rocks that are then left on roadsides, hiking trails, playgrounds or anywhere else that strangers might find them.
“These kids are resilient and wonderful, but they have been through a lot this last year and there is still a lot of recovery going on,” Haitoff said. “This gives them a chance to express that.”
First, the students research quotes and pick three that inspire them. Then they write a paragraph about what the quotes mean to them.
“It adds depth to the exercise,” Haitoff said. “It forces them to think about inspiration and how you take that out into the world.”
Not to mention that it sneaks in an opportunity for the students to read some great writers.
Eighth-grader Angelica picked a quote from Mark Twain, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
“I am not the same as everybody else,” Angelica wrote. “No one is the same, but having kindness in my life reminds me that you don't have to be perfect or fit in. Having kindness in your life can show you that being different is ok!”
Damian wrote that the quote “Kindness begins with understanding that we all struggle” by Charles Glassman resonated with him because you cannot always tell from the outside how others are feeling.
“Everybody goes through different struggles every single day,” Damian wrote. “It's always a good thing to be kind, but especially when you understand that other people have their own struggles.”
After the students chose a quote, DeNicola, who teaches math but has a passion for art, had the students paint it on a rock.
“As a math teacher, I usually only get to see one side of the kids,” DeNicola said. “This allows me to see their artistic side, and to get to know them a little better.”
When the project is finished, the students will have the option of placing the rock out in nature where it can brighten a stranger’s day or keeping it and finding their own inspiration every day.
Whether they find it on a rock or carry it in their hearts, these middle schoolers know that the quote Noelle chose, “Kindness is giving hope to those who think they are all alone in this world,” is important every day.
“There are children who have no friends and feel lonely at school,” Noelle wrote. “There are adults who only focus on work instead of their friends and family. There are old people who are alone in nursing homes. By being nice, saying hello, a quick chat, a warm smile, can give these people hope and happiness.”
It’s a good thing that being in middle school is nothing like reality TV.
Just ask the 7th graders who have been cooking up some tasty quesadillas in Virginia Gertling’s Family and Consumer Science class.
“It is kind of like the British Baking show," Emma D. said. “There are five kitchens and they are set up in a circle, kind of facing each other. Each kitchen has a group of four kids who work together. We have a time limit, like they do in those shows. Here, the time is limited by the bell.”
The comparisons end there. Sometimes the students compare the end results, but no one is judged. Mostly they just enjoy eating their work. If a quesadilla ends up overcooked or a little runny, of course, no one gets kicked out of class.
“Quesadillas were the first thing we made,” Ryan W. said. “It was pretty simple and quick. Next we’re going to make pumpkin bread. There’s a lot of steps to that.”
Students in the Family and Consumer Science class learn the kind of practical skills that will last a lifetime. In addition to cooking, they learn sewing, how to manage money and how to manage their time when they have so many activities going on at once.
“I really like this class,” Maya I. said. “It’s fun cooking and getting up and making things rather than always using a pencil and writing on paper.”
Just because the students like cooking in school doesn’t mean, don't count on them to start preparing the family meals.
“I don’t think I’ll start cooking dinner regularly,” Maya I. said. “Quesadillas are the kind of thing where I’ll always tell my mom that hers is better, even if secretly I think mine is.”
Teacher assignments will be posted on the Portal on Tuesday, August 24 at 3:00 p.m. Once students know which class they are assigned to, 2021-2022 Supply Lists can be accessed here.
The forecast threatened rain, but our eighth graders and their families gathered under a bright blue sky for the moving up ceremony on Monday, June 21. MMS Principal Tom Cozzocrea welcomed everyone and applauded his students on the hard work and resilience that got them to this celebration. He reminded them that it was the support and love of their parents and many educators that helped them along the way. “These people will continue to support you for the next four years and beyond. Greatness is team effort and you are fortunate to have an amazing team!”
Superintendent DiCarlo spoke to the class quoting Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them,” he said. The celebration ended with Assistant Principals Allyson Fallman and Patrick Keevins calling up each student to receive his or her certificate from either Mr. DiCarlo or Mr. Cozzocrea.
Before being dismissed, the class turned and faced the bleachers and cheered for their parents to thank them. Our newest freshman class then exited the stadium to raucous cheering while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” played over the speakers.
The Mahopac Middle School Theater Company's is proud to have produced their 20th production: a virtual variety show celebrating 20 years of greatness, under the direction of Heather L. Palkewick and Victoria A. Velders Although the pandemic prohibited us from producing a traditional show this year, we embraced the opportunity to take on a challenging and unusual project so that the show would go on. This year’s experience required our theater company’s staff to think outside of the box and off the stage. We designed a performance that met the creative needs of the singers and actors we have in school today and paid tribute to all of those who have graced our stage in the past. This year, we have put together a collection of work from every show produced at MMS. Using scenes, songs, and the visual arts we have created a theatrical production during these most complicated times.
"A heartfelt thank you goes out to all the faculty, staff and administration who helped us on this year’s production, and every production for the past 20 years," said Palkewick, MMS Chorus Teacher & Musical Director. "We have been honored to have worked with so many talented actors, musicians, and stagecrafters during our tenure. We also send out thanks and congratulations to the students who worked on this production. It was a long and strange process this year. We started with an interactive, yet virtual experience, and just recently began to meet in person. The students and staff of 2021 persevered and rose to the challenge and for that we are ever so proud! We hope you enjoy this Celebration of 20 years of Greatness!"
Congratulations to MMS 8th grader Alexandra Weiss for placing second in Assemblyman Kevin Byrne's 94th Assembly District Art Competition. Designed to offer more opportunities for young people to engage with their elected representatives and witness democracy in action, this year Assemblyman Byrne’s office launch its first ever district-wide Art Competition for middle school students (Grades 5-8) throughout the 94th Assembly District.
The contest sought submissions in a wide variety of mediums - painted canvas, drawings , two dimensional collages, mixed media, computer generated art, and photography - all of which were on display at the A. Eric Arctander Gallery from June 5 to June 13, where parents, teachers and students were able to come in and admire them. Winners were announced at a ceremony on June 13 at the Putnam Arts Council.
The National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony brought parents, administrators, board or education members, teachers, staff, and students together, in person for the first time in over a year. Everyone gathered to celebrate students with both a high scholastic average and outstanding commitment to the MMS community.
NJHS adviser Kerry Tarantino enthusiastically greeted everyone and thanked them for their support of the program and their children throughout their middle school career. She handed the microphone to Principal Tom Cozzocrea who congratulated students for “climbing the mountain of high academic success. The best news: there are more mountains to climb!” He continued, “Thank you for not giving up, for being you, and for letting me be a small part of it. This is your night enjoy it!”
Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo, too, expressed his excitement at this chance to be together in person, “It is wonderful to have parents here for tonight’s celebration! Greatness is a team effort. Thank you for taking our guidance and encouragement and achieving greatness.”
He closed by saying, “You are are now in an exclusive club. This combination of scholarship, leadership, service, citizenship, and character shows there is much more to you than your grades. It’s an honor to be here with you tonight!”
The ceremony continued with students lighting a candle for each pillar of the NJHS pledge, each coming to the front of the stage to accept their certificate and pin, and finally reciting the pledge together:
“I pledge to uphold the high purposes of the National Junior Honor Society to which I have been selected; I will be true to the principles for which it stands; I will be loyal to my school; and I will maintain and encourage high standards of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, Citizenship, and Character.”
The evening ended with group photos of the new inductees, their parents and friends.
Congratulations MMS NJHS Class of 2021!
The Mahopac Central School District believes that Art education is an essential component of human development. Through Visual Art, students are empowered to be creative, “out of the box” thinkers and conscious designers; they are able to discover and express who they are, communicate their ideas, understand the visual, cultural, and virtual world, take risks, work collaboratively, make connections in their learning, innovate, develop an increasing sense of their own aesthetic, and authentically engage in their education.
The inaugural District-wide Art Show centralizes all the a talent district wide from Kindergarten to 12th Grade. Click the link below, explore, and enjoy!
For the past 14 years, Mahopac Middle School English teacher Beth Palmer has incorporated teaching about the Holocaust into her class and this year was no exception. Eighth graders read The Cage, a non-fiction book about the hardship and cruelty of being a Jew during the Holocaust written by Ruth Minsky Sender. “I find that if my students know the history, they get the more out of the book.”
Palmer works with the speakers bureau at the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center in White Plains to make sure that the kids get to meet a survivor. “I think it makes it more real to them to hear someone who went through the actual events. It is much more impact than just watching a video or seeing pictures.” Typically the meeting happens in person, but this year 90-year-old Hanne Holsten “zoomed” into their classroom. This enabled all students, in-person and remote, to share the experience.
Holsten lived a normal life in Nuremberg, Germany in 1938 with her parents, sister, and brother. She told students the story of Nazis coming into her house on Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), destroying everything her family owned and placing them in jail overnight. The students were enthralled as she spoke about her two year journey traveling around Europe and being hidden by smugglers to avoid being captured by the Nazis. She emphasizes to students that her family only survived as a result of the kindness of others
“We were really able to have a conversation with Hanne about history and the people who were persecuted, why it happened, and how not to let it happen again. Meeting a survivor is a tangible way for the kids to care about the people who perished,” said Palmer. “There will not be many, if any, survivors left in a few years, so it is important to me that students get the experience of meeting one.”
Palmer also uses the unit as an opportunity to discuss tolerance. In addition to reading The Cage, writing a research paper, and meeting a survivor, students create a wall of remembrance in the classroom. Everyday the class reads two names of people that did not survive and adds them to the wall. They also commit to performing random acts of kindness which they also document on the wall.
“It is important for students to understand the snowball effect of bullying and nasty comments. The Holocaust did not happen overnight and I want them to see that their individual actions can help, or hurt, others in ways they may not realize. I hope the whole experience inspires students to choose kindness, just as Hanne asked them to do at the end of her talk.”
Thank you MMS Student Government for giving us the perfect way to celebrate #Maythe4th and show our school spirit! And thank you to all our students - and teachers! - who came to school today in their best #StarWars gear. Congratulations to everyone who collected tickets and won raffle prizes. We can't wait for the next Spirit Day!
Hot off the presses, Mahopac Middle School's newspaper, The Torch, Winter 2021 edition is now available!
Steam Far awards, staff interviews, art, creative writing, and short story context results, and much more!
Dear 5th Grade Parents,
It was a pleasure presenting to you during our 6th Grade Curriculum Night yesterday. This is the first step in transitioning your child from Elementary students to official Middle Schoolers in September. If you were unable to join us last night you can review the 6th Grade Curriculum Night Slides. Over the next few months there will be additional opportunities for both you and your child to learn more about Mahopac Middle School. We look forward to in-person or virtual visits to their schools as well as the students coming to the Middle school. We also plan on having a 6th grade orientation in late August to help them feel comfortable. Do not hesitate to reach out over the next few months with any questions that you may have. We look forward to working with you and your children over the next 3 years!
Mahopac Middle School Administration.
The middle school team covered a wide variety of topics at our virtual 7th and 8th grade curriculum night including: Program(s) of Study, Accelerated Courses, World Language, Special Education, National Junior Honor Society, High School Graduation Requirements, NYS Assessments, and Academic Integrity. The presentation challenged parents to consider how their children manage time, if their organizational skills and study/work routines are keeping pace with the workload, and how to assess their expectations for their children.
The entire presentation can be viewed here: Curriculum Night 7/8 January 20, 2021.
Mahopac's annual celebration of STEAM is this Saturday, January 23, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Follow this link to the program of events for the day. The award ceremony will be live live-streamed at 2 p.m. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyyGXNnB-fKndXzHrPO_WqA/videos (once the live-stream starts the link will update).
This website includes:
This Calendar includes school breaks, holidays, and color cohort days for the entire 2020-2021 school year.
This video covers everything you need to know - arrival, health & safety, movement through the building, lockers/backpacks, dismissal. We can't wait to see you!
The 2020-2021 MMS Letter Day Calendar will be updated monthly. Please note the date at the bottom indicates the most recent update.
Before purchasing all the items on the supply list, please have your child check in his or her teachers during remote learning.
Please enjoy this Spotlight especially for MMS Families about the reopening.
Dear Students, Parents and Guardians:
Over the summer months all matriculated students, grades six, seven and eight, will be required to read an assigned book. The books were chosen for relevancy to the respective grade level, and they address issues and themes which will be a center of focus during the school year in English and/or other content areas. They will help facilitate verbal development, maintain literacy skills and serve to optimize student preparation from the very first day of school in September.
We strongly recommend students and their families enjoy the books together; read aloud to one another, discuss the ideas, events, characters met, and spend some pleasant moments in the worlds these authors create.
All incoming sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students should be prepared to participate in class discussions and/or group activities related to their assigned book upon return to school in September. These books serve as the focus of English instruction during the opening days of the 2020-2021 school year. Students will be asked to demonstrate their understanding of these books during the first weeks of school via reading and writing assessments. This literature will also serve as a foundation for a number of assignments throughout the year. As an aid for recollection and comprehension, our English Language Arts Department has created a suggested summer reading outline ; it is strongly suggested that students have this outline completed when returning to school.
Reading is a pleasurable and life-long activity that educates, entertains and enriches the lives of all who participate; join us in making Mahopac Middle School a haven for avid readers.
The following list has been distributed to the Mahopac Public Library for your convenience. These books can also be obtained at local bookstores and through online shopping sites that sell books.
Incoming sixth graders must choose ONE of the following books:
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Counting by Sevens by Holly Sloan
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac
The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart
Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Pax by Sarah Pennypacker
Incoming seventh graders must choose ONE of the following books:
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Incoming eighth graders must choose ONE of the following books:
Snow Bound by Harry Mazer
That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton
The Mahopac Middle School English Department
In spite of the closure of school in March and the subsequent cancellation of the Spring production Mary Poppins, the students and staff who make up the Mahopac Middle School Theatre Company worked very hard all year and were all looking forward to a great show. Instead they prepared a special video message to the community. In an email sent out district-wide they explained, "Because we were so close to the play, we wanted to take a minute to thank our sponsors by sending out this year's program and a song for all of our essential workers. We look forward to all getting back together in the not too distant future. Please enjoy the video of our very talented students!"
Principal Cozzocrea kicks off a special message from the MMS staff to students...spoiler alert: they miss the stduents!