Monday, November 2, 2020

OPINION: Wait, Teachers are People too?: A Tribute to Some of Nazareth's Finest

 By Allie Talarico

I was the kind of kid who mapped out their whole life at six years old. I used to imagine high school and what it would be like. I vividly remember doing the math to figure out how far away I was from graduating. 2021, I’d calculate over and over. That’s the year I have to reach. That’s when I’ll finally make it. I’d imagine what it would be like at the very top of the food chain. I’d imagine prom and my classes and finally pulling on a cap and gown. Never did I ever  imagine that when I finally reached my senior year that it would look like this. Granted, I also never imagined that I’d still look like I’m 12 even though I’m nearly a legal adult, so I guess I was wrong on many fronts. 

If I could go back and tell that six year old one thing about what it was actually like to ‘finally make it’, I’d tell her that’s it bittersweet. Sure, I can’t wait to go to college and start a real life, but you can’t help but be at least a little sad watching this long train of lasts leave the station. 

I’ve been reflecting a whole lot on my years in Naz. For thirteen years, I’ve sat in a countless number of desks in a countless number of classrooms, and somehow, each one has seemed to mark an important milestone in my life. Whether this milestone was in kindergarten with Mrs. Koegler when I realized that I really liked this thing called school, or in AP Biology with Mrs. Rakos when I learned that I really liked this thing called biology and wanted to spend the rest of my life studying it. Here’s what I’ve recently come to understand: the milestones I reached were only possible with the guidance of the teachers who have been the gleaming lights on this long, tedious road. 

After 13 years of pinning landmarks on the map of my life, I was left with one burning question: what makes the teachers at Nazareth so good? I mean, is it something they put in the water? 

In order to answer this question, I turned to some of the most influential teachers that have had a profound impact on my educational career, and sought out their secrets to the classroom. 

***

You didn’t ask, but I’ve always considered myself to have peaked in the third grade. It’s tragic, really, that I was at my best at 9 years old. 3rd grade Allie just seemed to have had her life together in ways 12th grade Allie aspires to. She knew what she wanted, she wasn’t afraid of what people thought, and of course, she had a great classroom to grow in. Mrs. Nolder was my last teacher at Lower Nazareth Elementary, but arguably the one that had the biggest impact on me while I was there. I would be lying if I told you that I remembered every lesson she taught me because I don’t. But for me, it wasn’t about the lessons Mrs. Nolder taught me. Instead, it was the safety of her classroom, the trust we had in another, and the way I felt that I remember. 

Speaking with Mrs. Nolder now, I realized that the way I felt in her classroom wasn’t a coincidence. Each year, Mrs. Nolder seeks to make a connection with each of her students from the very beginning. “The first thing is making students feel really welcome,” she told me when asked about her traditions for the first day. “Students can’t learn until they feel safe. Typically we do a lot of STEM, team building activities in order to make our classroom family.”

This family atmosphere which Mrs. Nolder tries to incorporate in her class was the exact kind of welcoming sense I remember feeling when I walked in there every day in the third grade. This is due to the positive energy that Mrs. Nolder practices every day. But don’t be fooled; it’s more than just her cheery smile, it’s her outlook on coming to school. “Everyday I wake up, and I’m excited to come here,” she told me. “I don’t wake up and feel like it’s a job and I don’t want to go. I love what I do and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” Mrs. Nolder mentioned how a strictly cyber schedule last spring hampered with this connection. But she didn’t dwell on this negative for too long, and instead told me how grateful she was to have the opportunity to return in-person learning. “I’m very thankful to be back in the classroom, and not only looking at their icons on the screen. That’s not what it’s about for me. It’s not about telling them the curriculum. It’s about making a connection.”

***

This connection piece doesn’t end once you progress past elementary school. In fifth grade, Mrs. Trach says that her job is to keep students “hooked on learning.” She told me that her greatest feat is being involved with “students’ lives beyond 5th grade… “It means that I was able to make a connection with a kid that lasted more than 180 days.” This connection really does make a difference, especially in a grade as strange as fifth grade, as I don’t think there is a time when you become more acutely aware that you have a body and a brain. If third grade me was peak me, fifth grade me was at the bottom of the barrel. But despite being a weird time to be human, fifth grade was the year Mrs. Trach introduced me to my love for reading and sparked my passion for writing. Mrs. Trach taught me something that I still am empowered to believe today and that is that WORDS ARE REALLY COOL! Without her class, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I probably wouldn’t be writing this article. 

Her inspiration for teaching reaches beyond just forming meaningful connections. Mrs. Trach told me that her inspiration was the long line of meaningful teachers who came before her. Being the daughter and granddaughter to profound teachers of their time, Mrs. Trach is keeping her family line strong each and every morning she comes into the class. Being a Nazareth veteran for 16 years, I asked Mrs. Trach what she believed has changed during the time the class of 2021 has been in the district. She told me the main thing that has changed as an ELA teacher is the shift of teaching students to practice creative writing to technical, analytic writing. In fact, she told me that she thinks it was the class of 2021 that pioneered this shift when the Text Dependent Analysis section was first introduced to the PSSA’s. Mrs. Trach told me that this addition to the tests was so overwhelming for creative writers in my class, that it even led to a few “breakdowns” at testing time. I laughed at this story, because frankly, it’s kind of funny. But this just seemed to clarify one idea that had been stirring in the back of my mind: a lot of change has happened with the class of 2021. 

Not only were we the first class to usher in this new technical, writing curriculum, but we are also the first to spend our entire senior year in a pandemic. And on a more positive note, in the 7th grade, we were the first class to start with chromebooks. Technology, most of my teachers agreed, was the biggest change in the 13 years as my class has moved through the district. Mr. Snyder, my 8th grade history teacher, said “the biggest change is the shift from a paper curriculum to an online curriculum.”

***

When I consider the eighth grade, I remain on the same slippery slope that I categorize fifth grade under. My only solace is that eighth grade is an awkward transitional phase for everyone, and I can promise you that I was no exception. Just figuring out how to be a real person, fourteen years old was not a time you wanted to meet me in. Unfortunately for him, that was the year Mr. Snyder had to have me in class. In the eighth grade, just like in the years before, I had the chance to come out of my shell and really practice my love for writing. Most of this happened in Mr. Snyder’s history class where I had the opportunity to participate in a speech competition. (Also important to mention, Mr. Snyder’s 8th grade history class was the only class to date that allowed me to sing Hamilton as a part of the lesson. I think this would be a good time to formally apologize to everyone in my class that year who had to listen to me rap “Non-Stop”). 

Looking back, I have realized that these wonderful moments happened in-person, in a classroom. Obviously, due to the current situation, things are different now. A cyber/hybrid schedule is the safest option for many students and families, and even though it’s a bummer that this is the way things are playing out, as long as everyone remains safe and healthy, then that’s all that matters.

However with the sudden implication of cyber school, at least in the school setting, it seems like things are going to stay on this technological advance for a little while. I asked Mr. Snyder what he thinks will continue to change in the next 13 years when the kindergarteners of today are graduating high school, and he said that he can see “cyber school becoming a mainstay in education”. 

And my other teachers, including Mrs. Jameson, agreed. “Technology is the biggest change,” she told me, especially through “our ability to communicate with students more frequently with schoology.” But she also believes that, emerging from the pandemic, schools across the nation will rethink the more traditional aspects of school including “school start times,” adhering to “really strict due dates,” and instead to begin to prioritize the “students’ mental health.” I think we can all agree that this is good news. 

Unlike the years before, I can’t be too critical of myself in the 11th grade since not enough time has passed for me to regret any personal choices I had made last year. Although it was a strange year that got cut short with unprecedented circumstances, I took my favorite classes in the school district during my junior year of high school: AP Psychology with Mr. Andstadt, AP Biology with Mrs. Rakos, and of course, AP Language and Composition with Mrs. Jameson. Lang was the first class where I felt like a real writer. Yes, I had been a writer in all of my previous English classes when I wrote papers, but this class was the one that really allowed me to craft my own voice. I am forever indebted to Mrs. Jameson for helping me do this. 

Lang was unique in the sense that Mrs. Jameson took to the practices she preaches of prioritizing students' mental health and made our well-being a key role in her classroom. Teaching 11th grade, Mrs. Jameson knows the trials and tribulations that students face making sure junior year is spotless for college apps. The priority of caring for our mental health shows through the conversations that flow in her class whether that be through smiles and frowns (starting off class by sharing a positive or negative event currently going on in our lives) or through the large group conversations that had persisted every 4th block I spent in her class. And if she had the chance to teach another course, Mrs. Jameson told me she would teach AP Psychology for the same reason: conversations. 

Creating a positive classroom environment is one of the few things in the district that hasn’t changed. Another thing that hasn’t changed? Weird student trends. While the slang seems to transform with the student body, all of the teachers can count on weird ways Gen Z decides to present itself. For Mr. Snyder, weird trends include “holes in the jeans” and “walking around with little white things in your ears all day” (aka airpods). For Mrs. Trach it’s lately been the term “yeet” which pops up in conversation between fifth graders and in the Zoom chats. 

***

But the uniqueness of my generation isn’t the only thing that has remained solid through the passing of time. Another is student success stories. Mrs. Nolder told me that the arcs she finds most rewarding are the ones of students who come in claiming that they don’t like reading or writing. Her favorite moment is when these particular students can say at the end of the year “I like reading now” or “wow, I can write.” “That feeling of knowing you’ve made a difference, broadened their horizons, and opened those doors for them” is the moment Mrs. Nolder said is the most gratifying. For my other teachers, it was a particular student that they remembered. Mrs. Jameson told me about a student who came into her class and had the opportunity to read short stories by authors who were representative of minorities. This student, who was previously struggling, told her that the article they read in class made him feel heard and gave him confidence. After that, the student felt as though he could succeed and could excel in education, even though the society may make him feel otherwise. Now, he is a junior in college, and succeeding in everything he puts his mind to. 

***

The easiest question for all four teachers to answer was the last question I asked them: what advice do you have for me and the class of 2021 as we embark on this next step of our lives?

I got a variety of wonderful answers as you’d expect from wonderful people. Mr. Snyder  wants us to make the most of our limited college years and to “be willing to take chances for things we normally wouldn’t do”. And an equally important one, “vote!” Mrs. Nolder smiled and told us to find something we love and to do it everyday for the rest of our lives. Mrs. Trach reminded me of the lesson she taught us on the first day of school, and that was to keep asking questions and to keep being curious. And Mrs. Jameson wants us to never stop learning, whether that be in a classroom or as a student of the world.

I figured this question was the easiest for them to answer because they all share one common trait: they’re all wonderful teachers. In many ways, this was their last time to teach me one final lesson. 

But after I exited my last zoom interview, I realized something more. Their advice wasn’t just easy to give because they are all great teachers; their advice was easy to give because they are all great human beings. And I have a secret to share. This similarity isn’t linked to just these four educators, but across the whole faculty at Nazareth. For 13 years I’ve been in this school district learning about the mitochondria and the constitution, but more importantly, I’ve also learned how to be a kind, compassionate human being. This was only possible because I saw these traits modeled by the people who stood before me in the front of the classroom. 

Yes, I may not remember each and every lesson these teachers taught me about the curriculum, but I’ll never forget the way they made me feel. 

***

So, there’s the secret to the classroom, Naz. It’s not in the water. It’s in the people. And now, as I reflect on the 13 years as I’ve walked in and out of each of their classrooms, I realize that makes all the difference.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

FEATURE: Dr. Resende Inspires Students

By Allie Talarico

In the top corner above the Assistant Superintendent’s desk is a small sign which reads “Live your life with purpose and intention.” When it comes to her own life, Dr. Isabelle Resende has always been driven by goals of inspiring young women to pursue careers in STEM. These intentions come from a lifetime of experiences working in genetic research and science.

Similar to her own drive as an educational professional, Dr. Resende was first inspired by a teacher of her own. Though she claims she did not meet society’s ‘qualifications’ for being the perfect student-being a first generation immigrant who barely knew a word of English when she entered elementary school- her high school biology teacher instilled a passion for solving problems which were aimed to better society.
Photo Credit: Nazarethasd.org

After graduating from Moravian College, Resende did just that. Dr. Resende went to Maryland post grad to work under Dr. Craig Venter on the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project was a decade long venture, discovering the complex and beautiful workup of genetics in the human body. Taking ode to previous DNA studies, The Human Genome Project separated the nucleotides of extracted DNA tagging each sequence, and sorting them into the “book of life.” After the DNA segments were tagged, researchers had the ability to analyze the sequences and detect any abnormalities for various ailments ranging from heart disease to diabetes. In her sector of the lab, Dr. Resende was one of the only females of the dominantly male group, working day and night to bend the stereotype set in place for women in science.

Following the Human Genome Project, Resende moved to further humanitarian work and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, researching Neuroblastoma, an often fatal form of pediatric cancer. Her work at CHOP was long and tedious, as she spent hours upon hours working with other world renowned scientists trying to find a genetic explanation for the cancer. While the work was nonprofit, Resende knew that monetary value was not the point of science. “How are you helping human society?” She asks. “How are you helping your community? Nonprofit work provided help for families to come,” she explained, expressing her gratitude for the work. Dr. Resende and her team were published in Nature Genetics, a prestigious scientific magazine following their outstanding work in helping the families of tomorrow battle through the toughest time of their lives.

By then, Dr. Resende had already accomplished so much in her career, but she felt that she was at a crossroads. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a graduate degree in Biochemistry, she had planned to run her own research laboratory. However, she noticed that while fulfilling, a lab hindered her ultimate passion-human interaction. Now she had a choice: would she go into nursing, a fairly scientific approach, or would she share her experiences and better society through inspiring youth in the classroom? She chose the latter, attending Lehigh University to obtain her master’s in education. From there, Dr. Resende never stopped teaching-or learning. While teaching AP Biology for many years, she earned her certification to become principal and from there her administrative certification.

Looking around her office, at all the things she had accomplished through her career, I asked her what her greatest accomplishment was. She says that it was her ability to inspire several female students to go on into scientific research to reshape the gender game like she had. “It’s all about connections.” She recounts. “And relationships. And how we work together to make that goal.” In fact she said it best: “It’s not about a position or a title. It’s about encouraging others to find your own dreams.”  She made it clear that dreams are not always a clear path. In fact, dreams often change while you’re in them. “I often look around and ask myself how did I get here?” she says, smiling. While her long term goal in high school was not to be the Assistant Superintendent of one of the best school districts in the state, Dr. Resende feels that she is where she belongs and fulfilling her purpose.

Every day Dr. Resende inspires young girls in our district to reach their goals in STEM careers. Through her story, dedication to the community, and willingness to keep learning, she is continuing to spread her message.

I closed our conversation by asking advice for young girls who are interested in careers in science. Her face lit up as if she had been waiting for the question her whole life. “If you have a passion for life, and you’re curious about the world around you, go for it. Challenge yourself.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Got an E-Hallpass?

By Muskan Bajwa and Adrian Gomes

E-Hallpass is part of Nazareth High School’s new trend towards electronic resources.  It is an online pass service that helps schools in various ways, such as quicker, easier access on electronic devices, which all students carry most of the time. Teachers can activate and deactivate passes for students to go to the restroom, the office, or even other classrooms. 

NAHS administration has accepted E-Hallpass from day one. Ms. Strausser, the school’s educational technology specialist, states, “I liked the idea. I am on my computer all the time and I find it easier to click on approve in the E-Hallpass dashboard for a student pass then to look for a paper pass.”  Mr. Tafel, from the history department, agrees that it’s easy to use since it's only a few clicks away rather than filling out a paper. 

E-Hallpass has made passes easier in numerous ways. Especially for staff who have a larger number of students to keep track of, such as Mrs. Strouse in the library, who uses E-Hallpass for everything and has stopped using paper passes entirely. 

Even though this new pass system has made it easier for the staff, it has caused some issues. Ms. Strausser explains, “So far, I have found only one staff member who is not a member in the program. I have a tech request in to have that issue fixed.” For teachers and other staff members, though, the internet connection has occasionally been an issue, according to Mr. Tafel. 

E-Hallpass is an innovative software to make schools safer and go on to a paperless future. According to a blog post on the Eduspire Solutions website, “With e-hallpass, physical security of students is paramount, and the data made available through the application’s reporting features can help administrators and teachers refine their emergency preparedness measures”

In fact, Mrs. Strausser explains that at Nazareth “It also helps during safety drills.  If I have to account for a student who has not been checked in by a teacher, I can check to see if they were out on a pass. This will help me narrow down what part of the building the student might be in. I could use this information to contact one of the teams near that location to find the unaccounted for student.”

Monday, November 4, 2019

OPINION: Election Day Off for Everyone!

By Sydney Daly and Adrianna Wagner

In today’s volatile climate, safety within schools is of utmost priority. The thought of an outsider entering the secure community of a public school is unsettling at the very least. This caused the Nazareth Area School District, as well as some other districts to close on Election Day, granting students a day off.

Image credit: abc57.com

When asked about the decision, NASD Superintendent Dr. Dennis L. Riker stated, "In the past we have only had voting at Butz Elementary School.  This year, voting will also take place at the Middle School. For the safety of our staff and students, I have recommended we close the District for the day."

However, the choice to close districts on Election Day is left entirely to school officials. Hundreds of thousands of students and working-class citizens are required to attend work and school on Election Day. This can prevent them from fulfilling their civic duty because they may not have time to get to the polls. Election Day should be recognized as a National Holiday. Declaring Election Day a holiday could give the citizens preoccupied with daily life the opportunity to vote, as well as ensure the safety of students all across America.

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Sound of New Choral Music

By Graeme Olson

The Nazareth High School chorus program has two new groups starting this year, and it is an exciting time of change for those involved.  

There’s now an auditioned all men’s choir, Men of Nazareth, which rehearses every Tuesday and Thursday after school.  It has 13 male vocalists in its first year of existence.  Choral director Mrs. Kelly Rocchi said her inspiration for starting an all men’s choir was that female members also got attention in Nightingales, while male singers didn’t have the same opportunity.  So, she believes having this all male choir will help male and female singers be “on a level playing field.”

However, Men of Nazareth isn’t the only new group starting in the Nazareth choral program this year.  Cantus, an elite choral group with 16 singers, is an auditioned group that rehearses every F Day during Eagle Block.  It is essentially the replacement for Chorale, the former auditioned co-ed group that rehearsed after school.  Chorale had about 30 members, so Cantus is more exclusive, about half that. 

Cantus perform at Lehigh University. Photo Credit: Kelly Rocchi

Cantus is a particularly elite group, as there are only 4 people for each voice part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass).  And because Cantus typically only meets on F days during Eagle Block, the students must come to each rehearsal having practiced their music.  How is the new group working so far?  In the words of Mrs. Rocchi, “so far so good.”  She says because the singers in Cantus have proper vocal technique, that helps them despite their limited amount of rehearsal time.  

Liam Condon, a member of Cantus, described Cantus as a “very hard working group of people who truly love what they’re doing.” He emphasized the amount of dedication and involvement it takes to be a member of this group.  Since there’s little rehearsal time, everyone has to be more dedicated to practicing.  Cantus has already done two gigs, one of which was called “Night Lights,” which helped raise money for cancer research.  They also sang at the “Joyful Noise” event in Bethlehem, which was a celebration for the city recovering after Bethlehem Steel closed.  Overall, Liam told me that he thinks Cantus will reach its full potential as the year goes on.  

It should be noted that the other new group, Men of Nazareth, is a very new experience for Mrs. Rocchi and the male singers in the group.  Mrs. Rocchi bought an exercise book called “The Resonant Male Singer” that helps male singers with vocal technique.  She says that teaching male singers is very different from teaching the Nightingales, as male singers have different anatomies and deeper voices. Rocchi has focused on helping the group become more resonant singers, with a forward and clear sound.  Their first big event was Saturday, October 12th, where they participated in the “Men of Song” festival at Penn State with high schools all around the area, with well over 200 singers, including the Penn State glee club.

Men of Nazareth enjoying pie. Photo Credit: Kelly Rocchi

 Now, where did the names “Cantus” and “Men of Nazareth” come from anyway?  Rocchi says that “Cantus” is the Latin word for “sing.”  Since a lot of choral music is in Latin, that definitely makes sense.  

Rocchi considered a few possible names for the all-male group, though, and thought about calling them the “Knights,” as the name sounds similar to the Nightingales.  She made clear that many guy group names are pun-oriented, like Crescedudes, so she decided to go with the more powerful and professional-sounding Men of Nazareth. 

Altogether, there are now 6 different vocal groups at Nazareth.  When asked if managing all of them was stressful, Mrs. Rocchi replied quite simply at first: “Yes!”  However, Rocchi believes it is rewarding, and that her experience of teaching for 15 years has helped her out. 

When there are so many different singing groups, organization is key.  Rocchi emphasized that in smaller groups there’s a heightened sense of responsibility for each member; if someone is screwing up, it’s more easily noticeable, so it makes everyone work a bit harder.  She saw that as a positive, but if a few members of a section are missing from rehearsal, that can be detrimental.  

As for the future of the choral program, Rocchi dreams that one day there could be 40 men in the Men of Nazareth group, just like the Nightingales.  However, she feels that Cantus should be kept at 16 members, as the competition means that hopefuls will work harder on their music in order to get in the group.  

It’s an exciting year of change for the Nazareth choral program.  Both of these groups will contribute well in our concerts and events around the community.

Share the Road

By Alora Kutzler and Ian White

Last month, Nazareth Area High School SADD Club held the Share the Road program provided by Walmart. This program taught students how to drive safely around large vehicles.

The truck drivers who ran the program explained the purpose of the program. One driver, Adam, is a professional driver with 21 years of experience and 3 million miles in his career. He explained, "Trucks are on every road, and it's good for all people, especially younger drivers to learn about how to be safe around large trucks."


Nazareth students climbed into the cab and got to look from the truck driver's point of view which gave them insight on blind spots and safe distances from other vehicles. But students also learned that truck drivers do more than just drive. The drivers explained what they see on the highway and how they are trained to react. Students also learned how truck drivers are part of Pennsylvania’s spotted lanternfly campaign; they’re required to inspect their trucks for and of the invasive insects who may be hitching a ride. Addtionally, the Truck drivers also explained how they regularly keep a vigilant eye out for the signs of human trafficking.

Students found the program to be a valuable one. Junior Isaiah Eddings gave his take-home of the event.  He stated, ‘’I found this event very insightful because I learned how to drive around trucks safely. Today I learned many things such as the right side of a truck is the biggest blind spot for the driver.’’  He suggested we “do this for juniors and seniors every year because it helps […] drivers, drive safely around trucks and avoid accidents.’’ 

SADD Club leader Mrs. Frace was pleased with the Walmart truck drivers and the event: “We are surrounded by warehouses nowadays and we cannot avoid trucks on the road, so this event is very helpful and gives a lot of knowledge to not only new drivers but to the experienced driver as well.”

She is already planning next year's event, explaining, “I believe next year we are going to make it mandatory so every gym class brings their juniors down, then we will get everyone involved.”


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Nazareth HAUNTing

by Sydney Daly and Adrianna Wagner



It’s that time of year again! Horror films are cast into theaters, Halloween candy hits the shelves, and people begin to anticipate spine-tingling amusement. Fortunately, for those in the Halloween spirit, there is a community event hosted by the Nazareth Football Boosters taking place at Tuskes Park on October 19th from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM. The Haunt has become a yearly event. The event coordinator, Mr. Rod Wilson, said “It’s been very good in the past. Last year, we drew 400 kids--so it’s popular.” Cost is $5 for one lap around the track and $10 for unlimited laps, where visitors can enjoy frightening attractions put on by an assortment of Nazareth’s sports teams and high school theatre classes. Attractions will include a Voodoo Swamp constructed by the softball team, an Undead Hall of Famer theme by the baseball team, a petrifying scene drawing inspiration from classic slasher films performed by our theatre troupe, and an eerie circus assembled by the cheer team. Throughout the night, patrons can vote for their favorite attraction giving each group the opportunity to win a prize. Mr. Wilson also has high hopes for the future of the activity: “This is turning into a community event. That is directly where we want it to go. We’re hoping to get this somewhere on the school grounds next year and add in many of the other booster clubs because this could easily become a Nazareth tradition. It’s a lot of fun, and it brings the community together.”