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York City School District honored 35 teachers whose students exceeded academic growth expectations in 2017-18 at a special luncheon Thursday, Dec. 6. Lindsay C VanAsdalan, The York Dispatch

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York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said ensuring children reach academic benchmarks is a concern for the whole community.

"What are you supposed to do when a 4-year-old is behind and becomes a 6-year-old that has to take home a little piece of paper that says 'I'm not as good as I'm supposed to be'?" he asked.

If you're a York City School District teacher, you commit to student growth each year.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, the district honored 35 "Shining Star Teachers" whose students exceeded the state's growth expectation in the 2017-18 Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment results.

The expectation is to grow one grade level in a year, said district spokeswoman Erin James, but some students surpassed that standard, and their teachers were commended for their role in helping them achieve that success.

No surprise: Those honored said the growth came as no surprise.

Steve Little, who teaches fifth- and sixth-grade math at Hannah Penn K-8, said he noticed improvement in student effort alone that he felt propelled his students to success.

He always tells them to shoot for the highest benchmark, he said, knowing that, "if they don't hit the stars, I know they're going to land on the moon."

The majority of his students showed growth this year, with many achieving proficiency, Little said.

Kara Snyder and Lindsay Kaltreider, teachers at the district's STEAM Academy — which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math — said that since their building opened just last year, everyone knew expectations were high.

More: Students, parents get first look at Smith STEAM Academy

Both students and teachers gave their all, Snyder said, and teachers are continuing to work in committees to introduce project-based learning tailored to each grade level.

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Standouts: After a celebratory luncheon Thursday, each honored teacher received an award from the district and a personalized letter from Gov. Tom Wolf, as well as recognition from Helfrich and local legislators.

The honorees cheered for their fellow educators and laughed together as they watched a video of each of their school principals sharing stories about them.

"Mrs. (Angela) Conaway is my feel-good person in the building," said Davis K-8 Principal Mindy Sweitzer in the video. "When you need a pick-me-up, you can walk into her classroom."

Natasha Mathis, principal of Ferguson K-8, praised Jared Mummert for his expectations.

"Not only on the first day of school is he ready with instruction — by the third day of school, he has students on the board, modeling," she said.

A long way: Everyone celebrated a district they knew had come far to achieve its goals.

York City is currently on a four-year, state-mandated financial recovery plan, scheduled for completion in June 2019, which includes academic achievement goals.

More: York City schools: End of state oversight near?

More: York City district will apply to end recovery status this summer

In the 2016-17 school year, students exceeded the average growth standard in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment for grades 4-8, and the following year the district met or exceeded the growth standard in all state assessments.

"I'm truly impressed by the hard work these teachers have shown me," said Craig Linn, principal of Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy, in the video.

More: State report card: York City district excels in growth; Central York, Dover struggle

Efforts did not go unnoticed by the community either, as Helfrich congratulated the district and committed to working with Harrisburg Area Community College to bring adult education classes to the district's K-8 schools.

More: York City mayor plans to use neighborhood schools for community programs

Lise Levin, vice president of community investment at the York County Community Foundation, announced that every teacher whose students exceeded the growth expectation would be eligible to apply for a grant of up to $500 to use in their classroom this year.

"We're so grateful for what these teachers are doing for their students," Levin said, and the foundation plans to continue the grant opportunity for years to come.

"It's an incredible feeling to be recognized for a job you do where you don't expect the recognition," Little said. "You do it for the love."

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VIDEO: Meet the staff: LIndsay VanAsdalan York Dispatch

 

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