Letter: Orchard Park Elementary sets standard

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Editor,

Thunderous applause for the teachers at Orchard Park Elementary School – especially during teacher appreciation week (May 5-9). This sentiment expressed by me, a twice-a-week volunteer tutor. No doubt many others share my unequivocally positive sentiments. Orchard Park sparkles both indoors and out. The grounds are well-manicured and the hallways are adorned with bright, colorful decorations, samples of students’ work, teachers’ pictures and biographies and motivational messages. The spotless carpeted hallways provide additional instructional space when students are clustered for small group instruction. The staff perpetuates a sense of security. Visitors may enter through the heavy metal and glass security doors only after being checked through by friendly but vigilant office personnel. Time-sensitive photo identification passes are issued to specific areas in the building. Emergency plans are effective. I observed an orderly and efficient student evacuation which eventually turned out to be precautionary. I’m also aware that teachers are well-versed in their responsibilities if the need for a “lockdown” should arise. Each child is valued at Orchard Park. I have witnessed dozens of staff-pupil interactions in which students are always treated with dignity and respect. All adults – even volunteers – are required to watch a video related to the school’s anti-bullying policy. The school’s halls and classrooms promote the anti-bullying campaign with attention-getting posters. I have observed the staff respond appropriately and compassionately to a special needs student in distress. Orchard Park teachers’ primary focus is student learning. Each time I’ve entered a classroom; students have been productive and engaged. Curriculum is consistent within grade levels. Students are frequently grouped for practice, clarification and enrichment. Adult discussion leaders are versed in asking challenging questions. Teachers work above and beyond normal expectations. Classroom websites are provided so that parents can monitor and support classroom instruction. In my case, not only do teachers design lessons for their entire class, but they take the extra time to develop personalized plans for the students with whom I work. Kudos to Cathy Jackson, Luke Long, Holly Straka, Lauren Kerswick (the teachers for whom I volunteer) and the many other professionals at Orchard Park who so successfully dedicate their efforts for the benefit of our children.

Wagner Van Vlack, 46032


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