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LVE Parents' Council



Celebrating Writing!


Getting a new dog, picking pumpkins and going to the beach are just some of the topics that young authors at Locust Valley Elementary School wrote about and shared with their families during writing celebrations in several classes. While these topics can be broad, students are learning to write about moments in time, honing in on specific details of larger events.

Maura Hauck’s third-grade class at Locust Valley Intermediate School shared their writing with their families and described to the visitors the process they used to create their personal narratives. Some of these writing skills included starting new paragraphs when something new happens, using quotation marks and showing how their characters feel. They also used editing strategies such as looking for words in the dictionary and writing a word three times to see if it looked correct.

Ms. Hauck said her students’ true narratives required learning many skills and understanding that editing and revising written work is necessary. 

“It is important that writers share their work, since writing is meant to communicate and share with the world,” she said.  She invited the author’s families to a writing celebration in which guests not only heard several students read their stories, but also provided written feedback for each story. “Feedback is crucial to writers,” Ms. Hauck explained.

At Ann MacArthur Primary School, the entire first grade held author celebrations in their individual classrooms. These authors learned to stretch out a small moment in time by sharing thoughts and feelings and to think about how to use the five senses. They focused on writing a creative beginning to draw readers in and an interesting ending to pull the story together. Authors welcomed each of the guests to hear their stories, and visitors were encouraged to get autographs from each of the authors. Sharing their stories with others and giving their autographs helped students feel that their writing is important.

First-grade teacher Karen Kriesberg agreed with Ms. Hauck that having an audience is an important part of the students’ growth as writers. “The author celebration does just that – celebrates our young writers becoming published authors,” Ms. Kriesberg said. “They have the opportunity to share their writing as professional writers do, for an audience. When the children see themselves as writers, it motivates them to learn even more about writing.”

First-grade teachers Kim Derenthal, Kim Herlich and Brianna Spitaliere each held the same author celebration in their classrooms as part of the writing curriculum.

These writing projects and subsequent celebrations were in line with the Teachers College Writing Project curriculum, which the district adopted this year. Elementary school teachers received professional development from Teachers College and are all using the program to enhance student writing.

Coins for Canines

Locust Valley Elementary School students are raising funds to help support the police department K-9 unit. Through Coins for K-9s, the Locust Valley Intermediate School Student Council is collecting spare change for this cause. In support of their efforts, Nassau and Suffolk County police officers brought their K-9 partners to the school to demonstrate their police skills. 

Suffolk County police officer Brendan Gayer not only explained to students how the German Shepherds are trained for police work, but dubbed them junior K-9 handlers and taught them a command. He explained that the dogs work hard and won’t take their toys until they are told it’s playtime. He had all the children shout in their happiest, most playful tones, the word for playtime, which is “free.” The children enjoyed learning this training technique and seeing the dogs grab their toys on their command.  

Officer Gayer, who is one of the K-9 trainers and handles a German Shepherd named Rascal, introduced his fellow officers and their dogs, who demonstrated how they sit, lay down, jump and run through tunnels. For the final demonstration, one of the four-legged police officers came out to sniff for a particular scent. His trainer placed a certain collar on him, alerting him to his task, and he walked on the stage, nose to the ground. He quickly found the scent and the audience broke into applause. 

Student Council advisers Jane Benstock and Shari Zindman organized the presentation so students understand what the donations would go towards. “The students learned the importance of supporting the K-9 unit and had the opportunity to see what goes into training the dogs,” Mrs. Benstock said.

Thanks to Officer Gayer and his team for their time and dedication to keeping everyone safe. From Suffolk County, the K-9 handlers included Sergeant Kevin Krause and his K-9, Wolf, and police officer Ryan Neems and his K-9, Gunnar, and from Nassau County, Sergeant Rob Cohen with Moose and police officers Tom Kananowicz with Bernie, Chris Karman with Chief and Mike Leone with Turo.

Balancing Fun and Learning


When the circus comes to town, Locust Valley Elementary School students join in the fun! Thanks to the Locust Valley Parents’ Council, students enhanced physical and mental skills such as balancing, spinning objects, coordination and teamwork.

Fourth-graders perfected their skills during a weeklong circus workshop that culminated with a performance for their families. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade also had the opportunity to learn some circus tricks during their physical education classes. 

The program is run by the National Circus Project, an arts-in-education program, physical education program and cultural program all rolled into one. You can see some of the fun in the video below.


Embracing Cultural Diversity


Locust Valley families grabbed their passports and traveled the world without the hassle of packing suitcases or experiencing jetlag. The Ann MacArthur Primary School and Locust Valley Intermediate School community just had to get themselves to AMP, where an International Food Festival awaited their arrival.

The all-purpose room was filled with delicious smells emanating from culinary delights popular in Albania, Chile, El Salvador, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and many more countries, as guests brought dishes that represented their own cultures. The room décor included placements designed by the students, which represented maps of various countries and colorful pennants hung throughout the space. 

Food and décor were not the only things that created the international feel. Performances by students provided insight into the lifestyle and culture of some of the represented countries. Guests were treated to Irish and Greek dancing and a violin solo. Each child received a passport in which they could document the countries they visited by tasting those foods. A photo backdrop was provided for vacation selfies and games representing various regions were played by children and parents alike. Aboriginal dot painting provided fun and exposure to an activity that children in another culture enjoy.

The International Food Festival was hosted and organized by the Locust Valley Parents’ Council. The annual event provides an opportunity for families to share their own cultures with the community. 

Locust Valley Elementary School Principal Dr. Sophia Gary said the Parents’ Council goes above and beyond to make the evening special. “Everyone truly enjoyed the festival, and our students saw firsthand that the traits that make us unique also make us special,” she said. 

Book Club Offers More than Reading

Every Friday, a group of students at Locust Valley Intermediate School voluntarily bring their lunch to ENL teacher Kristi Van Vleet’s classroom to read, talk and, of course, eat. The book talk program not only includes reading a book together throughout the year, but these voracious readers have the opportunity to communicate with the author through videos they create asking her questions and videos she sends back with the answers. 

There are 10 fifth-graders and three staff members participating in the program, which was organized through #KidsNeedMentors, a free program that matches authors with educators in a literary partnership that lasts throughout the school year. Ms. Van Vleet was paired with author Jodi Kendall and the group is reading her book, “The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City.” 

Each week, the students bring their lunches and share snacks while the book is read aloud, offering their thoughts on questions that Ms. Van Vleet poses to them regarding the book’s themes. Sometimes, the group takes turns reading aloud, and no matter who is reading, the conversations that spark from the story’s content is impactful. 

The book club is a safe place and the participants feel comfortable talking about things that they can relate to in the book,” Ms. Van Vleet said.  “They often speak about their personal experiences and can easily relate to Josie, the main character in the book.”

Having access to the author has been a valuable experience, as their interactions with her validate for the students that their thoughts and opinions matter. They can ask any questions about the book and Ms. Kendall has been very generous in answering them all.  

Reading teacher Diana Oromaner and ENL teaching assistant Cyndy Ergen have become honorary members of the book club, reading along, commenting and bringing snacks. 

Assistant Principal Amy Watson said the book talk is a wonderful academic opportunity for the students. “They are learning so much and sacrificing their free time to do so,” she said. “Ms. Van Vleet is providing a unique opportunity and likely instilling a love of reading in her students.”