From The Desk Of Elaine Kanas

East Williston School Superintendent Elaine Kanas
East Williston School Superintendent Elaine Kanas

Academic Vocabulary
Last year, the East Williston School District undertook an academic vocabulary effort across the three buildings. Steering Towards Success is a program being implemented at the Willets Road School that supports the academic vocabulary initiative in our middle school. The goal of the program is to not only introduce children to academic vocabulary, but to also encourage and inspire each student to incorporate the new words into their own daily language. The Willets Road staff collaborates on this project school-wide, eager to make expanding one’s vocabulary contagious throughout the building.

Each week there is a vocabulary word of the week. Students are encouraged to use the word in many different contexts; and members of each class have the opportunity to fill out a vocabulary activity sheet each week in competition with other grades. The symbol for the program is a car (steering for success). If you walk by the gymatorium you will see a poster charting the success of the various grades. Students have been checking the poster each week to see which grade’s car is pulling ahead.

Many thanks to our Home and Careers teacher Michelle Santoro who coordinates this program for the building and for the support of all the Willets Road Staff and administration. If you want to view the academic vocabulary words for Middle School go to the district website at and click on Curriculum on the red horizontal navigation bar.

Engineering Update
This week I had the chance to visit a Project Lead the Way engineering class taught by Patrick Hurley, Wheatley technology teacher. As a result of the District strategic planning initiative, an engineering program was introduced this year at Wheatley to support our district STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative.

The class I visited is the first class in what can be a four-year engineering sequence for those students who elect to take the full sequence. As described in the course catalog, students dig deep into the engineering design process, applying math, science, and engineering standards to hands-on projects in this class. They work both individually and in teams to design solutions to a variety of problems using 3D modeling software while using an engineering notebook to document their work. Students were adept at explaining their projects to me, which were so competently completed.

I was excited to hear that many of them are enthusiastic about moving on to the second class in the sequence next year. A national goal is to increase the number of women in STEM careers, and we are doing our part. Our program has both boys and girls participating, with many students of both genders enthusiastically looking forward to continuing with the program in their coming high school years. Many thanks to technology teachers Patrick Hurley and Tom Storck who are teaching the engineering courses this year, and who both committed much time and energy this summer to intensive training by Project Lead the Way and preparation to launch the foundational course of the Engineering Sequence this fall.

There is research which demonstrates that students who have high levels of social and emotional competence have greater academic competence over time. In the East Williston School District, administrators and staff are committed to the development of the whole child, social and emotional development as well as cognitive growth. See 2014-15 District Goal #6, Continue to foster the development of the whole child, 6C Add Second Step Program to Grade 1 and 6D Begin process of elevating Second Step at North Side to being viewed as school-wide character education curriculum at www.ewsd

Teachers Shine At Math Counts Conference
This month, some of our North Side teachers attended and presented at the How to Make Math Count Conference K-8 at Molloy College, sponsored by the Nassau County Mathematics Teachers Association (NCMTA) and the Nassau County Association of Math Supervisors (NCAMS). First grade teacher Donna Casano presented a workshop titled Incorporate Games and Activities to Reinforce Math Concepts in the Primary Classroom.

Enrichment teacher Henry Kupstas presented a workshop titled Reach for the Stars, Challenge your Students and Exercise their Minds. Second grade teacher Mike Mazur’s workshop was titled Forks and Math. Every Day Items Make Math an Adventure Every Day. Math specialist Lisa Minerva, who happens to be the current president of NCMTA, presented a workshop titled A Place for Zero. Along with presenting, our teachers were able to attend other workshops as well. Some other North Side and Willets Road teachers were also able to attend workshops too.

Congratulations to Ms. Minerva, for putting on a great conference and for all our teacher-presenters who received the highest evaluation ratings from the Conference attendees.

Willets Road Teachers Published
Willets Road science teachers Kristen Kandel’s and Natalie Brew’s article, “Our Science Story: When Science Inquiry Meets the Common Core,” was accepted and will be published in the February issue of Science Scope, the National Science Teachers Association’s peer-reviewed journal for middle level and junior high school science teachers. Congratulations Ms. Kandel and Ms. Brew.

New York City Production
Wheatley’s very own English teacher Rick Leidenfrost-Wilson was back once again during the holidays as author/performer of yet another Pirate Holiday Spectacular presented by Off Sides Entertainment at the Snapple Theatre Center in Manhattan. Similar to last year’s pirate spectacle, this one centers on a crew of pirates held captive by a sea witch who won’t let the brigands go unless they perform musical theatre. The production received a wonderful review in the New York Times (
-dec-26-jan-1.html?_r=0). The original pirate production, The Greatest Pirate Story (N)ever Told, which also received an excellent review in the New York Times, is coming back again for three performances only, President’s Weekend in February at the Snapple Theatre Center.

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