Valley Recognizes Akron, Mentone Elementaries as PLTW Distinguished Schools

MENTONE – Mentone and Akron elementaries were recognized Monday at the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation School Board meeting for having 2021-22 Project Lead The Way School Distinction.

Inga Omondi, instructional coach at TVSC, said the school corporation offers PLTW at its elementary, middle and high schools.

At the elementary school level, elementary leadership worked together to put together an implementation plan for the 2015-16 school year. The plan was implemented in the 2016-17 school year.

A teacher was selected to be a PLTW coach and train all elementary teachers on PLTW models. Omondi said it was a two-year training plan. There is a PLTW teacher in each building to train all new teachers, keep up supplies needed and troubleshoot technical issues.

In 2017, the two elementary schools adopted PLTW as their science curriculum, she said.

In order to be a PLTW Distinguished School, Mentone and Akron elementaries had to have at least 75% of its student body take part in at least one PLTW module and the schools had to offer one PLTW project module in each grade from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Omondi said the 2022-23 school year is a science curriculum adoption year and the school corporation plans on readopting PLTW as its science curriculum at the elementary level. It will allow the school corporation to obtain more money to purchase more PLTW modules for students to participate in.

Akron and Mentone are two of 282 nationwide to receive the recognition. Omondi said it’s Akron’s third to have the designation and Mentone’s second year. Tippecanoe Valley Middle School has applied for the designation, but hasn’t received the distinction yet.

Also recognized Monday was retiring Akron first-grade teacher Rhonda Jewell. She was not present at the meeting.

Superintendent Blaine Conley said Jewell is retiring after 48 years of education, all at TVSC.

Jewell came to Akron Elementary in 1974 and taught second grade her first year of teaching, Conley said. She was located in a janitor’s room at the former Akron High School. She had 12 or 13 students that year. At Christmastime, she was moved over to the elementary school and picked up an additional 15 students or so.

After her first year, Jewell was asked if she wanted to move over to first grade, where she remained for 47 years. She worked under six superintendents and seven principals.

She said when she looks back on her career, the things that are most rewarding is when a child grasps a concept for the first time. It is even more rewarding when the student has struggled with that concept.

She said she will miss the students first, saying “first-graders are extremely honest.”

In the future, she plans to read, craft and enjoy time with her grandchildren.

In other business, the Board:

• Approved the food service vendors for 2022-23.

• Approved the 2022-23 school lunch prices. Conley stated the prices will remain at the same price as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students will have to pay for lunch as the free lunch program that ran during the pandemic will end at the end of June. The people who need free and reduced lunches will have the opportunity to apply for the free and reduced lunch program during the registration process for the 2022-23 school year.

• Approved a grant for $2,000 from the Kosciusko Endowment Youth Services for the Valley Learning Academy. It will go toward operations costs.

In May, the school corporation announced it will open a day care for its staff starting in the 2022-23 school year.

• Introduced some new staff members: Hannah Gibbons, special needs teacher at Tippecanoe Vally Middle School; Marc Green, varsity softball coach at Tippecanoe Valley High School; Brittany Mathias, head cheer coach at TVHS; and Ashley Keeney, fifth-grade teacher at Mentone Elementary.