by Jonathan Weaver
Although mostly only five years old, about 40 Shannock Valley Elementary kindergarten students during the past month have thought about what they want to be when they grow up.
This is the first year Kindergarten Teacher Jaclyn Parks – an Armstrong School District teacher for 13 years – coordinated the activities, coinciding with the last year of the current reading series.
“We have had the same reading program for the last eight years, (but) I’ve never done this type of activity,” Parks said. “I’ve always thought about doing this because we’re adopting a new reading series next year and (teachers) are already being trained on that.”
Last year, students watched the Kittanning High School production of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and talked about literature, folklore and famous fairytales, but this year, nearly a dozen different ‘community helpers’ (such as chefs, hair stylists or pharmacists) read to students during “Read Across America” in March and talked to them about their careers.
“We had some people in the community come in and read to us, just to gear them up for their lesson,” Parks said. “The community has really stepped up.”
Parks said students predominantly want to be teachers when they get older, with one student even wanting to be a principal like Shannock Valley Elementary’s Jennifer Reiter, while others wanted to “follow in their parents’ footsteps.”
“They want to emulate what they see – and that’s a positive thing. That inspires them to do well in school and then go be whoever God sees them fit to be,” Parks said. “My job is to help them do that.”
Parks also decided to be a teacher when she was in now-retired Shannock Valley Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Doreen Tylinski’s class. She said she was influenced by Tylinski and her father – retired Fourth Grade Teacher Jack Emery.
“I hope I can be half the teachers that either of them were,” Parks said.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Junior Lacey Rogacki – a Kiski Area graduate – also wanted to be a teacher since she was young
“I’d always come home and play school as a kid – that’s the only job I ever wanted to have,” Rogacki said.
Rogacki also talked to students about working at the local Wendy’s fast-food chain. She finishes the semester May 8.
To end the lesson, students visited Fox’s Pizza and Frosty’s Frozen Delights along Route 85 Wednesday morning and make their own treats.
Frosty’s Owner Brian Crytzer, of Rural Valley, opened for the sixth season March 20, and said children enjoyed making their own sundaes – full of endless topping possibilities.
“The kids talk about coming here in the evenings and (Parks) thought it would be a good idea for them to stop in. We let them make their own sundae – we helped them get their ice cream in their bowl and let them pick whatever toppings they wanted
“You’re not having fun unless you’re messy,” Crytzer said.
George Kaza and wife, Sandy, bought the Fox’s Pizza franchise from George’s sister and brother-in-law (Cindy and Steve Carcelli) seven months ago. He and Sandy said students made pizzas just like the shop employees would – even by washing their hands first.
“We made bambinos – they sauced them, they cheesed them – and then they brought them over to the oven – we showed them how to put it in and where they came out on the other side,” George said. “We (delivered) them at 11AM at the school.”
The Fordham (Jefferson County) residents added that students were well-mannered. They are to bake with a group of HeadStart students from Dayton next month.
“They’re a good bunch of kids, and we’re looking forward to next year’s,” Sandy said.
“Between pizza and ice cream, how can you go wrong?,” Crytzer concluded.
Parks – who lives in Elderton with husband, Eric, and sons, Jace and Samuel – said the community leaders helped show students how important reading is and praised them for their assistance.
“I’m so proud of the Rural Valley/NuMine area and the Armstrong attendance area the way they came forward and volunteered their services, their time,” Powers said.
“Small-towns are some of the best places in the world.”
Wednesday afternoon, students also heard from Rural Valley volunteer firefighters and baked cupcakes with Tina Williams from DiMaio’s Market.