Respect for All – Random Acts of Kindness

Be the I in Kind bulletin board

Shaler Area schools are promoting a culture of kindness from building-wide initiatives to bulletin boards.

The Shaler Area School District will be participating in a Random Acts of Kindness – Respect for Others campaign to support the Respect for All initiative that began last spring. Respect for All promotes respect across all our schools and community. Our desire is to see our school district transformed by demonstrations of kindness and respect in our classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, school buses, and all around our schools and community. We believe the Respect for All campaign is an important aspect of who we are as a school district.

Starting on Tuesday, February 18 through Friday, February 21, we are encouraging all staff, students, and community to demonstrate intentional acts of kindness to others. Our schools are brainstorming and planning ways to incorporate kindness into activities, lessons, and challenges within their schools, and we will be sharing out activities and stories on social media via #RespectforAll. Working together, we will continue to grow a culture of respect and kindness, and we believe the result of this will have a dramatic impact on our students, school district, and community.

I am so proud of our schools and community for prioritizing respect and kindness throughout the school year and specifically this week. Through the Respect for All initiatives, we are creating a culture of respect and kindness—an important life skill for all of us.


‘Tis the Season of Giving at Shaler Area

18 students posing in two lines in a room of toys stacked on tables

The SAES Student Ambassadors led an effort to collect 2,668 toys, games, and books to benefit the North Hills Community Outreach toy drive

The students, staff, and families of Shaler Area Elementary School have gone above and beyond this year to ensure many families in the northern communities of Pittsburgh have a blessed holiday season. The SAES Student Ambassadors, a group of 6th-grade student leaders, organized a toy collection to benefit the North Hills Community Outreach toy drive. Their efforts led to an impressive collection of 2,668 toys, games, and books. After loading a district vehicle with the gifts, the ambassadors traveled to North Hills Community Outreach to organize all the toys on tables for parents to come and shop for their children. We are so proud of our students for their leadership, compassion, and generosity.

Beyond the elementary school, Shaler Area students are demonstrating this same level of compassion and generosity in all of our schools. Although this list is not a comprehensive in nature, here’s a snapshot of what is occurring across our district during this holiday season:

At Burchfield Primary,  students wrote letters to Santa to be donated to Macy’s Letters to Santa campaign that donates $1 per letter, up to $1 million, to Make-A-Wish. Also, students and staff sponsored an Angel Tree and purchased gifts to benefit 15 Shaler Area families.

Scott Primary hosted its annual “Scott Gives Back” night, during which students, their families, and staff members made blankets for Project Linus, holiday cards for soldiers, and ornaments for Meals on Wheels, Rebecca Residence, and North Hills Community Outreach.

Students and staff at Marzolf Primary collected boxes of pet supplies and $85 to be donated to Animal Friends.

Reserve Primary students, staff, and families collected money for Thanksgiving and Christmas support for Shaler Area families in need.

Shaler Area Middle School students raised more than $1,100 for the North Hills Community Outreach’s holiday toy drive, and members of the student council used the money to purchase the gifts to be donated. Students in the middle school’s Kindness Klub also organized an effort to create and send holiday letters to active service members and veterans who cannot be home for the holidays.

Shaler Area High School students and staff “adopted” 42 residents from Vincentian Home and bought Christmas gifts for them. The building also sponsored an Angel Tree and more than 120 gifts were collected and sent to the Network of Hope. Additionally, ELA classes raised more than $1,300 and purchased toys to be donated to the North Hills Community Outreach toy drive.

As you can see, our students and staff of the Shaler Area School District are banding together to support our community and the surrounding region. During this holiday season, we are making a difference in our community, and these efforts are teaching our students a valuable lesson — it’s a greater blessing to give than to receive. We are proud of our students for demonstrating kindness, compassion, and generosity during this season of giving.



Shaping our Portrait of a Graduate

What is the mission and purpose of our school district? What do we want our students to know, and what skills and characteristics do we want our students to possess when they graduate from our school district? These are but a few of the questions that we have been wrestling with over the past few years. This year, we are focused on answering some of these questions and finding ways to bring our mission and vision to life.

On Thursday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. at Scott Primary, we will be partnering with our District Parent Council to host a special workshop for our parents. During this session, we will be exploring the following questions:

  • What are the hopes, aspirations, and dreams that our community has for our young people?
  • What are the skills, characteristics, and habits of mind that our children need for success in this rapidly changing and complex world?
  • What are the implications for the learning experiences we provide in the Shaler Area School District?

From this experience for parents, we hope to broaden our perspective and learn from parents. This work is extremely important, and we are confident that our parents’ perspectives, experiences, and knowledge of their children will add tremendous value to this discussion. Every parent is welcomed to attend, and a large portion of the evening will be spent in smaller groups brainstorming ideas and organizing our thinking. This is an opportunity for all parents to get involved, and the hopeful outcome will be a clearer understanding of our vision — what we want our students to know and who we want them to be. Come be a part of us bringing clarity to our vision for our students!

Our SASD Story – A Special Event

This coming Wednesday, October 23, Shaler Area School District will host a very special event at Scott Primary at 7:00 p.m. called “Our SASD Story.” During this event, we will be celebrating the unique and tremendous relationship and history that our district has with our four municipalities. This event will showcase these five stories that depict and capture the heart of Shaler Area:    

  • The History and Significance of Homecoming
  • A Student and Family Battling with Cancer
  • The Grassroots Efforts and Far-Reaching Impact of the Backpack Initiative
  • The Team Success and School Support of the Championship Unified Bocce Team
  • The Overwhelming Support and Outpouring of Care in Response to the Flooding from Hurricane Ivan in 2004

These stories will be told by current staff members, retired staff members, and members of the community. As we all know, our community is strong, and we have an important story to tell. “Our SASD Story” is a result of a partnership between our school district, the Grable Foundation, and The Motherhood, a marketing agency that helps shape and share stories within a greater community. We are so excited to articulate meaningful stories of the relationship that our district has with our four municipalities. All are welcome and free childcare is available for this event. I look forward to seeing you there.

Our Mission in Action – Conditions for Learning

This year, we are striving to be intentional about living our mission, our vision, and our core values. Most organizations have a distinct mission statement, but many of those organizations fail to live it out. These documents become something that hangs on a wall or lives in a binder, yet not many are able to articulate what it actually means or what it looks like in the classroom or across our schools. Highly successful schools are able to clearly articulate their purpose and align their actions and values to get great results. So how do we do this as a school district?

This summer, we convened a team of teachers, principals, and central administrators to look at our mission, vision, and core values and discuss the kinds of conditions and culture that would bring these ideas to life. Our intention was to bring clarity, consistency, and a sense of purpose that could permeate through every classroom and school in the district. After much discussion and deliberation, here are the six conditions for learning that were outlined and some descriptors of what this looks like in the classroom:

  • Meaningful – Relevant, purposeful, authentic, collaborative
  • Personalized – Individualized, flexible, results-driven, innovative, risk-taking
  • Supportive – Trust, safe, reteach, remediate & retest, feedback, equity
  • Independent – Ownership, opportunity, exploration, process vs. product
  • Visible – Feedback, formative assessment, student-centered, awareness / clear expectations, teaching through the “child’s eyes,” student knows “what to do and how to do it”
  • Relational – Empathy, community, respect, transparency, connections, acceptance

Throughout the course of this year, we will be incorporating these conditions in the classroom. Our teachers and administrators will be working collaboratively to identify specific conditions that will meet the needs of all students. Through the process of implementation, we will be living out our mission and core values and creating the type of culture that we would like to see around our entire district. We believe the results will create a culture of academic and social excellence. We are looking forward to a great school year.



Respect for All – Final Challenge

This past week, we issued our final challenge of the Respect for All campaign. We are extremely excited for this challenge and believe that it could have a significant impact on the culture of our district and community. Please view the final video that is linked below:

As noted in the video, I am challenging our students, staff, and community to write and deliver a hand-written note to someone who has impacted or influenced them. This could be addressed to a teacher, a coach, a parent, or a friend. Of all the challenges, this simple act of kindness and respect is my favorite. As stated above, I believe this is a valuable life skill, and we should be teaching our students the value of a hand-written note expressing sincere appreciation, recognizing the people in our lives who are influencing, helping, and serving us.

Author and former CMU professor Randy Pausch declared that “showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things that humans can do for each other.” Please help us in promoting this across our district and community. Imagine the impact that we could see if all of our students, staff, and community took the opportunity to write a note of gratitude to someone in their life who is making a difference.


Respect for All – Challenge Four

Last Wednesday, we kicked off our fourth challenge within the Respect for All campaign. Up to this point, we have encouraged our students and community to compliment someone else, show gratitude toward others, and meet and get to know someone new. From all across the school district, we are hearing positive stories of respect and kindness on a daily basis. I visited several classrooms in a few of our schools this past week and learned of gratitude journals and other respectful acts demonstrated by our students. We are enthused with the many stories and are confident that many students are learning the value of respect for all.

This newest challenge builds on the others, and we are encouraging everyone to volunteer to help someone else. Teaching our students to see a need and meet a need is such an important life lesson. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. summarized the importance of this well when he said “Life’s most persistent and important question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’”

The research behind this topic of service to others is intriguing. Current research indicates that effective service opportunities for students improve grades, increase school attendance, and develop students’ personal and social responsibility. Those are the results that we are looking for! As adults and professionals, we can demonstrate the importance of volunteering, helping, and serving others. As expected, this challenge can pay huge dividends for our students and our district. For the next week or so, let’s embrace this opportunity to think of other’s needs first and take action.


Vaping, Addiction, and Your Child

I want to personally invite each of you to attend an important community education event this week. Shaler Area School District will host “Vaping, Addiction, & Your Child,” on Thursday, May 16, at the Shaler Area Middle School auditorium. The use of vaping devices has increased among teens nationwide, and Shaler Area is no exception. Vaping devices are easier to acquire and conceal, and there is a common misconception that they are “safer” than other alternatives.

While everyone in the community is welcome to attend, the content is most relevant for parents and guardians of students in fifth- to 12th-grade and middle school and high school students. This event begins at 6:30 p.m. with a vendor and resource fair, followed by a speaker series that begins at 7 p.m. with a presentation from Rebecca Kishlock, of Breathe Pennsylvania, on “The Vaping Epidemic” and what we all should know about vaping and its dangers. Dr. C. Thomas Brophy, a Shaler Area graduate who specializes in emergency and addiction medicine, will present “The Truth about Addiction” starting at 8 p.m. to talk about how the teen brain works, how addiction occurs, and various recovery and treatment options. Dr. Brophy has served as a guest speaker the last two years and brings an expert and practitioner perspective on addiction and opioid abuse. 

Between the speaking sessions, you will have the opportunity to explore Teen Scene: Hidden in Plain Sight, which includes a display of items from a mock teen’s room that may indicate substance abuse or other risky behaviors. You will be invited to test your skills at identifying drug paraphernalia, signs of drug abuse, and stealth hiding places.

I know this time of the year is very busy for all of us, but this is an incredibly important topic that affects many young people and families. I hope to see you there.

Respect for All continues – Video 2

This past Wednesday, May 1, the Respect for All campaign released another video and challenge. The entire school district is challenged to meet someone new and learn about them. Author Madeline Sheehan explained that “there will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs.” We are challenging our students and staff to get to know someone new and understand the importance of relating to others. 

Respect for All is an opportunity for all of us to learn about respect and put it into action. Our teachers and staff members are displaying this challenge and quote in their classrooms, offices, and around the school on their televisions. They are also finding ways to incorporate this challenge into their daily teaching, discussions, and assignments. Most importantly, we are attempting to model these challenges for our students. I am hearing stories from all around the school district of students and teachers displaying respect to each other, showing gratitude, issuing a sincere compliment, and having meaningful discussions about what it means to respect others. 

Additionally, I have included the 2nd video below. We appreciate all the students and staff who were involved in creating the video and the challenges, and we welcome you to join us in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th challenges this month.  Please take a few minutes to check out the video and share it with your friends and neighbors. Seeing our students talk about and understand how to show respect to others will surely bring a smile to your face. 

Video 2: SASD “Respect for All” Campaign 2019

Respect for All – Here We Go

Starting this week, Shaler Area School District will engage in a Respect for All campaign that promotes a culture of respect through a series of student videos, challenges, quotes, and anecdotal information. This information is being shared and promoted with our students, parents, and staff members. The campaign consists of five challenges that will be issued every other Wednesday for the next two months. Here’s a quick look at the challenges:

  • Challenge 1 (April 3rd) – Over the next two weeks, compliment or say something nice to as many people as possible. Be sincere.
  • Challenge 2 (April 17th) – Over the next two weeks, say thank you or show gratitude to as many people as possible.  
  • Challenge 3 (May 1st) – Over the next two weeks, meet and talk with someone you don’t know. Get to know them and what they like to do. Make a new friend.
  • Challenge 4 (May 15th) – Over the next two weeks, volunteer to help someone else. See a need, meet a need.
  • Challenge 5 (May 29th) – Over the next two weeks, write a thank you note to someone – a teacher, a classmate, a parent, etc.

Our goal is to create a culture of respect through the daily display of respect across all schools and grade levels.  Additionally, our high school students have created three different videos of students answering specific questions regarding respect. The students represent each school and range from kindergarteners to seniors. Here’s a link to the first video:

Video: SASD “Respect for All” Campaign 2019

I encourage the entire community to join with us as we embrace the Respect for All challenge. Let’s cultivate a community of respect over the course of the next two months and build a foundation for a greater future. We are confident that if we collectively demonstrate respect, everyone wins. Thank you for your support, and thank you to the team of students, parents, and staff members who helped create this challenge. We believe the impact of this campaign will be significant.