PA Education Secretary “Stops” By Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School

PA Education Secretary “Stops” By Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School

Fourth-grade students at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School had a special visitor stop by one of their Zoom sessions this past week - Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.

The students gathered online on May 27 for a virtual tour of Harrisburg since they were unable to visit the state capitol in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students didn't know that the school's principal, Dr. Nora Wheeler, had accepted an invitation to be a stop on Secretary Pedro Rivera's virtual "Schools That Teach" tour.

"We used the opportunity with Secretary Rivera to highlight the district response to shifting our school system to the virtual world almost overnight," said Dr. Wheeler. "I could not pass on the chance to celebrate all that our teachers and students have done the last few months."

Students had the opportunity to learn more about Secretary Rivera during a question and answer session, including his role as a working parent with a son in high school and daughter in elementary school. Before the meeting ended, he reminded the rising 5th Graders of their role as school leaders next year.

Fourth-grade teacher Ashley Melanson also had a chance to speak with Secretary Rivera. Along with the help of colleagues Peter Altland and Rene Rodriguez, she presented a short synopsis of how West Chester Area School District teachers and administrators invested significant professional learning hours to make remote learning as meaningful as possible for students. Melanson touched on some creative interdisciplinary curricular projects and the different ways teachers have cared for students' social and emotional needs, including daily class meetings, theme days, and birthday celebrations.

While the last few months of the school year have been challenging for school leaders, teachers, students, and parents, there have also been great opportunities and unseen benefits along the way.

"While Wednesday's virtual tour is not the same as going on a school trip, I believe our students will remember the time with Secretary Rivera for years to come," said Dr. Wheeler.