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Brighton-Pittsford Post

July 28, 1999

Pittsford kids learn the ropes: School uses an informal approach to get through to students.

By Beth Emley

Nick Marsocci will face new challenges as a ninth grader at Pittsford Sutherland High School this fall. He'll be meeting new people and taking harder classes. He wants to be ready for what lies ahead, so, this summer, Nick is preparing with the help of the summer prep school at Pittsford Mendon High School.

Summer prep school, which is completing its second year, is a program for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders who need some extra help honing their academic skills and boosting their motivation. There are about 15 students in each grade. The program began July 6 and ends July 31. During that time, students have been taking classes in English, math, study skills and technology for three hours Mondays through Thursdays. On Fridays, they have had an activity day. Activities have included a juggling academy taught by local performers from the Rochester Juggling Club; a field trip to Rock Ventures, an indoor wall climbing facility; and a field trip to Down to Earth, an outdoor-adventure center in Rush. The final excursion will be an overnight camping and canoe trip to Letchworth State Park this Friday. Some mornings, students and teachers gather for a "Breakfast Club" in which they discuss issues or just talk about what’s on their minds. Classes are small so students get more one-on- one attention, and a more informal approach to learning is used. "I really enjoy it because there aren’t huge classes and there's a lot of teacher to help out, " said Nick.

Besides more individualized attention, the Summer Prep School Director, Peter Pappas, said the school uses a three-pronged partnership that involves teacher, student and parent. Parents of students in the program have attended evening workshops to give them practical activities and techniques for communication, discipline, academic support and problem solving. I think what works about it is that the classes are very directed at improving student performance," said Pappas.

When students go back to school in the fall, they will keep in touch with counselors to track their progress. David Providence is teaching middle school math, including geometry, ratios and proportions. When they are solving math problems, students have to show all of their work and explain how they arrive at their answers in order to meet New York State standards, Providence said. Besides working on problem solving skills, though, many students also need an ego boost. "We always use positive reinforcement and say ‘good job or nice job’ Providence pointed out.

Summer Prep School English teacher Jill Wahl is using popular culture to get students interested in improving their writing skills. Wahl admitted it’s a challenge to motivate some students because some are only in the summer program because parents wanted them to be. However, she said, many students adjust over time. " They learn to accept the program and actually like what they’re doing," she said. In Wahl’s class, students are listening to popular songs and comparing them to poems." Anything to get them to write," Wahl said. "We’re learning to make connections between the two genres."

Students are also looking at shape revues of CD’s, movies. television shows and books and the writing their own revues Samantha Viapiano, a seventh grader, chose the popular musical group ‘N Sync o a CD review. Samantha said she’s enjoyed Summer Prep School. She’s learned how to organize and prepare a "to do" list, which should help her when she goes back to school this fall. "It’s fun, actually, she said." In regular school, it’s kind of more strict and it’s quiet. Here, the teacher walk around and they help you." Bess Warden, an eighth grader, likes the English class because the writing topics- such as songs, television show, and her own interests-are appealing. "We can write about stuff we want to write about, not just the stuff that’s assigned," she said. Bess said she likes the approach used by teachers in the program. " The teachers are not really teachers, they’re’ more like your friends tutoring you, she said.

Parent Brian Terho said the Summer Prep School had been positive experience for his eighth–grade son, Adam Terho. " I think it’s very good. One of the main reasons is because he hasn’t shown an interest in school, "said Terho. "The idea is to but kids without an interest into a casual environment where there’s no pressure for performance." Adam has been enjoying working on Web pages and dialing into the Internet, Terho said.

Terho endorse the three-pronged approach involving student, teacher and parents. "Sometime parents don’t think about their involvement, he said. We’ve gotten as much out of it as the children."


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Pittsford Summer Prep School |  Peter Pappas, Director
Archived Website:
Peter Pappas
Senior Consultant
International Center for Leadership in Education

About: www.peterpappas.com 
Showcase: www.edteck.com

Blog: peterpappas.blogs.com/