Independence Primary School is stop on ‘Get on the Bus’ tour

The Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators, serving Ohio’s pre-K, elementary and middle level school administrators, hosted a fall “Get on the Bus Tour” on Oct. 5 and the group’s second stop was Independence Primary School.

“We had over 20 educational leaders from Northeast Ohio here at IPS to see some of the amazing things we are doing,” said T.J. Ebert, IPS principal and zone 6 director of OAESA. “The comments I received after the tour were so humbling. I heard over and over about the energy in the building, the use of space being an older building, and the way the staff and students conducted themselves while they were at IPS.”

The first stop in the building was the book vending machine, which included a discussion on positive behavior intervention systems. Counselor Brooke Gradert and fourth-grader Andrew Cerny said the PTO donated a book vending machine in 2021. Students can earn book vending machine tokens in many ways and even enjoy watching their classmates choose a new book. 

The second stop was the IPS courtyard, where the topic of conversation was mental health and wellness. Behavior Specialist Katie Wojno and fourth-grade student Bobby Lewis highlighted four new programs IPS has implemented to teach students how to regulate their bodies and emotions. These included Mindful Mondays, Mental Health and Wellness Day, small group instruction for students struggling to self-regulate within the classroom, and one-to-one support from registered behavior technicians. Those with the most intensive needs are offered one-to-one support to gain the skills needed to thrive in the classroom.

The third stop on the tour was the design/technology class. Design technology teacher Kerry Morosko and fourth-grade student Adelyn Riedel highlighted opportunities K-4 students have in this weekly STEM-based class. IPS uses a program to create and perfect cross-curricular designs for the school’s 3D printer. Other highlights included computer programming, using robots to bring coding to life, digital citizenship, keyboard use and basic computer skills.

“The staff at IPS does a phenomenal job providing the best education they can for children by creating unique spaces that can be utilized for collaboration, flexibility, and student-centered learning,” said Kirk Pavelich, principal at North Royalton Elementary School.

Guests also learned about the first-ever IPS “Junior Reporters Immersion Program,” in which students discover what it takes to be a part of a news team by writing, recording, producing and video editing.

At stop four, art teacher Mike Gruber and fourth-grade student Jimmy Caruso discussed the use of technology in arts and mural projects. Students used the website Artsonia to create an online portfolio from kindergarten through fourth grade. When finished with an art project, students use iPads to take a photo of the project to store in the portfolios. Parents receive an email when the artwork is uploaded and ready for viewing. 

Mural projects in the art room started over 10 years ago. Students will work individually on a part of the mural, and when finished, each part is displayed together to create one design. Over the years, these projects have brought some special guests to IPS including Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns, who added the finishing touch to the mural – an autograph. Students have created murals for the city of Independence bicentennial, the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers, and favorite teachers, including a mural in remembrance of Joan Sidor, the school’s beloved long-time music teacher. Last year’s mural of zoo animals was created for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and is now displayed in the primate exhibit. 

The fifth stop on the tour was the problem/project based learning space. Gifted teacher Kyle Johnson, educators Dan Czikray, Amy Montague and Tari Mackanos, along with fourth-grade student Emma Roos demonstrated how the space is used. Currently, students are creating a slideshow presentation to show their parents during conferences.

Another PBL activity this year is based on Katherine Applegate’s novel “Crenshaw,” which focuses on homelessness. Through reading, discussion and brainstorming, students will suggest ideas of how to address this issue in the surrounding communities. A final PBL activity in the spring is a National Parks exploration study.

The last stop on the tour showcased future readiness and immersion projects. Amanda Jaronowski, career development specialist from the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, along with Superintendent Ben Hegedish, discussed fourth-grade immersion projects. In these projects, students are exposed to career pathways through real-life, hands-on scenarios, such as opening their own restaurant, creating a self-published newscast and visiting the Cleveland Clinic simulation center.

“I absolutely loved going to see IPS,” said Colleen Mudore, principal at Knollwood Elementary in the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake School District. “The excitement and love for the school was apparent in all of the staff and students. It is obvious that each person is fully invested in ensuring the social, emotional, and academic success of each student.” ∞

Photo: Visiting educators stopped at the Independence Primary School courtyard to learn about the school’s mental health and wellness initiatives. Photo submitted.