- Pine Valley Central School
People Behind the Panther
This feature spotlights a different Pine Valley staff or faculty member every week.
Darlene Silleman has been a member of the Board of Education at Pine Valley since July 2018. While her role is focused on improving the Pine Valley Central School District, that doesn’t stop Mrs. Silleman from going the extra mile for her community.
“I like being a voice for the community and knowing that I am helping to make a difference in the lives of our students,” says Silleman. “I would like the community to know that I am working hard to better our school and I am passionate about doing what is best for our kids.”
Mrs. Silleman’s favorite part of being on the Board of Education is working with Pine Valley’s Administration, teachers, and the community to make decisions and better the educational experience for the students.
“When they say it takes a village, that is no joke. It takes everyone doing their part to ensure the success of our students,” says Silleman. “The Board of Education, Administrators, teachers, parents, relatives, business owners, and the community are all a part of our village. Thank you to all of you for everything you do for our students.”
Deputy Brian Hanner is Pine Valley’s School Resource Officer. He has been with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office for 5 years, has been an SRO for 2 ½ years, and has been working in the District since the beginning on the 2019-2020 school year. As a Pine Valley alumna, he enjoys working in the District in which he was raised.
“It was a no brainer for me to transfer to Pine Valley,” says Hanner. “It’s my alma mater. It just felt right to come back and give back to the school I graduated from.”
Because he is new to the District, Dep. Hanner’s main focus is building meaningful relationships with students and the community.
“Since I am still new, I am trying to get to know the students, build relationships with them, and get them to open up to me a little bit,” says Hanner. “I like to pop into classrooms and make them feel comfortable and safe. I go to their sporting events and I’m starting to get students to ask me to come to their games, which is nice.”
While he is busy building relationships and keeping Pine Valley safe, Dep. Hanner is also working to teach students about law enforcement.
“My main goal is to create a positive outlook on law enforcement,” says Hanner. “I want the kids to feel comfortable if they see a law enforcement officer. I want to teach them that we are not the bad guys. We can be just like any other person.”
Thank you for all that you do, Deputy Hanner!
Chris Buczek is a Physical Education Teacher and Athletic Director at Pine Valley. He has been working in the District for 14 years and enjoys the close-knit community.
“I like Pine Valley because of the family-like atmosphere,” says Buczek. “The kids are great, the staff is great and every day it seems like I am surrounded by people who want to do great things.”
While he is busy teaching students lifelong health habits and managing athletics, he is more focused on making an impact each and every day.
“The kids come to gym to have fun and do physical activity that will increase their heart rate, but it’s more fun to help their days be better,” says Buczek. “A lot of the times they’re having a bad day, and I can help fix it or make it better by interacting and having fun with them.”
According to Mr. Buczek, “The kids are the best part of the day.” His lessons far exceed gym class and the sports teams.
“My intentions as a physical education teacher is always to teach students to be physically active, but I hope they remember how fun my class was,” says Buczek. “For them to leave my class knowing they had fun and that it made their day better is what I’m really searching for.”
Third Grade teacher Kirsten Lewis has been working at Pine Valley for 16 years. She enjoys working in a small, tight-knit community where she can form bonds with her students and their families.
“I love the strong sense of community and family. I always get excited when I see the sibling of a former student on my class list,” says Lewis. “Working with the same families gives me the opportunity to build a relationship with them and I love to see how former students are doing.”
According to Mrs. Lewis, “ELA blocks are the best.” Although she teaches both ELA and Social Studies, the majority of her day is spent helping students grow as readers and writers.
“I’m a passionate reader and I love sharing books with my students,” says Lewis. “There’s just something special about bonding over a book.”
While academics is always a focus, Mrs. Lewis emphasizes personal growth and positivity in her classroom. She empowers students to take ownership of themselves and embrace their individuality.
“Students do and say some of the sweetest and most genuine things. They are truly the best,” says Lewis. “I want them to remember how they felt in 3rd grade, along with all of the fun we had and the connections we made.”
Roger Chagnon is the Band Teacher and Director of Instrumental Music at Pine Valley. He has been working in the District for 6 years and enjoys Pine Valley’s small, supportive community.
“I like the close knit community here. I like small towns and I’m from a small town, so I feel very supported,” says Chagnon. “I think the young musicians here are hungry for something amazing and they are doing incredible things.”
While he is busy leading rehearsals and working one-on-one with students during band lessons, he is also encouraging students to form a much deeper connection to the music they are playing.
“I hope my students take away a passion for music. I don’t make music majors, I make music makers,” says Chagnon. “Very few will go on to school for music, but my hope is that when they’re 75, they still appreciate music. I hope they always love it and that they pass that on to people.”
When asked about the greatest lesson he could ever teach, Chagnon says, “It’s when people say they’re not musical, they are lying to themselves.”
“Everybody can tap their foot and everybody can appreciate music, even if they can’t make it,” says Chagnon. “Every musician needs someone that will listen. We can all be active music lovers without having to pick up an instrument or open our mouths, and that’s an amazing thing!”
High School Special Education Teacher Dawn Andrews has been working at Pine Valley for 10 years. Students in her classes develop different strategies for learning.
“I hope they remember that anything is possible. There is no limit, no glass ceiling, and no box they need to work in,” says Andrews. “They can accomplish anything they want to do and at any time they can change it and decide on a new direction.”
While she is busy helping to differentiate instruction and facilitate understanding, she is focused on building meaningful relationships with each of her students.
“I love the kids. They’re great. They make me laugh, they make me think, they just make me have fun all day long,” says Andrews. “They’re like family and it was so important to me that I brought my two kids here so they could graduate from Pine Valley.”
Thank you for all that you do, Mrs. Andrews!
Christina Lyndsley is a third grade teacher at Pine Valley and has been working in the District for 15 years. She enjoys teaching in the same community that she lives and at the school that her kids attend.
“I live here so I love the small, close-knit community,” says Lyndsley. “The atmosphere is like family here and it’s wonderful to get to know the families in the District because I live around them. It’s nice to build those relationships outside of school.”
Mrs. Lyndsley invests so much into each of her students. Since she teaches math and science, she gets to see every third-grader throughout the day. According to her, “the best part of the day is the morning when the kids come in.”
“Being a teacher doesn’t feel like work; it’s fun,” says Lyndsley. “Every day is a new day and it’s what we make it. I love it.”
While academics is always a focus, Mrs. Lyndsley emphasizes integrity in her classroom. She empowers her students to make decisions and take ownership of themselves.
“When kids leave my class, I hope that they remember that we talked a lot about integrity and being a good person, even when no one is watching,” says Lyndsley. “Student ownership is very important. In third grade, students track their personal data and use it to make decisions for themselves.”
Mrs. Lyndsley and her teaching partner, Kirsten Lewis’s work with student ownership culminated in student-led conferences last year where the kids took the lead and discussed their progress with their parents. To further their work, Lyndsley and Lewis will be speaking at the ASCD Conference in LA to help other districts get started with student-led conferences.
Custodian Dale Hooker has been working at Pine Valley for 21 years. As a proud Pine Valley alumna, he enjoys working in the District in which he was raised.
“When you hear people talk about bleeding purple when you leave Pine Valley, it’s true,” says Hooker. “This is the school I graduated from. I played sports here, and I love it. I bleed purple.”
While he is busy keeping the high school in tip-top shape, he is also building lasting relationships with those around him.
“I enjoy the people the most,” says Mr. Hooker. “The people I work with are great, everyone is very friendly, and Pine Valley is just a nice place to be.”
Thank you for all you do, Mr. Hooker!
Stacy Chase is Pine Valley’s Guidance Office Secretary and has been working in the District for over 10 years.
While she is busy helping students with their schedules and explaining their graduation pathways, she is also focused on forming a genuine connection and helping students reach their goals.
“I really enjoy working with the high school students. I like helping them with their goals in life in whatever way I can,” says Chase. “They usually come here when they need answers, and I can most often provide those answers. But more than anything, I just enjoy being with the kids.”
Ms. Chase invests so much into each student, and it all culminates on her favorite day of the year, graduation.
“I love being there in the audience and just appreciating the seniors and everything they’ve done to get to that point,” says Chase. “I love seeing them up there with smiles on their faces and taking the next step in life.”
James Przepasniak is Pine Valley’s Interim Superintendent and he enjoys working in a new district. While he is busy working to make sure everything is in place for school to start, he is also building positive relationships with students, staff, and community members.
“Pine Valley is a great district. I’m thrilled with the opportunity,” says Przepasniak. “Everyone has welcomed me and I look forward to meeting all of the students and staff as the school year begins.”
After a 41 year career in a neighboring school district, Mr. Przepasniak graciously joined the Pine Valley team during his retirement.
“This interim position was an opportunity for me to give back a little bit in retirement,” says Mr. Przepasniak. “I hope to continue Pine Valley’s initiatives and not miss a step until the next superintendent comes on board.”
Although the superintendent search process is well underway, Mr. Przepasniak is committed to the District and everyone at Pine Valley.
“As superintendent, you get the opportunity for a global look of a school district and community,” says Przepasniak. “I think all of the interactions with staff and students are important and I think visibility and being around helps.”
Thank you for all that you do, Mr. Przepasniak!
Cheryl Vanzile is the Special Education and Pupil Personnel Secretary at Pine Valley. She is a proud Pine Valley alumna and has been working in the district for 19 years.
“My husband and I both graduated from Pine Valley, our children graduated from here, and now we both work in the district also,” says Vanzile. “Pine Valley really is our home.”
Mrs. Vanzile invests so much into the students and strives to make sure they have everything they need in the Special Education department. According to her, “the interactions with the kids are the best part of the day.”
“I love building relationships with the students and being a familiar face,” says Vanzile. “One of the students who came into the department back when I first started just graduated and it was so special to go to her graduation and spend that time with her.”
Thank you for all that you do, Mrs. Vanzile!
Ryan Stefanik is Pine Valley’s Building Maintenance Mechanic. He has been working in the District for 32 years and is proud to be a Pine Valley Panther.
“It’s a great place to work,” says Stefanik. “And it’s only getting better as we go!”
While he is busy making sure the buildings, athletic fields, and grounds are in the best shape possible, he is also a substitute bus driver when needed.
“I enjoy everything about my position,” says Stefanik. “It changes every day and I’m always doing something different.”
Thank you for everything you do, Mr. Stefanik!
Accounts Payable Clerk Colleen Brunswick has been working at Pine Valley for 34 years. As a Pine Valley alumna, she enjoys working in the District in which she raised.
“I graduated from here, and so did my kids,” says Brunswick. “Watching them graduate from my alma mater was pretty special and something I will never forget.”
Mrs. Brunswick makes sure Pine Valley is running smoothly and has everything it needs by purchasing and promptly paying all of the District’s bills. According to her, “It’s a great opportunity to connect with people all over the United States.”
“I love hearing the kids on the announcements in the morning,” says Brunswick. “It starts my day off right and puts me in a good mood. I just love it!”
Jordan Campese is Pine Valley’s Personal Computer Specialists and has been working in the district for one year. While he is busy resolving IT problems, repairing laptops, and helping teachers with their classroom technology, he is also building positive relationships with students.
“I enjoy working with students in every grade level and helping them with technology,” says Campese. “Every day is different. One minute I can be working with iPads and the next minute I’m working on a student laptop.”
Mr. Campese’s favorite part of the day is watching students explore new ways of learning through technology.
“It’s always exciting to see students use technology to enhance their education in ways that didn’t exist before,” says Campese.
Secretary to the Superintendent and District Clerk Debbie Hooker has been working at Pine Valley for nearly 27 years. As a proud Pine Valley alumna, she enjoys working in the district in which she was raised.
“I love working in my home district,” says Hooker. “This is where I grew up and this is the school I graduated from. We are like a family here. It’s more than just job.”
Mrs. Hooker works very hard to build genuine connections throughout the district community, while also making sure Pine Valley is running as smoothly as possible. According to her, “it’s trying to create a really positive public relations experience for the district and for the people who work here.”
Although she spends most of her time working with Pine Valley staff and administration, Mrs. Hooker really enjoys the time she gets to spend with the students.
“I love having students from the kindergarten class come read to me each week. When they are learning to write, they will journal and draw pictures, then come in and read it to me,” says Hooker. “Just to see the kids and listen to their excitement is what I really enjoy.”
Bruce Newcomb is one of Pine Valley's long time bus drivers and he enjoys working in his hometown after being away for over 30 years. Safety is his top priority, but that doesn't stop him from going the extra mile for his students.
"I try to take things seriously becase there is a line you have to draw, but I also try to humor the kids and do special things for them, like give our candy," says Mr. Newcomb.
Although he is transporting students to and from school, that is only a glimpse into his work with students.
"I want to keep going as long as I can, so that I can help teach the kids the right way," says Newcomb. "I'm very flexible and I get along with them. I enjoy it."
David Saxton is Pine Valley’s AIS math teacher. He has been working in the District for 28 years and is also the girls’ varsity soccer and girls’ varsity softball coach. Students in his class develop different strategies for learning.
“My job is to get the kids caught up, whether they are a little bit behind or quite a bit behind. I figure out strategies to help them figure out the skills that they need,” says Mr. Saxton. “One student might learn a lot different than another student, so our big push is personalized learning, and I am constantly trying new things with my students.”
Although he is helping students who have fallen behind, that is only a glimpse into his work with students.
“I’ve had kids write me letters years later to thank me. That’s when it’s all worthwhile. Just having someone say I made a difference and I really helped them is what it’s all about,” says Mr. Saxton.
Fifth grade teacher Holly Abers has been teaching at Pine Valley Elementary School for 20 years. As a Pine Valley alumna, she enjoys working in the District in which she was raised.
“I love Pine Valley because its home. I started kindergarten here and graduated here, so it’s like I never left,” she says.
Mrs. Abers invests so much into each of her students. Because she teaches math and science, she gets to see every fifth-grader throughout the day. According to her, “It’s a great opportunity to know all of the students.”
“Learning goes far beyond academics,” says Mrs. Abers. “It’s about the whole student, and every student is different. As they grow up, I just hope that they remember that I cared.”
Thank you for all that you do, Mrs. Abers!
Isaac Habermehl is Pine Valley's agricultural teacher. He has been teaching in the District since 2002. Students in his classes learn about plant and animal science, wildlife management, engineering and welding. He is also the District's trap coach.
"We've got a strong agricultural community that's supportive of the program," says Mr. Habermehl. "A lot of other schools don't have a land lab out back. We have 10 acres of woods we do maple syrup on. We've got one of the larger shop areas, too, compared to other schools."
As with other programs, Mr. Habermehl prepares his students for a rapidly changing world. "The business side of things has really changed where it's gone from cows, plows and sows (as people say) to now where we have a lot more automation, robotics, [GPS]," according to Mr. Habermehl. "Just the amount of information they need to know and just how rapidly everything is changing every day. Farms are getting larger, but the farmer has to get smarter."
Vocal Instructor Mary Kay Himes has been teaching chorus and music classes in the District for two years. She also teaches drama and leads fifth- and sixth-graders in the Treble Cats select choir.
"I enjoy the fact that I get to work with so many different students," says Mrs. Himes. "I get to work with middle school and high school in addition to elementary. So, I get to cover all of the grade levels. Yeah, I love it."
While you may see her directing a concert or musical, the performances are only a glimpse into her work with students.
"So much growth and maturity in their voices and who they are as students happens in the rehearsal space during the day," according to Mrs. Himes. "As exciting as those performances are, that's such a small part of what these students can accomplish."
Leslie Milliman is a cook at Pine Valley and has been in Cafeteria Services since 1988. She enjoys working for the same district in which she, her children and her grandchildren have been raised.
Mrs. Milliman’s favorite part of the day is serving breakfast to students. "As they're going through the line, you can see how things are going and what's going on," she says. Later in the morning, she helps prepare lunches for both the Elementary School and the Jr./Sr. High School.
"It's like a family," says Mrs. Milliman. "And anybody would do anything for anybody here. They would. I really believe that."
A member of the Class of 1979, Custodian Ed Barnes has been working at Pine Valley for over 20 years. He is part of the team that maintains the district's facilities and keeps them beautiful for our students.
"One of the better parts of my day is first thing in the morning when the kids coming in, because I usually stand in the hall waiting for them and say good morning, hi, how are you doing," says Mr. Barnes. "There's kids that are in their 40s now, almost 40, that remember me from the school. They ask me how I'm doing."
Thank you for the work that you do Mr. Barnes!
Brianna Colburn is the elementary school secretary and an alumna of Pine Valley. While she is busy gathering lunch counts, writing passes or making sure kids are getting on and off the buses safely, she is also building positive relationships with students.
"The UPK and kindergarten classes, when they come down and get their bus passes at the end of the day, half of them don't like to talk," says Ms. Colburn. "We start conversations with them and get them to talk, be polite, and say please and thank you. That's always fun."