- Pine Valley Central School
People Behind the Panther
This feature spotlights a different Pine Valley staff or faculty member every week.
Fourth grade teacher Alaina Zyhowski has been teaching at Pine Valley Elementary since September 2019. She primarily teaches math and science, and enjoys working in a close-knit community.
“I love the strong commitment of the community to this school,” says Zyhowski. “The energy and enthusiasm of the kids is infectious.”
While Ms. Zyhowski emphasizes hands-on learning in her class, she also spends a lot of time inspiring students to find their passions and talents.
Recently, she noticed one student was making a lot of noise by tapping on furniture and asked if he wanted to learn more about percussion. That student then started taking drum lessons during school and even received a drum set for Christmas because he loves it so much and is excelling in percussion.
“The best part of my day is when I can inspire students to find their passion and see them start to pursue a new goal,” says Zyhowski. “Helping them discover their talents and finding ways to incorporate them into their lives more is my goal.”
For Ms. Zyhowski, teaching is much more than simply educating students. She wants to help them become better people and be more confident in themselves.
“I hope that my students learn how to be proactive and speak up for themselves and what they need,” says Zyhowski. “I want them to stick up for each other while they are in school and after when they are out in the community.”
Hazel Morrison is Pine Valley’s Elementary Special Education Teacher. She joined the District in Fall 2019 after teaching at other Districts for 10 years.
“I like Pine Valley because I feel like I belong,” says Morrison. “There’s a real sense of community here between the students, families, and my fellow teachers.”
Students in Mrs. Morrison’s class develop different strategies for learning. One way she helps is by creating educational songs to help students learn abstract ideas. According to her, “There is a little bit of magic in learning.”
“I love that kids feel that magic a-ha moment when they get a new skill or finally master something,” says Morrison. “The best part of the day is when I help a student gain a new skill that they’ve been struggling with.”
Although she is helping students who need a little extra help, that is only a glimpse into her work with students.
“I hope my students learn to become better people,” says Morrison. “I want them to learn social skills, self-confidence, and things like perseverance and work ethic.”
Roxanne Kelley is Pine Valley’s 1-to-1 aide in Kindergarten. She has been working in the District for two years and enjoys working in the same community that she lives and her kids attend school.
“It’s like we’re a family here,” says Kelley. “I enjoy everything about Pine Valley.”
While her main focus is on her 1-to-1 student, Mrs. Kelley also spends time working with the other students in class and helping the teachers. According to her, “The best part of the day is the hugs the kids give. They’re so sweet.”
“I love laughing and having a great time with the kids, but I also love working through the challenges that they have,” says Kelley. “I get to be with the kids through the whole day, so I experience so much with them.”
Thank you for all that you do, Mrs. Kelley!
Earth Science teacher Sandy Karpie joined the Pine Valley Central School District in the Fall of 2019. While this is her first year teaching in the District, she is enjoying the close-knit community and meaningful relationships that she found at Pine Valley.
“There is a real sense of community here. Everyone is so welcoming,” says Karpie. “I’m happy every day here and I’ve made a lot of friends already. I really like Pine Valley.”
Students in Mrs. Karpie’s class spend a lot of time doing hands-on learning and exploring the world around them. According to her, the best part of the day is lab time because, “that’s when students are having fun and I can really get to know them.”
“I hope that my students learn some real-world skills about how to study and find information on their own,” says Karpie. “I want them to realize what’s happening around them and why.”
Welcome to Pine Valley, Mrs. Karpie!
Shane Gallivan is Pine Valley’s School Counselor. He has been working in the District since August 2019 and enjoys working in a smaller, close-knit community.
“From the moment I had my interview at Pine Valley, it was different,” says Gallivan. “It felt welcoming, like a family.”
Mr. Gallivan invests so much into the students. While he is busy helping everyone with graduation and their college and/or career aspirations, he is also helping students deal with personal issues as well!
“I hope that I can build confidence,” says Gallivan. “I want students to become self-reliant and to know that they are capable of doing whatever they set their mind to.”
Thank you for all that you do, Mr. Gallivan!
Physical Education Teacher, Laura Osinski, has been teaching at Pine Valley for 2 years and she enjoys working in a small and supportive District.
“I really like being a part of a small school and community where I feel like what I’m doing can really make a difference,” says Osinski. “I’m really thankful a lot of my ideas are heard and allowed to happen.”
Students in Mrs. Osinski’s class explore new things and create some of their own activities and challenges. She wants students to leave her class feeling empowered and strong.
“I want my students to be confident in the things that they do and I want them to understand that they have so much potential” says Osinski. “Every kid can be successful at something, they just need to find something they really like and I’m here to help them do that.”
For Mrs. Osinski, physical education is “not all about sports, because not everyone is good at sports.” For her, it’s about being creative, learning new things, creating opportunities, and teaching kids that they can something even if they didn’t think it was possible.
UPK Teacher Jeremy Daly-Griffen has been working at Pine Valley Elementary School for 16 years. Although he has also taught Kindergarten and first grade at Pine Valley, Pre-K is his favorite.
“It’s really a lot of fun,” says Daly-Griffen. “Pre-K is a chance where kids are first coming into school and I get to give them their first impression of what school is really like.”
Mr. Daly-Griffen invests so much into each of his students. Because a lot of his students learn by playing, he incorporates as much fun and creativity as possible.
“The best part of my day is when the kids come in and their smiles are just so big,” says Daly-Griffen. “The unique thing about Pre-K is that every day is a fresh day and everybody walks in smiling, ready to go. It’s awesome.”
Although Mr. Daly-Griffen spends a lot of time teaching his students how to be a part of the larger school community, he also hopes he is making a larger impact on their lives.
“It’s really fun to see how many kids take to music after experiencing it so much in my class,” says Daly-Griffen. “I’m hopeful it makes a difference, but I really hope they take away the kindness and generosity they show in the classroom and use it every day and every year following my class.”
Joe Goodway is Pine Valley’s Head Bus Driver and has been working in the District for 13 years. He enjoys working close to come and is proud to be a Pine Valley Panther.
“Its beautiful countryside out here,” says Goodway. “It’s my home. My kids graduated from here and I can’t ask for more. It’s better than working in the city”
Mr. Goodway works very hard to coordinate all of the busing, make sure the District is in compliance, and manage all of the transportation vehicles and staff. According to him, the best part of the day is “when everything comes together.”
“When everything works and there’s been no issues, that means we did our job,” says Goodway. “When get outstanding on our audits and inspections, it shows me that we’re doing something right.”
Mr. Goodway enjoys when the bus garage succeeds and will soon become a School Bus Driver Instructor. He was recently selected over all New York State applicants to receive a scholarship for this training that will allow him to train even more drivers to be successful.
Thank you for all that you do, Mr. Goodway!
Joshua Howard is the Vice President of Pine Valley’s Board of Education. He has been serving the District since October 2018. As a Pine Valley alumna, he enjoys serving the District in which he was raised.
“This school has always been home to me,” says Howard. “As a Pine Valley graduate with children in the school district, it means so much to me to be able to continue my support for the school on behalf of the community.”
For Mr. Howard, the most enjoyable part of being on the Board of Education is getting to see and hear directly from the students. His fondest memory of the District is when he was invited to speak to students after he finished basic training.
“To see the excitement that the students have about the many different aspects of school is great,” says Howard. “This school is a community where different families just come together.”
Thank you for all that you do, Mr. Howard!
Terry Howe joined the Pine Valley family as a member of the Board of Education in June 2019. Although he is one of the newest members to join the Board, he is already building positive relationships.
“I like being able to serve the students, community, and staff at Pine Valley,” says Howe. “I’m embracing this opportunity to have a positive impact on our District.”
His main goal is to improve Pine Valley Central School District and he wants the community to know that he will always put the students first when making decisions as a Board member.
“I will do my best so that the District and the community can be proud of Pine Valley,” he says.
Gerald Clapp is one of the newest members of the Pine Valley Board of Education. While he has only been serving the District for a few months, he is already having a lasting impact.
“I enjoy being a voice for the common person,” says Clapp. “I’m embracing this opportunity to bring a positive change.”
Mr. Clapp wants the community to know that he is working towards the betterment of not only the District, but also the local region as well.
According to him, “Out of the box thinking could make Pine Valley the envy of the region.”
Jeffrey Chase is the President of Pine Valley’s Board of Education. He has served on the Board for 17 years. Mr. Chase is a lifelong resident of the district and enjoys working in the District in which he was raised.
“I am a proud Pine Valley alum. Two of my sons graduated from here and one is still attending Pine Valley,” says Chase. “I like being able to give back to my school and community.”
Mr. Chase’s fondest memory of serving on the Board is being able to serve alongside his father.
While Pine Valley is near and dear to his heart, Mr. Chase wants the community to know that he is working very hard to make lasting improvements.
“I try to put students first and make decisions that will have a positive impact,” he says.
Thank you for all that you do, Mr. Chase!
Pine Valley Board of Education member Christine Lokietek has been serving the District since 2017. As a parent, tax payer, and educator, she brings a well-rounded perspective to the Board.
“I try to approach everything we do with a positive attitude,” says Lokietek. “Most of all, I’m all about what is best for our children.”
Mrs. Lokietek wants to thank the community for the opportunity to serve on the School Board. She enjoys hearing about the experiences of the students, especially the seniors.
“I love getting to hear about all of the great things happening at Pine Valley,” says Lokietek. “I enjoy being a part of a collective voice for kids and parents in the direction of Pine Valley’s future.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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."
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."