The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 20, 2010

Graduation on the horizon for seniors, retirement for four Geneva educators


Star Beacon

GENEVA — The 2009-2010 school year has been a time of innovation and continuing successes at Geneva High School. New technology has given us a new approach to an old tradition: the morning announcements. Our morning announcements are now produced and video streamed live into each classroom by members of Robert McQuoid's Business Communications class.

Announcements are given by two different students each day and are viewed against a stylized backdrop of the Geneva High School building, designed and painted by art teacher Gina Monahan. In addition to delivering important information of schedule changes and upcoming events, the announcers interject subtle touches of humor and entertainment, ranging from drama students acting out parts of upcoming plays to skits produced and performed by class members. Of special interest these days are announcements centering on the graduation preparations of the GHS class of 2010.

The most important news about the graduation exercises for the Geneva High School class of 2010 is that the June 6 ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. rather than in the afternoon as in previous years. Graduation will be held at Memorial Field on Eastwood Street in Geneva. In case of bad weather conditions, the ceremony will be moved to the auditorium at Geneva High School, 1301 South Ridge East. If held inside, each graduating senior will receive only three tickets for family members because of limited seating in the auditorium. Others attending will be seated in the gymnasium to view the ceremony on the large screen.

For a senior fee of only $10, each senior will receive a rose to give to his mother, his cap, gown and tassel and a professional photograph taken as he receives his diploma. An additional service is being given this year; JP Films of Jefferson will be recording and producing a DVD of the event available for purchase for $20.

Senior adviser Jessica George reminds all seniors that they will be able to pick up their caps and gowns during one of the mandatory practices on June 3 and 4. The June 3 mandatory practice will be held at Geneva Memorial Field and the June 4 mandatory practice will be held at Geneva High School back parking lot. Students should be at those locations by 10 a.m. June 3 and 4. Seniors must attend both practices.

Another new project has been our school’s participation in The Ohio Performance Assessment Pilot Project. Two members from the Math Department, Elizabeth Marhefka and Walter Lininger, and three teachers from the Language Arts Department, Margaret Shymanski, John Marhefka and Carla Pasqualone, travel several times a year to Columbus  for extensive training in the construction, implementation and scoring of academic projects which can then be used to measure student achievement. All of these teachers used examples of these special projects in their classrooms in the fall and then again in the spring as an alternative to paper and pencil tests.

Ms. Pasqualone’s senior English class explored the role media plays in shaping the self image and perceptions of teen-agers. Students viewed and analyzed several stories and videos to determine what false messages and stereotypes to and about teen-agers are shaped by the media, and how to evaluate these messages. The goal of this pilot project is to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through various real-world tasks and activities.

Four longtime GHS teachers have announced that they are turning in their grade books and classrooms for lives of retirement at the conclusion of this school year. History teacher Margaret Phinney finishes with an even 34 years in teaching at Geneva. Mrs. Phinney was an international affairs major in college, and was originally planning to work in an embassy or consulate. Later in her college career, she switched to the school of education, and the rest — as she says — is history.

When asked what she would miss most about retiring, Mrs. Phinney said, “My students.” She looks forward to a retirement filled with world travel.

Chemistry teacher Elizabeth Lehtola will be leaving Geneva this year after teaching for 15 years. Mrs. Lehtola pursued a bachelor’s degree from College of St. Scholastic with a major in medical technology. She then continued her education by obtaining a master’s degree in exercise physiology. She said she changed her career to teaching, after she watched her daughter’s science teachers and knew that she could do at least as well or better.

Special education teacher Sandra Jacobs will be leaving Geneva after 33 years. Mrs. Jacobs said she was very ill as an infant and child, which led her to have a sense of wanting to help others. Becoming a special education teacher was for her a natural evolution.

When asked what she enjoyed most about her job Mrs. Jacobs said, “It was never just a job to me. I will miss the daily contact with students and friends.”

In retirement, Jacobs looks forward to living life at her leisure. “No last quick gulp of coffee before running out the door, no alarms, and no bell schedule,” she said.

The fourth teacher to be leaving GHS this year is music teacher and band director Marion Carrel. As Mr. Carrel departs for his years of retirement he will miss the band trips.

“It will be difficult to accept that there will be no more new stories, just memories of past trips,” Mr. Carrel said.

He advises his students to always set goals in life. “Be careful to set the ‘bar’ at a reachable level. Always work to be better… each time.”

As this year ends we reflect on the positive changes we have seen, and we look forward to whatever new and exciting challenges that the new school year will bring. We thank all of our retirees for their devotion to our school and for the rich legacy they leave us.