Lancaster Central School District

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Centers of Learning and Growth


  • Emmerson Bartels is National Merit Scholarship Award Semi-Finalist

    Emmerson Bartels Lancaster High School student Emmerson Bartels has been named a semi-finalist for the National Merit Scholarship award. Since 1955, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation has recognized academically talented students in the U.S. with scholarships to attend an accredited post-secondary institution. About half of finalists are awarded a scholarship of $2,500.

    Emmerson is a member of the Math Honor Society, English Honor Society, and National Honor Society, as well as the Lancaster Youth Bureau Teen Volunteer Program and the LHS Healthcare Academy. She has also participated in the LHS Antlers Club, the LHS Environmental Action Club and has been a volunteer at Court Street Elementary in the past.

    Emmerson was selected for the National Chemistry Olympiad Competition and has received Science, Math and French Student of the Year awards at LHS. She plans to major in biochemistry or pharmacy but has not yet decided on which college to attend in her quest to work in drug development and biochemical research one day.

    “The dedicated teachers and the wide variety of challenging courses offered at LHS have allowed me to explore my academic interests and foster my passion for science,” said Emmerson.

    National Merit Scholarship award finalists will be announced in February. To become a finalist, semi-finalists must submit an application, essay and faculty recommendation. 


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  • Dear Lancaster Parents and Guardians,

    During this pandemic, we have strived to ensure that our students are continuing to receive proven instruction that is delivered in a way that allows them to engage with their peers. We know that these methods help students learn in the best of times and now that they are faced with challenges that we could never have imagined, our teachers and administrators are working to guarantee that high-quality student and teacher interactions continue. Now more than ever, students need the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations around content and have opportunities to work with each other to build their knowledge base.

    For over a decade, we have focused on the brain-based research that is the foundation of student engagement and Kagan cooperative learning. Our teachers have extensive training in these instructional practices and have been utilizing them with high levels of success for quite some time. Lancaster has been a "World Tour" school district and educators from around the country and other nations have joined us in our training.

    Through this training, our teachers have created learning spaces that benefit our students. Children, at all grade levels, have learned to communicate, give constructive feedback, use critical thinking and practice social skills through these methods. However, we knew that working in close proximity this year would not be possible due to social distancing and remote teaching. We also knew that our students deserved and needed top-quality instruction, now more than ever.

    In June 2020, we contacted our Kagan trainers and asked them to create professional development for our teachers, so they would have the tools to teach both in a socially distant hybrid situation as well as in a remote setting. All of our teachers, who act as coaches for their colleagues, attended the training this summer. They were joined by large numbers of the rest of the faculty. This supplemented the scores of classes that we offered our teachers from some of our own curriculum technology experts. Our goal was to give the teachers what they needed to create both live and virtual classrooms that continued to support our goals of collective learning, communication, and collaboration, all while gaining a deep understanding of the content. 

    Our teachers have taken the training to heart and have created classrooms that are warm, inviting, and supportive of the ways the brain works in childhood and adolescence. Our hybrid students aren't sharing as many materials but we have made adjustments that allow them to work together and support each other. With the recent addition of break-out rooms to our Google Classroom platform, our remote students can meet with partners or small groups to dive deeper into a concept that was started in the whole group setting.

    Kagan Cooperative Learning, developed by Dr. Spencer Kagan, includes more than 200 structures to promote student learning, positive interaction, and engagement in the classroom. Cooperative learning structures provide every child the same opportunity and responsibility to engage with the content and with each other. A child cannot hide when work needs to be done because the structures are designed to increase participation.

    But with over 200 different Kagan structures to choose from and with both remote and hybrid learning models in place this year, never has it been more important to provide our teachers with professional development aimed specifically for this unique school year.

    As the year has progressed, our teachers have continued to support and learn from one another. Each of the buildings holds a monthly meeting. Pre-pandemic, the teachers would focus on a new structure or teaching strategy and practice it with each other before taking it back to their classrooms. This year, the teachers have been using that time to modify and test their best practices to make them effective for hybrid and remote learning. The teachers have also held virtual mini-workshops to promote instructional practices that are tied to our goals for our students and teachers. While there is value to outside training, there is something invaluable about learning from and with your colleagues.

    Backed by the science of how the brain works, Lancaster students are using these Kagan structures that promote positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction while engaging with the content and standards. We have seen tremendous growth in our students this year, and we attribute it to our insistence that good teaching would facilitate learning, despite the loss of time we have together.


    Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.



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