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Students, teachers swap profiles to ease freshman year at McKeesport Area

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 7:27 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport Area eighth-grader Kelly Lewis peers over the shoulder of classmate Tiffany Rogers as they answer questions about their personalities and interests for student profiles that will be forwarded to high school teachers before the 2013-14 academic year.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Founders Hall teacher Amy Kastronis works with eighth-graders on student profiles that will be forwarded to McKeesport Area High School teachers before students make their transition as freshmen.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Founders Hall teacher Brie Adams, right, encourages eighth-graders, from left, Noah Martin, Breon Green and Da'Fajia Essiet to read the profiles of McKeesport Area teachers they will meet next year.

Founders Hall Middle School students are swapping profiles with teachers as they transition into their freshman year at McKeesport Area High School.

In the tradition of social media where teens feel comfortable getting to know their peers through brief profile listings that include a photo, basic information and personal interests, more than 300 eighth-graders are creating student profiles so next year's teachers will know who they will meet in 2013-14.

The profiles were designed as part of the district's “My Action Plan for Success” program to have students and teachers working together toward goals of reaching and graduating from high school.

“The high school teachers are able to start early in creating relationships with incoming freshmen,” Founders Hall principal Karen Chapman said. “They will know each other a little more personally and be able to talk more comfortably. High school is such a huge place to these kids, and these relationships start them on a path to success.”

Ninth-grade teachers sent their own profiles to Founders Hall to let students know more about themselves and their classrooms. Teachers list their educational background, their hobbies and information about their families.

“This project lets us know that everyone has a different view on everything. Everyone's a different person,” eighth-grader Kelly Lewis said. “The teachers told us about themselves, but they also talked about what they want when they work with kids. Everything they do is for us — it's crazy.”

Students described the teacher profiles as good ice-breakers that let kids know what to expect and what's expected of them.

“Teachers can get a better feel for who you really are — how you act and what your attitude is,” eighth-grader Breon Green said.

Having teachers know the kids behind the classroom work will boost student confidence in the early weeks and months of the school year, classmates said.

“It's a great introduction — a way for students to put their best foot forward,” teacher Brie Adams agreed.

Founders Hall teacher Amy Kastronis said the profiles would be nice introductory assignments to start any school year.

“I would like to see this every year,” she said. “We are learning so much about our students that we would never know or never expect.”

Students listed their favorite subjects, strengths and hobbies, including music, sports and dancing.

They asked questions about high school and shared their fears — everything from bullying to academic challenges to getting lost in the halls.

“The questions they're coming up with are good,” Adams said. “Are the classes long? Are the teachers nice? Will I have enough time to get to class when the bell rings?”

Students said they're excited for their high school transition, despite any uncertainty or apprehension.

McKeesport Area High School principal Mark Holtzman said it's an engaging process for teachers to meet students on their level with the creation of profiles.

“This is giving teachers and students an opportunity to relate through popular culture,” Holtzman. “It's something that's comfortable and interesting for students today.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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