The colorful scene appeared a typical one playing out in June on an elementary school blacktop: sticky-faced children running with abandon, dangling from monkey bars and kicking up dirt in the playing fields…parents and teachers chatting amicably while breaking up scuffles and lamenting popsicle-stained tee-shirts…a myriad of volunteers applying temporary tattoos and doling out popcorn…the air replete with the sounds of squealing, gleeful kids, raucous DJ music, and the requisite happy chaos of an End-of-the-Year School Picnic.
But at Pointers Run Elementary School on Tuesday, June 5th, there was actually a greater cause of celebration at hand than merely another school wind-down: it was in fact, the 20-year-anniversary of the school’s inception in Clarksville, Maryland. The Anniversary Celebration festivities surrounding this milestone event included the unveiling of a clay tile mural made by student artists, a dramatic playground improvement project called Peaceful Playgrounds, a plaque in the front hall, cake in the cafeteria, and speeches and pin presentations honoring teachers and staff with 10+, 15+, and 20+ years of service at PRES.
The gorgeous, 32-foot clay tile mural unveiled that day was installed indoors alongside the school’s gymnasium wall, and was one of the culminating results of a generous donation from the PRES PTA in honor of the school’s 20-year-anniversary. Through the efforts of PRES 20-year-veteran Art teacher Lisa Huriaux and Cultural Affairs PTA representative Stephanie Goldberg, the PTA applied for and received an Artist-in-Education Grant from the Howard County Arts Council (HCAC), which provides school systems the opportunity to receive funds and place professional artists in residence to help enhance students’ art education and foster creative exploration. As part of its anniversary gift, the PRES PTA matched the grant’s funds, per one of the grant’s conditions.
Mosaic Artist-in-Residence Amanda Pellerin worked with Ms. Huriaux on the lovely, inspired idea of a clay-tile mural that included self-portraits of the over 600 students currently at Pointers Run. Explained Ms. Huriaux, “It’s an everlasting souvenir to the community. Having the students have a piece of work that will live on forever is a great gift.” Beginning the project in November, students etched, painted and glazed their impressions, which were later fired in a kiln, matted on a hard surface, grouted and framed. The mural was finished in January, mounted during Spring Break and officially unveiled during the Anniversary Celebration at this year’s End-of-School Picnic.
An additional part of the PTA’s 20-year-anniversary monetary gift was used for the PRES P.E. playground improvement project known as Peaceful Playgrounds. Purchasing the program allowed the PE department to start the year off refacing and beautifying the 22’ blacktop playground area with bright colors and new activities. The program also included activity books, stencils, webinar for staff training and blacktop ideas. The actual “labor” of painting the blacktop was accomplished by P.E. teachers Mr. Randy Wallenhorst and Ms. Kasia Brodka over the course of many weeks. Students were delighted with the new look, feel and uses of the playground. According to Ms. Brodka, “We are happy to say that Recess Staff reports recess is a calmer, safer place to play and supervise since adopting Peaceful Playgrounds.”
Declared Dede Matrangola, outgoing PRES PTA President, “We are so lucky to have such a wonderful family of teachers, friends and neighbors at PRES. There is a great energy here.” She and Principal Darlene Fila helped recognize longtime members of PRES during the Anniversary Celebration by calling out their names and awwarding them commemorative pins.
It was a poignant moment for them to hand out Twenty-Year awards to Rena Weinstein, Sherry Eulitt, Katherine Adler, Janet West, Kendall Davis, Lisa Huriaux, Michael Bevard, and Rob Mitchell. Fifteen-year staff and teachers included Dan Ehrman, Danelle Houck, Laura Rieben, Carol Tucci, Celeste Riccio, Milton Scott, Kelly Silvea, and Ro Pavlovsky. There were 25 other staff members at Pointers Run that had been there at least 10 years, including PRES’ current principal. Said Ms. Darlene Fila, who still remembers the 10-year-anniversary (marked by commemorative bricks and benches at the front of the school): “We are looking forward to twenty more years of excellence in teaching and learning.”
Article contributed by:
Jacqueline Easley, River Hill resident
Volunteer for the PRES PTA