Category Archives: Mohawk

What’s happening at Mohawk Trail Regional Middle and High School…

Living, loving history with Emma Guyette

MOHAWK SENIOR Emma Guyette was one of 25 accepted into Smith’s summer women’s history program. “The girls I stayed with bonded immediately because we had so much in common,” she says.
MOHAWK SENIOR Emma Guyette was one of 25 accepted into Smith’s summer women’s history program. “The girls I stayed with bonded immediately because we had so much in common,” she says.

BUCKLAND—Mohawk senior Emma Guyette has just accepted an offer to attend Smith College, where she plans a double major in American Studies and Government or International Relations, with a potential minor in the Study of Women and Gender.

For this BSE alumna, the path forward starts well in the past, and it is a story always in need of discovery, retelling, and relearning.
Here is an excerpt from an interview she gave the Flow this August on her then-recently completed two-week summer residential session at Smith: Hidden Lives: Discovering Women’s History.

Flow: What was the allure for you in attending summer at Smith?

Emma: There were four options. I chose history. Discovering Women’s Lives. I want to be a history major and I love Smith College. I’m applying for early decision in November. I’m applying at Smith and at nine other New England colleges.

Flow: Why history?

Emma: I decided that I might want to be an archivist — they preserve historical and digital paperwork — or maybe go into politics or become a history teacher. I just love being part of something that can change the world. Archivists preserve the world, politicians shape the world, and people who write history textbooks give history personality and bring it to people.

Flow: Is there an aspect of history that speaks to you above others?

Emma: I really like U.S. history — how our country was formed — but then I also really love European history and history in general. It’s so fascinating.

Flow: What’s the passion?

Emma: I just love learning about everything that’s come before me and shaped my life. Especially learning about women’s history: all these women who came before me and gave me everything that I am lucky enough to have today. It’s really important to learn from the past to learn how the future will be shaped. It’s so interesting that it’s recorded: what people have done before you. It’s set in stone but you can still interpret it your own way.

Flow: How does understanding the past shape what we’re doing in the present or what we  could be building toward in the future?

Emma: You look at the past so you don’t repeat it. I think that history is a very powerful way of learning from people’s mistakes or extreme failure so you don’t repeat it. It’s really interesting to look back and say, “Oh, nope, that didn’t work.” You know it didn’t work, so let’s reshape it and use it this way. Otherwise you’d just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. There’d be no progress.

Flow: Do you see history as a tool in some way to help shape the future? Particularly through a gender lens?

Emma: Women’s history isn’t taught a whole lot in high school. I know Mohawk is trying to get one [the curriculum] in place because it’s such an underrepresented part of history, and that’s what Smith wanted to teach us: all this great women’s history that gets ignored. Women’s voices are silenced a lot. It was taught a bit through a feminist approach but it wasn’t in-your-face feminism, which can scare some people. They don’t understand the movement enough to understand it.

Flow: OK, then what is feminism, in your view?

Emma: I think that feminism is equality between men and women, not one being higher-standing than the other — which isn’t everyone’s view.

Flow: Is that how it still is or have things changed?

Emma: I don’t think our history books focus [exclusively] on men in history but I would say, in my experience, teachers have been very good at including a variety: Yes, it was male-driven, but look at all these women who also participated.

At Smith we touched the letters, diaries, photographs and manifestos that chronicle personal and political revolutions over the past 150 years. We touched the lives of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, Alison Bechdel and Sojourner Truth. I was so excited!

Flow: Sometimes people think of history as something that’s over and done with and dead in a way, and dry, but I suspect you think of history as being very much alive and interesting.

Emma: I constantly make connections between different historical periods and today, much to my parents’ dismay. Like, I’ll tell them at the dinner table, “So! Do you want to learn about this historical figure?” And they’ll be like, “Probably not.”

I like to connect today to the 1920s. I think a lot that went on then is relevant today in regard to people and how they acted and completely changing from their parents’ generation. WWI was the catalyst for changing that in the 1920s and I think the Internet is what did it today. There are a lot of parallels. I mean, we don’t have flappers but there’s a pretty big divide between generations. Their parents never did anything. When you think of the 1920s you think flappers and Prohibition and crazy, wild parties. But when you think of the generation just before, the 1870s, post Civil War, it’s not like that: It’s very prim and proper … and then their kids came along. Their parents just didn’t know what to do with them. I feel it’s similar to now when everyone’s on their phones and everyone’s on Facebook and their parents are like, I don’t know what to do with these kids!

Flow: Women weren’t given the vote until they demanded it relatively recently and now they’re still not being paid fairly. Social issues are still resonating. Is that what you mean by connections from the past to the present?

Emma: You can definitely draw those lines. You can take slavery and follow it all the way to the present with how a big part of it was how African American people had extreme economic disadvantage even after slavery and have had to work so hard to overcome that and are still not even there yet. So it keeps going. And you can draw other lines. Women’s rights go way, way back. Women are still fighting for equality. In the Sixties it even branches off because women were very empowered then and it keeps going through today. Honestly, I think we’re very close to equality. I’ll maybe see it in my lifetime.

Flow: For young kids, what is cool about history?

Emma: They shouldn’t think of history as something that’s dead and in the past. It was kind of presented that way to me when I was younger, and I was always, “But that sounds like it’s so much fun to learn about.” Why present it like it’s written in stone and not try to think about getting more out of it? Just think of it as something you can use to benefit the future. And think of it as a living part of society.

My biggest thing is that people touched this 200-300 years ago and now I’m touching it, so it’s like a little bit of a connection to them through just touching the same paper.

Quick Chat: Rachel Silverman moves on to Mohawk

RACHEL SILVERMAN assists Flow staffer Ainsley Bogel on a feature then in the works for our coverage of the spring Art Show. Ms. Silverman left the elementary schools this fall for Mohawk. Our art shows will continue under new BSE art teacher Rebecca Cummings.
RACHEL SILVERMAN assists Flow staffer Ainsley Bogel on a feature then in the works for our coverage of the spring Art Show. Ms. Silverman left the elementary schools this fall for Mohawk. Our art shows will continue under new BSE art teacher Rebecca Cummings.

Rachel Silverman logo

Dear BSE families,

JUST AFTER SCHOOL ended back in June I was offered a full-time position as art teacher at Mohawk, and I accepted.

While I am excited about the change and the challenges ahead, I am certainly feeling the bittersweetness of it as I say goodbye to BSE.
For five years I have been lucky enough to work in a fabulous school community with an awesome group of creative young people in a beautiful art studio. We have made lots of spectacular art happen and I have enjoyed every art show immensely as I see the pride of the faces of students and parents alike.

I have grown as an educator here and learned so much from my colleagues and students. Leaving is not easy. Hopefully it’ll only be a matter of time before I get to teach my BSE gang again at Mohawk. Until then, I thank you all for your support of the arts — and of me over the years. I will always be grateful for that.

— Fondly, Rachel Silverman


Asked a bit later
how she was settling in at Mohawk,
Mrs. Silverman told the Flow…

I’m trying a lot of new things and learning a ton about gearing art education toward middle- and high-school students. I miss my elementary school kids a lot, but I’m enjoying the new challenge of creating a rich and meaningful art program at the older level.

I realize that my experiences at BSE and Heath have taught me so much about what is important and developmentally sound in art education and I am really just building on that and taking my practice beyond the sixth-grade year into what comes next.

I’m also piloting a new course next semester and looking forward to launching more in the future.

I feel excited and grateful to be in this community. The kids aren’t as small but they are still pretty sweet, up for trying new things and exploring different ways art can be a part of our lives.


Hence the Quick Chat…

Our staffers wondered what some of their fellow students might have to say on the occasion of Mrs. Silverman taking her new job. We enjoyed taking these photos, and getting the quotes into and out of our reporters’ notebooks…

 

Amar Abbatiello: ‘Singing and dancing is always good for any kid…’

Amar Abbatiello is the Cat in the Hat and Laura Purington is Gertrude McFuzz in Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s “Seussical the Musical.”

MOHAWK—Junior Amar Abbatiello is one hard-working cat. Coming off his amazing performance as the Scarecrow in Mohawk’s 2014 “Wizard of Oz,” he was a natural under the hat in this month’s “Seussical,” which sold out its three consecutive-days’ performances.
He also maintains very good grades, competes in track and field, and works at South Face Farm Sugarhouse in Ashfield.

Performing wasn’t always on his mind. He wasn’t an artsy kid, he said. When he was in elementary school, at Sanderson Academy, he was a tinkerer.

“I liked building things with wood. I did that at home; I didn’t do much in school,” he said.

Even music seems to have been thrust upon him: “In seventh grade band I took saxophone because my brother had, and my mom was like, “I’m not wasting money on this saxophone; you’re going to learn saxophone.’ ” So he did.

Next came chorus. “I got into eighth grade and they were like, ‘You can take chorus or you can take gym.’ I was like, ‘Sign me up, I’ll sing my heart out!’ And now I’m the Cat in the Hat.”

Asked a couple of hours before his March 7 performance what it’s like working with so many kids from all over the school district, Amar immediately said he enjoys it.

“It’s a very good learning experience for both groups. All the elementary school kids get to see how all us slightly more mature kids kind of act about theatre. They can kind of get an experience of theatre and see that singing and dancing — that’s always good for any kid, whether he wants to go into dancing or not.”

He added: “I think it’s just a healthy experience for kids of wider age groups to communicate with each other, because it creates more understanding between both of them and leaves less of a gap between social groups. So you can communicate as a whole better later on.”


RELATED: All-School ‘Seussical’ a District Who’s Who.

All-school ‘Seussical’ a District Who’s Who

Adam Hallenbeck as a beleaguered, true-blue Horton the Elephant. He’s got his hands full with bird girls, the Jungle of Nool citizens, cadets, and Circus McGurkus, and of course the spirited Wickersham Brothers.
Adam Hallenbeck as a beleaguered, true-blue Horton the Elephant. He’s got his hands full with bird girls, the Jungle of Nool citizens, cadets, and Circus McGurkus, and of course the spirited Wickersham Brothers.

MOHAWK—Amar Abbatiello is the Cat in the Hat and Laura Purington is Gertrude McFuzz in Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s “Seussical the Musical,” the dazzling show by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on several of the books of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

More than 85 students from grades 5 through 12 joined in the fun on stage March 6-8, and members of the Mohawk Concert Band performed alongside professional musicians.

Even the set was an all-school production, with digital, Seuss-like dreamscapes projected behind the players. Costuming, lighting, sound, choreography, and makeup and hair shone as stars in their own right.

Concessions were staffed by the Mohawk Music Association and parents. David Fried’s photographs of dress rehearsals are for sale as an MMA fundraiser.

Each performance sold out. This was a a smash hit.

Director was Shelley Roberts. Assistant director was Eva Otten. Music director was Scott Halligan.

And the elementary school liaison, who shuttled hither and yon and made Whoville happen with grace and cheer? That was Gina Glover.

Gina Glover Seussical
Elementary School Liaison Gina Glover corrals dozens of kids from across the district March 6 during the all-school production of ‘Seussical.’

“It gets them excited.
‘This is what I can do…’ ”

WE CAUGHT UP with middle school music teacher Gina Glover on opening night of “Seussical,” just after her charges — the Whos of Whoville (upper grades from the district’s elementary schools) had finished their first number to tremendous applause and swirled into the school cafeteria.

Glover — elementary school liaison for the Mohawk Music Association — managed the sea of energetic performers with a cheerful, crackling efficiency.

The next day we asked Glover to tell us what she and the kids are tackling next and what’s valuable to the community in seeing greater collaboration in the arts among the elementary schools and Mohawk…

GLOVER: We try to make a lot of connections with all of our schools in the district. April 30 we have our annual Kids in Concert event. This is a culmination of the year’s work — all our kids’ work. I collaborate with Joan Fitzgerald, who is another elementary music teacher, and Sandy Carter. We each teach general music, chorus, and elementary band in our own schools. We combine chorus students and band students in grades 4-6, and have two rehearsals and a concert. We pull it all together with 125-plus band students on stage and 80 to 100 chorus students.

We also have our Heath string program, led by David Haskell. They perform as well. In the elementary school world, that concert is the next big thing coming up. It’s huge.

FLOW: What’s the benefit to these younger kids in working on these larger, all-school productions?

GLOVER: It’s a huge benefit. They get an immediate connection to the school. The majority of them will be coming to this school. The connection that these guys have with me being the middle school music teacher, they know me coming in. I’m a known quantity. It’s welcoming. It helps with the transition.

And it helps with retention, definitely. I have about 40 kids in my chorus between seventh and eighth grade, and about 30 in the band. There were some years in my band I only had, like, 15 kids, and even 20-25 kids in the chorus. This works.

And it gets them excited. They say, “This is what I can do when I get to Mohawk…” In [2014’s] “The Wizard of Oz” they were in two scenes. They get to see, “Well, there are seventh-graders on stage, so when I’m in seventh grade I can have maybe a larger role, and then when I get to high school I can have this really big role.” They can see this natural progression.

FLOW: And the benefit to the older students?

GLOVER: I think the older kids take the younger kids under their wing. I think they like to be an inspiration for them as well.

FLOW: Is this a formal plan? Are we going to have a K-12 music department?

GLOVER: That’s our goal: to have it streamlined K-12, and I think we have a fabulous group of teachers who really want to work together to see this come to fruition. And Mr. [Scott] Halligan at the high school is doing his thing — we’re banding together and seeing what we can do to help each other out and make the department even stronger than it’s become.

Another outreach we do, Scott Halligan and I, at the end of the year we team up and take both of our ensembles and tour the elementary schools and have performances. It’s a great way for the kids to see what we do and to see what their next step is as musicians.

For more information, visit mohawkmusicassociation.org.


RELATED: Amar Abbatiello: ‘Singing and dancing is always good for any kid’

Sixth-grade families get the scoop at Mohawk’s first ice cream social

Top: BSE kids Gavin Crehan and Matthew Herron play “People Bingo.” Above: PBL teacher Samantha Lydiard and ELA teacher Leanne Blaszak serve ice cream. “We’re having a great time,” Blaszak said. Then she corrected herself: “We’re having a ‘sweet’ time.” Center: Carlito Hernandez is considering Mohawk. Right: Sage Spitzer is a yes.
Top: BSE kids Gavin Crehan and Matthew Herron play “People Bingo.” Above: PBL teacher Samantha Lydiard and ELA teacher Leanne Blaszak serve ice cream. “We’re having a great time,” Blaszak said. Then she corrected herself: “We’re having a ‘sweet’ time.” Center: Carlito Hernandez is considering Mohawk. Right: Sage Spitzer is a yes.

MOHAWK—Families flowed in from BSE, Colrain Elementary, Sanderson Academy, Rowe Elementary, and Heath Elementary. One hundred fifty people mingling and on a quest.

“Do you like to dance? Do you play a musical instrument? Do you have more than five cousins? Do you speak another language?”
The game was “People Bingo,” and there were two versions: One for students and one for parents. Yellow and pink handouts gave 25 “icebreaker” topics each, and they got people talking.

(For parents: “Do you still have your Christmas lights up? Have you watched ‘Goonies’ more than five times? Did you attend Mohawk?”)
There was ice cream too, and plenty of it — Bart’s — with a rich variety of bring-your-own sundae toppings: sprinkles and Gummi Bears and hot fudge, of course.

Sean Conlon looks on as Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole introduces the ice cream social event plan at a recent School Committee meeting.
Sean Conlon looks on as Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole introduces the ice cream social event plan at a recent School Committee meeting.

And so went Mohawk’s first-ever ice cream social Jan. 29, an evening in the cafeteria just for the district’s sixth-graders and their families to meet each other and Mohawk’s family of seventh-grade instructors and students.

It was the first in what Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole described as a series of activities meant to show families all the ways they can be part of the Mohawk community.

“On March 3 we’ll have the more formal, ‘This is what you learn in seventh grade’ orientation, with questions and answers. Then ‘Seussical: The Musical,’ our all-school musical that will be staged on March 6, 7, and 8, where a lot of these fifth- and sixth-graders are starring, which is very exciting.”

At the end of May, Dole said, is the traditional Step-Up Day, which will be full of activities.

The ice cream social, she said, was for that first social connection, “getting to know other families of sixth graders who will become seventh graders; where they’re coming from small schools to what can seem like a big school but just what is really just a bigger community.”

Afterward, there were free tickets to the varsity basketball game taking place that night: Mahar visiting.

Dole said the social was the vision of Mohawk seventh-grade social studies teacher Sean Conlon, ELA teacher Leanne Blaszak, special educators Julia Lignori and Dianne Cerone, science teacher Jeff Johansmeyer, PBL teacher Samantha Lydiard, and math teacher Alyson Patch, all of whom, she said, “go above and beyond to build bridges between our elementary schools and our middle school.”

And the evening was a hit with families. Many alumni parents said they were delighted with this new effort. Other families said Mohawk had made an amazing first impression and was strongly in the mix.

Sage Spitzer, from Sanderson Academy, making her way down the ice cream line with friends, said she’s definitely going to attend Mohawk.

“This is fun. I’m looking forward to it,” she said.


— John Snyder, words and photos.