Currently viewing the tag: "thurmont middle school"

The Thurmont Middle School (TMS) Show Choir is entering its competition season. The performing arts group has performed at the TMS Winter Concert and practices weekly to prepare for a very large chorus and show choir competition in Midlothian, Virginia. The Koste Classic (mid-March) invites middle and high schools from the Atlantic region to compete, bringing along their own musicians and choreography teams.

TMS Show Choir is directed by music and theatre arts director Berna LaForce. LaForce has a reputation as one of the best middle school directors in this part of the country. TMS Show Choir will also compete in early May at Music in the Parks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They plan to perform again at the TMS Spring Concert on May 7, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. in the TMS auditorium (open to the public).

TMS Show Choir is supported as a school club by donations, membership fees, and fundraisers. If you’d like to donate to the program and keep the performing arts alive for our middle school youth, please mail your donation to TMS Show Choir, 408 E. Main Street, Thurmont, MD 21788.

Thurmont Middle School Show Choir (from left): (front row) Erin Miller, Abby Moreland, Emma Stream, Richie Coursey, Aubrey Summerall, Daniel Martin, Colette Hartman, Lilyann Welty, Caitlin Werlang; (middle row) Kylie Perhach, Kaysalee Romero, Madelyn Greco, McKenna Gisriel, Zeke Frei, Dustin Zimmerman, George Hawkins, Nathaneal Hahn, Kacey Perhach, Jazmyn Weedon, Ariana Onley; (back row) Morgan Ridenour, Emily Burrier, Abigail May, Hailey Dawson, Colin Byrne, Alex Contreras, Patrick Dugan, Faith Bentz, Sophia Daly, Alison Brawner, Natalie Hoyt. Not Pictured: Mason Healy and Hunter Hurley.

Theresa Dardanell

See someone alone. Reach out and help. Start With Hello! In September, Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) participated in the third annual Sandy Hook Promise Start With Hello Week. This national anti-violence campaign encourages students to reduce social isolation with acts of kindness that starts with just saying hello. Schools created activities to promote a welcoming and inclusive place for all students.

Catoctin High School

Catoctin High School (CHS) students started the week by decorating outside the cafeteria with slogans to promote the Sandy Hook Promise Campaign. On “Hey Day Thursday,” students and staff were given name tags and the challenge was to greet new people. Representatives from the Mental Health Association distributed information, and students were given the opportunity to sign up for the Out of the Darkness Walk. A team will represent CHS during this walk at Baker Park. On “Green Out Friday,” students and staff wore green in support of the campaign, and a group picture was taken of students spelling out “Hello” on the baseball field. School Social Worker Debbie Wivell said, “It was wonderful to see many students and staff participate in the Hey Day. This early in the year, teachers and students are still getting to know each other and this is important. Green Out day was also a success.”

Thurmont Middle School

Students at Thurmont Middle School (TMS) had lots of opportunities to connect with each other. On “Hey Day Monday,” they started by saying hello to new people. The challenge on Tuesday was to make sure no one sat alone at lunch. TMS student Charlotte Bradley said, “I really liked the lunch activity of not sitting alone, where we sat with students based on our interests. The lunch activity seemed to really encourage inclusiveness and connectedness with students that we don’t normally talk to.” School Counselors Becky Krauss and Sherry Bueso agreed that Wednesday’s activity was also very successful. They said, “We are thinking that the positive post-it-notes were the most successful because most of our students participated in their classes. Students left positive, encouraging messages on their desks to be received by the next student sitting there.” The challenge on Friday was to perform a random act of kindness for a teacher or student. Principal Daniel Enck said, “The various activities that our students, staff, and community members participated in throughout the week helped bring our school community closer together. Additionally, the activities allowed students to see the benefits of reaching out to other students who they may not typically interact with. I can’t thank our students, staff, and community members enough for all of their efforts in making Start with Hello week such a success.”

Thurmont Elementary School

Students at Thurmont Elementary School especially enjoyed having community members greet them in the mornings during the week.  Special guests included directors from the FCPS central office; Mayor John Kinnaird; Keyote, the Frederick Keys mascot; athletes and cheerleaders from Catoctin High School; members of the Thurmont Police Department; Boy Scout Leaders; and employees of the local Kountry Kitchen restaurant. Activities during the week were geared toward making all students feel welcome. They had daily ice breakers during lunch and courtesy lessons on how to introduce yourself to a new person. Darby Carson said, “It helps people and makes them feel like they matter. I think we should keep doing it and let that legacy live on.” Claire Daly said, “It is helpful for those kids who don’t have a lot of friends. They won’t be so lonely.” Tyler McCallion said, “Once you get to know people more, you realize you could be really good friends.” Shalina Weitzel said, “Start With Hello Week makes us feel inspired to help other kids.” School Counselor Tammy Brotman said, “I think this is a really important message to give our students.  Having Start with Hello Week gives students both the opportunity but most of all the courage to try reaching out to others.  We are trying to build a culture of kindness, and this is a great way to continue to support that goal and really make it a genuine part of what we’re about at TES.”

Sabillasville Elementary School

Sabillasville Elementary School (SES) students started the week with one important word: Hello. On Tuesday, they wore clothing that displayed something about themselves so that they could learn about each other. School Counselor Niki Kayser said, “The students and staff really enjoyed sharing why they chose the shirt they did. It encouraged them to learn a little more about their peers’ interests.” Students performed random acts of kindness on Wednesday and participated in special activities on Thursday and Friday.  Kayser said that she received positive feedback from staff and students and heard the comment, “It’s important to be kind all the time!” many times during the week. She also said, “I feel this message is wonderful! It’s a simple way to help create a more connected and inclusive school community. This message reminds us to encourage and support one another on a daily basis, and to understand how important it is to help students learn how to be accepting of others and to see that all it takes to make a difference is just a few simple words.”

Emmitsburg Elementary School

Emmitsburg Elementary School (EES) will be incorporating the idea of friendship throughout the school year to support the Leader In Me Positive Behavior Intervention System. Activities for the week included wearing green on Monday, signing a school banner on Tuesday, breakfast buddies on Wednesday, sharing stickers on Thursday, and making posters on Friendship Friday. School Counselor Sarah Fawley said, “The students really enjoyed working with other students in making their posters. They enjoyed the morning greeters in the front lobby, who greeted students with ‘hello’ and passed out stickers and pencils.” She said that students were more aware of others; they invited other students to sit with them at lunch.

Fawley also said, “This message is very important. There is so much power in five little letters (Hello) that can impact someone’s day or life forever.”

Starting the Day by saying “Hello” at Thurmont Elementary School: Dr. Keith Harris, FCPS executive director of Accelerating Achievement & Equity; Debra O’Donnell, TES principal; students, Adania Kreitz, Darby Carson, Carolyn Mercer, Claire Daly, Tyler McCallion, Chase Jackson, Summer Bostic, Tristan Lease, Shalini Weitzel, Warren Schafer; and Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird.

Photo by Theresa Dardanell

The Thurmont Lions Club will be hosting two Northern Frederick County Candidates Forums in October for the upcoming elections. On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. at the Thurmont Middle School, a candidates forum will feature those running for the County Council District 5 and County Council At Large seats.

On Wednesday, October 17, also at 7:00 p.m. at the Thurmont Middle School, the Northern Frederick County Candidates Forum will showcase the candidates running for the County Executive and House of Representatives 8th District seats.

This Northern Frederick County Candidates Forum series will highlight those issues that are important to our area, allowing the candidates to present their views and allowing the constituents of our area to get to know the candidates so that they can make informed decisions on Election Day. The Thurmont Lions Club does not endorse any one candidate for office, but rather presents an opportunity for our communities to know who is seeking to represent them in our local and national governments.

Theresa Dardanell

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”  —Albert Einstein

Students enjoyed an extra-long summer vacation this year. When they return to school on September 5, they will meet some new teachers, administrators, and support staff.


Catoctin High School

Welcome: Shannon Stone, guidance counselor; Alyssa Burdette, math teacher; Evan Felmet, music/CTE teacher; Angie Gallik, social studies teacher; Rob Nutter, special education teacher; Shannon Snowman, instructional assistant; Alyssa Manninen, special education instructional assistant; Leeah Hawes, custodian.


Thurmont Middle School

Welcome: Anita Shank, assistant principal; Christine Newman, administrative secretary; Jessica Penn, science teacher; Eric Bokinsky, technical education teacher; Kelly Steele, physical education/health teacher; Suzanne Buxbaum, band teacher; Jennifer Thoma, special education teacher; Kelly Pizza, community liaison. Daniel Enck was promoted from assistant principal to principal.


Thurmont Elementary

Welcome: Amanda Giauque, fifth grade teacher; Andrew Piccolo, fifth grade teacher; Brooke Cipolla, fourth grade teacher; Jennifer Thoma, special education teacher.


Thurmont Primary

Welcome: Ellen Parkhurst and Lindsey Stracener, special education assistants.


Lewistown Elementary

Welcome: Heather Burgess, physical education teacher; Erica Gray-O’Leary and Madeline Hart, special education pyramid teachers; Jeanette Monteith, special education pre-K teacher; April Sprecher, special education coordinator; Dora King, music teacher; Eileen Knapp, Virginia Johnson, and Michele Routzahn, special education instructional assistants.


Sabillasville Elementary

Welcome: Karen McKenzie, special education teacher; Allen Cosner, user support specialist.

It is time to recognize the special teacher who has made an impact on your child’s life and on your school community. Do you know a teacher who goes beyond what is expected? You can let this teacher know how important he/she has been to you by nominating him/her for the Thurmont Lions’ Teacher of the Year award. Anyone can nominate a teacher—parents, students, fellow teachers, and administrators.

This award is open to Pre-K through Grade 12, full-time teachers, in the Catoctin feeder school system: Catoctin High School, Thurmont Middle School, Thurmont Primary School, Thurmont Elementary School, Lewistown Elementary School, Emmitsburg Elementary School, Sabillasville Elementary School, and Mother Seton School.

All nominees will be recognized at a reception to be held on May 1, 2017, at the Thurmont Elementary School. The Teacher of the Year will be selected from these finalists by a committee of community leaders and will be announced at the Thurmont Lions’ Education Night on May 10, 2017.

Nomination forms are available at and at the Thurmont Regional Library. You may also pick up a form at your child’s school. Nomination forms (which include all the information necessary for submitting) are due no later than April 7, 2017. If you have any questions, please contact Lion Joyce Anthony at or 240-288-8748.

On Thursday, October 13, 2016, the four candidates for the District 8 House of Representatives seat will participate in the Candidates Forum at the Thurmont Middle School cafeteria. The Forum is sponsored and hosted by the Thurmont Lions Club for the public and all are welcome. Candidates participating include Republican Dan Cox, Democrat Jamie Raskin, Green Party Nancy Wallace, and Libertarian Jasen Wunder. The start time is 7:00 p.m.; those attending should arrive by 6:45 p.m. to ensure seating. Plentiful parking at the Middle School is available in the lot off Summit Avenue, where the cafeteria entrance is located.

Each candidate will have the opportunity to speak, describing why he or she deserves your vote. Then, the candidates will be asked to respond to questions relevant to the voters in North Frederick County. Questions from the audience will also be posed to the candidates, time permitting. Each candidate will also be asked to summarize his/her positions on important national issues. Following the Forum, the candidates will remain to meet and talk with the attendees one-on-one.

Noland Kinna is a twelve-year-old Thurmont resident and student at Thurmont Middle School. He is an avid baseball fan and player of the game. In 2011, Noland was diagnosed with a benign inoperable brain tumor (low-grade glioma), with an unusual mutation only seen in a handful of patients across the nation. On October 10, 2012, Noland had a brain biopsy and started chemotherapy soon after. He went through seventeen months of chemotherapy, which was very successful. After chemo ended in March of 2014, Noland was able to take a complete break from treatment for one-and-a-half years. Last fall, after a routine MRI, it was determined that Noland needed to begin another course of treatment, as his tumor had grown 25 percent. At this time, Noland is participating in a Biological Therapy Clinical Study known as AZD6244 (Selumetinib) for children with low-grade gliomas. This study is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Noland will continue this treatment until November 2017.

Noland was given the opportunity to be on the field with the Orioles players at Camden Yards for batting practice on August 29, 2016. This opportunity was arranged by the Casey Cares Foundation, which enhances the lives of critically ill children by providing and organizing special events for the kids and their families.

At 4:30 p.m. on Monday, August 29, Noland and his family, including his brother Wyatt Kinna, his mom and dad, Nick and Melissa Kinna, and his favorite and only uncle, Corey Kinna, were escorted on to the field at Camden Yards to experience that night’s batting practice from the field. It was an awesome experience that included getting autographs and photos with the players. Almost immediately after entering the field, a ball rolled to their feet, and the escort told them they could have it. A short time later, that ball was signed by Manny Macado and other players. Noland told his mom that the experience was the best he’d ever had.

Noland’s mother said, “We have been very fortunate to work with foundations like Casey Cares to help provide opportunities for Noland to help him feel better while dealing with his illness.”

The Casey Cares Foundation is a non-profit that works with families in six states throughout the Mid-Atlantic and in Washington, D.C. The foundation provides ongoing and uplifting programming to critically ill children and their families (including siblings).
Manny Machado (third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles) stands with Noland and his brother, Wyatt, after signing the baseball.

Thurmont Middle School Spirit Show Choir

The Broadway Life is a busy one! The Thurmont Middle School (TMS) Spirit Show Choir continues practicing their hearts out, getting their routines down, and perfecting those smiles to prepare for competition season. They are fast approaching their first event in Martinsburg, West Virginia, on March 19, 2016. In April, they will be traveling to the bright lights of New York City to compete at Brooklyn College.

The kids are extremely excited about this trip and continue to raise funds in order to create an unforgettable experience. They are holding an All-You-Can-Eat Pizza and Salad Night at Rocky’s Pizza in Thurmont on March 14, 2016, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. Adult tickets will be $10.00 each; senior citizens and children (ages twelve and under) are $6.00. You may contact any show choir member to get your ticket in advance or you can get your tickets at the door. Please come and support these talented kids!

The Thurmont Spirit Show Choir, directed by Mrs. Berna Laforce, consists of forty-three TMS members. The routines this year are all performed to Broadway-style music, and the kids’ costumes are just as bright as their personalities. There are also upcoming competitions at Hershey Park and Oakdale High School, both in May. The group also performs at Thurmont Middle School in May as part of the Spring Concert.  They appreciate all of the community donations and support that has enabled the group’s continued success.

Catoctin High School Distinguished Graduate Organization Accepting Nominations

Nomination forms can be picked up in the front office of Catoctin High School (CHS) or can be downloaded from the CHS website at Nomination forms must be submitted by May 1, 2016. Nominees will then receive an application to be completed by June 1, 2016.

The Distinguished Graduate Organization committee will determine the award recipients by June 21, 2016.

Catoctin Area 2016 Teacher of the Year Nominations

It is time to recognize that special teacher who has made an impact on your child’s life and on your school community. You can let this teacher know how important he or she has been to you by nominating him or her for the Thurmont Lions Club Teacher of the Year Award. Parents, students, administrators, and fellow teachers may nominate a teacher.

This award is open to Pre-K through Grade 12, full-time teachers, in these public and nonpublic schools in the Catoctin feeder school system: Catoctin High School; Thurmont Middle School; Thurmont Primary School; Thurmont Elementary School; Sabillasville Elementary School; Lewistown Elementary School; Emmitsburg Elementary School; and Mother Seton School.

All nominees will be recognized at a reception on April 21, 2016, and one finalist from each school will be announced. The Teacher of the Year will be selected from these finalists by a committee of community leaders and will be announced at the Thurmont Lions’ Education Night on May 11, 2016.

Nomination forms are available at, at the Thurmont Regional Library, and the Thurmont Town Office. You may also pick up a form at your child’s school. Forms are due by March 23, 2016 (all information needed for filling out the nomination form and submitting it is included on it). This is a truly meaningful way to show your appreciation for that teacher who has made a difference in your child’s life and in the school community.

Williams Awarded International Leo of the Year 2015

SCHOOL -- Marah Williams Leo of YearOn October 28, 2015, during the Thurmont Lions Club annual charter banquet, Marah Williams, a senior at Catoctin High School, was awarded International Leo of the Year 2015. Also in attendance were Lion Wendy Candella, CHS Leo Club advisor, and District Lion Eileen.

The Lions Club International, District 22W level, may nominate one high-achieving Leo each year for this medallion and certificate award. The Lions Club is an international service organization.

Marah is one of thirty-one award recipients from around the world, out of 44,000 members. This year, there are ten international Leo’s from the United States and twenty-one Leo’s from various countries around the world: Japan, Australia, India, Nigeria, and Italy, to name a few. Prior to becoming International Leo of the Year, Marah was awarded Leo of the Year, and Regional Leo, and is the current Catoctin High School Leo Club president.

Frederick County 4H Therapeutic Riding Program Spring Session Begins April

The Frederick County 4H Therapeutic Riding Program’s (TRP) spring session begins on April 23, 2016.  The program provides education, socialization, recreation, and therapy to more than seventy-eight individuals each spring and fall at no charge. The program, a 501c3 non-profit organization, will begin its thirty-second year of service to Frederick County citizens with emotional, physical, and/or mental disabilities. Students ride one hour per week for seven weeks during each session without charge. Class instructors and physical and/or occupational therapists design specific programs for each student, direct the implementation of these programs, and monitor the progress of the students.

Each of their riders requires a “team”: a horse leader and one or two side walkers. The “teams” are an invaluable asset to their program. They assist riders with completion of riding tasks and encourage the “I can do attitude.”

Also, each student rides a specific horse with specific equipment, deemed necessary by the instructors and therapist, thus requiring a capable Barn Crew to groom and ready the equine therapist for their job. Volunteers are the heart of this good work.

Volunteer Training Day for all prospective volunteers will be on Saturday, April 16, 2016, at the farm, from 9:00 a.m.-noon. If you have never attended volunteer training, please come and join the TRP family. For more information, check them out on Facebook or visit their website at

James Rada, Jr.

Colorfest photo - taken by Traci SolichThe crowds have gone now, Colorfest 2015 is over, and life in Thurmont is back to normal. Many local non-profit organizations got their annual boost of funding from the estimated 125,000 people that crowded into Thurmont for the event that was held during the second weekend of October.

Although Colorfest started out as a nature walk fifty-two years ago, it has now grown into Maryland’s largest craft festival. It boasts 240 juried exhibits, plus many more vendors in and around the town. You could find original paintings, metal sculptures, hand-sewn quilts, homemade soaps, unique jewelry, and much more. Each year, there seems to be a new trend in which crafts are popular.

At one time, Colorfest had four juried areas: the Thurmont Community Park, Thurmont Middle School, the Guardian Hose Company Carnival Grounds, and the American Legion. Though the festival is as large as ever, Community Park remains the only juried area with 240 vendors.

Outside of the park, yard sales and non-juried craft shows have sprung up everywhere throughout the town. The town closes off parts of South Water Street and Frederick Road to accommodate the masses of people. The town government provides buses to shuttle visitors from various parking areas around town, including the schools.

The weather for this year’s Colorfest was near perfect, which brought out tens of thousands of visitors who clogged the streets throughout Thurmont. As a first-time vendor this year, but having attended many previous Colorfest festivals, I can tell you that the crowds this year were incredible. It was my best weekend ever for a festival.

The food vendors seemed to do particularly well with lines that seemed to stay steady with a dozen or more people in them. Colorfest represents the largest fundraiser of the year for many community organizations. The local school PTAs park cars at the schools and can raise around $4,000 in a weekend. The American Legion and Guardian Hose Company rent vendor spaces on their properties.

Over the years, Colorfest has donated more than $110,000 in scholarships to the local schools, made annual donations to the Guardian Hose Company and Thurmont Community Ambulance Company, purchased the town’s Christmas decorations, purchased playground equipment for town parks, sponsored family and children’s events, paid for the redecoration of the town office meeting room, and many more functions in support of the community.


School Bells are Ringing Across the County

James Rada, Jr.

Frederick County students headed back to school on Monday, August 24. Nearly every school saw new faces among the faculty and staff.

Thurmont Primary School

Thurmont Primary School is the only school in the area not seeing any staffing changes this year. All of the teachers and staff from last school year are returning.

Sabillasville Elementary School

Sabillasville Elementary School welcomes three new teachers this year: Jennifer Rutherford, special education teacher; Maureen Schildt, 5th grade teacher; and Chad Keller, physical education teacher.

Lewistown Elementary School

Lewistown Elementary School is welcoming nine new teachers and staff this year: Austin Seliga, kindergarten teacher; Dana Byard, media specialist; Jessica Flabbi, pyramid teacher; Kristina Sartwell, pyramid teacher; Aly Kaufman, pyramid teacher; Jeremy Kraeuter, user support specialist to help with technology needs; Tia Rode, special education assistant; Brenda Harrison, special education assistant; and Gayle Mosier, special education assistant.

Emmitsburg Elementary School

Emmitsburg Elementary School welcomes five new teachers and staff this year: Sara Bugler, pre-K teacher;           Stan Diehl, instructional support staff; Harry Fogle, instructional support staff; Kelli Landermann, instructional support staff; and Mary Neibecker, instructional support staff.

Also, targeted Intervention teacher Charlene Rippeon was awarded 2015 Thurmont Lions Club Teacher of the Year Award.

Thurmont Middle School

Thurmont Middle School Principal Jennifer Powell said, “We’ve had quite a few changes to our staff this year due to our decreasing enrollment and the increase in class size due to the FCPS budget.”

Current enrollment in the school is around 542, which is down from approximately seven years earlier when enrollment was over 700 students. This means fewer class periods need a teacher to cover them, which could eventually lead to fewer teachers at the school. Ten teachers and staff have left the school this year due to retirement, transfers to other schools, or other reasons.

New this year or in new positions are: Emily Kern, math/science teacher; Valerie Cousins, filling in for Bethany Webster on maternity leave;         and Tina Garst, science teacher instead of math.

“We still proudly have the FCPS Teacher of the Year Amanda Portner who is our Literacy Specialist,” Powell said. “We will find out in October if she is the Maryland Teacher of the Year.”

Catoctin High School

Catoctin High School welcomes five new teachers and staff this year: Luis Torrado, history teacher; Julie Bashin, math teacher; Katherine Mills, media specialist; and Doug Young, science and math teacher.

Mother Seton School

Mother Seton School is welcoming three new teachers this year: Kelsey Kuykendall, pre-k teacher; Amy Incaprera, middle school language arts and religion teacher; and Rhona Stocksdale, physical education teacher. The school now has central air conditioning throughout the entire building to maintain a comfortable learning environment for the students.

Patriot’s Pen Contest

Each year, the VFW Post 6658 Ladies Auxiliary sponsors “The Patriot’s Pen” contest, which is open to students in grades sixth through eighth.

Students are required to do a typed essay of 300-400 words based on the theme, “What Freedom Means To Me.” Monetary prizes are given to the winners on local, state, and national levels.

Judging is based on knowledge of theme, theme development, and clarity of ideas. If you are interested, please contact Gwen Topper at 717-359-0713 for an entry form.

Thurmont Elementary and Primary Schools to Host Back-to-School Picnic

On Thursday, September 10, 2015, the Thurmont Primary and Thurmont Elementary Schools will be hosting their annual Back-to-School Night Family Picnic at the Thurmont Town Park, located at 21 Frederick Road in Thurmont in the pavilions, from 5:00-6:30 p.m.

Students and their families are invited to come spend some informal and fun time with teachers and staff, with good food, enjoyable music, lots of useful information, and tons of fun on the agenda.

Many thanks go out to the local business community for all of their support of this collaborative event to kick off the 2015-2016 school year.

Catoctin Safe and Sane Class of 2016

The 2016 Catoctin High School (CHS) Safe and Sane Committee is selling $5.00 tickets for chances to win a bushel of steamed crabs. Winners will be drawn at 2:00 p.m. on September 13, 2015, at the Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show.

Save the date for a fun night painting! Get your tickets for the Corks & Canvas Night on September 17, 2015, at the Carriage House Inn in JoAnn’s Ballroom in Emmitsburg. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. The cost is $50.00 a ticket, which includes art supplies, appetizers, and complimentary wine.

Please contact Laura Imes at 301-788-6458 or Kim Moser at 240-285-1799 for tickets for these events.

Visit the Catoctin Safe and Sane Class of 2016 website for all upcoming and future events at

James Rada, Jr.

When Amanda Portner was a young girl, she would pretend to be a teacher, writing on a chalkboard and assigning classwork. Of course, she may be the only teacher to have ever been given a time-out by her mother.

“I kept trying to give my little sister detention, because she wouldn’t do the homework that I assigned her,” Portner said.

Portner, who is a literacy specialist at Thurmont Middle School, was named the Frederick County Public Schools 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year.

“I was absolutely floored when I found out,” Portner said. “They got me good.”

Portner thought that the school was going to have a celebration of the end of state testing in April. She was standing on the stage behind the curtain with others, expecting a pep rally to start, but when the principal came out and started speaking, Portner realized that she wasn’t talking about testing.

Then the curtains opened and Portner saw students applauding, as well as her friends, mother, husband, and sister. The pep rally was actually a gathering to announce Portner was teacher of the year.

Portner has been a teacher for nineteen years, all of them with Frederick County Public Schools. She began her career at Thomas Johnson Middle School as a theater arts teacher and eventually became a language arts teacher.

In 2005, she became a secondary literacy specialist at Walkersville High School. In 2008, she became a teacher specialist for secondary English/language arts in the Central Office. In 2012, she returned to the role of secondary literacy specialist at Thurmont Middle School.

Portner was delighted to teach at Thurmont Middle, because she also lived in the community until March of this year with her husband, Joe, and their dog, Peanut.

“I love the community,” Portner said. “I lived here for thirteen years, and I was excited to come here as a teacher.”

Since 2000, she has served as an FCPS curriculum writer and teacher trainer. She’s co-directed the Maryland Writing Project for Frederick since 2008, and, since 2014, she has also taught English for the FCPS Virtual School.

“I was meant to be a teacher,” Portner said. “Even as a child, I played school once I was old enough to have chalk.”

Portner said that she loves working with middle-school children. “There’s something magical about being in school with children that age and seeing them figure out their identities,” said Portner.

Since the announcement, those students have been giving Portner a lot of high-fives when they see her in the hall, offering her congratulations. Portner was chosen as teacher of the year from among sixty-four nominees.

“Amanda’s enthusiasm is contagious, and she is a master at inspiring others. Teachers flock to her professional development offerings, finding Amanda to be an expert in what she shares and full of ‘no nonsense’ examples and strategies that they can use in the classroom the next day. Teachers also appreciate her wonderfully warm sense of humor and presentation style,” said Principal Jennifer Powell.

The Board of Education of Frederick County honored Portner and the other nominees at the May 13, 2015, meeting.

The Maryland Board of Education honored Portner and all the state’s school district teacher of the year winners at a luncheon on May 19, 2015. The Maryland Teacher of the Year will be announced in October. The winner will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.


Amanda Portner (pictured), the literacy specialist at Thurmont Middle School, was named the Frederick County Public Schools 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

Race for Education Ends with Limo Ride to Lunch for Top Sellers

Deb Spalding

Thurmont Elementary and Primary School students who turned in the most address labels to solicit sponsorship for Race Day, held on April 17, 2015, were rewarded with a limousine ride to lunch with their principals on Monday, May 18, 2015. Paige Woods (Kindergarten), Kyle Welsh (1st Grade), Katelyn Bell (2nd Grade), Zoey Whitmore (3rd Grade), Ethan Condon (4th Grade), and Robert Albaugh (5th Grade), were excited for their first-ever ride in a limousine.

Thurmont Primary School Principal Karen Locke and Thurmont Elementary School Principal Christina McKeever were excited for the students and enjoyed their lunch at Pizza Hut in Thurmont. Traci Tatum, president of the TEPS Parent Teacher Association (PTA), said that the event raised close to $27,000. Both schools will be given just over $8,000 during the last TEPS PTA meeting for this school year on June 2. The schools will use their share of the monies towards their designated purposes, which include technology purchases at Thurmont Elementary School and possible marquee improvements at Thurmont Primary School.

If readers would like to contribute towards this cause, please mail your contributions ($5, $10, $15, etc.) to TEPS PTA, Attn: Traci Tatum, 805 E. Main Street, Thurmont, MD 21788.

teps limo2 (1)

Pictured from left are: (front row) students, Katelyn Bell, Kyle Welsh, Paige Woods, Zoey Whitmore, and Ethan Condon; (back row) Thurmont Primary School Principal Karen Locke, student Robert Albaugh, and Thurmont Elementary School Principal Christina McKeever.

Photo by Deb Spalding

Thurmont Students Planning to Visit Europe

James Rada, Jr.

Last year, Tracey Law stood watching her son, Eamonn, who was usually introverted, walk up to street vendors in Barcelona, Spain, and talk with them about their jobs and what they were selling. He would even barter a price for something he liked.

It was a simple thing, done thousands of times a day in Barcelona, but for Law, she saw it as an expansion of her son’s world.

Law and her son were part of a group of students from Thurmont Middle School who traveled last year through Barcelona and Paris, France.

“We wanted to open up a global understanding for our kids so that they could learn about the world through other’s eyes,” said Kelley Fujii, a media specialist with Green Valley Elementary School.

Frederick County Public Schools sponsored the trip, which was operated through Education First Tours. The cost of the package included just about everything, including air fare, hotels, tours, and meals. Fujii added that Education First puts together trips that are specifically tailored for middle school and high school students.

“We were pretty much on the go each day from 7:30 in the morning to dinner,” Fujii said. “We had some free time in the evening, but most of it was organized activities.”

Law decided to go along on the trip, because she had never been to Europe herself and she had always wanted to.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Law said. “We came home, and I think we saw more (of Europe) than some people who have gone over there for a longer time.”

She remembers standing on a street in Paris, and Eamonn started a conversation with her about how old the buildings around them were and how crowded the city was, but it all seemed to work.

Fujii is now putting together a group that will travel to Europe next year to visit Switzerland, Italy, and France. Because of the cost of the trip (around $4,000 for thirteen days), she wants to give the families who want to go plenty of time to raise the funds.

“Our trip was even better than I thought it would be,” Law said. “Everyone should take a trip like this.”

Fujii is planning an informational meeting for anyone with a middle school student who might be interested in traveling next year. The meeting will be on Thursday, June 11, 2015, from 6:30-7:15 p.m., in the Thurmont Regional Library Small meeting room.

If you have any questions about the trip, you can ask them at the meeting or e-mail Fujii at

Thurmont Students planning to visit Europe

Pictured from left are Tina Mumm, CHS and TMS students Ariel Mumm, Angel Michalski, Eamonn Law-Knotts, Josh Small, and Connor Smoak (laying); (back) Rick Albee, Tracey Law-Knotts, Phyllis Nizer, CHS student Erica Baker, Patty Small, Carrie Clark, and Kelley Fujii.

Courtesy Photo

James Rada, Jr.

Walk into the science classrooms at Thurmont Middle School on Wednesdays after school and prepare to be amazed. Alyssa Malasky (6th grade) and Joey Risser (6th grade) built a rocket nearly as tall as they are that is powered by water. Mikaila Risser (8th grade) builds simple machines and tests what they can do. Anthony Southmuye (8th grade) and Silas Nickerson (8th grade) test their rubber-band-powered car.

Out in the hallway, Kallan Lathan (7th grade), Kariana Strickhouser (7th grade), and Sophia DeGennaro (6th grade) have built two devices designed to use air pressure to launch ping-pong balls at precise distances.

Down in the gymnasium, Isaac Dodson (6th grade) tests his balsa-wood airplanes to see which design stays in the air the longest.

These students are all members of Thurmont Middle School’s Science Olympiad Team. The seventeen students pair off in small teams to train in some of the twenty-three Science Olympiad events. Each student competes in three or four events, and the team as a whole has a team to compete in each event.

“Science Olympiad is a hands-on K-12 program to teach students STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Jilicia Johnson, one of the team’s advisors and a Thurmont Middle School science teacher.

“They get to experience science outside of classroom, and some of them go beyond what they are learning in the classroom.”

Johnson is assisted by fellow teacher, Susan Mize; Jesse Rose, a retired engineer; and Melissa Carter, a Fort Detrick scientist.

Mikaila said she joined the team last year because, “You get to go more in-depth with science and things.”

Her younger brother, Joey, is also a member of the team.

“He wanted to join mostly because I convinced him that it was fun,” Mikaila said.

She and Joey even compete together in an event called Write It, Do It. One team member goes into a room and writes instructions for building what he or she sees. The instructions are then given to the other team member to see if he or she can follow directions to build the original device.

Another event is a lot like participating in an episode of CSI. Sydney Hafler (7th grade) competes in Crime Busters. In this event, she is given a crime scenario, along with evidence that is a combination of liquids, powders, and fibers. She then has to test the materials to identify them and use them to determine who committed the crime.

“For instance, if a powder at the crime is baking powder, then the person is probably a cook rather than a drywaller,” Hafler said.

The team placed fifth out of seventeen teams at the Frederick Invitational in February. The school also placed in fifteen of the twenty-three events. Regionals are held at the University of Maryland in late March; if the team qualifies, it will go on to the state competition at Johns Hopkins University.

“Thurmont Middle School had a team that won the states in 2008, and went on to compete in the nationals at George Washington University,” Johnson said.

Although the students love the thrill of the competition, they are also enjoying the journey to get ready for competition as they test designs and ideas, evaluate what happens, and adjust their designs and ideas and search of the winning entry.


Thurmont Middle School’s Science Olympiad Team members, Alyssa Malasky and Joey Risser, build a rocket that is powered by water.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

TMS Leo Club’s Coat and Blanket Drive

Leo Keera Irons, TMS Leo Public Relations Officer

The Thurmont Middle School (TMS) Leo Club sponsored a coat and blanket drive during the month of January.  It was a huge success!  Their objective was to help individuals—young and old—who do not have the basic resources needed to keep warm and healthy during the cold weather. With the support of the Thurmont community, the Leo members collected 237 items that included blankets, coats, scarves, hats, and gloves. The TMS Leo Club’s school advisors, Ms. Stecyk and Mr. Hand, along with the front office staff, put boxes outside their doors for the donations.

In addition to the school-wide support, the Leo Club received support from the JerMae Estates community and Weller Church. Pastor Bob Kells at Weller Church challenged the congregation to make a tower of blankets taller than him! What a success!  The collected items were delivered to the homeless in Frederick County, the Rescue Mission, and the like. The Leo Club would like to extend a huge “thank you” to the JerMae Estates Community, Weller Church, Thurmont Lions Club, students, parents, teachers, and friends for their dedicated support of this heart-warming project. They would also like to thank Lion Joyce Anthony, TLC TMS advisor, for picking up the items, storing them at her house, and delivering them to their destinations along with the help of Lion Gayle DiSalvo, TLC TMS advisor.

TMS Leo Club - blanket drive

Thurmont Middle School Leo Club sponsored a coat and blanket drive in January, collecting 237 items to be donated to those in need.

CHS Leo’s Collect Jeans for Homeless Teens

Catoctin High School (CHS) Leo Club’s “Teens For Jeans” drive ended on January 22, 2015, after collecting 260 jeans for teens experiencing homelessness in our area. They would like to send out a big “Thank You” to all contributors: Thurmont Lions Club (over 42 jeans), Lion Advisor Wendy Candela’s workplace (approximately 60-plus jeans), and all the Catoctin High School students and staff for the remaining jeans! Catoctin High School is also entered in hopes of winning a $5,000 school grant. In addition to the school grant, the school that collects the most jeans will win a private school concert by pop band The Vamps and Aéropostale T-shirts for the entire school.

Over a million young people experience homelessness in the United States every year and one of the most requested items that young people in homeless shelters ask for is a pair of jeans. In the past seven years, young people across the country have collected over 4.3 million pairs of jeans through Teens for Jeans, a clothing drive organized in partnership with and Aeropostale.

The CHS Leo Club’s donation of 260 jeans were delivered to the Aeropostale store at Francis Scott Key mall; they will be boxing and distributing them to Frederick county area homeless shelters and organizations for teens and young adults.

CHS Teen for Jeans - CollectorsGalore

Pictured from left are Thurmont Lion Advisor Wendy Candela, Leo’s Marah Williams and Lizzy Darr, CHS Faculty Advisor Ms. Herrmann, Leo Alex Bolinger, and CHS Faculty Advisor Ms. Eckenrode.

OKLAHOMA! at Catoctin High School

Catoctin High School (CHS) will proudly present its spring musical, Oklahoma! on April 16-18, 2015.

Catoctin High’s production will star senior Randy Stull as Curly, junior Veronica Smaldone as Laurey, Daniel Miller as Will Parker, and Katelyn Claxton as Ado Annie. Other featured roles are brought to life by the talents of Maddie Wahler (Aunt Eller), Colton Bennett (Carnes), Cameron Hallock (Jud Fry), Sean Miller (Ali Hakim), and Meredith Wilson (Dream Laurey).

The ensemble is completed with Emily Smallwood, Briana Grimes, Mariam Harper, Robbie Doyle, Whitney Grim, Carley Flora, Victoria Hoke, Jessica Late, Justin Cissel, Anthony Robertson, Tyler McNally, Casey Ecker, Chris Reed, Amanda Smallwood, Madi Smallwood, Alexi Baumgardner, Lauren Wotring, Christian Ford, Cole Payne, and Maybelin Cruz,

The play is directed and choreographed by CHS Drama teacher Karen Richardson Stitely, and is under the music direction of CHS Chorus and Band teacher, Ben Zamostny. Maddie Adams is lighting technician, and Jenna Seiss is sound technician.

The show will run April 16, 17, and 18 at 7:00 p.m. There is a 2:00 p.m. matinee showing on April 18 as well.

Please email to reserve tickets. Tickets will also be available at the door. The cost of tickets are $8.00 for students $8 and $10.00 for adults.