News and Spotlights

  • Photo Gallery: PBIS rally

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/23/2024

     

    Students celebrated their good behavior with a PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) rally on May 23. Students were given awards, played games, and had plenty of fun. Check out some pictures above from the event.

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  • ROX program empowers 6th and 7th grade female students

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/23/2024

     

    As the Duquesne City School District’s school counselor, Monica Walker believes empowering female students — especially in 6th and 7th grade — is paramount.

    “I think it’s crucial. When they get around 5th grade, they feel super confident, but it can trickle down from there,” said Walker. “Getting to them in this sweet spot of 6th and 7th grade and helping them build confidence or build upon the confidence they have is crucial.”

    Starting this school year, the Duquesne City School District has participated in the Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX) program, a middle school and high school girls mentorship program. The district was able to bring the program to the school through the Dr. Patty Diversity Fellowship, which is meant to increase the representation of diverse, female leaders who deliver the ROX Program across the country.

    At Duquesne City, Walker has fifteen 6th and 7th grade female students participate in the 20-week program, which covers a wide variety of issues that might be affecting students. The group meets once a week.

    “We talk about issues that might be impacting them like social media, self-esteem issues, dating, school work, and career goals,” said Walker. “We cover a lot of ground over the 20 weeks.”

    Additionally, the program covers self-defense tactics. On May 23, Walker connected with a friend to bring in a therapy dog, and to teach the students about how animals can reduce stress.

    “It’s something I wanted to add because I thought they would enjoy it and benefit from it,” said Walker.

    The ROX program will continue next year, as part of the two-year fellowship. 

    “It does seem like it has been helpful,” Walker said. “Some of the best feedback I get is when other people mention to me that my students were talking about something they learned in ROX. It’s really impacting them outside the room that we’re learning these things.”

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  • Staff Spotlight: Celeste Rudge

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/22/2024

    A woman holds up a book, reading it to a class

    On a regular day, it’s common to see Celeste Rudge in the hallways of the Duquesne City School District, chatting with a student or a teacher.

    In between operating as the district’s Director of Literacy and Innovation and English Language Learners (EL) Coordinator, Rudge always makes it a priority to stay connected with students and teachers, so she can best execute her job.

    “With the kids and teachers, I try to check on them and see how they’re doing, what they need and how I can make them successful each day,” said Rudge.

    “It’s the kids that keep me going. Just talking with the kids every day and being there for them. I always want to make sure that the kids know that I’m available to them, and they can always talk to me.”

    As the district’s Director of Literacy and Innovation, Rudge is fiercely dedicated to making sure that every district student achieves optimum literacy. As the EL Coordinator, Rudge oversees the ESL (English Second Language) teachers and programming, ensuring that ESL students can thrive in the district. Rudge also oversees the district’s paraprofessionals, who Rudge believes offer invaluable support to the district’s teachers.

    “As their supervisor, I have built trusting relationships with them,” said Rudge. “They support our teachers, and they support each other.”

    Rudge joined the district’s administration in 2020, but her relationship with Duquesne City spans much longer. She started in the district in 2008 as a Reading Specialist, and went on to hold roles as a 1st grade teacher and Reading Coach. While she never planned to work in administration, Rudge has enjoyed the opportunity to affect literacy from a different platform, all while collaborating with like-minded peers.

    “Once I got here and started working with the administration, we just all meshed together,” said Rudge. “It’s a really supportive, collaborative group.”

    Previous to the Duquesne City School District, Rudge taught Pre-K for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Head Start Program. From her experience of working with young children and helping them foster early literacy skills, Rudge found what she loved and went back to school, achieving her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education.

    While her days of working in classrooms are behind her, Rudge still draws on previous experiences to best inform her decisions.

    “I always think about what I needed, and what I would have liked to have when I was a 1st grade teacher. I look at what would benefit kids most and what would be most advantageous for teachers,” said Rudge. 

    “As the Director of Literacy, I make sure that the teachers have what they need so that kids can be successful. My goal and passion is that every child becomes a reader.”

    When choosing what materials, resources, and books to embed in the district’s curriculum, Rudge said representation and relatability is important, making sure to supply materials that particularly resonate with the district’s students.

    “I look for books that are multicultural, so that the kids see themselves in the stories. That’s really important,” said Rudge.

    “When I look at resources that come across my desk, I look at how well they’re going to fit our teachers and our kids. There’s a lot of stuff out there, but you have to look at if it’s really going to help our teachers and students move forward.”

    As the district’s student population grows and changes, making sure that materials resonate is especially important. Over the past couple of years, the district’s ESL population has grown drastically. Along the way, Rudge has been on top of it, making sure that every student’s needs are being met. It’s been a challenge, but one that Rudge has greatly enjoyed.

    “I’ve really learned so much about the different cultures that we have in the building,” said Rudge. “I just try to make sure that they – along with their teachers — get what they need to excel in those English language skills.”

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  • Emily Johns voted as April's Staff Member of the Month

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/17/2024

    Staff member of the month: Emily Johns

    When asked to pick her favorite part about teaching, Emily Johns has a difficult time narrowing it down. She loves seeing her students grow, and she loves building strong relationships with them. Seeing them improve their reading skills is awesome, but she also has a soft spot for science.

    Perhaps most of all, though, Ms. Johns just enjoys empowering her students, and showing them just how much they’re capable of.

    “I try to empower them. I try to have high expectations and empower them to make good choices. I always say, ‘you have a big, smart brain in your head.’ I try to get them to have that growth mindset,” said Ms. Johns, a 1st grade teacher in the district. 

    “Some of the kids aren’t always used to being empowered. They might be used to thinking that they can’t do something. So helping them feel empowered and showing them steps and strategies to figure things out is really important.”

    Ms. Johns has built strong relationships with her students, and her peers have taken notice, voting her as April’s Staff Member of the Month. 

    One coworker praised Ms. Johns for always being happy, while another pointed out her patience and genuine care for her students.

    “She has been a wonderful addition to our teaching staff over the past few years,” said one coworker.

    Ms. Johns took a slightly different path into formal education, as compared to many of her peers. After deliberating between get her degree in teaching and environmental resource management, Ms. Johns opted for the latter. She went on to work in the education department at Phipps Conservatory for four years.

    “It was a really great opportunity because it gave me a chance to explore education, while doing something I had my qualification in,” said Ms. Johns. “I was very fortunate that I got to work with a variety of students. I worked with 2-4 year olds, and all the way up to our high school program and literally every age in between.”

    While she enjoyed the job, she was missing the opportunity to build long-term relationships with her students, knowing just how much she enjoyed seeing growth and improvement. So she went back to college, getting her master’s degree in early childhood education, before subbing at Pittsburgh Public and then the Duquesne City School District, before being hired full-time.

    She taught 2nd grade last school year, but moved to 1st grade this year. While she loves both grades, the switch has been fitting, as it’s allowed her to observe and be a catalyst for so much early growth in her students.

    “I get so excited when they get a new concept, or when I can help them see their growth because kids don’t always realize how much they are changing and growing,” said Ms. Johns. “I love getting to work with them on those early skills, and seeing that reading development has been really, really gratifying.”

    “And seeing them develop social skills is awesome, too. Getting to see them use skills we practiced, like taking a break when they’re too excited, or using words that we practiced with a friend.”

    Ms. Johns has also been on the ground floor of the district’s efforts to implement World of Work, a career exploration framework and collaboration with the Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward, and South Fayette Township School Districts. She helped pilot it at the 2hd grade level last year, and now 1st grade this year. While she didn’t expect to be a part of such a new, exciting initiative, Ms. Johns has tackled the task head-on, enjoying the collaboration between her fellow teachers and partner school districts.

    “It’s been exciting. I’ve always liked being creative and sharing ideas. The team here, there is so much potential in our teaching staff,” said Ms. Johns.

    “It’s very exciting to get to be involved in something new.”

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  • A note for 6th grade parents/guardians

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/16/2024

    ATTENTION ALL SIXTH GRADE PARENTS/GUARDIANS:

    Please turn in a completed physical examination form from this school year with current immunizations to the health office. This is a State Mandated Requirement in order to begin seventh grade. The physical examination form may be found on the school's website or your doctor may provide their own, given that it is for public school and not a daycare facility. If you have any questions, please contact the health office: 412-466-5362. 

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  • 5th and 6th grade students simulate jobs during BizTown visit

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/16/2024

     

    During a field trip on May 15, 5th and 6th grade students were put to work. Students visited JA BizTown, a simulated town in Bridgeville, stocked with a plethora of mini-storefronts.

    Some of those storefronts include PPG Paints, #1 Cochran, FedEx Ground, Giant Eagle, Gordon Food Service, Highmark, UPMC, Vector Security, and Sheetz. Throughout the day, students worked their assigned jobs in various businesses. 

    The field trip comes as the near last piece of the JA BizTown curriculum. Throughout the learning, 5th and 6th grade students go through five units: Financial Literacy, Community & Economy, Work & Career Readiness, Business Management, and Visit & Debriefing.

    Following participation in the BizTown curriculum, students will be able to:

    • Discuss the roles they play as citizens, workers, and consumers in their community and relate those roles to the free enterprise system.
    • Discuss the importance of citizen rights and responsibilities in a community.
    • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the free enterprise system.  
    • Build money management skills through a practical knowledge of economic concepts and banking practices.  
    • Develop an understanding of basic business practices and responsibilities.
    • Display the soft skills necessary for successful participation in the world of work.

    Prior to the visit, students had to complete a philanthropy pledge, a business cost sheet, a loan application and create a radio ad for their business. Students also learned how to fill out a checkbook.

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  • Staff Spotlight: Dr. Jamie Schmidt

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/9/2024

    A woman hugs a student, as a man smiles.

    When Dr. Jamie Schmidt was growing up, there was little question as to what career path she would take.

    “I always wanted to be a teacher ever since I was little. It was really the only thing I ever considered doing. I used to always play pretend school with my sisters,” said Dr. Schmidt.

    Dr. Schmidt’s path to administration was a bit more circuitous. Dr. Schmidt started at the Duquesne City School in 2008 as a reading specialist. She went on to serve in numerous other classroom roles — such as an instructional coach for ELA instruction — before being offered the opportunity to join the district’s administration in 2019.

    “(Superintendent) Sue (Mariani) is very good at helping people see something that they don’t see in themselves,” said Dr. Schmidt. “She thought I had a lot of great qualities for administration and could help lead the district in its turnaround.”

    Now in her 5th year in administration, Dr. Schmidt serves as the district’s Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment and Federal Programs Coordinator. Focusing on fine-tuning the district’s curriculum and staying at the forefront of education, Dr. Schmidt has a direct, significant impact on how the district’s classrooms operate.

    “It’s rewarding. When you’re a classroom teacher, you have a direct impact on just those 17 kids in your classrooms, but as an administrator, I feel like I have a direct impact on almost 500 kids every day,” said Dr. Schmidt. “It’s a lot more rewarding because you just have the opportunity to change things at the district level, which impacts a lot more students.”

    As a former teacher, Dr. Schmidt said she’s always thinking about her time in the classroom, and what she would’ve benefited from. To boot, she’s constantly pulling feedback from teachers, learning what is and isn’t working, and how she can improve in her role.

    “When I started developing the curriculum sites, that was something I kept going back to, thinking about when I was a teacher, what do I wish I had or what would’ve been beneficial for me in terms of what I’m supposed to be teaching and what my kids need,” said Dr. Schmidt.

    “When we implement different programs or initiatives, the teachers are the ones on the front lines implementing them. So listening to them and getting their feedback about if what we’re doing is helpful, and if they like it and if they’re students like it is really important.”

    In her role, Dr. Schmidt said her main goals are making instruction simultaneously more comprehensive and easier for the district’s teachers. As part of that goal, she tries to stay at the forefront of education, always keeping her eyes and ears open, and collaborating with peers in education to find new and better ways to educate the students of Duquesne.

    In her time in administration, Dr. Schmidt has helped bring personalized learning and World of Work to the district’s classrooms. 

    “We know the world is changing and education doesn’t look the same as it did before,” said Dr. Schmidt. “And so, to really engage our kids with instruction that’s important, we continue to look at how we can do things differently, and how we can do things that best fit our kids’ needs and interests.”

    On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Schmidt said she gets gratification from seeing teachers thrive and grow, in the same way that teachers get joy from seeing their students have success. Beyond that, though, she’s most proud of the progress the district has made and will continue to make, as her and her peers try to stay one step ahead in growing the district and seeing its students thrive.

    “I’m most proud of having a part in being able to bring back 7th and 8th grade. It’s such a small community, and they really love this school, and the kids love being here,” said Dr. Schmidt. “So to be able to give them the opportunity to be able to stay here for another two years is something I’m really proud of.”

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  • Photo Gallery: Forge Futures visitors tour Duquesne City

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/8/2024

     

    The Duquesne City School District was honored to host roughly 80 visitors on May 8 from the Forge Futures summit. The Forge Futures summit takes place on May 8-9, bringing together "more than 200 influential thinkers, school leaders, and education policymakers in Pittsburgh to write the next chapter for public education, with a focus on the powerful possibilities presented by local learning ecosystems."

    Remake Learning is presenting the summit, along with AASA, The School Superintendents Association. The Duquesne City School District was just one of a few schools being toured. Throughout the student-led tours, visitors were able to observe World of Work in numerous classrooms, as well as partnerships with Attack Theatre and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Afterwards, staff led a panel to speak about the district's Lilliput playhouse space, Lego League, eSports and Moonshot grant sessions.

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  • Photo Gallery: Remake Learning Catapult Challenge

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/7/2024

     

    On May 7, the Duquesne City School District helped kick off Remake Learning Days with discoverED 2024, a virtual collaborative design challenge. Second grade students were tasked with creating a catapult out of arts and crafts supplies. Afterwards, participating districts zoom video called with their partner district to show off their catapults. 

    Duquesne City's partners were 1st grade students at Fox Chapel's Fairview Elementary School.

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  • Duquesne City School District meets the needs of a growing ESL student body

    Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 5/6/2024

     

    When the Duquesne City School District brought back school-based athletics in 2022, building the football and basketball programs was the priority. Duquesne, after all, is known for their traditional success in those two sports.

    But as the student population has changed, so has the district’s priorities. When the spring sports season started this year, DiAngelo Mitchell, the district’s athletic director, began having students — mostly international — approach him about the possibility of playing soccer.

    While fielding a WPIAL sanctioned team wasn’t yet possible, Mitchell started working his connections, seeing how he could creatively meet the requests of those students. What came of Mitchell’s effort was a roughly month-long indoor, intramural soccer league, focused on teaching the kids basic fundamentals, before scrimmaging.

    “It meant a lot to me, just to see the joy on their faces every week. Just them eager to start and running in the gym,” said Mitchell. “This is what they wanted. Just seeing them happy really made me happy."

    Mitchell’s creative efforts are just an encapsulation of the district’s constant, shifting efforts to best meet the needs and interests of its students. Over the past couple of years, the district’s ESL – or English Second Language — students have increased dramatically. The district has 81 students designated as ESL, within a student enrollment that approaches 500. 

    That group of students covers a diverse group of languages, such as Arabic, Pashto, Spanish and Dari. Celeste Rudge, who oversees the district’s ESL programming, said the district offers a large group of translation services, such as Global Wordsmiths, which translates documents, TalkingPoints, a two-way enhanced translation platform that can translate during a conversation, and ClassDojo, which enables families to translate all classroom announcements and messages into their preferred language. In some instances, the district will also provide translators for interactions and events.

    ESL students are grouped into two classrooms, based on grade level – K-4 and 5-8.

    “We just meet the students where they are and place students accordingly based on their scores, if they’ve been at another district,” said Rudge. “I think the teachers do a really good job of introducing them to their classroom and introducing them to their peers, and the peers are very accepting.”

    Students are pulled out of regular classes once a day to participate in ESL classes, when teachers help catch up students on their material, if they need it. Lynetta Smith, who teaches K-4 ESL, will also push into classrooms, observing what students are learning and assisting in their classrooms before pulling them into her classroom. 

    “When I push in, I push into all of their academic classes. I try to see all of them and get the language that’s going on in Science, Social Studies, Math, and Reading. And then, the next week I will pull them and work on those skills for half of the time they’re with me, and then the other half of the time we usually work on doing pre-requisite skills for coming up,” said Smith.

    “It’s definitely challenging, but it’s a great challenge. Helping these students not only assimilate to the English language, but also school culture and socially and everything that comes with being in a new country and learning a new language. It’s fun. They’re great and are really excited about learning. It’s been exciting.”

    Smith said she is always looking for creative ways to engage her students, and to make them feel welcome within the school culture. During Ramadan, Smith worked with students to put together an educational video about it, which was later sent to students and teachers. Smith said she also makes a cognizant effort to learn about her students’ traditions and cultures. Efforts that might seem small can make a big difference in furthering the close-knit, familial culture that Duquesne has been defined by.

    “Even just saying good morning to them in their language creates a safe space for them, and shows them that we really care. Creating those relationships and bonds with them are important,” said Smith.

    “I think it’s a really welcoming space. You get the community feel where everybody knows everyone. The culture of Duquesne is rooted in family.”

    With that in mind, the influx of ESL students doesn’t seem random. Around the same time last year, the district had 63 ESL students, 18 fewer than it does now. 

    “I think that’s why we’re seeing an influx, because they do feel welcome here, and they tell their relatives that students feel welcome here,” Rudge said.

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