International Fashion Show

A celebration of many lands and cultures was held at Barnard Elementary School on December 19.  It was organized by 4th grade teacher Gwen Simon, along with her fellow 4th grade teachers Debbie Rosenman, Claire Agnello, and Nicole Coffer.  The program’s musical director was Rosanne Thomas.

The 4th grade students were the stars of the show.  Many dressed in clothing that represented the country of their heritage.

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Ms. Simon explained it this way: “The 10th annual International Fashion Show was a culminating activity for a unit on Cultural Awareness.  Students spent the month of December developing a cultural awareness and appreciation of their family heritage.  They interviewed older family members to find out what life was like when they were young.   Students learned about traditions that are important to their families.  In addition, students learned about special family treasures, items that may have been passed down for generations.  Additional activities included making Family Heritage books and an Ethnic Foods Feast.”


The show started with a colorful parade of flags from around the world.  Then twenty-five students modeled traditional clothing from their native culture.   Students also performed songs and dances that highlighted cultures around the world.

Among the guests were Ellen Hodorek (Troy City Council),  Dr. Rich Machesky (TSD Superintendent), Jan Keeling (TSD Assistant Superintendent), Rick West (TSD Assistant Superintendent), Kerry Birmingham (TSD Communication Director), and Jen Hilzinger (Troy Diversity Council), as well as proud friends and family members.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.



Native American Experience


On Friday, December 19, Schroeder Elementary School had a very special visitor. His name is Gary Ghareeb. He is an expert on Native American history, culture, and customs. (You can explore his website at  The event was organized by teachers Tammy Polena, Shannon Kocher, Jason Cichowicz, and Kaitlyn Bucchare.

“All four 5th grade classes have been studying about Native American cultural regions,” Ms. Polena explained. “This is going to bring the text to life. It’s like a whole-day, in-school Native American field trip. The students will hear a presentation, and then they’ll have lots of hands-on experiences. They’ll get to play games, to dress in Native American outfits, and to handle actual artifacts.”

Gary Ghareeb is an energetic speaker who knows his subject well. He displayed his collection of tools and weapons, animal skins and furs, and many other items used by Native American people. Using a historical map of North America, Mr. Ghareeb explained to the 5th graders how different tribes adapted to the places where they lived. “This my passion,” he said. He personally made many things himself using traditional methods. “My wife is a teacher so I started as a volunteer, visiting classrooms to tell kids about this important part of our history. Now it’s a full-time business.”

Everyone really appreciated this excellent presentation and learned a lot in just one day.  In these photos, you’ll see teacher Shannon Kocher and her wonderful 5th grade students.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Athens Holiday Concert


Troy Athens High School held its annual holiday concert on Friday, December 19th.  It featured  the Freshman Orchestra, the Concert Orchestra, and the Symphony Orchestra — all conducted by Mr. Geoffrey Benes.

Students performed a variety of pieces, some familiar and some new to most of the audience.  Parents, family members, and friends applauded enthusiastically for the talented musicians, many of whom dressed in Santa hats or other holiday apparel.

There was also a silent auction and a bake sale to help raise funds for a trip to New York and Carnegie Hall.  It’s not too late  if you’d like to donate.  Just contact Mr. Benes or any Athens musician.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Wattles Blue Ribbon Day


Wattles Elementary has been named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. Only 7 schools in Michigan received this honor in 2014, so it’s really a huge accomplishment.

The school held a special ceremony on December 16 to celebrate its award. Principal Joyce Brasington told the students they should be very proud of themselves, their teachers and staff, their families and their community. Troy Schools superintendent Dr. Rich Machesky encouraged everyone to always strive for greatness. Troy mayor Dane Slater presented a commemorative plaque signed by himself and the city council to mark the occasion.

The combined 4th and 5th grade choir sang “Best Day of My Life.” Doug Scheer entertained the assembly with his hilarious magic show, reinforcing the theme that “Wattles Is Magic.” (Doug’s website is  Special wristbands were presented to all students, and a beautiful banner was unveiled which will be permanently displayed in the school.

Dignitaries included Mrs. Jan Keeling (Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Instruction), Mrs. Paula Fleming (Troy School Board), Mrs. Kerry Birmingham (Communications, Troy School District), Mr. Gary Curtis (Masons – donated money for bracelets), Mrs. Claire Forney (Retired Wattles Teacher), and Dr. Judy Garrett (Retired Wattles Principal) who received an enthusiastic welcome from the children.

These photos will show you how exciting it was to be there.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

One School, Two Cameras


It was an art experiment by Laura Nicholas, 8th grader at Boulan Park Middle School, and Ed Morykwas, photographer for School Life Troy newspaper.  They both brought their cameras and walked around Boulan, taking pictures of whatever caught their eye, trying to capture the essence of this fascinating and dynamic place.

Laura’s Photos:

Ed’s Photos:

For more samples of Laura’s work, click here.
For more samples of Ed’s work, click here.

Larson Winter Concert


The winter concert at Larson Middle School took place on December 16, 2014.  It featured performances by the 6th grade orchestra, the 7th grade orchestra, the 8th grade orchestra, the 8th grade jazz band, plus a special solo by Jared Mabanglo.

Mr. Geoff Benes led the 6th graders, and Mrs. Claire Murphy conducted the 7th and 8th.  The concert featured a great selection of classical pieces and holiday favorites.  A large, enthusiastic crowd of family and friends enjoyed every single note.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Wattles Science Fair


Wattles Elementary School held a science fair recently.  The Title I event was one of four which take place throughout the year.  Parent participation is a key element.  The organizer is Trudi Motzenbecker, a Title I reading recovery teacher.

Here’s a quote from Polly Davidson, Title I tutor:  “We at Wattles work really hard to prepare quality events for our families.”

Students moved from table to table in the cafeteria, trying various hands-on experiments.  Everybody — parents, kids, and staff — had a wonderful evening of learning about science.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Schroeder Book Fair

Schroeder Elementary School had a Scholastic Book Fair recently.  There were many choices for all types of readers.  In these photos are the 4th grade students of teacher Holly Malavolti.  Books make great gifts!

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Almost $5,000 in Pennies!


Costello Elementary School teacher Brian Fahnestock organized a fundraiser called “Pennies for Pasta” to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Michigan.  He and his 5th graders from Room CE4 raised $4,963.91 last February.

Principal Tammy DiPonio shared this nice letter of thanks she received from a high school student named Deshawn Williams. (That’s him in the picture frame.  Click photo to enlarge.)

“I would like to thank everyone who supported LLS this year. Because of your donations I received a bone marrow transplant and I’m in remission.  Before the transplant I was not able to be in school full time or go over to my grandparents’ house because they have plants.  Now that I am in remission, I can go to my grandparents’ house, be in school full time, and this year I played high school football.  Keep donating to LLS, and with research, I know one day I will be cancer free.”


From left to right in the photo are Andrew Baraiac, Mr. Fahnestock, Alyssa Carnes, and Tyler Koralewski.

The teacher plans to repeat the fundraiser in February, 2015, with a goal of raising more than $5,000.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Billy Sims BBQ Presents Gift


Billy Sims BBQ is a popular restaurant in Troy, specializing in ribs, sandwiches, and other tasty treats in a family-friendly atmosphere.  It is located at the intersection of W. South Blvd. and Crooks Rd. in the Troy North Center (map)

The owners, Mariane Harris and David Harris, are enthusiastic supporters of Troy Schools.  They recently made donations to the Troy Athens Marching Band and the Troy High Marching Band.

In the photo above, that’s Mariane on the right, presenting a check to Athens marching band president Nikki Jenkins.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Siemens Scholarship Winners

Congratulations to Troy High School students Xinchu Tian and David Wu, who recently competed in the finals of the Siemens Foundation competition in math, science, and technology.  Their medical research focused on how to prevent strokes and help stroke victims.

From the Siemens website:

“The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology recognizes remarkable talent early on, fostering individual growth for high school students who are willing to challenge themselves through science research. Through this competition, students have an opportunity to achieve national recognition for science research projects that they complete in high school. It is administered by Discovery Education and funded by the Siemens Foundation.”

Xinchu and David were awarded $50,000 in scholarship money for their hard work.  Click here for another photo on Facebook.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Troy Math Club

This group, organized by Troy High School teacher Kevin Ortwine, has about 30 members.  The students love to participate in national competitions.  They recently won second place in a nationwide math contest sponsored by


Dhruv Medarametla (vice president), Sophia Kwon (president)


Mr. Ortwine and his team of mathematics champions

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Meet the Chess Master

DSC_1574bSafal Bora is a chess champion from Troy High School.  In a competition known as the Denker Tournament, he emerged as the #1 player in Michigan in the K-12 age group.  He then moved Into the national arena which featured one player from each of the 50 states.  On July 30, 2013, Safal won! He is officially the best chess player of all students in the entire country.

How did he feel when he won?  “Pretty happy,” he smiled.

What does he say about chess?  “You can never understand the beauty of the game until you play it.”

What’s next?  Safal hopes to compete in international tournaments. He is two-thirds of the way towards becoming a grand master.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Costello Campus Life

Our SchoolLife photographer spent time at Costello Elementary School yesterday, talking to many people and taking lots of pictures.  What an awesome school!

The first nine photos show Kaity O’Riordan, the teaching & learning leader for Troy Schools, introducing the 3rd graders to their brand-new iPads.  There was a lot of excitement in the room as the kids and their teacher, Zach Rondot, explored this powerful technology.

The next four shots are of Cole VanAmberg of Cub Scout Pack 1718.  Cole is a 5th grader who organized a Toys for Tots drive for the school, even creating posters and decorating collection boxes.  The drive ends on December 8th.

Then comes Bryce Eton, a young man honored by phys-ed teacher Katherine Niedbala for his kindness to others.   He is exemplary of the values taught at Costello.

The young lady in the pink sweater is Maddison Kott,  In 2012, Maddison competed in the American Miss pageant and was crowned first out of 110 girls in Michigan.  She then went to California to compete against 49 other states… where she won!  For the year of 2013, she traveled the country as national American Miss princess.  Someday, she hopes to become Miss America.

The group of six students is the Costello News Crew, who broadcast school announcements and stories of interest every day.  They are the future of journalism.

Our special thanks to principal Tammy DiPonio for her hospitality.  Her students are bright, happy, caring, and creative!  It was fun seeing them in action at Costello Elementary.


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Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.


“Emma!” at Athens

Athens Theatre Company proudly presents “Emma!” on December 5-7 and 12-14.  This pop musical is packed with singing, dancing, comedy, and romance.   The Athens showing is the world premier performance so don’t miss it!

Directed by Krista Manfredi with musical direction by P. Jefferson McCoy and choreography by Laura Sak, “Emma!” is loosely based on Jane Austin’s novel (which also inspired the movie “Clueless”).  The songs in the play are all familiar, including Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Katy Perry’s “Roar,” The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and many more.

Here are some photos from a dress rehearsal:

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Bemis Blue Ribbon Day

Bemis Elementary School has won the Blue Ribbon award for excellence in 2014, an honor which very few schools achieve nationwide.  They celebrated with a special ceremony on December 2, 2014.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Troy mayor Dane Slater, Troy school superintendent Dr. Richard Machesky, former Detroit Tigers pitching ace Dan Petry, and Colonel George Baker — an Army veteran who is a past Bemis, Boulan, and Troy high parent.

The program opened with a rousing performance from the Troy High School drumline.  Various speakers addressed the enthusiastic crowd of students, parents, staff members, and guests.  The message was to always do your best, keep trying and never give up.  “Success is taught by failure,” Dan Petry told the crowd.   “You can follow your dream and achieve greatness.”

Bemis Elementary lives by those words.  This is the second time the school has won the Blue Ribbon award!

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Sky Dome at Larson

The students at Larson Middle School had a unique visitor recently — an inflatable Sky Dome Planetarium.  It was presented by David Killion, science expert from Mobile Ed Productions, Inc.

The large dome was set up inside the school gym.  It contained a special projector which could show planets, galaxies, and images of the night sky over Troy, Michigan.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

Morse Principal

Stephanie Miller, principal of Morse Elementary School, would do anything for her students.  Recently they had a fundraiser to support a variety of school needs, and she offered them a prize.

Mrs. Miller told the students that if they reached their goal, she would dress up like a chicken… and she did!  Teachers soaked her with baby oil, and then students took turns covering her with feathers from head to toe.

Everyone had a great time, and all for a very worthy cause.

Photos by Ed Morykwas, School Life Troy.

“Romeo and Juliet”

Shakespeare is challenging even for grownups, but the students of Troy High did a fantastic job of presenting “Romeo and Juliet” in November.  It was dramatic, humorous, poetic, and tragic — as you can see from these photos.