WILLIAMSPORT – A 10th-grade math teacher at Williamsport Area High School has been accused of making inappropriate comments to two female students and having unlawful contact with one of them.
Christopher P. Yoder, 42, of Williamsport, was arraigned Tuesday by Williamsport police on charges of unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and harassment.
He was committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $85,000 bail despite agent Brittany Alexander not objecting to his release because he has been cooperative and appeared for arraignment with his attorney Anne K. Leete.
Leete argued for release pointing out Yoder is not charged with any physical impropriety and he would agree to avoid having any contact with the victims.
District Judge Aaron S. Biichle rejected her argument, citing the seriousness of the charges, but made Yoder eligible for intensive supervised bail.
The father of five has been suspended with pay since May 14, the day after a Childline report about suspected child abuse was referred to police. He has been a teacher in the district since 2007.
The allegations against Yoder involve conduct at the school and at home during remote instruction. For example, he is accused of several times drawing a heart one one girl’s hand and a smiley face on her leg through a hole in her ripped jeans.
In another instance, two girls were discussing what to wear to the prom, and one asked Yoder for a suggestion. Authorities say his alleged response was a tight red dress with a low-cut V neck that would “fit her figure.”
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VALDOSTA – Lowndes High School has named Bryson Bennett as 2021 STAR student.
The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program honors Georgia’s highest achieving high school seniors and the teachers who have been most instrumental in their academic development, school officials said in a statement.
To obtain the 2021 STAR nomination, graduating high school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10% or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average.
Bennett qualified with a score of 1500 on a single test date.
He chose Daniel Drummond as his STAR teacher.
“I chose Mr. Drummond as STAR teacher because he embodies what it means to be a good teacher,” Bennett said. “Mr. Drummond invested in us as students. He worked just as hard as we did to make sure we could all succeed. Mr. Drummond gave us the freedom to be creative and do things our own way. He was also innovative and used out-of-the-box examples and demonstrations to make learning easier. Mr. Drummond created a positive learning environment, where despite students’ differences; we all worked together for the betterment of each other.”
Drummond said, “Bryson is one of the smartest and most inquisitive students I have ever taught. There are tons of brilliant students but what sets him apart is the genuine curiosity he shows for learning new concepts. He never stopped at the minimum expected, but instead, Bryson routinely tried to expand and incorporate other knowledge into current lessons and assignments. He showed his character and work ethic when he continued to work just as hard after the COVID shut down last year. Not only did I teach Bryson but I also saw him learn and grow through Mu Alpha Theta and the math team. Both in the classroom and out, Bryson was always willing to help out anyone that needed it. Bryson’s hard work is and will continue to pay off.”
Bennett has been active at Lowndes High School during the past four years. He is a member of the Lowndes High Georgia Bridgemen, the math team and the Mu Alpha Theta Math Club, the Science Olympiad/Club, and the Beta Club. He was also an AP Scholar and a National Merit commended scholar.
Bryson plans to major in computer systems engineering at the University of Georgia. He will pursue a career in software engineering, school officials said.
Name: Shambhabi Gautam
School: Forest Hills Eastern High
Jam: STEM, especially math and astronomy
Forest Hills — This Eastern High School sophomore, a STEM standout and astronomy buff, developed a math survey this year to learn what areas her peers struggle with most. Programs to address what she found have already started.
How old were you when this became something you wanted to pursue, and what’s the story there? “My love for math started around fourth grade,” Shambhabi said. “I was one of the fastest kids in class to finish this online game called Extra Math, (and) that was when I really discovered my thrill of solving problems.” Enrolling in the after-school Kumon learning program “definitely took my math skills to the next level, and definitely influenced my high school career a lot.
Her bottom line where math is concerned: “Getting a problem and finding the answer is really satisfying. It makes me feel super-accomplished when I come up with a finite answer, like when other students finish a book or a drawing.”
As for her love of astronomy, that came out of a visit with her dad to Veen Observatory in Lowell Township when Shambhabi was in sixth grade. She still remembers “the little lights” that lined the uphill path they traveled after dusk, and getting to look through telescopes at Venus and Mars. “It was just amazing to me that we can see things that are so far away. There’s much more to astronomy than dots in the sky.”
A few related accomplishments: This year, her Science Olympiad team took a regional competition first-place award in astronomy — their project was on galaxy evolution — and third place in designer genes. “That’s more genetics and how DNA is replicated,” Shambhabi explained. She also was accepted to work under Michigan State University research professor Wolfgang Kerzendorf. Her task: “analyzing stellar data we got from telescopes. We were studying a supernova remnant called Cas A. We’ve been working on that for a few months. I feel like, right now, I’m just starting my journey in research.”
Eastern High Principal Amy Pallo is particularly effusive about Shambhabi’s math survey conducted this year. Its origins: in ninth grade, Shambhabi explained, her math teacher handed back a quiz she scored quite well on, but many of her classmates did not.
“That really bugged me, seeing other people struggle. I wanted (to create) a platform where people didn’t feel shy about saying where they struggled, and felt comfortable getting help.”
Pallo helped connect her with all Eastern High math teachers, who asked their students in February to take the survey Shambhabi created. Resources and online and in-person assistance — often from students who volunteered to help — is already underway.
Is there a teacher or teachers who have had a big impact on your involvement in this? Taking chemistry and AP biology and physics classes this year, thanks to her counselor, Mitchell Blink. “He let me take pre-calculus as a freshman; he believed in me and knew I could handle it.” Though she admits with a laugh, “He was a little skeptical at first.”
When it comes to influential math teachers, she said, “Honestly, all the ones I have had so far, but Mr. (Dan) Morley in particular believed in me as a freshman and helped me start a math club and let me take charge. He knew I was not only a good student academically, but I could be a responsible leader and get things done.”
Do you plan to pursue this professionally? “I definitely know that I am going to go into STEM, because I love science. I just know that I am going to use my math skills and apply them to genetics and biology. I see myself leading research projects, whether that is in space or in our cells.”
The biggest lesson you have learned from your involvement in this is… The importance of looking at the bigger picture, but also (as in research), of studying individual responses and categorizing general trends.
“I also realized I have to persevere, and run through trial and error. The first proposal will never be perfect.” And finally: “self-motivation is key to doing anything, especially during a time like COVID. As the internet gets more integrated into society the possibilities get greater, but it also means distractions get greater too.”
Other hobbies/interests: Shambhabi plays flute in Eastern’s wind ensemble, and is a drum major and leader. She’s also a junior black belt in karate, and is on the varsity tennis team. “And I’m a big watcher of anime.”
Speaking of: If you walked into your school building to theme music, what would the song be? The theme music from the anime “Fairy Tail.” “It has sentimental value,” she said. “It was the first song I learned to play on the piano, and the first song I played at the talent show at my middle school.”
By Wendy Greenberg
Princeton Public Schools (PPS) students will begin the school year September 9 with a new director of student counseling services, and Riverside Elementary School students will have a new principal.
Dana Karas, who has previously worked in PPS, is the new director of student counseling services, replacing Kristina Donovan, who left the district earlier this month.
Ebony Lattimer, who has an extensive background in math, science, and special education, joins the district as the new Riverside principal, as Mark Shelley relocates to Pittsburgh.
Karas, who will officially join PPS at the end of September, worked as a middle school French teacher in Princeton early in her career. She later taught French at the Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School. She was a school counselor at Churchill Junior High School in East Brunswick, and in 1998, she became a school counselor at Freehold Township High School, a post she held until 2003 when she returned to Princeton High School as a school counselor.
This fall, the guidance staff will be on the front lines as students return from remote learning and they resume their social connections at school. “Counseling is extremely important right now,” said Karas. “Many students remained remote and will be returning in person. The counselor is on the front line, recognizing signs of trauma, and helping students to be successful emotionally and academically.” She said this is a critical time to be responsive and supportive.
Karas, who was the New Jersey School Counselor of the Year in 2017, served for seven years in Lawrence Township Public Schools, first as supervisor of Guidance and Classic and World Languages and then as supervisor of Guidance, Careers, and Alternative Programming. She was at Franklin Township Public Schools for more than eight years where she was director of School Counseling, and supervisor of World Languages for grades 9-12.
A graduate of the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in French education, Karas earned graduate degrees from The College of New Jersey and Georgian Court College. She is currently completing her doctorate in leadership from Kean University.
Professionally, she has served as president of the New Jersey School Counselor Association and continues to serve as an executive board member for this organization, where she has co-authored the state’s current approved school counselor evaluation model. She has served as a committee member under the New Jersey Department of Education, where she contributed to the creation of the state’s social-emotional learning competencies and also served on the On-Ramps to College initiative.
She calls joining Princeton schools “a full circle moment,” adding that she had mentors on the guidance staff. “I am happy to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”
PPS Superintendent Carol Kelley said of Karas, “She has impressive experience in school counseling as well as expertise related to students’ social-emotional health and well-being. Her experience and her dedication to students make her a wonderful addition to our team here in Princeton.”
Ebony Lattimer will step into the Riverside principal’s position on August 23. For more than four years, she has served as principal of The Titusville Academy, which is a private, nonprofit special education school known for its work with students who have learning and behavior difficulties.
At Titusville, Lattimer helped to develop and manage a blended-model curriculum for special education students. Blended learning models combine online educational materials with traditional, in-person classroom instruction. Lattimer also served as vice principal of the International Academy of Trenton Charter School. For the last eight years she has been an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Lattimer, who grew up in Red Bank, was selected as a finalist by a committee of Riverside faculty and staff, district administrators, and community members.
“As the current principal of a school for students with disabilities, Ms. Lattimer has cultivated skills and expertise to help a broad range of students succeed academically,” said Michael J. Volpe, assistant superintendent for human resources.
Lattimer began her career in Neptune Township as a math and science teacher in 2003. She left her teaching position in Neptune to accept the principalship at The Titusville Academy. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree in administration and leadership from Georgian Court University.
In an email, Lattimer said that what impressed her about the district and about Riverside was the “commitment to educational excellence, and by that I mean not only academically, but also socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. They truly do the work to ensure our students are strong, positive contributors to their community and our global community as a whole.
“In addition to being impressed by their commitment to educational excellence, I was impressed by Riverside’s expression of respect and openness to diversity and equity through their display of sawubona (a greeting that means “I see you.”)”
She added that she was looking forward to meeting Riverside students in September, and to working with the “talented Riverside teachers and support staff who make it such a welcoming and special place.”
Kelley noted that Lattimer’s “passion for students, her leadership abilities, and her knowledge of curriculum stood out in a field of very strong candidates for this job.” She also praised Lattimer’s interpersonal skills and her ability to utilize data to improve students’ academic achievements.