Pink and yellow paper cutouts of fish filled his bulletin board. Pink fish indicate school improvements and yellow fish represent positive aspects. With this system, first-year Principal Christopher Wiler is implementing new ways to improve F. Amedee Bregy Elementary School’s environment.
Frequently using the phrase, “I appreciate you,” Wiler has found ways to increase the morale of students and staff.
“Bregy School is a place where the key to increased academic achievement begins with happy learners and staff members. When all stakeholders feel appreciated and safe, challenging learning experiences are the focus,” Wilder said.
Fifth-year school counselor Lisa Bronca said she has seen a difference in the lives of students and staff because of Wiler’s efforts.
“This is his first year here and he has made such a difference in a matter of a few months. He goes above and beyond. He’s stern, but kind. He has a lot of incentives for the kids. He’s helped boost up the staff’s self-esteem as well as the students’,” Bronca said.
During this academic year, an incentive for students was a trip to the Blue Cross River Rink at Penn’s Landing for demonstrating Bregy Pride (school pride).
“I like working with Principal Wiler. He’s great. He’s always open to new ideas, new ways of doing things. He’s bringing a lot of new vibes to this school. He’s very energetic, which pumps the kids up and pumps the adults up. It makes you feel good. He’s just been sunshine to the school,” Teacher leader Dr. Karen Chamberlain said.
Eighth-grade student council members Jamie Storms, president, Jayson Dougherty, vice president, Isabella Beate, treasure and Kiera King, secretary share their perspectives of Wiler.
“He’s definitely a hands-on principal. He doesn’t just try having teachers instruct you. If he gives you responsibility, he’ll come and help you. He’s a big help and he cares for the students,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty and King accredited Wiler with keeping Bregy traditions, but reviving its climate.
“He’s completely fixing this school up. This school was built in 1923, so it’s been around for a long time, so he’s just trying to bring it back to life,” Dougherty said.
“He knows where the students are coming from because he’s been a teacher for so long. He tries to make the kids have a better environment to learn,” King said.
According to Storms, Wiler gives instruction to students needing assistance, especially when it comes to new technologies.
“He tries to get to know the kids. When we got our new calculators, for the eighth grade, he came up and showed us how to use them,” Storms said.
On Wednesdays at 2:15 in the afternoon, check out Wiler teaching fifth-graders in the auditorium some PSSA testing strategies. He also spends time helping students with their journal writing to increase writing performance levels.
As science teacher and chess team coach, Karen O’Hara called her seventh-grade students up to her desk to check grades, Nigeria Parker and Marquis James finished sketching the moon cycle project. Gemanael Parks and Shaakira Wilson spent time answering a constructive response question: What causes wind?
“Science is my favorite subject because I get to do experiments,” Parker said.
Throughout the year, students in this Amedee F. Bregy School science class learned about radiation, cells, DNA, volcanoes, space, the atmosphere and environment. The next unit will focus on plants. However, Bregy students take enrichment courses as well.
Principal Christopher Wiler has spent his first year establishing several student-focused programs. Students have instrumental music, guitar club, choir, chess club, peer mediation and peer tutoring. There are additional programs such as the Eat Right Dietary Program, Head Start, Reading is Fundamental and anti-bullying workshops.
“It’s not just the academics that make one successful in life. There’s other skills you can acquire,” Wiler said.
His goals for the remaining months of the school year are to increase reading and math proficiency, build self-esteem of students, teach students how to encounter problems and solve problems peacefully.
“Children need someone to believe in them and when someone does believe in them they do step up to the plate. I just believe that we have to rally around the kids and make them feel important,” Wiler said.
Staff members who believed in Wiler’s vision made implementation of these goals possible.
“There’s a staff here that they love the children. There’s such a resiliency with the staff here. It’s phenomenal. The children really want someone who truly cares for them,” Wiler said. “Since September, it’s just the dynamics of the relationships within the building between the teachers and the students. There’s a community here.”
Teacher leader Dr. Karen Chamberlain has met with students, worked with teachers on professional development and focused on increasing PSSA scores.
“I really feel very welcomed here at this school. It’s like one big family and the people are so nice. We all collaborated together. We talk to each other. I really don’t mind getting up in the morning and coming to work because it feels good. There’s no pressure, but we get things done,” Chamberlain said.
Fifth-year counselor Lisa Bronca, has taught violence and bullying prevention programs in classrooms, social skills and personal safety. She also helps eighth-grade students apply and transition into high school.
“I get really excited around this time of year when they start to get their acceptances and a lot of our kids go to some of the best schools in Philadelphia,” Bronca said.
Bregy receives support from the Home and School Association, too. President Danielle Zaidan has led the organization with event planning, fundraisers, weekly pretzel sales, monthy bake sales, healthy snacks on Fridays, the Santa’s Secret shop and the Valentine’s Day dances.
Wiler called Zaidan a phenomenal person because of her dedication to the school and students.
“These parents are just great. They helped with everything. They make life so much easier around here. Just anything that I ask them to do, they’re willing to be a part of it and do what they can do,” Chamberlain said.
The Home and School Association led the Reading is Fundamental Book Fair Feb. 13 through Feb. 17. Several tables were stacked with picture and chapter books, stationery items and colorful bookmarks. During the week of book selling, fifth-grader Kevin Khounkhamtan spent time looking for a new book. He said he enjoys reading because he learns new words.
Eighth-grade student council members Jamie Storms, president, Jayson Dougherty, vice president, Isabella Beate, treasurer and Kiera King,
secretary have seen Bregy transition under the new leadership of Wiler.
“The learning is definitely the best. The teachers are supportive. They always help you if you have a problem,” Dougherty said.
These students are still waiting to hear from their high schools.
Students like Beate have other responsibilities at Bregy. As school safety captain, she makes sure students get on their bus safely after-school.
“It’s more of a learning experience as you’re on the job. You start to see familiar faces,” Beate said.
“You get to help the students out,” eighth-grader Lavance Webb said.
“I’m not a safety, but I’d definitely know that I’d feel respected. I would feel honored to get picked to take that type of responsibility and get that job put in your hands,” Dougherty said.
In room 13, Sue Woolbert’s fourth-grade class drew a three-dimensional street with stores for their art projects. Nymerah King colored her picture using orange, yellow and red crayons known as the warm colors. Chyah Rhames colored her project with “cool colors” of blue, purple and green. Amanda Clancy said drawling the street was her favorite part of the project.
Despite the ability to express themselves in class, these students are engaged in reaching advanced levels on the PSSAs.
Michael Degori said he was ready for the tests and for fifth-grade.
“[Woolbert] is cool even though we never had a teacher that keeps pushing us. It’s really werid,” Degori said.
In room eight, Valerie Mestichelli collected students’ math tests. Third-grader Amy Zhang said she enjoys math lessons.
“I like mostly learning about the right angles and the intersecting lines, since they’re new to me. I’ve been learning it since the first time my teacher taught me how to do it,” she said.
Zhang said she likes to draw, read, play piano and be with friends when she is bored.