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Posts Tagged "elementary"

Circle Continues as Recording Studio is Demolished for Elementary Program

October 04, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger
Watch the video of EMHS Touring Choir sing the final song in the
former Alive Studio space. 

“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” asked -- and sang -- the 2018 Eastern Mennonite School Touring Choir in spring of 2018. It was the last recording made at the 37-year old Alive Studios.

With the renovation of the the former MennoMedia building for Eastern Mennonite Elementary School (EMES), the musical circle will not be broken, even as the recording studio was demolished in late September.

Music is an integral part of all our programming at EMES," says music teacher Joy Anderson. "This renovated space is going to 'hear' the sounds of children making music daily, whether it is in class or at a community gathering, lunchtime prayer, or outside. It’s a beautiful continuation of the studio’s legacy to renovate the building into a new place to nurture young voices."

Elementary students watch the demolition of the music
studio at the former MennoMedia building, which is being
renovated to house Eastern MennoniteK-5 program.
Photo by Heidi Byler.


The studio and MennoMedia warehouse were built in 1981. When EMS purchased the MennoMedia building in 2017, the school hoped to avoid demolition of the studio. “It was extremely well built -- like a bunker -- and one of the best studios in the region,” says Mike Stoltzfus, director of business affairs.

A diverse group of artists -- many with Mennonite connections, but not all -- recorded there over the years including EMS choirs, Eastern Mennonite University Chamber Singers, the folk-rock group Reunion Vocal Band and Valley artists. According to “legend,” a notable recording artist to use the space was Dave Matthews Band in one of their early demos. [This, and other stories from the studio, will be explored in a future article].

Stoltzfus led efforts to avoid demolition. The team explored repurposing the space, collaborating with area universities, joining with others to create a commercial recording studio, or even moving the studio to another site. “In the end, nothing we explored made sense from a financial perspective,” says Stoltzfus.

With the studio down and other demolition complete, renovation can begin. The main building and former warehouse will house classrooms with natural light and convenient access to water and kitchen equipment for hands-on learning. On the southwest side of the building, where the studio actually stood, there will be a mix of green space, play area, offices, and, eventually, a community gathering space.

Maria Archer K-8 principal who has led the elementary school since it launched in 2005, has an additional personal full-circle connection. “I actually recorded a demo tape in that studio in 1985… when I had visions of becoming a country music singer,” she says, remembering singing into a microphone while playing piano. “I remember Abe [Rittenhouse] saying, when I recorded my original song ‘Like a Fire,’ ‘I can hear Kenny Rogers singing this one.’ I think he was trying to be encouraging.”

Archer and other school leaders are encouraged today by the progress on the Let the Children Come campaign. More than $3.2 million in donations and pledges came in from generous donors by July 1, 2018. Paul Leaman, head of school, is committed to raising an additional $1 million by January 1, 2019. The immediate goal is to complete classrooms and offices; longer term the project will include a community gathering space, which is integral to the elementary curriculum and will be available as a rental facility for the community.

The Future and Why We Sing

EMS is committed to keeping the circle of strong a cappella singing alive and flourishing, according to Paul Leaman, head of school. "Singing together builds community, is key for faith formation, helps us memorize Scripture references and other text that will serve us for a lifetime, and honors our Creator," he reflects.

Read more about at "Why We Sing" by current music teacher and choral director, Jared Stutzman, and watch a Wednesday morning music chapel when students 6-12 sang the four-part a capella song,  "When Peace Like A River," and the worship song, 'In Christ Alone." 

Follow the progress of Let the Children Come campaign at


Maria Archer Named K-8 Principal

July 17, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Maria Bender Archer has been named principal for kindergarten through grade eight at Eastern Mennonite School. She has been elementary (K-5) principal since the school began in 2005.

“Maria has earned the deep respect and trust of her co-workers and parents over the past decade with her integrity and instinct for connecting with students’ individual strengths and capacities,” says Paul Leaman, head of school.

In her expanded role, Archer, a 1981 graduate of the school, will have the opportunity to further engage -- from early learning through eighth grade -- a seamless curriculum focused on learning through experience and developing the skills needed to be successful in school and in the workplace.

Archer is excited to carry on into middle school what has been successful in the school’s  elementary program where students are encouraged to ask questions and to think creatively. During the critical time of middle school, students learn “to listen to others’ perspectives, to articulate their point of view, and to practice what it means to be a member of a community of faith,” says Archer. “I look forward to being a part of a great team of middle school teachers as we continue to build the program together.”

“Maria created a culture that nourishes each students’ as well as faculty members’ individual gifts at the elementary school,” notes Lynette Mast ‘84, peacebuilding teacher who has been involved with the elementary division since its inception.  

Maria Bender Archer, far right, chats with Susan Stoltzfus, second grade 
teacher, and Barbara Miller, kindergarten teacher. Photo by Andrew Gasho.


Prior to her founding role in establishing the elementary division of EMS, Archer taught fifth grade at Hunter McGuire in Verona and middle school at Friends Select School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A 1986 graduate of Temple University, Archer spent her childhood in Meridian, Miss., where her parents, Titus and Ann Bender, were involved in Civil Rights Era organizing, working alongside movement leaders such as  the Rev. Martin Luther King and Vincent Harding. “I was profoundly shaped by my parents’ work, by the way they welcomed people from many walks of life. They modeled for me the importance of working towards finding ways the marginalized in our society can be heard.” reflects Maria.

As a teen, her parents settled in Harrisonburg and Archer attended Eastern Mennonite High School, graduating in 1981. An accomplished pianist, Archer is married to Joseph Archer, mother to three adult daughters -- two of whom graduated from EMS -- and grandmother of one. She is a member of St. Jacobs Lutheran church and  enjoys baseball, gardening and crocheting in her spare time.

Eastern Mennonite School was established in 1917 and now serves nearly 400 students K-12 EMS offers excellent academics from a foundation of faith and values in a caring community with a global perspective. The campus is located at 801 Parkwood Drive in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Getting Pumped for K-12 PE!

July 16, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Editor’s Note: Kendal Bauman, long-time physical education and health teacher, as well as boys’ varsity soccer coach for 20 years, attended an institute for physical education teachers at James Madison University this summer. With the move of K-5 to main campus, Bauman is giving leadership to the full K-12 PE curriculum. This training pumped him up!

Team Rhubarb won first place in the video contest led by Cindy
Ferek, physical education teacher at Turner Ashby High School.


What do 350 PE teachers have in common when they descend on JMU's campus for the annual Health and Physical Activities Institute? They get to be on teamswith names like Rhubarb, Kumquat, Jalapeno Pepper and Dragon Fruit. They got to play badminton bonanza, wheelchair basketball, attend seminars titled "Dances your students will beg you to do!" and enjoy JMU's UREC facility.

Things I learned at the institute:

  • National Teacher of the Year Presenters consistently said time and again that "This is the BEST conference offered in the United States hands down." The participation rate is fa-nominal.
  • You do not sit on a chair on the side and take notes YOU DO THE ACTIVITIES to learn it better than watching. Even when that meant I had to dance!
  • They have an AWESOME slogan "A body is a terrible thing to waist." 
  • That every child deserves to have the opportunity to MOVE in Physical Education class and it should be FUN for the students.


Things I am excited about this fall:

  • Teaching elementary physical education;
  • Exploring "space" with the kindergarten class as the students learn how their bodies move in space.
  • Partnering with the elementary divison to provide teaching/assisting opportunities to middle and high school students who are interested in teaching careers.
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