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Archives - February 2019

Elementary Enjoys Rubiks Cube Day

February 27, 2019
By Andrea Wenger

The clickity-click and slide of cube puzzles being solved punctuated the buzz of conversation and focused attention of more than 90 members of Eastern Mennonite Elementary School as they celebrated Rubik's Cube Day.

A student planning committee organized the event, held Feb. 27, during a regular weekly K-5 Gathering time. Guest speaker Jesse Blosser, EMHS math teacher and father of committee member Tyler Blosser (3rd grade) and participant Lincoln (kindergarten), shared some insights. "Rubik's Cubes are fun toys, but they are also fun as mathematical puzzles to figure out,” he noted. “You can start by just trying to make one side all of the same color. If you want the challenge of fixing all the sides though you will need to learn some Algorithms, which are just formulas that change the cube in specific ways.”

Many students brought their own cube or cubes to solve. Some brought entire boxes of the puzzles in various sizes and shapes. For those who may be new to cube puzzle solving, extras were available, along with support from teachers and friends to try something new.

The day is popular and has happened for several years at the students' initiative, according to Maria Archer, K-8 principal. "It's a great time of learning and it provides a great leadership opportunity for our students.”

The event ended with snacks featuring the Rubik's Cubes colors -- strawberries, blueberries, bananas, grapes.

The elementary school meets each Wednesday for a Gathering where they hear lessons from local pastors, listen to stories of faith from community members, and participate in community building activities. Gatherings are also a time for singing together -- songs of faith. Students enter and leave Gathering quietly, creating a sacred space for all students to learn together.

Guests are welcome to observe Gathering, which is generally held Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. If you wish to observe, contact Marsha Thomas, admissions counselor, to confirm that week’s plans. Park in the front of the school and enter through the main office to sign in and get  a guest badge.

Tags: elementary, STEM

Reading Week at EMS Set for Feb. 25-March 1

February 22, 2019
By Andrea Wenger

Books, books and more books... and reading! That is what is on tap at Eastern Mennonite School K-12, February 25 to March 1 during Reading Week.

"Reading Week is when we carve out dedicated time for reading," says librarian Julianne Ross. "We set aside 20 minutes each day for students grades 6 to 12 to Drop Everything And Read, also known as DEAR. And, we make it all the more fun by adding in the elementary school's Scholastic Book Fair and special lunchtime activities. How could you NOT want to read?" she wonders.

Middle and high school students have DEAR at the end of their regular fourth period. Lunchtime library book-related activities will include a stone age photo booth, rock painting, book fair scavenger hunt and raffle tickets.

Elementary students will focus on reading each day as well. The elementary Parent-Teacher Fellowship will host the Scholastic Book Fair all week. Students, parents, grandparents and friends are invited to shop at the Book Fair before and after school and throughout the entire school day on Thursday, Feb. 28. All book sales will benefit the EMS library.

Ross encouraged teachers to model their own love of reading for their students as they prepared for DEAR week. One way to do that, she said, is to update the white boards she hung outside their classroom doors listing what they are currently reading. A little chocolate helps, she realized, offering rewards to those teachers who updated their boards. 

Ross encouraged teachers over the past week to invite students to have their DEAR book ready before reading time on Monday morning, Feb. 25. She also invited administrators and office staff to bring books to enjoy during DEAR, as well. Finally, she encouraged faculty and staff to visit the library's book fair to purchase books for the young readers in their life, supporting the library budget along the way.

Parents can follow this link for more information about the fair as well as to set up an E-Wallet account to allow students to spend up to a designated dollar amount to a credit card. 




Elementary School Open House Scheduled

February 21, 2019
By Andrea Wenger
Kindergarten classroom activity.

Parents of students who are in pre-school through 4th grade are invited to a drop in Open House at Eastern Mennonite Elementary School on Thursday, March 28.

Parents are invited to come between 8:30 and 10 a.m. for coffee, conversation and observation. Visitors will have the opportunity to talk with Maria Archer, principal; Marsha Thomas, admissions counselor; teachers, other parents and school counselors. They can also observe classrooms.


The event will beheld in the art/music room of the elementary wing on the upper level of Eastern Mennonite School building at 801 Parkwood Drive.

Guests should park in the front of the building (semi-circle), or, if full, in the lower lot near the gymnasium. Enter the front doors of the building through the glass doors to check in at the front office. RSVP to Marsha Thomas at 540-236-6021 or email

Rising 6th Grade Parent Breakfast

February 18, 2019
By Andrea Wenger
Pictured: Spring 2018 "Explore Week" activity along the river.

Parents of students who will enter 6th grade in fall 2019 are invited to a breakfast meeting Thurs., March 14, 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. This is for parents of students who will attend 6th grade at EMMS, or for those who may be interested in learning about 6th grade at EMMS.

Whether you are a first-time middle school parent or this is your youngest entering this stage, come learn more about EMMS. We'll provide a protein-rich continental breakfast to fuel your day while we review the middle school experience and curriculum. Maria Archer, middle school principal, will share about her the school's approach to middle school curriculum. Marsha Thomas, admissions counselor, will be available, as will one of the school counselors.

Park in the semi-circle in front of the school or in the lower lot by the gym and enter through the main doors. We'll be looking for you. Breakfast is on us - but please click here to RSVP by March 11 to

If breakfast does not suit your schedule but you would appreciate learning more about EMMS, please contact Marsha Thomas ( or 540-236-6021) to schedule a personal tour at your convenience.


Parents of Rising 9th Grade Students Invited to Breakfast

February 18, 2019
By Andrea Wenger
Pictured: Spring 2018 "Science by the Sea" E-term for
high school students under the direction of Dr. Wendy
Stapleton, EMHS biology teacher.

Parents of students who will enter 9th grade in fall 2019 are invited to a breakfast meeting Thurs., March 7, 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. This is for parents of students who will attend 9th grade at EMHS, or for those who may be interested in learning about 9th grade at EMHS.

Come learn about this phase of their secondary education, become more aware of their passions, and begin to think about life after high school.

Whether you are a first-time high school parent or your youngest is a rising 9th-grader, come learn more about EMHS. We'll provide a protein-rich continental breakfast to fuel your day while we review the 9th grade year. We will cover diploma tracks offered and graduation requirements for each. We'll also hear from our academic director, college and career counselor, and one of our school counselors. Finally, we'll inform you of the upcoming spring registration process so that you can help your student make wise course choices for next year and beyond.

Park in the semi-circle in front of the school or in the lower lot by the gym and enter through the main doors. We'll be looking for you. Breakfast is on us - but please click here to RSVP by March 4 to

If breakfast does not suit your schedule but you would appreciate learning more about EMHS, please contact Marsha Thomas ( or 540-236-6021) to schedule a personal tour at your convenience.


Senior Class to Present Literati Awards

February 12, 2019
By Andrea Wenger

The class of 2019 will present The Literati Awards, by Claire Epstein and Ian McWethy, March 8 & 9, 7:30 p.m. at the EMS auditorium as part of the 2019 Senior Parent Weekend activities. The show is open to the public.

In this comedy, classic literary characters get a showbiz twist. Bright stars of classic literature come together for an awards show and display surprising behavior. Romeo, Sherlock Holmes, Gollum (J.R.R. Tolkien), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), and Holden Caulfield (The Cather in the Rye) are among those who walk the red carpet. Who will win the award for The Greatest Literary Character of All Time?

​​General admission tickets go on sale February 18. Cost is $7 adults, $5 students/senior citizens.

Purchase advance tickets: 

  • Online
  • By calling 540-236-6025
  • By stopping by EMS Front Office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. week days
  • At the door, the night of the show.

Permit granted, elementary project moving forward

February 11, 2019
By Andrea Wenger
Mike Stoltzfus shared during a recent faculty/staff lunch
meeting the news that the City of Harrisonburg had just
granted the long-awaited building permit for elementary 
building renovations.

Progress toward establishing a permanent home for Eastern Mennonite School's elementary program reached a critical milestone on February 7. That’s when the City of Harrisonburg granted a long-awaited building permit for renovations to a building that EMS purchased from MennoMedia in 2016.

"It's not unusual for the permitting process to take some time," said Mike Stoltzfus, the school's director of business affairs. “We are thrilled to have the city’s go-ahead for the renovation project. We can now move at full speed in preparing the building for EMS’s youngest students.”

That’s not to say the project has been on hold as the school waited for the permit. Stoltzfus has been working with architect Charles Hendricks of the Gaines Group and general contractor Harman Construction on demolition and structural issues over the past few months. Contractors have reinforced the foundation and basement walls, waterproofed the exterior of the building, prepared footers for interior support columns, and completed demo of interior stairwells. With the building permit in hand, it is time to begin classroom renovations, improve the exterior, and add offices and a welcoming entrance on the building’s west side.

Fundraising has also continued at full pace. To date, and thanks to generous gifts and pledges totaling $445,000 since the beginning of the school year, EMS is within $155,000 of the $3.2 million “move-in goal” and well on our way to the overall project goal of $4.5 million.  

As Paul Leaman, head of school explains, immediately upon reaching the move-in goal, the development team will turn its sights toward raising funds for the rest of the work.  This includes a bridge that will connect the renovated elementary building with the middle and high school building, and a “gathering space” addition on the elementary building. The space will be a multi-purpose setting for the important daily interactions among multi-grade levels as they prepare and share food, learn and and play together.

“Our vision for this active campus is big,” says Paul Leaman, head of school. “We are a learning community that interacts across levels, prioritizes daily time outside, and envisions an increasingly diverse student body.”

Click here to view a photo album of Images of the work site. The folder of photos is updated weekly. Photo credits: Mike Stoltzfus.

Seniors Share Appreciation

February 01, 2019
By Andrea Wenger

Reading from handwritten notes or their phones, seniors rose from the auditorium stage one by one in a recent capel service and shared appreciation for faculty and staff members. Some were serious. Some had inside jokes. All were heartfelt.

The chapel on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, provided an opportunity to practice gratitude; the comments provided encouragement and lots of smiles to every school employee, from custodial staff to head of school.

Here's what they shared (in no particular order and missing a few that didn't make it to this print list):

Felicity Zimmerman

Mrs. Mary Jo Veurink, front office staff: You are always so welcoming to all guests. Thank you for making signing out to MTC super easy. I have thoroughly enjoyed our short conversations on my way out the door, and your helping to find other faculty members in the building when necessary. We are truly blessed to have you as a part of our EMS community.

Mrs. Chafin Vrolijk, cross country and track coach: You have been not only a coach these past three years, but a friend as well. Thank you for going on runs and for coming to basketball games. Thanks for loving country music as much as I do, helping to edit my paper, and being willing to talk about anything. You relate well to all your students, and we are blessed to have you as a part of our EMS community. 

McKenna Grantier

Mrs. Mary Cranston, English teacher -- Thank you for sharing your love of birds, playing classical music during tests, and teaching us how to become better writers. AP Lit is the hardest class I’ve ever taken but you make it fun!

Mrs. Joy Anderson, elementary music teacher and musical director -- Thank you for not only handling elementary schoolers, but also handling high schoolers who act worse than the elementary schoolers. Your passion and love for theatre is present in every show you’ve directed. Thank you for everything!

Lauren Yutzy

Mrs. Debbie Katz, counselor -- Thank you for being such an awesome listener and fantastic friend to all.

Mrs. Melodie May, front office staff -- Thank uou for all your help in the office and sharing your musical gifts with us. Also, thakns for being an awesome babysitter when I was little!

Zach Bauman

Mr. Jared Stutzman, music teacher and choir director -- Thank you for always being willing to talk at the most random times. Thank you for picking my interest in choral music and teaching me all that I know today like solfage and sight reading. 

Mrs. Marsha Thomas, admissions counselor -- Thank you always showing a smile in the morning. You are always at the door when we come in to give us a helping hand when we have lots of stuff. Thank you for welcoming all the new students with grace and smiles.

Cafeteria staff -- Thank you to the cafeteria ladies for cooking all the wonderful lunch meals. Thank you for putting up with us seniors and for cooking all the wonderful lunch meals. Thank you for putting up with all the senior shenanigans that happened in the lunchroom. You are the real reason we are still alive in high school. 

Philine Shemsdorf

Mr. Curt Stutzman, Bible, English, social studies teacher -- Thank you for being a wonderful and funny host father. 
I miss the intersting and hilarious drama and Shakespear classes with you. And the psychology experiments.

Mary Fairfield

Ms. Malea Gascho, art teacher -- I love being around your creative personality! You light up my day and I love spending time with you whether I'm in illustrations club or in class

Mrs Rebecca Yutzy, middle school team leader/academic lab -- I love getting a greeting from you in the hallways and your energetic personality is a blessing!

Grace Harder

Ms. Jennifer Young, drivers ed, physical education teacher -- Thank you for bringing hodgepodges to neighbor group, for teaching us how to drive, and for being a great teacher and fun person to be around.  

Kerinna Good

Al Vanegas and Vilay Khamphavong, custodial staff -- You two will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you for brightening my day with your cheerful greetings and conversation. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and hearing about your farming endeavors and hunting adventures. Thank you for all of the hard work you do for our school.

Mrs. Susie Hardy, business office assistant -- Thank you for working hard with our school's finances. You were an exceptional help to our class when we were juniors planning banquet. Thank you also for your help this year with reimbursing SCO purchases

Mike Mi

Mrs. Shannon Roth, history and government teacher: Thank you for inspiring me to go deeper in the field of social studies and being a good helper and listener. Talking about history and politics with you is one of the most fun things I enjoy doing at school.

Amanda Aponte

Mrs. Kierra Sauder, English teacher -- Thank you for making English class a little more enjoyable, and for dealing with my antics. Also, thank you for bullying me all the time. :)

Eric Haskell

To the dining hall staff: Thank you for making us food every day and for keeping the dining hall clean.

Jon Schrock

Mr. Lee Good -- Earth science teacher: Thanks Mr.Good for always putting a smile on me and the class with your cheesy jokes. (Even though we did not always understand them). Thanks also for the awesome hunting stories and talk.

Jesse Byler

Mr. Kevin Carini, chemistry, physics and robotics teacher -- Thank you for always answering my physics questions, even when they were very dumb. Like when I asked how long it took the Earth to orbit around the Sun during a test... You are very patient!

Mrs. Erin Kennedy Hess, advancement office assistant -- Thank you for always being kind to me in the office when I'm late or coming back from an appointment. Thank you for starting those days off with a smile.

Mrs. Liz Martin, dining hall manager -- Thank you for making lunch for us every day. Thank you for asking about my latest soccer and basketball games in the lunch check-out line and for being nice even when the lunch line can get stressful.

Philip Martin

Ms. Laura Hershey, math teacher, -- I was a bratty, loud obnoxious kid in class who was stupid and wouldn't pay attention, would ask the same stupid questions over and over again even after she had already explained them like 10 times, so by the time the tests rolled around, I would have no clue what I was doing, and would have to retake them and Ms Hershey would have to take time out of her day and teach the stuff to me all over again. O, and also thank-you for making fun of how I write my exes and ys.

Michael Schweigert

Mr. Mike Stoltzfus, director of operations:  Thanks for all of the opportunities you have given me in the tech department and for all you do on a daily basis. I know that you deal with a tremendous amount of work every day and people often will run into your office and say “Tag you’re 'IT'!” [Short for Information Technology] When major problems come up, you rise to the occasion to solve them and we thank you for dealing with that. 

Mr. Brian Buchanan, band and tech ed teacher: Thanks for being a great music and woodworking teacher and continuing the tradition of REAL country music and not that wangey rap stuff. I will always remember the 9th grade E-term to Nashville and I’d like to thank you for introducing me to Vince Gill and his music. 

Chad Vrolijk

Mrs. Susan Melendez, 6th grade teacher: Thank you for taking care of me and always checking in on me. Thank you for everything you have done.

Grant Lichty

Mr. Chad Seibert, physical education and boys varisty basketball coach: Thanks for coaching us and for letting us hang out at your house and having team meals, and thanks for teaching us to eat.

Karly Stoltzfus

Mrs. Michelle Weaver, long-term sub and international student coordinator: I really appreciated all you did for our AP Stats class 2nd quarter while subbing. You were always willing to do all you could to help us with getting answers to questions, helping find more resources for us and sympathizing with our struggles. Thank you for all you do as a sub and around the school. 

Zach Hatter

Mr. Zach Sauder,  7th grade social studies -- Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into working with the middle schoolers, all while looking like one too

Mrs. Michelle Nussbaum, long-term sub -- Thank you for the countless hours you’ve spent helping around the school, and for being like a second mom for me this year.

Sukainah Abid-Kons

Mr. Justin King, high school principal: Thank you for being an awesome principal. You are always willing to help your students and whether it’s giving advice on a college essay or life in general, we appreciate your kind and supportive spirit and all that you bring to our school. 

Perla Guerrero

Mrs. Anna Haarer, family consumer science teacher: Thank you for being an amazing teacher. I love that you are easy to talk to ranging anywhere from Cardi B to life in general. Thank you for your hilarious HGTV references, delicious food I’ve tried in your class, and for being my assistant [basketball] coach sophomore year. 

Mrs. Julianne Ross, librarian -- THank yo ufor your time spent in the library. Thank you for what you have done with the kindergarten on Fridays, listening to their hilarious comments. And especially, thank you for letting Lily, Sukainah and I put rubber fish on the library lights. 

Annie Wang

Dr. Paul Leaman, head of school: Thank you for letting me stay at your house! Thank you for all the help and support that you’ve given me! It means a lot, and thank you for the egg sandwiches that you made me. 

Caroline Hayes

Mrs. Patsy Seitz, director of academics: Thank you so so so much for all of your scheduling help! Especially this year when we were still working on what my classes would look like (the day before school started). I really appreciate all the joyful work you have put in to help me succeed. -

Mr. Andrew Gascho, communications technology, girls varsity soccer coach: Thank you for letting me join all of your classes last minute. I enjoy forging my own path and exploring techniques in them. Thank you also for being an amazing coach, always being in my corner and always encouraging me. Seeing you smile and say ‘good morning” truly helps make my day.

Katie Kauffman

Mrs. Chris Eberly, business office manager, Thank you for all of the support you have given me throughout this year. I truly appreciate all of the hugs and kind words you have given me.

Mrs. Maria Archer, K-8 principal, Thank you for allowing me to have the opportunity to work with the elementary schoolers and helping em to build my love for teaching.

Jessica Hess

Mr. Larry Martin, sixth grade teacher: Thank you for dealing with us since sixth grade. You saw our potential, even if we couldn't.

Mrs. Jodi Hertzler, college and career counseling/English teacher/drama coordinator:  Thank you for helping us to plan out the next step in our lives, even though "senioritis" has his us all pretty hard.

Gavin Myers

Mr. Kendal Bauman, physical education and soccer coach: Thank you for being the only constanton the boys soccer coaching staff for all the yers I've played soccer, for teaching me everyting I know about being a keeper, and catching me that one time I passed out sophomore year. 

Jacob Hess

Dexter Byler and Tyler Kauffman, grounds and facilities management: Thank you for giving me a summer job first off, and thanks for doing maintenance work around the school. Without you, the school would probably literally fall apart.

Lily Byer

Mrs. Trisha Blosser, development officer: Thank you for leading Christmas Fund Drive and making it your own. You made my -- and our -- senior year effort a bunch of fun. I've appreciated your enthusiasm, encouragement and advice as I've gotten to know you this year.

Ada Zhang

Mrs. Gini Trotter (counseling services): Thank you for being the great counselor that you are. You give so much attention to every student who needs it. Thank you for the many hours that you put into our lives. Whether it's helping me with my governor's school application, decision-making, or just life in general, my time at EMHS would not be the same without you. 

Mrs. Lorcas (strings teacher): Thank you so much for your impact on our lives. Whether it's leading an orchestra, teaching a lesson, or holding a mock audition, you are a great influence on our musical journeys. Thank you for always asking me how my auditions are going and being willing to hear the pieces that I'm working on. I really value the advice that you give. Thank you for caring and being encouraging. 

Destin Witmer

Mr. Elwood Yoder, history and government teacher -- There was a duel in senior homeroom over who got to thank you... I won. Since taking Global Anabaptism with you in ninth grade, I've always looked forward to your class for the impromptu songs and stories about back when you had an Afro. EMHS wouldn't be the same without your classes, or students humming "Build a bridge" down the hall, or the Sunshine Band bringing beautiful harmonies to chapel. You've been a mentor and a role model for me, and I know that God will continue to bless others through you for the years to come. Thank you. And if I could just take this time to let everyone know, Mr. Yoder has an album and you should ask to hear it, it's amazing.


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