BROCKWAY – Five new people started their careers in the Brockway Area School District, navigating the early days of working in education with the constantly-changing environment of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michelle Ignasiak moved the farthest to get to Brockway. Originally from the Philadelphia area and William Tennent High School in Warminster, she went to Clarion University. She joins Brockway as a speech language pathologist.

“I love working with kids and hope to inspire them,” Ignasiak said. “I hope not only to improve students’ speech and language skills, but also for them to be better role models for their peers.”

As a new speech therapist, she is excited to become an integral part of the Brockway community.

School Psychologist Lauren Judge will be working in both the high school and elementary. Originally from Kittanning, Judge is excited to work with everyone at the school.

“I am available to work with students from preschool through twelfth grade,” Judge said. “My role is to help match the most appropriate educational strategies with how a student learns best. I will also be working with students on developing important abilities, such as coping skills, social skills, and time management/organization skills.”

Judge can consult with families, teachers, and staff about behavioral and academic concerns with students. She said that the whole community of Brockway makes her excited to come to work every day.

“I am excited to work in Brockway because of the wonderful people involved in this organization and the great things happening at BASD,” she said. “All of the students, families and staff I’ve worked with so far have been very helpful and kind.”

Mackenzie Pence travels Interstate 80 from New Bethlehem to take over the seventh grade English position. She said that she became a teacher because of her experiences at Redbank Valley High School.

“I have known that I wanted to be a teacher for a very long time,” Pence said. “When I was in high school, my English teachers were some of the most influential people in my life, and I knew that I wanted to be able to do the same thing for my students someday.”

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, she hopes her class will help her students see the bright spots in life.

“I hope my students learn that school can be fun if they try their best to look at it with a positive mindset,” she said. “I want them to learn that writing and reading aren’t just ways to complete classwork, but it can also be a way for them to express themselves. Writing is powerful.”

Fellow teacher Delaney McMeekin was also inspired to go into teaching from her time in school, but she got to come back. McMeekin graduated from Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School.

“I am excited to give back to a district that has given so much to me and to grow in this supportive community,” McMeekin said.

McMeekin is a learning support teacher in the high school. She provides interventions for students receiving special education.

“I hope my students learn who they are as a student and as a lifelong learner,” she said. “I hope they are able to take something from the classroom and incorporate it into their goals outside of the classroom.”

The Jeff Tech Practice Nursing Program provided the new health aide at the high school. Shaylea Haag grew up in Reynoldsville and is happy to get started in Brockway.

“I am excited to work with the kids and start my career as a school nurse,” Haag said.

Superintendent Jeff Vizza felt that the new hires were exactly what the district needed.

“The district would like to welcome these new staff members to our already outstanding teaching staff,” he said. “Each of them brings a true passion for education and the understanding of the importance of building a positive connection with their students and families. We feel they will be a tremendous asset to our educational team and want to wish them the best of luck.”

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