What do marshmallows, pumpkins, and a snapping turtle have in common?
At one point or another, all have taken flight during one of Virginia Vasko’s science classes.
Disclaimer: The turtle was not harmed during that lesson. However, the same cannot be said about the lobsters that were raised then consumed as part of a real-world illustration on food production.
With a penchant for surprises and authentic, out-of-the box classroom experiences, Mrs. Vasko makes learning an adventure. In fact, her unique approach to putting the “fun” in fundamentals has kept Bentworth School District students (and administrators) on their toes for nearly 30 years!
Over the course of her career, Mrs. Vasko has taught children of all abilities different subjects in different grades at both the elementary and middle school levels, always adjusting and adapting to ensure every student has the best experience. Currently, the STEM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) educator for fifth grade, Mrs. Vasko is committed to collaborating with the other teachers on her team so that coursework can be successfully integrated between the disciplines. She is someone who believes the value of an education is not always measurable with tests and exams. It is about fostering a life-long love of learning for her students as well as instilling a desire to explore the world around them.
If you were lucky enough to be one of Mrs. Vasko’s kids, it is likely her lessons have stuck with you. Maybe you remember when your first grade class adopted Louie, the orphaned baby goat. Maybe you were a costume-clad pioneer during her 18th century wagon train experience, traveling historic Route 40 in horse-drawn wagons, participating in authentic activities, and recording it all on your hand-made horn book. Or, just maybe you were one of her students who needed someone to talk to, someone to understand, and she was there to listen. Mrs. Vasko recognizes there are many children in the community with heavy burdens to bear, and she has taken the time to help them unpack that baggage one article at a time.
Additionally, Mrs. Vasko has dedicated her free time to many school and community activities. This Bentleyville Lioness has given countless hours to the school’s Leo and Ski Clubs, Ave Maria Parish, Washington County Fair, Pike Run 4-H, Girl Scouts, and softball teams, but one worthwhile cause that is particularly near and dear to her heart is the Mrs. Claus Club, which helps individuals who are battling cancer.
“I am not alone in my high regard for Virginia; her reputation is one of the finest in the Bentworth School District as well as in the community. I am always impressed by her devotion to her children, her unstoppable energy, and educational influence,” wrote colleague Joycelyn Gazi.
Using the grant associated with the Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award, Mrs. Vasko and the district are planning to transform one of her beloved ponds at the middle school into an outdoor classroom.
“Learning never stops after school,” she attests. So, although the 2016-17 school year will be her last, it is likely she will continue to delight, instruct, and inspire well into her retirement.
“It’s about the love of what you do . . . Show them respect. Show them love. Every child wants to feel important.