Beth Burkhauser remembers fondly the 26 years she spent teaching art at McNichols Plaza Elementary School in Scranton Pennsylvania. She was thrilled to be invited back to help celebrate the school’s 40th birthday. Founding principal Marty Kuhn joined current principal Mina Ardestani, teachers old and new, and a wonderfully diverse group of parents and children.
Mr. Kuhn reminisced about challenges and accomplishments dating back to 1979: There were laughs and tears, but during those early days there was always a focus on serving the young people left in their care every day.
Beth brought photo albums compiled during the years 1990 through 2006, and it was delightful to see the joy expressed on the faces of those who explored the albums and found pictures of themselves.
There were wonderful memories recounted of visiting artists — Robert Smythe, Noah Baen, and Cindy Snodgrass — who super-charged the curriculum by integrating the arts. And there were recollections of the Autumnal Equinox Celebrations, Winter Solstice plays, learning quilts, the school thematic garden, and collaborative teaching.
The Phoenix, still used as the school’s symbol and mascot, was chosen for a specific reason. When construction of the school was about 95% complete, a fire delayed its opening for a year. McNichols Plaza literally rose from the ashes as the phoenix did in Ancient Greek folklore. Beth designed the logo and made a reverse applique flag that was flown every day on campus.
One former student expressed her love for McNichols Plaza, remembering the warmth and safety she felt coming here from New York as a child. She now has her three children at the same school, where they experience the same care and support their mother once did. She expressed these feelings to current Scranton School Director Katie Gilmartin as they stood in front of the “Astronaut Career” mural, a mural which she helped create as a 5th grade student. It is one of ten career murals collaboratively created that grace the front and sides of the school.