Lights, Camera, Educate!

Each morning for the past twenty-six years, Sharon Siegel has made her way to the job "she loves." Siegel is an instructional assistant, predominately doing media-related tasks, in the Delaware Valley School District in Milford, PA. For the past twenty years, she has come in at least an hour early to coach the program she helped found, "DVE-TV." DVE-TV, located at the Delaware Valley Elementary School, one of three elementary schools in the district where I serve on the board of school directors. DVE-TV was the brainchild of former long-time Principal Sonya Cole. Cole's career was characterized always by putting the students first, at whatever cost. In the three-plus years since Cole's retirement, Siegel has carried on the program successfully, in much the same way as it began twenty years ago.

Originally, student participating in DVE-TV were in the fifth grade. Since the district moved sixth grade back into the elementary schools, students who participate in the program are now made up of sixth-graders. These sixth grade reporters write their own news stories each morning under the direction of Siegel and her fellow coaches, Christine Gawel and Teri Banach. Banach has been working alongside Siegel, off and on, since DVE-TV began. The classrooms in the building tune-in on a closed circuit broadcast to watch a rather substantive news program, "by the kids, for the kids, and of the kids."

I had the good fortune to be interviewed by DVE-TV in early February, eleven years after I was a reporter for the program. I was reminded that day of just how important that program is to our school district and to the students who have come through it. Much of what we think of, when we think of learning, is a textbook, a teacher and a classroom. However, traditional learning should and ought to be supplemented through innovative programs such as DVE-TV. The intangibles of leadership, as well as community volunteerism, which Principal Cole aimed to teach students all those years ago, are indeed something we will never be able to teach our students solely in the classroom.

Dr. Willard R. Daggett, the CEO of the International Center for Leadership in Education, authored a paper titled " Cross-Age Peer Teaching -- An Effective Model for Supporting Success in the Classroom." Dr. Daggett, when discussing the need for peer teaching with that early-age group, argues that, "at the elementary level, struggling students disengage at both ends of the spectrum: some become disruptive, others withdraw." DVE-TV has become a way for students to become more engaged in the learning process through becoming invested in the school day and the building itself. Students need to be there on their assigned day with their DVE-TV t-shirt on and complete their assigned task for the show -- or the show would not be successful. What better way to convey values and lessons to adults, to sixth-graders, to an entire elementary population? The genius of the program is through these indefinable lessons which I believe have made students better in the classroom and even later in life.

Beyond the substantive perspective on the value the program, students have had the opportunity to interview a myriad of top-interviewees including, but not limited to, presidents, vice-presidents, first-ladies, senators, congressmen, veterans, former Israeli Prime Minster Shimon Peres, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Vice-President Al Gore, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Melba Moore, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, White House Press Corps icon Helen Thomas, Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, Brit Hume, Lois Lowry, Eleanor Clift, Claire Shipman, Ted Koppel, Bill Ritter, Ambassador Ben Gilman, numerous celebrities, and so on. I do not think students could learn more in a classroom with even the most-talented teachers, than they have learned, when out on location interviewing these people.

Siegel keeps photos of many of these famous interviewees in the studio/classroom the program occupies. However, perhaps her most prized wall in the studio is the list of the names of some 1,041 reporters who have been a part of the program over its twenty-year existence. Each year, these reporters have helped fundraise and solicit donations to keep the program going and be able to take an annual trip to places like Gettysburg, Washington D.C. and Niagara Falls.

The show once began with a song originally written by Graham Nash, titled, "Teach Your Children." DVE-TV has truly taught the children of the Delaware Valley Elementary School, "well" for the last twenty-years. I salute the hard-work and dedication of the people who have helped run the program over the years, including Siegel, who has been there every day since its inception. It is people like Siegel who have helped to educate years of reporters who now range in age from ten to thirty-seven-years-old. When the lights and camera are cued, not only is a news show taking place, but an outstanding education is in the making.