Telling Our Story: Woodland Elementary

Telling Our Story: Woodland Elementary
Posted on 04/29/2021

Woodland

Principal Beth Swanson is completing her third year serving as Woodland’s educational leader. “I love it here,” she beams as she talks about her school.

“Looking through all of these old albums and scrapbooks was like finding a buried treasure,” explained Beth Swanson, Principal of Woodland Elementary School, as she explored boxes of information previously in storage about the history of her school. “You study the faces of all these individuals that attended or worked at Woodland over 60 years ago, and once sat in the very same classrooms and walked the same hallways that exist today and you can't help but feel some kind of connection to them, while not having known them at all. It's like finding pictures of old relatives that you've never met but wish you could.”

Mrs. Swanson experienced a potent sense of nostalgia spilling into the present as she turned the pages of each scrapbook documenting her school’s past. There were clippings from the local papers, programs from concerts and events, letters, and photos, lots of photos. 

Principal Swanson grew up in adjacent Syosset, and still visits the same parks and stores with her own children as she did growing up so very close to the school that she now leads. In fact, she points out that Syosset borders parts of Ketcham Road, the street where Woodland is located. It’s a landscape she can see every day as she glances up from her desk. 

Woodland

Woodland’s dedication plaque is a permanent fixture in the school’s lobby.

Woodland

 At Woodland’s Dedication Ceremony in 1953, Hicksville School Board President Henry Brengel (left) passes a ceremonial shovel to the new Principal, J.H. Walters. 

Woodland

 Woodland’s Marching Band is pictured here from the 1956-57 school year.

Woodland

 On December 5, 1959, Woodland’s PTA held its annual fair. In a very different time, visitors were able to view a Nike-Ajax Missile parked next to the school. 

 With the exception of Willet Avenue, now leased by BOCES, Woodland is the district’s “newest” elementary school. Opened in September of 1953, the school serves the northeast corner of Hicksville and is located on 10 acres of property. The school was expanded with a first and second floor addition constructed from 2006-2008 to accommodate an increasing student population. 

 Currently during the pandemic, Woodland serves 273 K-5 students – 212 in-school and 61 fully remote. Mrs. Swanson, teachers and staff have worked diligently to accommodate as many students as possible safely within the building. Masks are worn by all, social distancing is practiced, hand-washing is a regular activity, and deep cleaning is done daily by the custodial staff. 

 Through it all, it is important to Principal Swanson to maintain a family feeling in her school. “I want Woodland to be a place that all students love to be and think of as home,” explained Mrs. Swanson. 

 Mrs. Swanson received her B.S. in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education from SUNY Oneonta, and her M.S. and Administrative Certification from Queens College. She taught sixth grade in Queens for three years before moving to Connetquot CSD where she taught for 12 years. Mrs. Swanson accepted a special assignment while serving in Connetquot - helping with the roll-out of the Common Core as Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction. 

 Feeling ready to move into school administration, Mrs. Swanson accepted an Assistant Principal position in Levittown Public Schools and served there for five-and-a-half years, split between two buildings. In 2018, she accepted the Principal’s position at Woodland Elementary. She has two elementary-level children of her own, and lives close by in a home her husband built for the family. 

 Principal Swanson has brought several new initiatives to Woodland including a Character Education Committee, Family Game Night, and a “Deck the Halls” Holiday Open House, to name a few. Mrs. Swanson regularly posts photos on Woodland’s Instagram account. “I often take pictures of students engaged in their learning.”

 Principal Swanson was recently recognized for her dedication to the school community by being named a 2021 PTA Founder’s Day Honoree. “I was shocked to receive this honor.”

Woodland

 Principal Swanson was named a PTA 2021 Founder’s Day Honoree for Woodland along with teachers Lauren Dilena and Megan Williamson, and parents Nicole Lyons and Lizbeth Raquet.

 Like at many of the schools in Hicksville, teachers at Woodland share Mrs. Swanson’s feelings of deep dedication and commitment to the community. Many teachers have served at Woodland for decades. Lisa Dawber and Beth Garner are two such individuals. 

Woodland

 Pictured here as PTA Founder’s Day Honorees in 1993 are long-time Woodland teachers Lisa Dawber and Beth Garner.

 Mrs. Lisa Dawber actually grew up Hicksville and attended Woodland as a child. “It’s a wonderful school,” shared Mrs. Dawber. “When I was a student there, I wanted to be a teacher because of the teachers I had at Woodland. All of my memories are one better than the next. There is longevity in Hicksville. People stay, and that says a lot.” Mrs. Dawber has served the district for 34 years and actually taught third grade in the same classroom where she once was a third grade student. “I started in Hicksville as a kindergartner and will retire from there!” 

 Music teacher Beth Garner has served 33 years in the school district. “This school is unique; everyone pulls together,” shared Mrs. Garner as she prepared for a remote class. “They’re like my second family here. The teachers go above-and-beyond. It’s a great place.”

Woodland

 Woodland’s vocal music teacher, Beth Garner, is pictured here teaching a remote kindergarten class. She uses a Chromebook, which she has placed on top of her piano, and watches the students’ participation on her laptop on her desk. Mastering the technology and software skills needed to transform her hand’s-on curriculum for remote learners was the most difficult part of adapting to the pandemic. “It was like being a first-year teacher again. I would plan for hours and hours.”

Woodland

 Teaching a fifth grade in-person music class, Mrs. Garner uses multiple techniques to teach music. Here, students are using their Chromebooks to play notes on electronic xylophones as she sings. 

Woodland

 In another classroom at Woodland, in-person students in Mrs. Cervantes’ first grade class, where she wears a clear face shield, wait to have their work checked. “I've been teaching here for 30 years and it is my second home,” shared Mrs. Cervantes. “I love everything about our school and the community.”

Woodland

 This first-grader demonstrated how to use blocks and bars to represent a number during a math lesson.

Woodland

 Remote fifth grade students joined in the fun on Saint Patrick’s Day with hats delivered to their homes by Mr. Morris and Ms. Turnbull.

Woodland

 Mrs. Swanson helps students to understand the concept of service to others with special activities such as this food drive.

Woodland

 Each day that the weather permits, Principal Swanson escorts students for a walk around Woodland’s fields. 

 One thing is for sure – Woodland is a school filled with hope and joy. It is the embodiment of its motto: The only thing better than our past is our future. 

 To learn more about the history of each of the schools in Hicksville School District, please visit the “Telling Our Story” web page on the district website under Departments, Public Information: https://www.hicksvillepublicschools.org/departments/public_information/__telling_our_story__series.