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Read on to learn more about the arts programs and events that HAA supported last quarter and to get a preview of what's to come this winter!

And friends, if you haven't yet renewed your membership for the 2022-2023 school year, please
click here to support the arts & HAA. Thank you!
Above: Jeff Sniffen and Julia Sniffen, Haldane's High School Principal
In the Spotlight: Jeff Sniffen
Mr. Sniffen's animated, energetic, and thoughtful approach in the sixth-grade social studies classroom makes him one of Haldane's most treasured teachers. During his 23 years at Haldane, he has also taught in the elementary school, run several clubs, and coached football and softball high school teams. He has been an invaluable support to the Haldane drama department too — for helping to construct elaborate sets for musicals and plays. Recently, we caught up with Sniffen to learn more about him and his connection to the arts.
Q1: What's a fun fact about you that our readers (and your students!) likely don't know?

Besides being ambidextrous, I am kind of a boring guy. I suppose it’s kind of neat that I have been a kindergarten teacher while also having coached two different varsity football teams, and have had several cameo roles in the middle school and high school plays. Oh, and I first met my wife here when I showed up to her door to substitute teach for her class. 

Q2: How did you get involved in building sets for the drama department?

My wife often volunteers me for jobs here at Haldane. A few years ago, when the high school was in the need of help for the Fiddler on the Roof set, I came with my daughter to offer a hand. As we started productions again in our post-Covid world, Martha (Mechalakos) found that I was the only one left willing to help (most of the parents who were previously involved pulled away as their kids graduated). I handled the Greek Trilogy set almost exclusively on my own, but then got some help in a big way in the fall when Matt Koch volunteered.  The two of us worked on both the drama and musical together last year. This year, Matt has taken the lead and I have done what I can to support him.

Q3: Where did you grow up? Were the arts an important part of your childhood/family life? If so, how?  

I grew up in East Fishkill in a typical suburban family of four, where sports dominated my after-school interests. With that being said, my dad is a pop-culture junkie and grew up loving music of various genres. He also always had an appreciation for Broadway and my parents always made it a point to incorporate that experience into our family. Yet, it wasn’t until Haldane when I first stepped foot on the stage.  You have to wear many hats here in this district. I suppose it was my theatrics in the classroom that captured the attention of those who have handled the drama productions. 

Q4: Did you participate in the arts when you were a K-12 student? Was there a particular art teacher or class, or a creative project or experience, that had a major impact on you?

I always had an interest in art and found myself taking advanced art classes in high school, but I was never involved in drama production. I played two sports most of my life and that schedule often conflicted with the time required to get involved in the arts. I suppose that was an easy excuse for me too and, in hindsight, I wish I found a way [to participate in the arts], for I have a deep appreciation for the kids of Haldane who attempt to master both worlds. 

Q5: Please describe your approach to teaching at Haldane.

I am a big believer in being the passionate spark that ignites a love for learning. In order for the experience in the classroom to be memorable, the students have to feel that they are at the center.  Learning is inherently a selfish act -- we remember things if they hold meaning. Under this idea, I feel that it is my job to give my students an experience in the class, whether it’s through role play, socratic seminars, debates, court cases, art projects, field trips, or building siege weaponry. 

Q6: Reflecting on your teaching experience at Haldane to date: What has been your toughest challenge and your greatest reward?

Toughest Challenge = professionally, it was the shutdown during Covid. The biggest lesson we learned is that education is a human and emotion-based venture; the distance between teachers and students during that experience was real hard for me because it stripped away the magic I use to make those memorable connections. Personally, it’s when a student of mine endures a family tragedy. It’s hard to make school important to a kid I have who just lost an important person in their lives -- it makes me just want to hug them and protect them from any future pain. 

Greatest Reward = My wife and I made the decision to move into the community so that our own kids could attend Haldane. My greatest reward has been watching them have these wonderful experiences in the school my wife and I have been so dedicated towards. My son will graduate in the spring; my daughter is currently a sophomore.  

Q7: What was a highlight of the past year of teaching?

We were able to resurrect several experiences last year that were shut down due to the Covid protocols in place.  The students were able to participate in the castle siege project, where they had to defeat 6 different defenses to a castle I built. They learned, designed, and then built siege weapons and used marshmallows to launch an attack. The kids had a blast!  We were also able to resurrect the trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The trip is a culmination of our work on the ancient world curriculum - the looks on their faces when they come face-to-face with artifacts of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece never gets old!

Q8: Why do you think it's important for the arts to be part of K-12 education?

The arts is what brings life and passion to the school experience. The importance of its presence can’t be overstated. We do a nice job of this at Haldane, but I believe there’s still space for growth. The talent we have in this community needs to be an asset we tap into more regularly. 

Q9:  How can Haldane parents (and the wider community) support the arts at Haldane?

I would love to have a database of willing community members and the professional talents they’re willing to share in our classrooms. My students take part in a year-long project where they’re asked to re-start civilization. This opens the door to a number of community-based connections. For example, the students have to create original artwork which could be seen in the civilization they’re creating. I would love to bring in local artists to assist in this project.

Q10: What's the funniest, or most surprising, experience you've had while teaching at Haldane?

I’ve had so many so it’s hard to pinpoint one. For several years, I would challenge my reading class to enter the class in a unique way every day we had class. Boy, were there some creative entrances. From the rearrangement of furniture, to replacing students with stuffed animals, to leaving a series of riddles to find where they were hiding, my students certainly delivered on this challenge. 

Q11: Is there an important question that we failed to ask you? If so, what is that important question, and your (equally important) answer? 

Just some not-so-random thoughts: this school functions best when we have all hands on deck. Volunteerism is critical. I have had such an enriching experience here at Haldane because I got involved in the lives of my students in ways that extended beyond the classroom. I cannot tell you how incredibly rewarding my career has been - it’s the magic of this special place. But we always need more volunteers. Please, if willing and able, the drama department could always use help.

HAA Grants in Action This Past Fall into Winter:
Above: Students making flower garlands, adding to the "Offrenda" and coloring in sugar skulls at the Dia de los Muertos event.
Above: 6th grader Natalie Taylor creates a tie-dye shirt in art class.
The Day of the Dead Came to Life with an HAA Grant!
An HAA grant helped to fund many aspects of a successful and joyous Dia de los Muertos celebration on November 1st  — including a mariachi band, face painters, flower necklace crafts, decorations and LED candles for the Ofrenda, an interactive "offering table" and art installation where students could draw, decorate and memorialize loved ones . This is only the second year the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee has produced this event, but it's quickly became an important one! Students, from elementary to high school age, packed the School Garden for this Mexican holiday meant to celebrate and honor the deceased.

Tie-Dye in the Classroom 
Thanks to an HAA grant, Ms. Branco was able to purchase dyes and supplies for each 6th and 7th grader to create their own tie-dye in art class.  Students have learned how to tie their shirts into spiral, striped, bull's eye or free-form designs and how to strategically add layers of color. Students also learned how pigments are created, and they discussed some interesting ideas about color, including the debate over Vantablack, the "blackest black", owned by artist Anish Kapoor.

Foodtown Art Gallery Inspires Yet Again!
Elementary School Portraitists
Check out the Foodtown windows this month! A curated collection of portraits by elementary students, 1st through 5th grade, are on view.  With Ms. Branco, students analyzed Picasso's portrait style evolution and learned about measuring devices for creating portraits before making their own.
Meet One of HAA's Top Donors this Year:  Nomie Karetny
In September, Haldane sixth grader Nomie Karetny set out to raise money for a non-profit as part of a fundraising project in honor of her bat-mitzvah next year. By selling her own homemade jewelry and gently used clothing collected from a community of friends at her house and the Butterfield Library Tag Sale, Nomie raised her goal of $500 -- and she chose HAA as her charity of choice. Why did she choose to donate to HAA? "The arts at school, to me, mean having fun," Nomie says. "I can't imagine school without art and music. I love doing arts and crafts, playing my saxophone and doing plays because it gives me pure joy, and all kids should experience that!"
Thank you, Nomie!
The Band Rocks Halloween
The Haldane High School Wind Ensemble provided the soundtrack for this year's Halloween Parade for the elementary students. Students strutted their stuff in costume from their building up to the high school building and back to a funky instrumental version of "Ghostbusters - Who You Gonna Call?" among other spooky ditties.
Friends, if you haven't yet renewed your membership for the 2022-2023 school year, please click here to support the HAA's funding of important art events and programs. Thank you!
Congratulations to Area All-State NYSSMA participants
Five Haldane music students participated in the New York State School Musician Association (NYSSMA) Zone 10 Area-All State Festival, which took place on Friday, November 18th and Saturday, November 19th at Red Hook High School. Advanced music students in NYSSMA Zone 10 (which includes Putnam, Dutchess, and Columbia counties) were selected to participate in the ensemble; they rehearsed throughout the weekend and performed in a concert on Saturday afternoon. 

Haldane students who participated:

  • Robert Freimark (clarinet) and Oscar Donahue (percussion) in the Band Ensemble;
  • Kira Drury, Oliver Petkus in the Mixed Chorus;
  • Maya Gelber in the Treble Chorus.
And a BIG congratulations to Conrad White (mixed chorus)  who will be representing Haldane at the NY All-State Music concert in Rochester the first weekend of December.
What's Happening Next in the Arts at Haldane:
A Midsummer Night's Dream:
Friday, Dec. 9th at 7 pm
Saturday, Dec. 10th at 7 pm
Sunday, Dec. 11th at 2 pm. Click here for tickets

*Haldane Elementary & Middle School Winter Concerts: Wed. 12/14 at 7 pm

*Haldane High School Winter Concert: Thurs. 12/15  at 7pm

*Carnations will be available for purchase at the winter concerts 
by the Haldane Arts Alliance in the lobby!
Also, stay in the loop by following these great Instagram pages which regularly post student work and classroom projects:

@haldanehighschoolart (8-12 art)
haldaneschoolart (K-7 art)
Copyright © 2022 Haldane Arts Alliance, All rights reserved.

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Haldane School District
15 Craigside Dr
Cold Spring NY 10516

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