Congressman urges kids: ‘Find what fills your heart and soul’

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Congressman Paul Tonko listens to fifth-grade student Hannah Lewis at Voorheesville Elementary School on Wednesday, April 23. Principal Thomas Reardon looks on behind Tonko. The other students, from left to right, are Gavin Bach, Adam Farney, and Peter Ruhren.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Art lovers: Voorheesville Elementary School students raise their hands in response to Congressman Paul Tonko’s question about who enjoys art. Tonko visited several Voorheesville classrooms yesterday morning.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Stairwell confab: Principal Thomas Reardon took Congressman Paul Tonko on a tour of Voorheesville Elementary School on Wednesday morning, where the two talked about Voorheesville’s diverse programs and hands-on teaching.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Hands-on learning: Science lab teacher Christine Abelseth tells Congressman Paul Tonko about her class that is currently learning about the human body through labs about how human hearing works. Abelseth teaches the science labs for kindergarten through fifth grade.

VOORHEESVILLE — In the midst of their daily lessons at Voorheesville Elementary School Wednesday morning, some students got a surprise visitor.
Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat who represents the 20th District, stopped into several classes and made sure the Voorheesville kids knew he has their interests in mind.

“I’m one of those lucky enough to get to be your voice” in the government, he told a class of fifth-graders taught by Michael Burns. Tonko emphasized the importance of putting in the best effort in school, and encouraged the kids to share their career aspirations with him. One girl said she wants to be a movie director or set designer, and a boy a few desks over aspires to be a baseball player.

When Tonko asked what the students’ favorite subject was, many answered math or science.

“We need those scientists and engineers,” Tonko responded. “That’s what built this country.”

In Timothy Mattison’s class, his fourth-graders were recently learning about the New York State government, and also did a project where, in October, they raised trout from eggs, and, on Tuesday, April 22, got to release all 60 of their fish into the stream.

Mattison and Principle Thomas Reardon explained to Tonko how the students raised the eggs themselves in the science lab, fed them, and tested the water to make sure it was a healthy environment for the fish.

The students were much more excited, though, to ask Tonko about his job than to talk about their classwork. Many different students asked the congressman whether he had ever gotten to meet or work with the president, and seemed excited at having someone in their classroom who knows Barack Obama.

One girl asked Tonko what his favorite part of his job is.

“To be able to change and develop laws that will be there long after I’m gone,” Tonko responded, adding that he always enjoys meeting the people who are helped by the laws he works on.

The congressman, who is in his third term, also visited a third-grade music room, where students were watching a video of the performance they did shortly before last week’s spring break. Reardon explained to Tonko how Voorheesville is a unique school because it offers all four fine arts: dance, theater, art, and music.

“You lose a lot when you don’t have the arts,” Tonko said. “Every kid has the right to a quality education.”

In all of the classrooms he visited, Tonko emphasized that each child has special gifts that make him or her unique and that can be built upon to make a difference in the world.

“It all starts here in Voorheesville,” he said. “Find what fills your heart and soul.”

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