Somerville Elementary School Principal Bikes Her Way Through Town Delivering Books to Students

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Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Credits: Rod Hirsch
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Credits: Rod Hirsch
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SOMERVILLE, NJ – While most of her students, their families and her staff are spending their summer vacation with trips to the Jersey shore, backyard barbecues, family picnics and road trips to visit relatives, Susan Haynes stays in touch with her far-flung extended family using an App on her IPhone.

Haynes, formerly an elementary school teacher in Bernards Township, has been the PreK-2nd Grade principal at Van Der Veer School for ten years. She still refers to those in high school who attended the elementary school as “her kids.”

The savvy educator embraces technology and social media to stay in touch with her 450 students and families; she hosts a blog on the school’s website, uses Twitter to send out frequent messages, and during the summer, live-streams a weekly broadcast via her IPhone, reading from lavishly illustrated books with oversize printing, each with a value lesson to help the young students choose right from wrong.  

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That’s how students learned about her latest initiative to keep in touch with them while making reading fun.

“Pedaling Paperbacks for Pupil Progress” – Haynes says she loves alliteration – begins Monday.

Wearing a helmet and riding a bicycle equipped with a basket donated by Somerville Bicycle Shop, she will travel throughout the borough stopping frequently where kids gather – the Splash Park, municipal pools and Summerville Ice Cream Company for starters.

She told her students on last week’s broadcast that she will “Tweet” her route through town and let them know where to greet her.

 Wearing a blue t-shirt reading “Wild About Reading,” Haynes grabs some books, her IPhone and a wooden box and walks outside to the school courtyard through ankle-high grass towards a yellow table for her weekly broadcast.

She sits down on the attached bench, places the books and box on the table, makes a connection to the “Periscope” App and positions the IPhone against the box directly in front of her. She leans forward, close to the phone and begins her monologue.

She speaks extemporaneously, telling the students about her recent vacation to Cape Cod.

”I’m back and ready to read some stories to you,” she says, leaning closer to the phone squeezing a bicycle charm hanging from her necklace as she announces her bicycle tour around town.

She asks the students what they’ve been doing, whether they are enjoying the summer and most importantly, what books they’ve been reading.

Then she picks up a book and begins to read chapters from “If You Took a Mouse to School,” followed by “Officer Buckle and Gloria.”  She holds open each page so that the children can see the bright drawings.

She has a passion for the written word, equally matched by her zeal to do whatever she can to help her students excel at reading.

“It’s all about literacy,” Haynes said.

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