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Written for GVSD by Susan L. Serbin

“It ticks all the boxes.” The common expression heard these days mean the matter at hand successfully satisfies all the necessary elements.

Simply put, Michael Krautzel’s Healthy Living through Horticulture and Aquaculture course at Garnet Valley Middle School ticks all the boxes. Among the specific boxes are aligning with students’ career exploration; adding to the health curriculum which complements STEM options; having district support; receiving community support; and—most of all—being wildly popular with about the most enthusiastic students imaginable.

“Mike’s course has the ‘four C’s’ we stress: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and community,” said GVMS Principal Lisa Stenz. “They are 21st century skills needed. The career piece in a middle school course brings learning to life for either college or career.”
Although this is a new health elective in the 2019-20 school year, Stenz had no problem working it into the overall curriculum. A major change in the middle school scheduling structure enabled the addition of this class. She expressed almost as much enthusiasm as the students and Krautzel himself. “You understand what is going on when you see the kids respond and hear how they describe learning.”
In most respects Krautzel has been building a formal course through programs in the summer, spring break and after school. Student interest moved what was an extracurricular activity to full-fledged course development. The middle schoolers have filled Krautzel’s12 sections throughout the year with an average of about 25 youngsters per section. This adds to his Health and Physical Education teaching assignment.

The concept of merging horticulture and aquaculture was based on real-life experience and interest. Krautzel grew up not far from what is now the middle school location. He attended the district through graduation and “did well in sports.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education. Although he holds graduate degrees in Administration as well as School Counseling, Krautzel’s 20 years of teaching (all in Garnet Valley) have been in Health and PE. He sincerely stated he knows he’s in the right job in the right place, loving the fact that “every day is different.”

The family had a large property and a huge garden was part of his life. He now lives in the same area with the acreage to grow vegetables and fruit and keep chickens. His blended family consists of his wife, Jean, their three sons and four daughters ages four through 17. The support he receives at home is vital since, he said, “I’m in school almost every day except Christmas.”

This is not just talk. Since his “subject” involves living things in garden beds and huge fish tanks, year round attention is essential. The half-year elective respects the seasons with horticulture running in the beginning of the fall semester and end of the spring semester. Students are taught basic practices that center on rose-keeping, including weed identification and weeding; pruning, composting and its value to gardens; proper watering and all associated techniques.

Aquaculture, in the other half of the term, focuses on everything in and pertaining to 17 tanks—14 in the classroom and three elsewhere around the building. Students learn about and take responsibility for care, feeding and maintenance of the stunning collection of fish and plant life. The sophistication of the equipment is wide-ranging and can even simulate weather changes around the globe.

In talking to students, it’s clear they love the class and have great relationships with Krautzel. It also becomes apparent that his approach—call it a work ethic—has become a model.

“I can use my free period to help mulch or prune in the outdoor season, or clean tanks and help with the living cultures inside,” said eighth grader Dylan Bledsoe, who is very much a mainstay around the classroom. Dylan is one of many youngsters who appear also to have found a “home” with the course. While not getting too deep into the characteristics of middle school-aged students, several mentioned the appeal of music being played in the room, the hands-on work, and the ability to stay active and not static throughout class. With tanks needing essentially constant attention, Krautzel said “there’s a job for everyone and no one is left out.”

Krautzel and his students handle what are literally the day-to-day responsibilities of his course. However, to create learning and excitement, the “materials,” are far from standard and include tanks and operating equipment, fish, coral and anemone species, outdoor plants, soil, mulch, books, software. The school community, meaning taxpayers, should understand most of the expense is not in the school district budget.

Stenz noted Mike has “made connections across the area.” By connections it might be finding a new fish or coral species at Aquarium World in Boothwyn which is a favorite of adults and kids in the area. Owner Jeff Saylor recognizes the relationship works both ways and has offered “in kind” support when possible. Krautzel looks for opportunities large and small and recently had interest from Subaru as part of the company’s environmental efforts.

“There are tons of people who want to help,” Stenz said.

Krautzel concurred. “We have a very supportive school community which puts a high value on education. I’m fortunate to live in this community which asks what they can do to help.” Over the last several years, the program has received donations of over $140,000 as of December 2019. Although the school board sees and must approve these “gifts,” the money is designated for the program.
“In an era where public schools are under constant scrutiny and criticism for escalating expenses, Mike’s passion to fund his program far surpassed simply asking for district funds,” said School Board President Rosemary Fiumara. “I think this demonstrates the kind of innovation and persistence that deserves recognition.”

Among other outreach initiatives is the Frag Swap event. Organized by Krautzel and held in GVMS cafeteria, the gathering is of coral reef collectors who trade fragments from their tanks, as well as some vendors who come to sell other items that may be of interest to coral reef keepers. In addition to expanding knowledge, the event shows students an entrepreneurial opportunity directly related to their studies. Students also were on hand in the classroom to further demonstrate knowledge about the course, duties and (not the least of which is) the environmental importance of the ocean.

Stephanie and Steven Kolesar provided some adult supervisor in the classroom that day.

“Our son, Hunter, was in the pilot program of this course last year. The program taught him a lot of discipline for what has to be done,” said Steve, noting their 250-gallon tank at home. He also recognized the ancillary learning such as math using the metric system for measurement. “They are applying real world skills, and I see students like my son taking more responsibility.”

Due to timing of the interview, one had to imagine the splendor of some 1,000 roses in bloom (and plan a return visit.)

“Most of our roses are from the David Austin collection which comes from England. We also collect roses from France and Germany, and select those that are mainly disease resistant,” Krautzel said on and earlier tour. Also Krautzel has built benches and a pergola which have frequent use in season.

Student Paxton Hunt was pleased to conduct a quick outdoor tour of the composting and locations where planting and growing are done during the correct season. Throughout the course students continue horticulture indoor work tending to plants and creating pot gardens.

“I’m a huge supporter of this class. I’ve seen such a positive influence on my son,” said Michelle Hunt.

Krautzel is unquestionably noteworthy due to his warm personality, vague resemblance to a teddy bear, sartorial skills at matching Crocs to tee shirt and shorts, uplifting gusto and optimism. Even beyond that, students, parents, school board and the wider community recognize and appreciate Krautzel for his dedication, innovation, tireless work and inspiration.

Stevel Kolesar said (with no prompting required), “Mike’s the kind of teacher that changes lives.”

#gvfeeling #gvlearns #aquaculture #horticulture #GVMS
@GarnetValleySD @GarnetValleyMS

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Posted by curtisj  On Dec 06, 2019 at 10:01 AM


Dear School Community,

I wanted to update you on a significant change that took place at last night's School Board reorganization meeting. Rosemary Fiumara stepped down as President and was replaced by Scott Mayer, who has served the Board since 2010 and was most recently in the role of Vice President. Tracy Karwoski will move back into the role of Vice President going forward.

Scott Mayer and his wife Lori are the proud parents of two GVSD students, so he brings an important "parent lens" to his work as President. Additionally, Scott's experience and expertise as the Regional Vice President of Labor and Employee Relations for the InterContinental Hotels Group also gives the Board an important legal perspective. Scott has a strong belief in public education as his mother was a teacher, and his schooling prepared him for success as a graduate of Cornell University and Villanova University School of Law.

I am extremely excited to work more closely with Scott, and of course will miss my daily interactions with Rosemary. Serving as the President since 2012, Rosemary will continue as a member of the Board. She and I worked together for my entire career in Garnet Valley, and it is difficult for me to express how much I appreciated her leadership and friendship over the past 7 years. For those of you who do not have a great deal of interaction with the School Board, it's easy to underestimate the positive impact a great Board can have on a district. We are fortunate in Garnet Valley that through Rosemary's character, caring, and leadership, we have a Board, that philosophically and financially, supports our commitment to personalized student and adult learning, a safe and caring culture that prepares students for global citizenship, and provides our faculty and staff with everything that they need to provide the very best education for our students. If you see Rosemary, I ask that you take the time to thank her for all that she did and does for GVSD.

Have a great holiday season!!


Dr. Marc Bertrando, GVSD Superintendent

Posted by curtisj  On Dec 03, 2019 at 2:09 PM

Visit the Garnet Valley High School website for more information:


#gvfeeling #gvlearns #winterconcert #GVSD #BSES #CES #GVES #GVMS #GVHS

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Posted by curtisj  On Nov 25, 2019 at 3:01 PM

On November 22, 2019 students from Garnet Valley Middle School's Team Olympus, gathered to dish out a variety of foods to create a total of 115 meals that were to be donated to the homeless. 

#gvfeeling #gvlearns #GVMS #thanksgiving #GarnetValleyGivesBack
@GarnetValleyMS @GarnetValleySD

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Posted by curtisj  On Nov 22, 2019 at 3:43 PM

Selected by the Garnet Valley High School faculty, Alyssa Mercincavage and Lucas Torregrossa were recognized and congratulated as Rotary Students of the Month for November. 

#gvfeeling #gvlearns #GVHS #rotaryclub #studentofthemonth  #GVSD
@GarnetValleyHS @GarnetValleySD

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Posted by curtisj  On Nov 21, 2019 at 2:12 PM


Garnet Valley Performing Arts Association (GVPAA) presents...
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
November 21st through the 23rd
Garnet Valley High School 
552 Smithbridge Road
Glen Mills, PA 19342

Thursday, November 21st - 6:30 pm
Friday, November 22nd - 6:30 pm
Saturday, November 23rd - 1:30 pm & 6:30 pm

#GVPAA #GVhunchbackofnotredame #GVFeeling #GVHS 

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Posted by curtisj  On Nov 18, 2019 at 3:14 PM
Calling all royalty and superheroes!... 


Garnet Valley Mini-THON is hosting the Super Magical Brunch
on Saturday, November 16th from 9am-12pm!

Cost is $5/person or $15 for a family and all proceeds benefit Mini-THON's sole beneficiary the Four Diamonds Foundation.

The Four Diamonds Foundation is committed to fighting pediatric cancer through research, treatment, and family support. We hope to see you there for a morning of food, games, crafts, and the opportunity to meet some of your favorite princes and princesses!


#FTK #❖ #GVFeeling #GVMiniThon #GVHS 
@GVThon @MiniThonGVHS @FourDiamonds @FourDiamondsFTK

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Posted by curtisj  On Nov 07, 2019 at 11:35 AM


Please join us in congratulating the Garnet Valley Model UN team on the win of their first competition of the season!

They SWEPT the SASMUN conference at St. Andrew's School on November 3rd. A GV student was named Best Delegate in each of the five committees, and the full team was awarded the Best Delegation Award.

DISEC (Disarmament & International Security Committee)

  • Best Delegate - Max Foster and Ryan Walukonis - Brazil
  • Outstanding Delegate - Jacob Soskinsky and Michael Waetzman - South Korea
  • Honorable Mentions - Andrew Murray (Cuba) and Preetika Guruprasad (N. Korea)

SOCHUM (Social and Humanitarian Committee)

  • Best Delegate - Sarah Rossi (North Korea)

The Provisional Congress of the Confederacy (1861)

  • Best Delegate - Madelynn Lederer

Multilateral Summit on Nuclear Disarmament Between the US and DPRK

  • Best Delegate - Vikas Rana
  • Outstanding Delegate - Kushagra Gupta

Dispute over Sovereignty of the Spratly Islands

  • Best Delegate - Vishesh Patel
  • Outstanding Delegate - Aditi Sridhar

These rookies received Verbal Commendation within their respective committees :)

  • Johnathan Gilkin-Rizzo
  • Jackson McGeehan
  • Aggam Khurana
  • Songlin Li

#GVFeeling #GVLearns #GetThatGavel #GVModelUN

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Posted by curtisj  On Nov 07, 2019 at 8:49 AM

Dear School Community,

On Tuesday evening the School Board unanimously approved the 2020-21 and 2021-22 calendars.

Please click on THIS LINK to access them.

I wanted to highlight that students will start school on Tuesday, September 1. Beginning school prior to Labor Day represents a big change for Garnet Valley; however, although we will start before the holiday the next two years, it does not represent a new tradition. Instead, we will always approach the creation of the instructional calendar with the best interests of students, staff, and families in mind and make decisions accordingly.

As I stated in my last email, we wanted to give parents plenty of time to coordinate their family and school schedules; hopefully, you’ve found our new timeline helpful. If you are not able to access the link, the calendar is also posted on our website.


Dr. Marc Bertrando, Superintendent

#GVFeeling #GVLearns #SchoolStartDate #SchoolCalendar

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Posted by curtisj  On Nov 07, 2019 at 8:47 AM


The GVHS Band is hosting our first ever Band, Birds, Beef & Beverage event on Sun, Oct 27, 1:00pm at Barnaby's Aston.  Tickets are on sale now!   
Parents, alumni (over 21) and friends are invited to help support the band and enjoy an Eagles Game party.

-  The 3-hour event (for adults only) includes unlimited food and adult beverages during the Eagles vs. Bills game.
-  Additional Raffles, a 50/50 and more will be available at the event.
- Tickets are $35 per person.
- Must be 21 and older to attend.
-  Please be sure to include this form along with payment. Checks payable to “Quarter Note Club”.
-  Please contact the Quarter Note Club at for arrangements on how to order and receive your tickets.

***Forms and payment are due by Wednesday October 23, 2019***

Link to info sheet & order form:

Send any questions to  Thank you!


Dr. Steve Selfridge
Band Director
Garnet Valley High School

Posted by curtisj  On Oct 21, 2019 at 3:28 PM
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