Creative Arts Team
Creative Arts Team
- James Hart- Physical Education and Movement Teacher( Team Leader)
- Mr. Brain Halibozek - Physical Education and Movement Teacher
- Ms. Dara Minkler. Creative Problem Solving Teacher
- Mrs. Amy Neer -Dance Teacher
- Mrs Cathy McElroy- Art Teacher
- Mrs. Brooke Smith DiCapua- Art Teacher
- Mr. Donnie Moody- Drama Teacher/Director
- Mrs. Jen Macklin- Music Teacher/Director
- Ms. Theresa White- Band Teacher
- Mr. Sean Hutchinson- Technology Integration and Support Specialist
James Hart- Physical Education and Movement Teacher( Team Leader)
James holds a BS in Physical Education from State University of New York College at Cortland and a Masters in Health from Lehman College. He began his teaching career at Westover in 2009 and became APS Team Leader in 2015. James enjoys teaching students about sportsmanship, teamwork, health, personal growth, and the importance of physical activity. Sports and Exercise can be a great stress reliever, an escape from frustrations, and an opportunity to work on one’s self no matter winning or losing. He also likes to promote lifelong fitness and nutrition to his students to give them the tools to be successful. James is an avid athlete. Beginning with little league, athletics have been a large part of James’s development. In high school James was a three season varsity athlete. In his spare time James is an avid runner. He loves being physically active and spending time with his wife and kids.
Mr. Brain Halibozek - Physical Education and Movement Teacher
Hello, Westover families. I'm Brian Halibozek. I teach physical education and health here at Westover. I'm happy to say I've been here at Westover since the beginning of my teaching career here in Stamford. Some of my personal facts and hobbies include my appreciation for cooking, theater, music, and gardening. I also play golf and enjoy cycling. I'm a former world ranked professional freestyle skier. I also taught freestyle skiing at Stratton Mountain, Vermont. I played on the Central Conn. State University tennis team when I attended Central for my undergraduate degree in Education. During my college years I was the tennis professional at Frank Davis Resort in Moodus, Ct. As you can see I always enjoyed the world of sports as I still do today here at Westover.
Ms. Dara Minkler. Creative Problem Solving Teacher
Dara (Longo) Minkler comes from a long line of Stamford residents. She attended Springdale, Roxbury, Cloonan and Westhill High school. Growing up in a large Italian family filled with City of Stamford employees instilled in Dara a sense of hometown pride and civic responsibility. After working as a Social Worker for a few years in New Haven and San Leandro California, she decided to come home to Stamford, get a Masters in Education and give back to the Stamford Community.
Dara began her career at Westover as an intern in 1999. Since then she has been a home base teacher in 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th grade. Dara also served as a Team Leader before joining the APS team as the Problem Solving teacher. In her current position, Dara follows Dr. Calvin Taylor’s Multiple Talent Approach to education to teach K-5 students Talents Unlimited lessons, STEM and Engineering Design Challenges.
When not in school this proud Hockey/LAX Mom can usually be found at an ice rink or lacrosse field rooting for her son Everett, diffusing essential oils or reading on a beach with a good book.
B.S. Social Work, Southern Connecticut State University
M.S. in Elementary Education, University of New Haven
Talents Unlimited Certified Trainer
Mrs. Amy Neer -Dance Teacher
Amy Neer is a Stamford native who has been teaching at Westover for over 20 years. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Dance at Roger Williams University and a Masters Degree in Remedial Reading at Southern CT University.
During her time at Westover she has taught Kindergarten, First grade, Second grade, Title I Reading and, most recently, Dance. Mrs. Neer began dancing at the age of two and is thrilled to be able to share her passion of Dance with the students at Westover.
When Mrs. Neer is not at Westover, she can be found driving her 15 year old daughter to Dance classes, listening to her 12 year old son practice playing the drums and going for runs with her husband.
Mrs Cathy McElroy- Art Teacher
Cathy McElroy is so excited to be part of the Westover Magnet Elementary School, she started out teaching second grade at Roxbury school in 1991 when she was Cathy Wilcox. Mrs. McElroy moved on to teach at Six To Six Magnet School in Bridgeport Connecticut for 10 years. Mrs. McElroy was thrilled to find out that she could finally use her art education certification when the position at Westover became available. Serendipitously, Mrs. McElroy was part of the Northstar Playmakers at Westhill High school as a student. There she learned stagecraft, stage make-up, publicity, properties, and how to paint sets for the theatrical productions. Cathy also continued building/painting sets as an undergrad as SCSU. The position at Westover was a perfect fit to apply everything she learned as a teen! FINALLY, she gets to DESIGN the sets!! This is a dream come true. Having taught preschool, second, and third grades she enjoys integrating play, math, science, as well as language arts skills into her Art classes. Currently Mrs. McElroy is exploring how to teach a TAB curriculum in her art classes. Ideally students would have choice-based projects where they can explore their own inspiration after learning art skills and techniques of the various Media in the Art Studio. They will learn how to write Artist Statements to explain their inspiration and thinking about creating their works. Most recently Mrs. McElroy has been teaching pottery for Westport Continuing Education, she is thrilled to back on the potters wheel!
When she’s not at school Mrs. McElroy loves to travel. She and her daughters drove cross-country for seven weeks back in 2010. She also likes camping, biking, contra dancing, and just hanging out with her friends outside at the beach or around the fire pit. She lives with her husband Mike, her two children Fiona and Cecelia Mairead. During the pandemic the McElroys adopted a previously own miniature poodle named Emma. They LOVE having a sweet cuddly little dog!
Mrs. Brooke Smith DiCapua- Art Teacher
Brooke Smith DiCapua grew up in Manhattan, NY, surrounded and inspired by its many amazing art museums and galleries. Since childhood, art has been Brooke’s passion and she enjoys exploring all mediums. Brooke received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of William and Mary and her Graduate degree in Art Education from Southern Connecticut State University. From 2015 to 2022, Brooke taught pre-k, elementary and middle school art at Paul Laurence Dunbar School in Bridgeport, CT. Brooke has also taught summer art camp at Darien High School in Darien, CT. In her spare time, she enjoys painting and illustration. Brooke lives in New Canaan, CT with her husband and two sons.
Mr. Donnie Moody- Drama Teacher/Director
DONNIE MELVIN MOODY is a 39-year veteran grade K-5 theatre teacher at Westover Elementary Magnet School in Stamford, Connecticut, where he teaches drama concepts, basic acting skills and has had the pleasure of directing over one hundred students in school-wide productions. Over his career, Donnie has written over 30 plays adapted for children. Donnie attended the Stamford Public Schools: Stevens Elementary School, Turn of River Middle School, and graduated in 1975 from Rippowam High School. He furthered his education by attending Wilberforce University and then transferring to Lane College in Jackson, Tenn. There he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and graduated in 1982 Magnum Cum Laude. Donnie has a Master's Degree in Education, including a certification in Theatre, and a Master of Science Degree in Counseling, both from Southern Connecticut State University.
As a teacher, one of Donnie’s passions is using acting and role play, and stories as a means for incorporating and imparting life lessons and concepts to his students, i.e., “Social skills, how to say no to peer pressure, how to deal with ‘bullies’ and making the right choices that will determine your future careers.” Donnie strongly believes that every child has the potential to learn if they are given a chance, regardless of who they are or where they come from. He states, “Children are like a vacuum, as they enter into the classroom to learn and embrace new knowledge.”
Mrs. Jen Macklin- Music Teacher/Director
Mrs. Macklin has been involved in almost every form of music since a young age. As a child she studied ballet, tap, and jazz, went on to compete in figure skating, took private voice lessons, performed in music theater, and attended a Performing Arts High School just outside of Washington D.C.
During her time at Westover, Mrs. Macklin has taught every grade level in basics, Focus and Showcase. She has been in many aspects of our shows from writing, to directing and co-directing.
Outside of school, you might find Mrs. Macklin spending time with her husband and two children, attending their gymnastics competitions and bowling tournaments. Mrs. Macklin likes spending time outdoors, taking walks, and laughing with her friends and family.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”
Ms. Theresa White- Band Teacher
Mr. Sean Hutchinson- Technology Integration and Support Specialist
Mr. Hutchinson holds a Bachelors Arts degree in Psychology and Master in Public Administration. In addition, he holds a Elementary K-6 Certification and a Media Specialist Cross K-12 endorsement. He began his teaching career at K.T. Murphy where he taught 4th and 5th grades for 19 years. In 2018 he joined the Westover Community as Media Specialist and transitioned to the Technology Integration Support Specialist position in 2020.
Mr Hutchinson works hard to craft learning spaces where curiosity, knowledge, pedagogy and technology merge; and alchemy occurs. His greatest moments are the “Ah ha moment” where magic happens, minds become engaged, future pathways are imagined and neural odysseys begin.
He believes that all students deserve opportunities to dream the unimaginable. He is driven to make 21 Century skills second nature for all students. Anything less stretches the digital divide and further limits their access to the global information economy.
Mr. Hutchinson’s activism is working to overcome the digital divide by removing real and perceived technological barriers. Creating a space where a child, caregiver or a teacher doesn't stop to think about how to use technology, because it has become part of the intersection between content, instruction and learning. Come and visit the Digital Cranium Lab as it evolves.
Description of the Creative Arts Program
- Instrumental Music
- Physical Education and Movement
- Digital Cranium Lab
- Creative Problem Solving
The drama program at Westover is not designed to make a student an actor, but to teach all students how to be creative, and believe in themselves. Exposure to a range of specifically chosen subject matter i.e., variety of texts,
scripts, fables, folk and fairy tales, improvisation, puppetry, and pantomime and much more, students play a major role in their own learning. Through reading literature, students explore, learn, incorporate and understand role play, acting, expression, interpretation, and story writing/telling. Such exercises are influenced by their own experiences. For example, in a variety of creative ways student learn how to identify a story’s moral, and draw a direct correlation between the story and themselves.
In part, the Drama Curriculum at Westover incorporates complex literature, builds reading skills, enhances expressive writing, increases imagination, develops verbal expression, and builds upon self-esteem, positive interaction and fosters a sense of community with peers. Drama has a direct relationship and connection with the Common Core Standards
at all grade levels.
Fourth- and fifth-grade students are able to sign up for instrument lessons at Westover. Band and orchestra students receive one half-hour lesson per week. Students may choose from the following instruments:
Beginning students learn the basics of playing an instrument, reading music, and performing for an audience. Second-year students learn to play more challenging music with proper tone and technique and focus on performing together as an ensemble. Band and orchestra students usually perform in school concerts and Stamford parades.
Westover has two art teachers, Cathy McElroy and Brooke DiCapua, who collaborate to ensure a cohesive art program. We teach the students based on the national arts standards and we introduce skills and techniques in a wide variety of media. This year we are piloting a themed curriculum with the rest of the APS team that will include global artists each month. We will be introducing current multicultural artists as well as those found in traditional art history.
Fourth and Fifth graders each do a theatrical production we call a Showcase. Students are able to pick the discipline in which they’d like to focus for 10 weeks such as art, drama, dance, music, PE, or media. The students will go to that teacher for the full 10 weeks every day during their APS period. In art, we design and paint the sets and props for the shows. At the end of all this hard work and learning, we come together to rehearse and present to you our final amazing showcase!
The younger students also have an opportunity to focus on one discipline. Two times throughout each year the students will be assigned to one of the disciplines for a “Focus” unit. During this time, they get to have an in-depth study of a theme or art technique. At the end of Focus units families are invited to come to school for Culminating Activities so their children may share what they’ve learned.
We welcome families to volunteer to help in the art program. Please email us to let us know of your interest.
Physical Education and Movement
The physical education program at Westover Elementary School focuses on building a solid psychomotor foundation. Our program allows students to explore, experiment, and experience a wide range of physical activities in a safe environment. The curriculum features a broad variety of concepts and skills designed so that students can establish personal competencies and an appreciation for life-long physical activity. As a result of physical education instruction, the student will be able to:
• Acquire, apply, and evaluate movement concepts and strategies to respond confidently, competently, and creatively in a variety of physical activity settings.
• Access, evaluate, and synthesize health-related information to protect, enhance, and advocate for health, well-being, safety, and participation in physical activity across a lifespan.
• Enjoy and engage in regular movement-based learning experiences and understand and appreciate their significance to personal, social, cultural, and environmental health practices and outcomes.
Digital Cranium Lab
“Transforming Ideas into the Real”
The Digital Cranium Lab is a collaborative work space for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools. The DCL is open to kids, adults, and future entrepreneurs and has a variety of maker equipment including a 3D printer, 3 Cricut Makers, and 2 heat presses. In addition to exposing our community to “making,” the lab also introduces students and families to coding and robotics. One of the goals of the Digital Cranium Lab is to foster a maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring an individual's interests. Ultimately, we want to nurture a person's innate desire to explore and hope they consider a possible future in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
This space is evolving as well. The lab is situated in a defunct Media Center that needs TLC. We are looking for volunteers to co- create a Learning Commons area where our community can come in and check books.We currently have an amazing collection of books that are waiting to be shared. The challenge will be to leverage our existing technology and human capital to create a fully functional learning space.
If you want to be part of the DCL, then please contact me at email@example.com. Together we can “make” a difference.
Creative Problem Solving
In K-2 most Talent Unlimited lessons are literature or seasonal based. Problem Solving looks different in each grade level. In Kindergarten, students do puzzles, work with Keva Planks, color and create with Play Doh. This is where students are introduced to the 5 components of the Talents Unlimited program. By the end of the year students are expected to know that there are 5 Talents, the title of each one, and be comfortable providing verbal responses to Productive Thinking and Communication behaviors #1 and #2 class lists.
In First grade, students continue participating in Productive Thinking and Communication lessons and are introduced to the rest of the Talent Components, Decision Making, Planning, and Forecasting. They also learn how to do a Transformation which is a special Productive Thinking talent. Second grade students are more familiar with the Talent Components so the lessons are less teacher driven and students are given portions to do independently.
In grades 3-5, students put their knowledge of Talent lessons to work as they are introduced to the Engineering Design Process. Beginning in grade 3, Talents Unlimited lessons are embedded into Engineering Design Challenges such as Balloon Rocket Races, Egg Drop, and Marble Runs.
We believe that one of the most important goals for a child in music is for the child to have fun; if a student isn’t enjoying the process, then he or she probably won’t get a lot out of it, nor will they be truly engaged. Every student is different and and our goal is get to know each individual child in order to give them what they need. In music students are engaged in singing, playing instruments, moving to music, learning to read and notate music, creating music, and listening to, analyzing, and evaluating music and music performances.
Through these activities, we are enabling students to enjoy playing and making music, improve listening skills, develop perseverance, develop confidence and an appreciation for music. We believe that music is fundamental in a student's social, emotional, and cognitive development, and enhances reasoning, inspires creativity, encourages critical thinking, self-discipline, problem-solving, decision- making, cooperation, and imagination.
In music we hope to enable our students to learn about themselves, other people, and humanity in general. Music is a skill that can be carried through all aspects of life, no matter what path students may choose. We hope that through music our students students learn to understand and appreciate their own historical and cultural heritage as well as those of other cultures, and therefore begin to understand themselves, others, and there own place in the world in a way that is meaningful.