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CASHS teacher named Educator of the Year

May 25, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- A Chambersburg Area Senior High School social studies teacher was recently named the Educator of the Year at a luncheon sponsored by the Chambersburg Area School District Foundation.

"It was one of the best days of my life," said Thomas VanArsdale said, adding it was especially meaningful because a good friend was the luncheon's keynote speaker.

VanArsdale teaches world history and cultural studies. He works with two philosophies: that no one can take away something you've learned and "don't talk about, be about."

It's perhaps telling of VanArsdale's attitude toward life that the first thought came from Nelson Mandela and the second from rapper MC Lyte.

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Kelly Musser, K-12 social studies supervisor, described VanArsdale in a news release as "a consummate professional, going above and beyond normal expectations to ensure his students receive the best possible education."

VanArsdale credited Musser, the team of principals and the administration in the central office for their leadership.

"They're enthusiastic that we don't leave any children behind. Also, my peers that I teach with are awesome," VanArsdale said.

Musser said VanArsdale "has a strong desire to be a positive role model in the lives of his students. He has a strong sense of morality and always seeks to do what is right, even if it is not easy."

In addition, Musser said he "has taken the time to mentor difficult students for whom other adults tend to have little time. In some cases, Tom's influence has been a turning point in their academic careers."

His wife, Melissa, teaches English at the high school. The couple spends time with colleagues on the weekends and often talks about education.

VanArsdale graduated from Shippensburg (Pa.) University in December 2001, then took a long-term substitute position at Shippensburg Area Senior High School. He's been teaching at Chambersburg Area Senior High School for seven years.

"I can't think of a better place to teach at this point in my career," VanArsdale said.

VanArsdale completed bachelor's and master's degree programs at Shippensburg University, and obtained his principal's certificate there. After learning he was nominated for Educator of the Year, he submitted a binder of student work and examples of his teaching style for consideration.

Also at the luncheon, the Foundation awarded almost $25,000 in grants to educators who successfully integrated technology in their classrooms. Contributions by Orrstown Bank ($15,000) and Waste Management ($10,000) made the grants possible.

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