Our Story: AIU News & Spotlights

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  • The Richard King Mellon Foundation Awards the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Math & Science Collaborative a $530,000 Grant to Enhance STEM and Computer Science Career Readiness in High-Needs School Districts

    Posted by AIU on 4/11/2023

    The Math & Science Collaborative (MSC) at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) has been awarded a $530,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to help 11 regional high-needs school districts enhance STEM and computer science (STEM+C) career readiness through a partnership with the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit (WIU), the Consortium for Public Education and Code.org. One of the goals of the grant is to ensure that students who reside in low-income households have access to education to prepare them for future careers in science and technology. Each participating district listed below serves communities in which 34-66% of students reside in low-income households, including one rural district.


    Allegheny County

    Deer Lakes

    East Allegheny

    Elizabeth Forward


    South Allegheny

    West Mifflin

    Westmoreland County

    Derry Area

    Greater Latrobe

    Mt. Pleasant




    A major shift identified in the academic standards for mathematics and for science, technology, engineering and environment is moving beyond simply learning about to figuring out. With this in mind, district teams will evaluate their programming to identify an area within their STEM+C programming that they can strengthen by offering students real-world problem-solving opportunities that teach the essential skills and knowledge required to succeed in a global, knowledge-based, 21st century economy. The teams will experience and draw upon corporate immersion opportunities, community input and instructional activities that embody the Computer Science Teachers Association’s computer science standards, Pennsylvania Core math standards and the state’s recently updated science, technology, engineering and environmental literacy (STEELS) standards.

    The grant will provide Code.org scholarships for professional learning that the AIU provides as a regional partner of Code.org. The training prepares educators with no prior programming experience to use Code.org’s freely available K-12 curricula to teach computer science courses within their schools.

    Districts will also be allocated up to $20,000 in grant funding to be applied toward tuition, substitute reimbursement, teacher stipends and travel expenses associated with a menu of professional learning options related to the district’s identified area(s) of need. Participating educators will have access to professional learning experiences in math and science curriculum and instruction through the AIU/WIU, career awareness and engagement through the Consortium for Public Education and PreK-2 STEM and computer science instruction through interactive Storytime STEM-packs™. In addition, districts will use a portion of their funding to host a community event designed to raise awareness of the STEM+C career opportunities and resulting economic potential when students engage in higher level math, science and computer science courses.


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  • Jeanine Esch and Jennifer Pirring Named Co-chairs for Leading State Advisory Groups

    Posted by AIU on 10/10/2022 2:00:00 PM

    From left: Jeanine Esch, Jennifer Pirring

    The Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) has the distinct privilege of having two administrators serve in leadership roles on stakeholder advisory groups to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education (BSE). Ms. Jeanine Esch has been appointed co-chair of the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee for the Education of Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired (PACES-BVI) and Ms. Jennifer Pirring has been appointed co-chair of Educational Resources for Children with Hearing Loss (ERCHL). 

    The Educational Resources for Children with Hearing Loss (ERCHL) Committee and the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee for the Education of Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired (PACES-BVI) are stakeholder groups that respond to requests from the BSE regarding current issues pertaining to the unique educational needs of students who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, Visually Impaired or DeafBlind.  Membership is by invitation from the BSE and represents myriad stakeholders including students, parents, educators, LEAs, community, and state agencies.  

    “It’s an honor and a privilege,” Ms. Esch said of her role, which she assumed on July 1. She found her nomination especially moving due to being chosen among her peers. “It’s an awesome responsibility,” she added. 

    Ms. Pirring, who has been a member of ERCHL since 2006, said she was “super humbled” when asked to help lead ERCHL as co-chair. She began her new role on Sept. 20. “I see the impact directly with students from work that comes out of the committee,” Ms. Pirring said. “It’s incredible.”

    The committees have been instrumental in working collaboratively with the state to ensure access and opportunities for all individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, Visually Impaired or DeafBlind. Pennsylvania is regularly recognized for the efforts of these committees and their accomplishments.

    Ms. Esch and Ms. Pirring and look forward to working alongside their colleagues from across the Commonwealth to continue this important work. The AIU appreciates their continued efforts to serve every learner.

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  • AIU Back-to-School Celebration Welcomes the New Year!

    Posted by AIU on 8/19/2022 11:00:00 AM

    AIU Staff, families and community members had a blast at the AIU Central Office in Homestead on Aug. 18 for our annual Back-to-School Celebration!

    AIU Executive Director Robert Scherrer emceed the evening's festivities in picture perfect weather, as you'll see in the gallery below!

    The evening included book readings from numerous authors, crafts and balloon art for children, as well as a photo booth, a DJ, food, refreshments and desserts for everyone! We are excited about ringing in a new academic year full of potential with our hardworking team! See you all in the classroom!

    Special thanks to our sponsors for this event: T-Mobile, Highmark, AON Consulting and Weiss Burkhardt Kramer, LLC. We appreciate your support for local education!


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  • AIU in the News: PAsmart Advancing Grant to expand STEM education in underserved communities

    Posted by AIU on 7/18/2022

    Last month, the AIU's Math & Science Collaborative was awarded a $497,344 PAsmart Advancing Grant to support Storytime STEM-packs.

    Storytime STEM-packs support young children in STEM and computer science, making it easy for educators from all backgrounds to engage children in standards-aligned integrated STEM+C materials. The latest grant will focus on high-needs schools and libraries in urban and rural communities and will serve approximately 300 educators and 6,000 children from more than half of PA's counties in 2023. Check out the latest media coverage of this exciting news below. (Some links may require subscription to view.)

    WPXI News Screencap: Two young girls engage with Storytime STEM-Pack activity mat

    Pennsylvania awarding nearly $500,000 to connect more young children with STEM-related topics (WPXI; picked up by Yahoo News)

    Pa. gives AIU nearly $500K to support STEM education in underserved communities (P-G)

    ARIN schools benefit from grant to Homestead’s IU 3 (Indiana Gazette)

    Area educators, students to benefit from STEM grant (The Tribune-Democrat)

    Library to receive STEM packs through grant (New Castle News)

    Local educators to receive innovative STEM learning tools (The Bradford Era)

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  • AIU Math & Science Collaborative Awarded $497,344 PAsmart Advancing Grant

    Posted by AIU on 6/29/2022

    Math & Science Collaborative -- Building the Pillars of STEM

    The Allegheny Intermediate Unit Math & Science Collaborative has been awarded a $497,344 PAsmart Advancing Grant to support Storytime STEM-packs™: STEM + Computer Science. Storytime STEM-packs supports young children in STEM and computer science, making it easy for educators from all backgrounds to engage children in standards-aligned integrated STEM+C materials. The latest grant will focus on high-needs schools and libraries in urban and rural communities and will serve approximately 300 educators and 6,000 children in 2023.

    This award from the Pennsylvania Department of Education builds on the successful implementation of Storytime STEM-packs in Pennsylvania and Iowa through prior grant funding. The latest grant will engage educators from more than half of PA’s counties. Intermediate units will recruit PreK-2 educators and librarians from communities who have been underserved and underrepresented in STEM+C instruction.

    As a result of this new funding, educators will receive one comprehensive kit that includes one Storytime STEM+C Adventure, one science/engineering Storytime STEM-pack and one mathematics Storytime STEM-pack. Additionally, each intermediate unit will receive two kits for inclusion in their lending library, which allows any educator in their footprint to use the materials in their classrooms.

    Storytime STEM-packs™ integrate popular children’s books with STEM and computer science, using problem-driven STEM activities and Bee-Bot robots for story-themed challenges on colorful vinyl mats. Educators will be able to choose from four different Storytime STEM Adventures and 16 Storytime STEM-packs to best fit their curriculum needs. Participating classroom educators and children’s librarians will be involved in a half-day of Storytime STEM-packs synchronous virtual professional learning. This professional learning has a proven track-record of making educators comfortable with implementing STEM and computer science with their children.

    Partners already committed include 13 IUs (including Head Start), 35 public libraries, the University of Pittsburgh’s Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity, AIU Mon Valley School, and AIU member school districts.

    Recently, Storytime STEM-packs was included in the National Science Foundation funded 2022 STEM for ALL video showcase and garnered praise and positive comments from fellow researchers and the public.



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  • AIU TaC Coordinators Earn Certification as Data Wise Coaches through Harvard Graduate School of Education Initiative

    Posted by AIU on 6/15/2022

    Data Wise logo

    Congratulations to Training and Consultation (TaC) Coordinators Shelly Burr, Ed.D., and Carrie Frohnapfel, Ed.D., on completing a two-year process to become Certified Data Wise Coaches. The Data Wise Project is an initiative of the Harvard Graduate School of Education that supports educators in using collaborative data inquiry to drive continuous improvement of teaching and learning for all students. Certified Data Wise Coaches coach teams of educators in schools as they launch and work their way through the cycle of inquiry. To date, there are only 145 Certified Data Wise Coaches worldwide, across five countries. Kudos to our two AIU colleagues for their commitment to data-informed decision-making to ensure the success of all students!

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  • Three Local English as a Second Language (ESL) students win scholarships to attend diplomacy camp

    Posted by AIU on 5/11/2022

    Congrats to 2022 Luminari ESL Merit Scholar Mitantsiky Rakotozafy, a student at Jefferson Middle School in Mount Lebanon School District. He is a multicultural international student from France with familial roots in Madagascar.

    Mitantsiky, whose photo appears to the left, earned the honor as a winner of Luminari’s “I want to be an Ambassador” essay competition. In his award-winning essay, Mitantsiky explained his desire to expand his knowledge of other cultures and sharpen his language and communication skills.

    Luminari’s annual essay competition invites Pittsburgh-area students in grades 7–11 to write about what diplomacy means to them. Winners receive a full scholarship to attend Luminari’s summer enrichment program “I Want to be an Ambassador!” to build and strengthen skills of everyday diplomacy. Campers will learn to effectively represent their families, schools and communities and start solving problems at a grassroots level.  This year’s camp runs from June 14‑22, with four days in Pittsburgh and three days in Washington, D.C., where students will visit several embassies and engage with diplomats and dignitaries from around the world.

    Learning about diplomacy gives more confidence when speaking English,” Mitantsiky wrote in his essay. “I want to be an ambassador because it allows me to meet other people, to learn similarities and differences between each community and solve problems around the world.”

    “Mitantsiky is a great student who excels in every class at Jefferson Middle School,” says Bernadette Choura, AIU K‑12 ESL teacher. “He has improved his language skills amazingly in the eight months he has been here. One sign of comprehension is when a learner begins to understand humor using the second language. Mitantsiky has already demonstrated quite a sense of humor with his little jokes and funny actions during our class discussions in ESL class. He is a delightful student to have in class.”

    Sisters Zahraa and Hawraa Al Jurboori of Woodland Hills High School will also attend the camp with full scholarships – 80% funded through Luminari and 20% through private funding. They were born in Iraq and lived as refugees in Turkey for eight years before moving to the U.S. last summer.

    “They are two of the hardest working students that I have had the pleasure of teaching,” says Karen Giovannelli, AIU K‑12 ESL teacher. “Zahraa and Hawraa both are dedicated to bringing peace and support to others. They have seen the devastation of war. Zahraa wants to help others by becoming a doctor, and Hawraa wants to become a lawyer.”

    Benjamin Quint, a rising senior at North Allegheny Senior High School, was also named a 2022 Luminari Merit Scholar for his essay submission. Congrats to all!

    Luminari is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization founded to support and create activities that broaden minds, inspire innovations and promote community engagement. 


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  • AIU English as a Second Language Teacher Writes Amazon No. 1 new release and establishes ESL scholarship with proceeds

    Posted by AIU on 4/25/2022

    Author with book


    Melody Devenney, AIU English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, wrote a children’s book that spent a week as an Amazon No. 1 New Release in the ESL category – "Filled Perfectly and Wrapped in Culture, A Story of Family, Food and Friends."

    Melody has worked with the AIU for four years and currently teaches in the West Jefferson Hills School District with the book's illustrator, art teacher Alexandra (Aly) Crouse Bowser.

    The realization of Melody’s childhood dream to write a book was also the catalyst for a new scholarship that will help others pursue dreams of higher education. Melody is donating her portion of the book’s proceeds to create Devenney's Cultural Awareness Fund for English Language Learners, a scholarship that will be annually awarded to at least one ESL student.

    Melody was inspired to write while standing in front of a display of books by Latina women in Target during Hispanic Heritage Month. She wrote the book that same night, and asked Aly to come aboard after learning about her illustration experience.

    The book is centered around an ESL classroom in which a teacher invites her students of varying international backgrounds to prepare and share food from their respective cultures. Melody based the teacher character on her mother, who passed away two years ago. Melody’s mother, the daughter of a first-generation Puerto Rican immigrant, learned Spanish as her first language. “[My mom and her siblings] learned Spanish at home because my grandmother didn’t speak English well,” says Melody.

    Like her book's characters, Melody’s family celebrates their own rich culture. “My whole family speaks Spanish, eats Puerto Rican food and listens to salsa music,” she says. “We try to keep that alive.”

    Just six days after her book hit the market as a print-on-demand paperback, it became the No. 1 new release in Amazon's ESL category.

    To celebrate that exciting milestone, the principals of Gill Hall Elementary and McClellan Elementary, where Aly also teaches, bought a copy for each of their teachers. The book has been purchased by people in three other countries and has sold more than 300 copies in the first four months. At the time of this writing, the book had earned 11 Amazon ratings, all five out of five stars.

    Book Cover Art: Teacher with four international students

    Filled Perfectly and Wrapped in Culture: A Story of Family, Food and Friends, by Melody Devenney, is available for $14.99 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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  • AIU Holds 'Show Your Heart' AED & CPR Event

    Posted by AIU on 2/14/2022

    AIU Show Your Heart 2020

    On Friday, February 11, the AIU hosted “Show Your Heart” with Jamie Moder.

    The event was attended by AIU staff from across Allegheny County and focused on learning Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) techniques and the appropriate use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). The course inched our staff closer toward attaining American Red Cross Certification in CPR and AED for our staff.

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  • AIU Holds Legislative Breakfast with Regional Leaders

    Posted by AIU on 1/13/2022

    Several members of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Executive Leadership Team welcomed local representatives to the AIU Central Office during a legislative breakfast on January 13. 

    The annual event, led by AIU Executive Director Dr. Robert Scherrer, included overviews from each of our divisions about services provided to communities, as well as the AIU's ongoing guidance to our partners throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Discussions followed each overview, with local representatives learning about the impact of the AIU programs and services in their respective districts.

    We thank those who attended the event, including Reps. Bob Brooks, Emily Kinkead, Austin Davis, Lori Mizgorski, Dan Miller and Dan Deasy.

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