Q&A with Spring Hill K-5 principal Todd Van Horn


What’s new and exciting these days at Spring Hill K-5?

We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with Mercy behavioral Health and their program called Dancing Classrooms in January.   This is a program designed for fifth graders that we usually participate in during the fall. But due to an injury to the instructor we have postponed the start until January. The program is built around ballroom dancing but has an underlying purpose that promotes social acceptable behaviors between genders. Throughout the last three years of implementation we have seen a decrease in behavioral issues between the students and an increase in parental involvement.

The Dancing Classrooms has been a huge success even with the parents of non-participating students. This was evident during our holiday program held at the New Hazlett Theatre in December.

For the past two years, our 5th grade class has been performing the merengue, the swing, the tango, the fox trot and the rumba to the delight of the audience. When I announced that we would not be performing the dances this year due to Mr. Terry’s injury, the crowd let out a collective “aw”! They were truly disappointed.

What has been your favorite program or experience at Spring Hill in 2012?

For the first time in my seven years as Principal at Pittsburgh Spring Hill K-5 we have been able to have a full-time music/instrumental Teacher. I am blessed to have an extremely talented young lady in this position. It is rare to have such a distinguished professional be able to teach vocal and instrumental music to children.

But Ms. Gretchen Eckroat hasn’t stopped there. She is also the lead of our technology team as well as, our Family and Community Engagement (FACE) specialist. Eckroat has developed and nurtured many of our partnerships herself such as:

Pittsburgh Opera – Opera Connections program bringing students and families to the opera Grades 3-5

Pittsburgh Ballet- movement classes – 1st and 2nd Grades – 3rd grade goes to a ballet performance

Pittsburgh Symphony – Kindergarten – Tiny tots Concert, 2nd grade Meet the Orchestra Concert, 4th Grade Concert

Pittsburgh Citiparks – connecting the Arts with Literature – Dr. Seuss Day, Spring Plants, the scenery for” Seussical” our 3rd grade musical, and Fun Day

RIF program – Free books for the whole school. (3 times a year)

Carnegie Libraries – BLAST program – Bringing Libraries and Students Together- whole school 2 or 3 times a year.

Strong Women Strong Girls- works with 3rd through 5th grade girls after school once a week.

Dancing Classrooms with Mercy Behavioral – All 5th graders participate in this program.

Discover Books- giving each child a book and school supplies at the beginning of the year.

Silver Light Brigade – Radio Club program for selected 3-5 grade students to learn to be on the radio and how to work the equipment. This is an 8 week program

As I said…I am truly blessed to have Ms. Eckroat full-time and even more importantly…as part of my staff!!!

What do teachers and students have to look forward to for the remainder of the school year?

We will continue to reward the students that work hard academically, behaviorally and socially. It’s very hard to achieve success for all without all three factors working simultaneously. Every student, all 300 students, are continuously and daily rewarded intrinsically and extrinsically for their effort and hard work through verbal praise, awards/certificates, and pictorially.

On a side note, I love being at Spring Hill and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have a super staff, great parents and remarkable students!


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