Every year, Cindy Ardecki chooses a new journey to challenge herself and her students
Posted on 12/04/2019
Smiling face of Cindy Ardecki, teacher at Gar-Field High School, in a hallway with students in the background

Getting your steps in is probably not a problem for most teachers. For Cynthia Ardecki, special educator at Gar-Field High School, meeting a step goal is never a concern on her radar. Ardecki is co-teaching mathematics this year with a caseload of 60 students. This means she partners with one or more teachers, going into classrooms and sharing the responsibilities of planning, instruction, and assessing students. In this way, Ardecki provides support for the students on her caseload so they can remain in the general education classroom, and for any other student who may need it.

An avid hiker and backpacker, Ardecki is on the move even when she’s not teaching. She volunteers inCindy Ardecki in Croatia two national parks, maintaining trails and cabins. She is a certified “sawyer,” which means she can use a chainsaw in the parks to clear trees that have fallen across the trails. And, every summer, Ardecki plans a different trip; some more adventurous and exciting than others.

For 2019, she kept it simple and local, backpacking from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. But in 2018, she spent six weeks backpacking around Croatia, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and Georgia. Prior to that, she hiked to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. She incorporates the skills and training lessons, as well as pictures and songs she learned along her journeys, into her classroom instruction.

Ardecki said she helps her students achieve success by helping them stay on track and holding them accountable. “I touch base with them often (sometimes daily) to talk about grades, behavior, and whatever is going on in their lives,” said Ardecki. “I role play with them about how to interact with an administrator, how to ask a teacher for extra help, and how to apologize. If I had to state any one thing that helps in my job, it would definitely be creating and maintaining a relationship with my students.”

Adjusting Mr. Zuckernick's pink wig“As a teacher, I enjoy finding the ‘hook’ that gets the students engaged for every lesson,” said Ardecki. “I often am silly in class; singing songs that pertain to the subject matter or joking with other teachers to catch students’ attention. I also let them know that I am there to help and will work with them as long as they keep trying. When I hear them singing the songs or repeating the phrases when they are working on their tests, I know this has been successful for learning!”

Ardecki, who has a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation with a concentration in psychology, and a master’s degree in special education with certification in emotional disabilities and learning disabilities, has been teaching at Gar-Field since 2005. She said that being a special education teacher helps you get to know everyone in the building. But her good-natured personality may be the reason she is the school’s official “President” of the Happy Club. In this role she devises fun events to bring staff together to let off steam, laugh, and have fun. She coordinates contests, challenges, potlucks, touch football games, and even karaoke events.

“I never expected to stay at Gar-Field for so long,” said Ardecki. “Then the job was so good that I decided to stay until it wasn’t so good anymore. Fifteen years later, I’m still here! The Special EducationCindy Ardecki with a student Department is amazing and I’m lucky to work with such great educators at Gar-Field.”

Ardecki's positive, team-building attitude and commitment to lifelong learning is Positively PWCS!

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