Mackrille principal earns American Heart Association honor
Mackrille principal earns American Heart Association honor
Posted on 12/30/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Dec. 15, 2014 — Edith E. Mackrille Elementary School Principal Judith Drenzek has been named the 2013-2014 Connecticut American Heart Association Heart Partner for her work in promoting health- and nutrition-related educational programs at the school.
Drenzek earned praise from the American Heart Association for bringing a “teaching garden” to her building and involving students in caring for the crops, using produce from the garden in the cafeteria, and holding a Jump Rope for Heart event last year.
Only one school district, individual school or person who embraces the American Heart Association’s mission is chosen for the Heart Partner honor in Connecticut each year, according to Susan McGrath, regional director for the youth market in Connecticut for the AHA. The award was presented at the Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance fall conference.
“Judy Drenzek is truly a Heart Partner with the American Heart Association,” McGrath said. “She had a busy and exciting year last year.  In addition to participating in Jump Rope for Heart, she had a very busy and fruitful year with her teaching garden.  The students at Mackrille participated in planting, harvesting, tasting, and eating vegetables and herbs in their courtyard.  Judy incorporated her cafeteria staff as well.”
Drenzek’s efforts in the area started in fall 2013 when she secured a donation from the American Heart Association to install a teaching garden in an enclosed Mackrille courtyard. The AHA has a program that helps schools across the country teach students about nutrition and healthy foods through gardening, and provided Mackrille with several hundreds of dollars in established plants, gardening equipment, raised beds and soil.
Drenzek then worked with classroom teachers to incorporate the garden in science lessons and gave students chances to water and monitor the crops. Students also helped harvest herbs and veggies later in the year, and Drenzek recruited parents to help with weeding and maintaining the garden over summer break.
This fall, students again helped harvest crops like tomatoes, peppers and chives. But this time, Drenzek took things a step further by working with West Haven Public Schools Food Services Director Meg Kingston to show youngsters how their garden crops could be used in the kitchen.
Kingston and Food Services staff members offered a cafeteria lesson in making pesto and tomato sauce, showing students ingredients that went into each and how they were blended together. The brief demonstration included a taste test, which earned rave reviews from the kids.
As for Jump Rope for Heart, Drenzek brought the event to the school last spring.
“We made it part of our day, with parent volunteers coming in and students participating in various fitness stations in the gym during recess,” Drenzek said. “Parents came that evening and participated then too, so it became a family night.”
Drenzek said she plans to continue with Jump Rope for Heart and the teaching garden, and have teachers use the garden as inspiration for student journal entries or “how-to” write-ups so that it’s part of the writing curriculum as well.
“We couldn’t have done all of this without the help of our parent volunteers and the support of our teachers, and I’m so glad we’ve brought these programs to Mackrille,” Drenzek said. “It’s all about what we can do as a Mackrille community to help our students develop healthy habits.”


Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114; susan.misur@whschools.org