G. Washington portraits have special meaning in Lehighton
Aaron Sebelin, principal of the Shull-David Elementary School in Lehighton and the Mahoning Elementary School, stands with Shull-David students Kendyl Fichtel and Nicholas Ziegenfuss, both age 7 and second-grade students at Shull-David, in front of the Rembrandt Peale portrait of George Washington, which hangs in the foyer of the school.
A pair of Jim Thorpe grandparents took their grandchildren, who live in Palmerton, on a trip to George Washington's Mount Vernon Plantation in Virginia.
This evolved into two Rembrandt Peale portraits of the first president being sent for display in the Shull-David Elementary School in Lehighton and Mahoning Township Elementary School, from Mount Vernon.
The result was a more profound emphasis on Presidents Day this year at those two schools than in previous years.
Also sent to the two schools were American flags which flew over Mount Vernon.
Aaron Sebelin, principal of the elementary schools, explains how he obtained the portraits and flags, as well as educational materials, for his school.
Sebelin, who lives in Palmerton, said his parents, Joe and Karen Sebelin of Jim Thorpe, had taken his children, Kyle, 8, and Justin, 7, to Mount Vernon.
"My kids came back and were so interested in American history, particularly George Washington," explained the principal. "I figured if they're 7 and 8, kids in my school would be interested."
Sebelin, who has been the principal of the two schools for the past seven years, contacted Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens. He was advised of the Mount Vernon Portrait Program, which responded with the portraits, flags, and education kits.
The letter accompanying the materials said, "We are very pleased to present your school with a full-size replica of Rembrandt Peale's famous 'porthole' portrait of George Washington ... We are delighted that it will hang in a prominent place at your school for years to come."
The flag is part of a "celebration kit." The letter from James C. Rees, president and CEO of Mount Vernon Estates & Gardens, stated, "Your students can garner even more knowledge about Washington by referring to our website at MountVernon.org. There you can find your school on a special map illustrating the growing network of schools which have participated in the portrait program."
Sebelin said the educational materials sent to the school had interactive lessons in math, history and science.
He added that the timing for the Washington items was great because of the recent presidential election.
"Teachers used this not only to talk about the election, but also about Washington," noted Sebelin. "He was a two-term president, he served in the military, he was the first elected president. Some of the teachers did special activities in their classrooms. It's amazing to have kids 7 and 8 years old rattle off facts about George Washington."
Some of the youngsters showed off their newly-gained knowledge of the "Father of Our Country."
Cole Smith, 7, a second-grade students, stated, "He was born Feb. 22, 1732. He lived on a farm in Mount Vernon."
Classmate Brenna Hunt, 7, added, "He would be 281 years old. He was in the Revolutionary War."
The students wore hats they made in honor of Washington.
Sebelin said the PTO will be framing the flag so it can be displayed near the portrait.