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Students to choose from many new electives

Baldwin+High+School+serves+the+Baldwin%2C+Whitehall%2C+and+Baldwin+Township+communities.
Evelyn Esek
Baldwin High School serves the Baldwin, Whitehall, and Baldwin Township communities.

Students soon will be selecting courses for the 2024-25 school year. This year, students will have a large number of new electives to choose from.

New DIY course

In the new course DIY 101, students will learn how to fix a sink, change a car’s oil, build a cabinet, install a ceiling fan, and other common household maintenance tasks.

Teacher Christopher Tator hopes that the course will foster independence.

“Ideally, I want kids to be able to do it themselves,” Tator said. “Being able to fix things for yourself greatly increases your confidence. And if I can instill that confidence in students, that’s a benefit.”

The class will focus on at-home fixups. Tator thinks that more students should be armed with the skills they need to fix everyday issues without having to call a contractor every time.

“The idea is, when you have a house, can you maintain it?” Tator said.

The course will likely be a one-semester elective available to all grade levels. 

Tator thinks that the need for this course comes from a common fear of home repair projects, and he hopes to dispel that worry by showing students that they can, indeed, do it themselves.

“All of these things are surprisingly simple. People are afraid to do it, though, because they’re afraid they’ll break something. I want to help try and get rid of that fear.”

Social Studies

For Mr. Geyer, traditional history curricula are not the only means of inspiring in students a passion for the past. With his two new courses, Geyer hopes to enrich the scope of history education at Baldwin.

The first course, Sports and Pop Culture: a Historical Perspective, will explore the rise of sports and entertainment as a centerpiece of American life.

“As the U.S. became industrialized and moved away from being a farm-centered society, people went from having almost no money to suddenly having disposable income,” Geyer said. “So with this new spending money available, sports were born.”

The course will track the rise of American entertainment – from the radio to baseball to boxing – and intertwine it with major events in 20th-century history. With the curriculum, Geyer hopes to tap into a previously unmined reservoir of student interest.

“Not everyone is super invested in traditional historical events,” Geyer said. “So hopefully with this course we can connect sports and pop culture to the larger American story.”

Geyer will seek to address another area of student interest with his second new course, Journey Across Borders: A History of Immigration in the US and Pittsburgh. In this class, students will explore the causes of immigration to the region and its impact on local history and culture.

“We have a lot of diversity at Baldwin,” Geyer said. “We’ll be looking at what brought people here in the early 20th century, and what is bringing people here now.”

Geyer hopes to help students connect with their own family histories.

“We’ll be examining the reasons why people’s families might have left certain countries, and the events that were happening at that time. People’s stories are unique personally, but there are a lot of cultural similarities in our stories that can bring us together.”

Elsewhere in social studies, the CHS Careers and Society class will be renamed Personal Finance and Economics. 

That new name will be the only change in the course, and that is being done to meet a state requirement. As of 2026, the state will be requiring all schools to offer a personal finance course. 

“We’ve been ahead teaching things like budgeting, credit card use, and insurance. We will continue to meet these state requirements,” teacher Richard Deemer said.

BCIT

In the business, computer and information technology department, a new Introduction to Cyber Security class will be added. 

“This course will teach students the necessary  skills they need to begin a future in the cybersecurity field,” BCIT teacher Shantal Baldensperger said. 

The semester class will focus on areas such as encryption, forensics, and threat vectors, among others. The curriculum will, in essence, center around security over the web.

“The course will teach students how to keep information safe, which is important in today's world,” Baldensperger said. 

“For those interested in becoming a security analyst, network administrator, or even digital forensic examiner, this class will provide good information,” she said. 

“With this course, opportunities are opened up because students can have a head start on their career and cybersecurity knowledge,” Baldensperger said.  

Preschool program

Baldwin’s preschool program is expanding, with Preschool 1 now available to juniors and seniors, and a new Preschool 2 course added in which students will spend part of their day helping Baldwin-Whitehall teachers with kindergarten or elementary students.

In years past, there was only one Preschool class, and it was limited to seniors. Students in the class work with preschool children who come to the high school

Under the new plan, juniors who complete the Preschool 1 course will be able to take Preschool 2 as seniors, and they will work with a district elementary or kindergarten teacher for half the school day, five days a week, teacher Ginny Pfatteicher said. 

“The changes will open up more opportunities for students to work with young children,” Pfatteicher said.  

Supt. Dr. Randal Lutz came up with the idea for the Preschool 2 course to provide students who wish to be teachers with more real-world experience, Pfatteicher said. 

“They’re basically going to be student teachers,” Pfatteicher said. 

“The course will help you apply the knowledge that you will be gaining in college to the experiences that you already had” at Baldwin, she said. 

Music

The music department will be offering new courses exploring the art behind making music itself. 

“There are two new courses. One is called CHS Beatmaker, which we are doing in cooperation with Pitt,” Tranter said. “Students will be working mainly on composing hip-hop with Ableton Live, a computer software.”

The other course in Music and Film, a course in which students will explore the soundtracks of epic movies.

“We will cover films like Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Indiana Jones, while also learning a  bit about the composers behind them,” Tranter said.

Both courses are semester electives that are open to all students regardless of musical experience. 

“We’re trying to tap into both the kids’ musical interest and the latest technology,” Tranter said. “Artificial intelligence, which is taking over the world, will also take a role in the course.”

Elsewhere in the department, the Piano 1 and Piano 2 courses will be split from their current full-year format into semester courses, so students can take Piano levels 1 through 4 in two years. By lowering the piano commitment from a full year to a semester, Tranter hopes to draw the interest of students who, though interested in learning the piano, may not have been able to fit the class into their schedules.

 

Mathematics

In math, the new Discrete Mathematics course will focus on real-world applications.

“The class is for those kids who are going to college, but don’t need calculus. It’s also for those kids who want to see what math is like in the real world,” math teacher Donna McCord said. “We look at, for example, the most cost-effective way for a post office driver to get around a neighborhood. We look at voting, finances, investing. … We do math in the real world.”

This course offers an alternative to the highly conceptual math of calculus, offering a more grounded approach – especially for students not going into a STEM-oriented field. 

“It’s real-world application – the part of math that in a regular class we don’t often have time for,” McCord said.

McCord hopes that students respond favorably to the course, as she feels that the current math curriculum is somewhat narrow in scope.

“We don’t have enough math options here,” McCord said. “We should open up our options.”

Students need to have taken Algebra II to sign up for the class. McCord expects a positive response from students.

“I love teaching Discrete Mathematics,” McCord said. “I taught this course for 10 years in the state of Indiana.”

In addition, Richard Fochtman will be teaching AP Precalculus, as a more rigorous way to introduce students to Trig and Precalc. 

“A lot of the class will be following the same format as Honors Trig and Precalc, but there may be a few extra topics and some that get cut out depending on what the College Board has planned for the year,” Fochtman said. 

The plan is for the course to follow the block schedule format. 

“I am excited to see this new format and have more time to give my students hands-on studying opportunities, as well as a better understanding of how these topics can apply in real-world situations,” Fochtman said.

Fochtman says he recommends this course to any students interested in pursuing STEM. 

“This class will definitely prepare students that are looking to go into upper levels of math,” Fochtman said. “Even if you are not going that route, students can earn college credit through this class by taking the AP exam.”

This course will be open to any sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have completed Algebra II. 

English Literature

When it comes to English class, next year’s juniors for the first time will have the opportunity to choose among not only full-year options but also the half-year elective courses previously available only to seniors.

“The district is moving toward major schedule changes in two years, so this is a sort of first step,” Harrold said. “Rather than only being able to take two semester courses or one full-year course (as a senior), students can take four half-year courses or two full-year courses” throughout junior and senior years.

In expanding English options for juniors, Harrold and others in the English department also hope to test out the block scheduling idea the district may implement on a much larger scale in the 2025-26 school year.

Moreover, by offering more options, teachers hope to limit students’ experience of scheduling FOMO.

“Previously, seniors would take my two classes and say, ‘Oh, I wish I could have taken Mr. Dolak’s as well,’ ” Harrold said. “So, why not give them the option to do both?”

In addition, Krystal Schulte will be teaching a class with a simple motto: “Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument.”

The CHS Argument and Debate semester course will prepare students for the modern world by helping them to speak and think with more persuasiveness and clarity.

“I think that debate and communication are skills that students need after Baldwin, whether they are going to college or right to a career,” Schulte said. “The course is focused on skill development with creative thinking, critical thinking, communication, and researching.”

Because it will be one of Baldwin’s CHS courses, students will be able to earn college credit.

“You are going to pay $75 per credit, or $225 total. Once you pay that fee and pass the class, you can get one course or three credits at Pitt. These credits are transferable to other schools that accept Pitt credits,” Schulte said.

Students can also be a part of a unique experience outside the classroom, she said.

“Pitt will choose the best debaters from the class and bring them to Pitt’s campus, and they will engage in a debate with other students enrolled in the course across the region,” Schulte said.

Baldwin also plans to add an Introduction to Linguistics and Language course for the first time next year. German teacher Francesca Cappetta hopes that the semester-long course will spark student interest.

“Linguistics is the study of language,” Cappetta said. “We will analyze how people speak in different languages and dialects as well as how they learn it.” 

Linguistics will be co-taught by Cappetta and English teacher Caitlin Dee. 

“There are components of both the English language and foreign language, so we can see not only how English speakers communicate, but also everyone around the world,” Cappetta said.

The course will cover the five components of linguistics, include research, and incorporate AI. 

This course is aiming to help students to gain an understanding of what it means to communicate, Cappetta said. Students interested in communication, different cultures, and the furthering of analytical skills should be interested in this new course, she said.

It will be open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. 

Elsewhere in English, teacher Cassidy Cooper said her yearlong Challenging the Canon course will be split into two separate semester courses that will be open to juniors and seniors. 

“The new semester change is to help ensure students can get as many different classes as they want,” Cooper said. 

The first semester course will be called Modern Storytelling, while the second semester course will be called English for Young Adults. The courses stand independently; students can take one or both.  

Modern Storytelling will compare modern-day literature to classic novels, Cooper said, allowing students to explore universal themes in literature. In English for Young Adults, students will have more choice in their learning to include independent novel studies and inquiry opportunities. 

Additionally, the Sports and British Literature elective, as taught by English teacher Jason Dolak, will have its name changed to Sports Literature and Culture. It will consider how the development of sport has affected societies both locally and abroad. 

Physical Education

In physical education, a ninth grade strength training class will be introduced to help freshmen transition into high school PE classes. 

“We want to get the freshmen in there to do more of an introductory class,” physical education teacher Chris Crighton said. 

This class will focus on the specific needs of those new to weightlifting. 

“In this class, kids will learn the proper technique and form. It will be more structured,” Crighton said. 

Previously, freshmen had to take the regular strength training class, which includes upperclassmen. That can be intimidating for some of the younger students who are new to lifting, Crighton said. 

Crighton hopes the new course will provide a smoother transition to strength training specifically and PE classes in general. 

The course will likely be part of the piloting of a block scheduling system next year.

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About the Contributors
Alyssa Thayer
Alyssa Thayer, Multimedia Editor
Multimedia Editor Alyssa Thayer is a senior in her second year on the Purbalite. She can be found dancing, reading, or listening to Taylor Swift. 
Kevin Hutchinson
Kevin Hutchinson, Staff Writer
Senior Kevin Hutchinson is a third-year staff writer. He enjoys following politics, watching football, and spending time with his girlfriend. 
Asmita Pokharel
Asmita Pokharel, Entertainment Editor
Entertainment Editor Asmita Pokharel is a senior and a third-year member of the Purbalite. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her friends, go on walks, and watch soccer.
Alayna Scanlon
Alayna Scanlon, Multimedia Editor
Multimedia Editor Alayna Scanlon is a junior and a second-year Purbalite member. When not listening to music, she can be found doing competition cheerleading, martial arts, or track, and hanging out with friends, painting, or shopping. 
Evelyn Esek
Evelyn Esek, News Editor
News Editor Evelyn Esek is a senior and a third-year member of the Purbalite. She is in the BHS color guard and loves knitting and crocheting, collecting vinyl records, and listening to music.
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