Ambridge Area School District

901 Duss Avenue, Ambridge PA 15003 | 724.266.2833


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Article from the Beaver County times 12/3/15 - Written by Scott Tady:

Written almost 200 years ago, the original story was a scary fairy-tale intended only for adults.

A few storyline tweaks turned "The Nutcracker" into a family favorite and cherished holiday tradition.

Two local "Nutcracker" productions open this weekend -- at Ambridge Area High School and the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh -- with another "Nutcracker" stepping forward later this month at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland.

Each show uniquely presents the dreamlike, coming-of-age tale, complete with Mouse King, Sugar Plum Fairy and toy soldiers, told with whimsy, beauty and rousing choreography.

Read more: The Nutcracker

     The Ambridge Area High School Marching Band, under the direction of Marie Dewar, has accepted the invitation to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and represent Ambridge, PA in the Waikiki Holiday Parade.

     Each year the Waikiki Holiday Parade is held on the Friday after Thanksgiving in Honolulu, Hawaii, honoring Pearl Harbor Survivors and American military. To date, hundreds of mainland and Hawaiian bands have marched the parade since its inaugural year in 1998.   Thousands of spectators, residents and visitors gather to watch this parade which hosts marching bands, Pearl Harbor Survivors, service bands, military units, local officials, dignitaries and entertainers. The parade begins at 7:00pm at Fort DeRussy and ends at Kapiolani Park. The scenic parade route travels approximately 1.5 miles through Waikiki along the oceanfront of beautiful, torch-lit Kalakaua Avenue. Bands who participate in the parade also provide a wreath laying ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial and a commemorative performance at the USS Battleship Missouri in Pearl Harbor.

     While in Hawaii, the group will tour the island of Oahu, and include a visit to the Dole Pineapple Plantation and Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore and hike the Diamond Head crater. In preparation for the trip, the band has been practicing several patriotic songs and has been discussing the history of Pearl Harbor in class.

“We are thrilled to be working with Marie Dewar and the Ambridge band on their trip,” said Parade Founder Jake Peppers. The student’s experiences at Pearl Harbor and meeting survivors will be something they will remember for a lifetime. We are honored to help create this memory.”

Read more: Marching Band at Pearl Harbor - November 2016



Highland hosted a Family STEAM night on February 22.  Students and their families participated in an evening of fun, hands-on activities and challenges.   The evening included cookies provided by Highland’s PTO and door prizes. 


There were nine interactive stations: 

Station #1 – Little Bits  Little Bits are a platform of electronic building blocks.  The bits snap together with magnets.  Families invented something using Little Bits. 

Station #2 - Legos and Blocks  Families were challenged to build a replica of the Washington Monument. 

Station # 3 – Art Bot Using a cup, marker, toothbrush, and tape, families worked to invent an Art Bot that created art autonomously. 

Station #4 – Gears, Gears, Gears Families engaged critical thinking skills as they engineered with colorful gears.

Station #5 – Bee Bot Families programed our Bee Bots to follow commands. 

Station #6 – Famous Failures – Families read through examples of famous people who turned failure into success. 

Station #7 – Puzzlets This award winning tech-ed platform combines hands on play with interactive gaming.  Station #8 – Squishy Circuits Families built circuit together and explored electricity.

Station #9 – Used Book Sale Thank you to the Interact clubs at the Jr. High and High School for collecting used books for the sale. 


The evening was made possible through a grant from Highmark, Shell, and the Beaver County Educational Trust.


Special thanks are extended to Mrs. Hoover, the Highland PTO, and the volunteers for the evening - Mrs. Fisher, Mrs. Fedora, Caylin Fedora, Mrs. Kuhel, Ms. J. Kuhel, Mrs. Bupp, Mrs. Bell, Savannah Bell, Talan Bell, Sami Freed, Riley Sas, and Mr. and Mrs. Webb.  Thank you also to Mrs. Henry, Mrs. Carpenter, Mrs. McCoy, Goldie and Jane. 


STEAM students participated in the largest learning event in history!

Computer Science Education Week

December 4-10

STEAM students will participate in computer science education throughout the 2nd nine weeks.  :  The Hour of Code is a global movement that introduces tens of millions of students worldwide to computer science, inspiring kids to learn more, breaking stereotypes, and leaving them feeling empowered.  


Here are some examples of their work:

Flappy Bird



Sports Game:

Star Wars



Dash and Beebot Robots paraded down the State Street hallway today.  After reading Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet, 2nd grade STEAM students decorated robots for a State Street parade.  Students decorated and drove Beebots or Dash in the parade.  Dash was equipped with a xylophone attachment.   Students used the xylophone to program Dash to play music during the parade. 



See the video here:  State Street Holiday STEAM Parade

On December 6th – 8th, The Ambridge Area School District Performing Arts Academy presented The Nutcracker in the Bridger Theatre.   Produced and Directed by Ken Nickel, our Performing Arts Academy students had the opportunity to shine on stage.  

Highlighted in these photos are a few of the lead dancers from Ambridge High School.    Senior Megan Vichich played the Columbine Doll, The Russian, and the Mouse King.    Junior Olivia Escamilla played Clara’s friend, a Snowflake, and a Mirlitron.   Junior Kayleigh Gisborne, Sophomore Sedona Rogers and Freshman Bethany Sweigart all played toy soldiers and parents at the party.  In addition, several employees and students from the JROTC program also helped out during opening party scene.  

Be sure to check our Facebook page and the latest edition of our Bridger Bulletin newsletter for more photos from the event.


Read more: The Nutcracker 

6th grade:  Students are researching earthquakes.  They are designing an earthquake-proof structure.  Students will work in teams and assume the role of architect, treasurer, or project manager.


5th Grade:  Students are researching Native Americans and they are engineering models of Native American dwellings. 


These girls are constructing a Native American dwelling called a Chickee.

4th Grade: Students are learning about Forces and Motion through the Hotwheels Speedometry curriculum.  


These fourth grade boys are using Hot Wheels cars and tracks to learn about potential and kinetic energy.

3rd Grade:  Students are learning about circuitry using Little Bits.  Little Bits are electronic building blocks.     


These third grade boys collaborate as they work with Little Bits.

BCET Teacher of the Year

The Ambridge Area School District is pleased to announce that one of its teachers has been nominated for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year recognition.

Mrs. Nicole Darroch, a K-5 STEAM Educator and Technology Integrator for Highland and State Street elementary schools, was nominated for PA Teacher of the Year by the Beaver County Educational Trust (BCET). BCET announced its nomination of Mrs. Darroch on Friday, Sept. 27.

“We are so excited to nominate Nicole for this honor,” said Mrs. Jamie Connelly, BCET Executive Director. “Nicole was honored at the BCET Coming Together for Education event in May as one of the BCET Teachers of the Year. In 2018, Nicole’s award-winning grant was focused on Storytime STEAM packs. BCET is proud to support enthusiastic teachers like Nicole for their creativity, ingenuity and dedication.”

The PA Teacher of the Year Program is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National State Teacher of the Year. The program recognizes excellence in teaching by honoring K-12 educators in public education who have made outstanding academic contributions to school-aged children in Pennsylvania. The nomination process for teachers for the 2021 program is underway. Educators, parents, students and community members are encouraged to acknowledge the efforts of teachers in their community through the nominations process. Twelve finalists will be selected from the applications received.

“I am honored by the nomination,” said Mrs. Darroch. “The Beaver County Educational Trust supports great educational efforts throughout Beaver County. I appreciate their recognition of the work I have done in the elementary STEAM programs at Highland and State Street.”

In addition to her latest nomination, Mrs. Darroch also has received the following recognition:

  • Beaver County Teacher of the Year 2019;

  • STEAM Catalyst Grant Recipient – Allegheny Intermediate Unit ($7,500 grant in September 2018);

  • Target Field Trip Grant Recipient (December 2018);

  • Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation Teacher of the Month (March 2017);

  • Beaver County Educational Trust Grant Recipient (2015, 2017, 2018 & 2019); and

  • Society of Analytical Chemists Equipment Grant Recipient (2016 & 2018).


Kenneth Nickel, Director

nickelKenneth Nickel, a Pittsburgh native, began ballet training at the age of eleven, appearing in productions with Veronica Tennant and Earl Kraul of the National Ballet of Canada.  Trained in Philadelphia and New York as well as Pittsburgh, Nickel joined the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1977, was promoted to soloist in 1980, and by 1982 was a principal dancer.

Upon leaving PBT in 1986, he held a position of principal dancer with Ballet West and later with Dallas Ballet Company.  His repertoire included Coppelia, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Serenade, Sleeping Beauty, Vestpri, LaSylphide, and In the Still of the   Night.

As first place winner of the National Arts and Letters Dance Competition, Kenneth Nickel was also one of the 1988 and 1989 Most Outstanding Young Men of America award.  He has participated in the World Ballet Concours Competition in Japan and in the International Ballet Competition in Moscow.  A frequent guest artist with the Louisiana Dance Foundation, he has performed in Rudolph Nureyev’s Giselle, danced with Nina Kovak’s company in Venezuela, and appeared with Kozlovs.  Nickel also served as advisor in promotions for the Tri Star movie “TAP.”

As Artistic Director of Ballet Orlando, he founded the Royal Dance Festival and received the 1990 & 1991 Dictionary of Distinguished Leadership in the Arts Community award.  In the spring of 1993, Nickel choreographed the ballet Cinderella for the Metropolitan Ballet of San Diego.

In 1995 he joined La Roche College as Artistic Director of Performing Arts, implementing a six-week intensive professional summer dance program as well as a summer dance festival, Fete de la Danse.  In 1996 he established a B.A. Degree for Performing Arts in Dance.  Also while at La Roche, Kenneth developed a public school arts program for dance, Resource Education Arts Development for Youths (R.E.A.D.Y.) In his third summer at La Roche, Kenneth began a program with the Very Special Arts of Pennsylvania, in which children with disabilities went to the college to learn different art forms.  Their work was presented with the Fete de la Danse that summer.

Ken was also elected Vice President for Dance for the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.  To promote opportunities for students to dance Kenneth arranged an affiliation with Eddie Toussant, a gold medalist choreographer.  This allowed for the dancers to travel to Haiti to perform.  Kenneth also joined efforts with Ballet Theatre International in New Mexico.  With the directors of this company the students were able to perform at the Kennedy Center and in Michigan.  He also formed a strong bond with Buffalo City Ballet through which dancers performed in many ballets in Pittsburgh, New York, and Tennessee.  While involved with these affiliations and La Roche Kenneth choreographed The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Pas de Dix, Cinderella, and many original ballets for various companies around the country. Mr. Nickel as well teaches Master Classes and coaches dancers on various roles that they are performing in specifically male Soloists / Principal dancers in Pas de Deux’s

Mr. Nickel  joined California University of Pennsylvania  ( 2000-2003 )where he designed and worked on an already approved Bachelor of Arts Degree in dance. In February of 2007 Mr. Nickel directed and produced a very special tribute performance  to Pittsburgh’s late  Mayor, Mayor Bob O’Connor at  Heinz Hall  “ Continuing The Dream “in which over 400 artist’s participated in from all the Pittsburgh art groups

Mr. Nickel has been Ballet Master for the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland Pa .Mr. Nickel has created and developed an Associate Arts Degree in Dance Education in conjunction with the Community College of Beaver County that dancers can earn in their junior & senior years in High School. Mr. Nickel serves as Artistic Director  of the program for the Community College of Beaver. Mr. Nickel recently was nominated and the recipient of the Madison of America of the 2012 prestigious award of Who’s Who.  

Mr. Nickel has been a volunteer Firefighter for the past 10 years with the Bradford Woods Vol. fire Company where is severs as Assistant Chief.



Greer Reed

reedA native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Greer began early training with the Pittsburgh Black Theater Dance Ensemble.  Over the years, Ms. Reed  has been a contracted dancer with the

internationally acclaimed Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, (DCDC) in Dayton, Ohio, where she worked closely with internationally   renowned choreographers and directors, touring extensively throughout the US and abroad..  From 2009 to 2011 Greer was Artistic Director for the  Dance Alloy Theater, Pittsburgh’s premier  modern dance company.  Her most recent endeavor was the founding of The Reed Dance Intensive, with training in  African,  modern, ballet, and hip-hop dance.


Spring Fine Arts Programs:

4/21 – HS Steel Bands

4/26 – HS Choirs

5/3 – JH Band / Art

5/4 – HS Jazz & Concert Bands / Art

5/5 – JH Choir

5/9 – State St. Band

5/10 – Economy Band

5/11 – Highland Band / Art

5/17 – State St. Chorus / Art

5/19 – Economy Chorus / Art

5/26 – Highland Chorus

2nd Grade:  Students are creating pet rocks and designing playground equipment that can hold their pet rocks.  Students will work as a team to design and create a twisty slide, jungle gym, and other playground equipment.

1st Grade:  Students are designing and building houses for the 3 Little Pigs.  The structures should be strong enough to withstand a puff of air from Big Bad Wolf (a blowdryer)!


These first grade girls constructed a house out of bricks to keep their pigs safe from the Big Bad Wolf.

Kindergarten:  Students will be completing nursery rhyme STEAM challenges!  We have completed challenges from Humpty Dumpty and Hey Diddle, Diddle.


These kindergarten students created an egg protector for their Humpty Dumpty egg drop.