50 Years of Excellence: AJ McMullen Middle School

A.J. Mcmullen

January 31, 2022 signifies the 50th year of A.J. McMullen school opening to students. A.J. McMullen is a middle school that serves 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students as a part of the Uniontown Area School District. Located in Markleysburg, Pennsylvania, the school resides along the historic National Road in Henry Clay township on 29 acres of land that was originally donated to Uniontown Area School District by A.J. McMullen. McMullen was a Fayette County educator, administrator, and also served as county superintendent for some time. His intention was to donate this property to serve as a location for a new school.

“Since 45 years of education have been so good to me, I would like to give something back to education,” McMullen said in regards to his donation.

The building passed official inspection on January 26, 1972, and the UASD officials declared the school ready for students. The first children entered the building on Monday, January 31, 1972. Although the building was not entirely complete on that date, enough classrooms were finished to accommodate the majority of the students that were designated to attend the school. For the entire first week the school was open, students brought packed lunch as the cafeteria was not yet adequately prepared to serve the students. Later on in August, A.J. McMullen school was fully opened to an entire group of students in time for the 1972-1973 school year. Today, the school still serves 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from Marclay and Wharton elementary schools.

Both staff and students enjoy many traditions and have fond memories inside the walls of the building. Many of the teachers’ favorite part about their position is interacting with the students and parents of the mountain community. The learning environment that the students and staff create fosters an entire new generation of thinkers and imagination. A.J. is a tight knit community that gives students and teachers the opportunity to help each other learn and develop. The 50th anniversary allowed the staff to recall some of their favorite memories from this year and as well as years past.

“My favorite parts about teaching at A.J. are the students and the staff.  We have a lot of great students that brighten my day each day.  We also have a great staff that works together and makes it enjoyable to come to school every day. “

Mr Zungri, LifeSkills support teacher at A.J.

“My favorite memories are too numerous to mention. I really enjoy talking to former students to see how they are doing through high school and into adulthood.  I also enjoy having students that I have had their parent, that usually brings a flood of memories as well.”

Mr. Jeffries, 6th grade teacher at A.J.

​”I have many great memories as a teacher at AJ… It is difficult to narrow it down to one, and also difficult to describe.  Students have shared some of their talents with me over the years.  For example, student projects, things they have made, drawing, acting, painting, singing, etc.  When I see a student doing something that showcases their talents, I am so proud of them, and it stays in my memory forever.”

Mr. Garner, 7th and 8th grade teacher at A.J.

“My favorite part about teaching at AJ is the interaction with the mountain community.  I have been at AJ for 27 years and have had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many outstanding families and students. Their kindness and cooperation over the years has been incredible.”

Mrs. Salvi, 6th grade teacher at A.J.

“I love teaching in the community in which I live. I really enjoy working with the age group of students that attend AJ McMullen.  Over the years of teaching at AJ, I have been fortunate to work with many wonderful students and staff.”

Mrs. Chaido, Learning Support teacher at A.J.

I have so many fond memories as a middle school student in the 80’s as well as teaching at AJ since 2003.  I have to say that my most profound memories as a middle school student include sewing the buttons in Mrs. Glover’s Home Ec. class to playing basketball for Mr. Dunn.  I sure miss that man!   I can also say that I met many lifetime friends at AJ.    As a teacher, my fondest memories include all the fabulous Halloween costumes made by Mr. Lowe for a special guy in a wheelchair, being able to help so many students with lessons that they just needed a little extra time to get, and the laughs with the best colleagues that anyone could dream of having.

Mrs Mathias, Learning Support teacher at A.J.

Mrs. Snaith, a librarian at A.J. from 1978-1987, was also able to share some of her fondest memories and experiences that enabled her to create lifelong friendships and learn new things every day from her coworkers and students.

“When I think about A.J. McMullen I remember some of the best years of my life, not just professionally but personally. I always think back on those years with a great deal of pleasure. We were like a family and I made life long friends there. I started at AJ in 1978 as an 8th and 9th grade English teacher. I taught English in that room across from the office for 2 years. The school district then determined that the library position would be a full time position and I became the librarian for A. J. McMullen. I was the librarian until 1987 when I was asked to go down to the high school and take over the library position there. I didn’t want to leave AJ, but you do what you’re told to do. I enjoyed my years as librarian at AJ because I got to work closely with all the students and faculty. As librarian I always felt like I was helping to make a difference in our student’s lives. Not only giving them library instruction but helping to create a life-long love for libraries and reading. As far as memories go, I have a million of them. I have fond memories of basketball games and watching Mr. Dunn and Mr. Slampak coaching the team. I was the cheerleading sponsor for a couple of years and it was fun going to the games with my girls. In the teacher’s lounge at lunch you never knew what was going to happen. One day there was a particularly funny joke and Mr. Rubis had just taken a sip of milk and the next thing you know he was laughing so hard the milk was coming out of his nose. One year we sold McCormick spices as a fundraiser and Mrs. Defino and I were in charge and we got the nickname “The McCormick Twins”. I love the years we took part in the district wide reading contests. But mostly, I’ll always remember how the faculty would go outside on the last day and say our farewells to the students who were heading for the high school as we watched the buses depart. As I said before, we were a family at A. J. McMullen and it was a pleasure to go to work each day.”

Most students are willing to make the claim that A.J. is the perfect school to prepare them for their future education. They all enjoy the atmosphere that the teachers and other staff members create for them to gain as many positive experiences and memories as possible. The entire school was able to celebrate the historic day on Monday, January 31, with aspirations of many more years of excellence in education ahead of them.

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