Cooking His Students Breakfast Before Big Test Nearly Cost Him His Job


An eighth-grade social studies teacher at Hand Middle School knew exactly how to motivate his students while they took the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment: make them pancakes.

Kyle Byler — who has taught eighth-grade since 2013 — brought in an electric griddle and made each student one whole-grain pancake to eat while they took their test.

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Twenty-four hours later, Byler was suspended without pay for causing a distraction during the PSSA testing.

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“I don’t understand what I did wrong, to be honest with you,” Byler told Lancaster Online. “At no point was it any distraction for any of the students. They worked their butts off.”

Parents have called Byler the “eighth-grade dad” and from the reaction of his students, it is clear that they appreciate him.

“I love him,” one of his students, Alizea Rodriguez, said. “He makes learning fun. He has a great personality. He helps students and can relate to them.”

Her mother, Edna Reyes, added, “He’s one of those teachers who’s not only there, of course, for his job, but he’s there for his students.”

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Alizea and 30 of her classmates protested outside the middle school for almost two hours on one of the days following Byler’s suspension.

The president of the Lancaster Education Association commented on the situation in an email to Lancaster Online.

“Mr. Byler is an excellent teacher. To lose him would be a terrible injustice to his students, his co-workers and the community,” Jason Malloy said.

He also pointed out that 95 percent of Hand Middle School’s students come from low-income households and “for some, whole-grain pancakes may be the only hot meal they’ve gotten that day.”

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Thankfully, Byler will be returning to work with his students, and his suspension has been lifted.

“In any event, no teacher can be dismissed without the School Board first approving a written notice that offers the opportunity for a School Board hearing, and that step has not occurred,” school district spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder said.

“Nor will it occur in this situation, as the personnel matter has been resolved with the employee, who is scheduled to return to work.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith