May 21, 2024
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Academies at GBDS: Teaching to Each Child

(Courtesy of Academies at GBDS) The pandemic presented schools with many unforeseen challenges related to academics and social emotional learning. In a proactive approach, Academies at GBDS, Gerrard Berman Day School, has expanded its team to include a middle school learning specialist, an occupational therapist, and a larger role for its social worker. Holly Finley, director of Special Services, collaborated to introduce new programs that address academic acceleration and enrichment, executive function skills and remediation.

A new initiative related to reading has been very successful in first through fourth grades. Three fully certified teachers are placed in each classroom to support reading and writing at all levels of academic readiness. The goal is to tailor instruction to each students’ needs and have that instruction given by a master teacher in a small group setting, which is key to ensuring students’ skills are progressing appropriately.

Math instruction is also a focal point of these new programs. Ellen Bloomberg, math coordinator, teaches small groups of students in grades 1-8, providing acceleration, academic enrichment and remediation. Students who are at the top of their class are given activities that require higher level thinking and application challenges for their previously acquired skills. Bloomberg also works with struggling students outside of the classroom, in a very small group environment. Lessons are targeted to accommodate each student’s needs so they can gain the skills needed to move forward and build their confidence.

Teaching study skills with a focus on executive function skills is critical and will prepare students to be successful in high school and beyond. Executive function skills include working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. “Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions and handle emotions, among other things,” said MS Learning Specialist Fran Curasco. She helps students plan ahead, organize assignments and manage their time effectively which is a lifelong skill.

The addition of part-time occupational therapist Amy Morovati provides support for students by focusing on the development of motor coordination, perceptual and regulation skills that students need to access learning with efficiency. Morovati created classroom readiness groups in collaboration with the early childhood department to foster growth and development. These weekly sessions address gross and fine motor coordination, sensory processing, visual motor skills, pre-writing/writing skills, self-help skills, attention/focus and direction following. This new program is designed to proactively enhance the foundational areas that are already built into our Early Childhood program.

New social worker Leslie Fromen helps students navigate developmental challenges by providing social skill groups to students in pre-k through eighth grade. Weekly sessions are structured to help students cope with the social and emotional challenges of growing up. Some of the skills she addresses are team building, reflective listening, conflict resolution, identifying and understanding social cues and effective communication. The benefit for the students is that they learn to communicate their needs clearly and effectively, improve their relationships, navigate through challenging social situations and improve overall social and emotional growth. She maintains an open-door policy to support students in the moment and address issues as they occur.

The Tanach states, “Educate each child according to his way” (Proverbs 22:6). Academies at GBDS’ goal is to have all students grow, thrive and excel because their academic, social and emotional needs are met.

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