At the School Committee meeting on November 1, Kristy Richards, the Behavior Coach for grades K-4, gave a presentation on her work, with a focus on the Support and Transition program that she oversees at Sanford’s three elementary schools. Ms. Richards was a Special Education teacher in the district for 17 years before taking on her current position four years ago.
The Support and Transition program includes a multi-function Student Support Room in each elementary school, created as a support tool for all students. The primary focus is to build and maintain positive relationships with students throughout the school year, recognizing that positive connections between staff and students are crucial to the social/emotional and academic growth of children. She said over the years, the program at Carl J. Lamb School has moved from taking a reactive and punitive approach with behavioral issues, to being proactive and positive.
Some of the strategies and interventions offered through the Student Support Rooms include:
- Basic need visits – these are for kids who may come to school without basic necessities like a snack or jacket
- Reset breaks – students can use the room for a motor break (short period of physical activity), or if they are not ready to start the day for a social/emotional reason. Students can ask for a “reset pass” or a teacher can give them one if they are having difficulty focusing in class.
- Fun lunches offer social connections with peers in a lower-stress environment
- Restorative conversations
- Targeted scheduled visits, which might include self-regulation strategies for kids
- Alternative recess – to teach kids social skills and how to engage with others
- Check-in, check-out – for students who need an additional connection. Ms. Richards said this strategy in particular has been a game-changer for many students. They are given feedback about their behavior and choices, and are given targets and goals. This has been key to improving some students’ behavior in the classroom setting
Each elementary school classroom also has a “calm corner” for kids who need a few minutes’ break.
Ms. Richards said the Support Room staff members, including Charlie Tranchemontagne at Sanford Pride Elementary, Jamie Lovejoy at Margaret Chase Smith and Tiffany Bourque at Carl J. Lamb, also use their skills and creativity to engage students with activities like juggling club, sensory paths, music and drama clubs.
In the month of October alone, the program logged 338 visits from students at SPE, 550 visits at MCS and 391 visits at CJL.
Ms. Richards also shared some of the feedback she has received from teachers, school principals and parents about the positive benefits of the program. Sherri Baron, Principal at CJL, wrote “The addition of a Student Support Room at Carl J. Lamb School has proven already to be necessary and effective. Mrs. B spends her days connecting with children and building relationships, helping them with self-regulation skills and, and to manage their emotions in positive, socially acceptable ways.” Teacher Roisin McGuckin wrote “In the SSR, students find a mentor who checks in with them and encourages them in their goals. It is a safe place for students to finish incomplete work and regroup and feel success…Mrs. B brings a great energy to our school and in a very short period of time has made it hard to imagine our school without the Student Support Room.” The feedback from MCS and SPE teachers and principals has been equally positive.
One parent wrote that her son started Kindergarten with anxiety, and was struggling to adjust, but since visiting the SSR, his confidence has soared and he is now thriving in school. Another wrote that her son is learning important coping skills for his “big feelings” and is applying them at home and in the community as well as in school. She appreciates that the program is available to all students who need some added support, and not just those who qualify for special education or other services.
Ms. Richards wrapped her presentation with some artwork done by students in the program. One wrote, “Thank you for making me feel like sunshine again.” School Committee Chair Don Jamison called it “the best endorsement you could have.”
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