Educational Support at Maine Coast Waldorf School

 

As I write, our new educational support space is receiving its finishing touches, getting ready for occupancy in mid-April. This addition to the grades 1-4 building will provide valuable space and privacy to our students. Currently all of our educational support and tutoring sessions take place in various small rooms and niches around campus. Students and teachers make the best of things, but find themselves squeezed and occasionally interrupted, a situation we are eager to improve.

Our educational support program provides a wide network of support to students in all grades. David Beringer is our Educational Support Director. He carries the overview of the program, and works with teachers and parents to manage personal education plans and various services for individual students. David works frequently with individual students and whole classes, using developmental movement games and exercises to help students with issues such as sensory integration and learning challenges. He mentors teachers on how to integrate such activities into the classroom and how best to meet the various learning needs of students in a developmentally appropriate way. His educational support training, along with many years of experience, allow him to coach teachers on the academic, social/emotional and movement needs of students at different age levels.

Jane Palitzay, our support literacy teacher, works in the elementary school, helping students with the mechanics of reading in writing. In the early grades, Jane provides support and mentoring to teachers regarding best practices in teaching reading and writing. She attends classes to offer teachers feedback and suggestions. In grades 3-6, Jane works with small groups on certain skills sets, such as phonics, reading comprehension, spelling, and handwriting. She is an amazing resource for students who need some extra time with the nuts and bolts of the language arts curriculum. Her small groups allow students to work on skill-building in a focused way, creating a space and productive atmosphere for questions to arise and confusion to be resolved.

As our support math teacher, I also work in the early elementary grades, providing specialized math support to small groups and whole classes. I teach 2 periods per week of math skill-building to grades 3-5. During our classes we look at math through various lenses to deepen students’ understanding of numerical relationships. We use math games, estimation, puzzles and word problems, to practice basic math skills. In addition, I provide practice time for concepts students have learned in main lesson, creating further opportunities to ask questions and receive assistance. In the younger classes, we also do some developmental movement exercises during class to build attention and coordination. During math blocks in main lesson, I am often present to assist the class teachers and provide individual help to students. My math support groups meet weekly at various grade levels to offer more specific skill-building support and to provide a space for students’ questions.

Karyn Kurland, Co-owner and director of Stars Learning Cooperative, works with our high school students, providing academic and executive skills support, as well as in-classroom mentoring. She co-teaches a study skills class, and works with Sarah Yanni, the school counselor, to offer lunch seminars that focus on the development of specific executive skills. Karyn works with students, teachers and families to create Personalized Education Plans that address individual academic and social/emotional needs in order to help each student meet the various challenges of the high school curriculum. Her work is immensely supported by the positive relationships she builds with her students and their families over time.

Our school counselor, Sarah Yanni, works closely with the Educational Support team to address obstacles to student success and well-being.  She meets regularly with students to provide counseling sessions, creating long-lasting relationships that allow students to work through whatever challenges they may be facing. Sarah also works closely with our teachers, providing feedback and suggestions for how best to facilitate and support the social and emotional health of our students. She frequently provides guidance and encouragement to teachers regarding situations involving conflict-resolution.

Additionally, our space will be used for local private therapists, Lisa Edge and Craig Giddens, to offer art and speech therapy to our students.  Several of our students are already able to engage in this transformative work, but the new space will increase privacy and accessibility.

As a Waldorf school, we know that social and emotional growth is as important, and necessary for long term success, as academic growth. Our wide-reaching educational support program allows us to address the needs of all of our students, giving them the tools they need to blossom, each step of the way.