Glancing into classrooms while walking through Anna L. Klein School in Guttenberg, you might observe one fifth grade teacher instructing on persuasive essays, another teacher explaining the use of the possessive apostrophe to her young students, and another teacher instructing students in using video streaming.
None of these activities is inherently unusual. But the way in which they are being given to students has changed with the introduction of SMART Boards into the classroom.
The Guttenberg Board of Education purchased these computerized “white-boards” with the $200,000 they received two school years ago through the federal government’s American Recovery Reinvestment and Recovery Act program. Each cost around $1,000, and they have been installed in 33 out of the 44 classrooms at the school. When state aid cuts struck the school budget last year, the rest of the funding went into saving staff positions.
“Learning doesn’t always have to be book learning.” – Donna Grzybodsky
He said the boards were a tool to get students interested in learning since, “if you have a student who is not interested or a student who is not engaged, [you can’t get them to learn] no matter what you do.”
Garrido said the school has started several new programs this year, in an attempt to get students more involved in learning. He said teachers have already begun “…to see a trend of improvement.”
Weekend and afterschool programs
Early Childhood and Grant Coordinator Donna Grzybodsky said that the district has started several after-school programs to work on student’s skills paid for with $700,000 in federal funding they received from No Child Left Behind. Last year they received $830,000, but she said they’ve managed to keep these programs continuing.
“It’s a Rap” is a project-based skills program that takes what students learned in the classroom during the week and turns them into hands-on activities on Saturday.
“Learning doesn’t always have to be book learning,” said Grzybodsky.
Twice a week after school, after being recommended by a teacher, guidance counselor, or parent, students from first through eighth grades can receive after school tutoring from not only one, but two teachers, who will help them with their homework, study and test taking skills for an hour.
The district is also considering making it mandatory that students who test below the standardized grade in the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) must come in after school for extra help. They also have hired testing companies to come in, train their teachers to conduct test taking skills classes.
Grzybodsky said they try to do as much as they can with the federal funding they receive.
Saying no to bullying
Garrido said that they’ve begun a few programs aimed at educating students about cyber-bullying. Recently the district held a program called the “Power of One,” which taught students how they could stop bullying from happening, and had all sixth through eighth graders make a pledge not to bully their fellow classmates.
“A lot of children aren’t even aware that simple name calling or laughing when someone falls [is bullying], it kind of snowballs,” said Guidance Counselor Angela Trivelli-White.
Trivelli-White will also be training “conflict managers” in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades to resolve their own problems by learning on how to identify problems, allow each side to speak, etc. She will begin training students once their parents sign-off on their participation.
“I think it’s going to be a very successful program,” she said.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.