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Passaic Valley Continues Partnership with Imagine to Bolster Social and Emotional Learning in Classrooms

valley echo

Nick Busciglio'21

3 June 2021

Passaic Valley teamed up with the nonprofit grief and counseling organization Imagine at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Imagine worked together with Passaic Valley's Director of Special Education Mr. Michael Paternoster to teach ten staff members about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and how to implement what they learned in their interactions with students and fellow staff members.Passaic Valley partnership with Imagine; photo credit:  Rae Allex

The trained staff members included nurses, SAC, Child Study Team (CST), and four teachers. They learned about how to have open discussions in class as well as how to help students individually. They were also trained in specific techniques and ways to bring SEL into their classrooms. Over the course of a week, Mr. Paternoster met with over 220 students. They were able to have open discussions about SEL, stress, anxiety and the impact the pandemic has had on their lives. 

Especially in times like these students should feel comfortable and safe in the classroom. This idea is at the heart of SEL. Students are not only here to learn specific subjects, they are also learning character building skills that will help them later in life. SEL is one of the more important yet overlooked aspects of education. 

History Teacher Mr. Jeffrey Francisco was grateful for the experience  offered by Mr. Paternoster and Imagine. “Having a lesson on anxiety and stress increases self awareness,” said Mr. Francisco, who welcomed Mr. Paternoster into his Human Behavior classes. "It was a perfect tie in to the content in that psychology-focused class and a great example of how mental health needs to be talked about more often." 

The students were also grateful for the lessons and discussions. “Talking about SEL made me feel really comfortable talking about what's on my mind, talking about how I feel made me feel a lot better,” said one student.

Others echoed that sentiment. “He [Mr. Paternoster] offered a new perspective when it came to emotions. I would definitely want him to come again as it really left me with a content feeling.” 

Mr. Paternoster hopes to expand the number of teachers trained for SEL and enable them to have open discussions with their students. Next year he hopes to set up several different monthly staff support groups, “I'm training teachers at PV to become facilitators in small groups, and hope they become self-sufficient and can become a network of support and connection for each other,” said Mr. Paternoster.