HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — On Wednesday, May 23, representatives from OceanFirst Bank came to the George L. Hess Educational Complex for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the model classroom.
In October 2018 the OceanFirst Foundation gave the school a $10,000 grant to develop a mindful, trauma-informed, responsive model classroom. Marylynn Stecher, Hamilton Township School District Supervisor of Special Education, wrote the grant application with assistance from general education teacher and Hamilton Township Education Association President Amy Gold.
Gold and special education teacher Kim Smith worked collaboratively to implement the grant. Smith is the Hess School Teacher of the Year.
During the ceremony, Stecher thanked the representatives from OceanFirst, saying, “The OceanFirst Model Classroom Grant has been and will continue to be a huge benefit to the entire Hess School. Our district commitment to educating the whole child has been brought to life via our mindful, trauma-informed, responsive model classroom. When I first had the idea for this classroom, I could never have predicted what an amazing job Mrs. Gold and Mrs. Smith would do in making this vision a reality. They are outstanding educators! And of course, the catalyst for creating this wonderful, unique learning environment has been the OceanFirst Foundation. ... This classroom incorporates flexible seating, a calming corner, and teachers educated in mindfulness practices to ensure that all students are able to learn in a setting that meets their needs.
"The creation of the learning environment with flexible seating and a calming corner, in conjunction with the use of mindfulness practices, has allowed the teachers to better support our students, many of whom are dealing with trauma and significant social and emotional issues in their daily lives. It was important to us to create a setting in which special education students are included and we feel that this setting will allow us to keep more students in a less restrictive environment as it better meets their social, emotional and behavioral needs. Additionally, by meeting the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of our students, we are able to see increased academic success.”
The students welcomed the visitors to the classroom and had prepared a video sharing their favorite parts of the model classroom. Students were also able to share some information about how the mindfulness classes help them to be calm and focus on learning.
Also at the ceremony were Edward Geletka, senior vice president, retail sales team lead, business development, OceanFirst Bank; Brenda Flaherty, government banking administrator AVP, business development, OceanFirst Bank; Frank Vogel, township schools superintendent; Melanie Lamanteer, Hess School principal; and Anne-Marie Fala, school district business administrator.