Finishing an unusual school year and staying on track with REACH

As this unexpected last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year winds down, students and their parents reflect on students’ overall success working with REACH teachers this year.

REACH is helping to minimize stigma and helps students succeed in academics

One year ago, day school student Sarah* finished first grade still struggling with reading. Her school offered her parents the option of having Sarah repeat first grade or begin second grade with support from REACH. 

Sarah’s parents wavered because they recalled support services from their own childhood. To explore the options, they met with Rusi Sukenik, REACH director of student services. Mrs. Sukenik clarified that the services REACH would provide their daughter would address her academic needs and be delivered in a way that coordinated with the teachers so that it would integrate with her school day. Although some of the support can help with executive function and behavior, REACH’s primary function is to support educational challenges.

Sarah’s mother is now thrilled that her daughter receives support through REACH and says, “There is no way she would thrive in her classroom without the supplemental support.” With remote learning specifically, REACH educators are able to give the students one-on-one support to help them stay on track. 

For some students, staying motivated in school, in general, is a challenge, with remote learning, the challenge is that much greater. REACH educators have been busy developing creative ways to continue supporting students. For Sarah, Mrs. Sukenik called often to try different ways to help modify the program for her to find the most effective learning method that works. REACH teachers and programs are flexible and committed to working together with staff and with families to find a solution that works for each specific child. Although times are tough, having the support of REACH makes it more manageable.

REACH teachers instill confidence in students 

Eli*, who is in third grade, has worked with REACH teachers for two years. Eli’s parents appreciate the REACH support, especially in light of how some of their older children struggled in school. They realize how much their older children would have benefited from the REACH program. REACH gives students the opportunity to feel confident and accepted rather than lonely and isolated. “REACH fills in gaps and forms bridges our son needs to thrive in school,” says Eli’s mom. 

Classroom support and communication between the day school teacher and REACH educator has made a big impact on Eli’s success in school. “Receiving individualized instruction every day is remarkable. This year, the coordination between REACH and the classroom teacher has made Eli truly feel like part of the class.”  

During remote learning, the consistent visual component his REACH educator provides has kept him from falling behind. Not only that, but he is making strides and progressing in his studies. “We don’t know what we would do without REACH. The consistency REACH has provided during remote learning has been tremendously helpful.”

For many students, REACH gives the confidence that will stay with students long after they graduate. Without REACH, Eli “would be getting virtually no academics right now…he is getting 10 percent of the material and feels stupid noticing the discrepancy between him and his peers. If not for REACH, it would be a waste of the end of the school year.”

Teachers are learning from remote learning

As the school year ends in such an unexpected way, REACH teachers have seenthe positive aspects of working with their students remotely. REACH staff will be analyzing their successes and challenges and thinking about ways to apply this knowledge when we return to regular school. Estie Siegal, a REACH teacher based at Arie Crown Hebrew Day School (ACHDS), finds that some of her students are thriving now because the classes are recorded, so the students can pause to take notes and then continue listening. They can always go back if they missed something, which is very helpful for some learners. Estie is eager to find ways to apply this knowledge to the classroom.  

Some educators have noticed that students are performing better without the social social pressure and pressure. Shoshana Perlmuter, who works at both Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov (JDBY) and ACHDS, has found that some of her students are actually more engaged and focused on their work now.

When motivation is running low, Aviva Lopin with Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi (YTT) has seen the difference having a personal connection with students can make. Now that she can’t meet in person with students, Mrs. Lopin tries to drop off notes and even small rewards to celebrate students’ achievements. “After the student met one of his goals, I dropped off a prize at his house with gloves and a mask. He was so excited and taken by surprise, and his feeling of accomplishment motivated him for future lessons.”

There are many lessons to be learned from education during a pandemic, REACH teachers are using this experience as a springboard to continue striving to help their students succeed in the best ways possible. 

*Name changed for anonymity