New Jersey | Empathy and Understanding



Everyone needs a great sidekick. My sidekick is Suzanne. We are very different teachers in the school district where we create magic for students.  I am the LLD teacher (language and learning disabled).  She is the GATE teacher (gifted and talented).  Our teaching worlds would appear to be completely different and in some ways they are.  In many other ways they are very much alike.  For example, while we teach students on opposite ends of each spectrum,  we teach our students by combining the need for encompassing differentiated and individualized instruction for our students.  We are both “outliers” in our middle school of over 500 students, which has made us the perfect professional pair. One of Suzanne’s initiatives in our school, “Interest Cluster Enrichment” a.k.a. ICE, provides enrichment opportunities for all students.  This platform has allowed me to create a “Be-A-Buddy” program where typical 8th grade students sign up during their free period twice a week to provide dignified social opportunities to our most disabled students and our platform is sports.

My buddy program has grown wildly in interest since its inception two years ago and I have to give Suzanne all the props.  Without this type of opportunity, I couldn’t create buddies which has essentially CHANGED the overall climate in our school while changing the social lives of my students.  The students who serve as positive peer models (16 of 18 being teenage boys) demonstrate empathy and an understanding of what it means to think outside of themselves.They have come to understand the dance of playing a sport in a fun, competitive way while creating opportunities for everyone to be involved.  This has spilled out of the environments where we play together to gym class, the hallways and the lunchroom.  This program gives me, our administration and those all around a renewed sense of optimism about life and the impact being kind can have on one another. Suzanne is fun, kid-like and full of life as you will see in the attached photo.  Life is Good, we make it good 🙂