Switlik Elementary School unveils new model classroom

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JACKSON – Everyone knows children have energy. They get restless. They like to move around.

Educators at the Switlik Elementary School in Jackson figured out how to work with this part of childhood development, instead of against it. In doing so, the school earned a competitive $10,000 grant from the OceanFirst Foundation’s model classroom grant program, according to a press release.

“Through my years of teaching, I have learned that kids need different ways of learning,’’ teacher Monique Placek said. “I realized this is just an ideal space for them.’’

Placek joined representatives from OceanFirst and district staff to cut the ribbon on the model classroom on Nov. 14.

Students were using various stations, including a balance platform, a stationary bike, a bistro table setup with Chromebook laptop computers, and various seating stations – all designed to allow students to learn in ways that suit them best, according to the press release.

The model classroom is an innovative, personalized learning platform where traditional resources, highly adaptive assistive technologies, and multisensory materials complement personalized instruction to general and special education students, according to the press release.

According to the grant, this student-led classroom will expose learners to centers, where research, goal setting, community service and student celebration are at the forefront of the skill set needed to be successful.

Specifically, the grant provides for the purchase of Chromebook laptop computers, tablets and other technology, Osmo Classroom Kits, a collaboration table and furniture, community service project supplies, and a leveled text set library, according to the press release.

The grant was spearheaded by former teacher Danielle Parella, with support from Principal Kathy McKiernan and Assistant Principal Renee Pagano-Hein.

Placek said she is enjoying how well her students are learning in this environment.

“This grant has allowed us to create a space where we can offer students what they need to learn in a way that suits them,” she said. “I am so thrilled to be part of this classroom and so grateful to OceanFirst for recognizing what our school wanted to do.”

Switlik’s model classroom is one of several Jackson School District schools that have earned a model classroom grant in recent years, including another 2018 recipient – the Johnson Elementary School, which created a special classroom and program featuring a therapy dog named Mighty.

“We are honored to show our appreciation to the OceanFirst Foundation, which has a history of supporting creative and inventive approaches to education,” said Board of Education President John Burnetsky when the board recognized the Switlik and Johnson schools for earning the 2018 grants.

“We are also very proud of our staff, whose initiative and creativity are truly remarkable. Your extra efforts are more important than ever and are a huge part of allowing this district to stay at the forefront of innovation and excellence,” he said.