As the district returned to a new kind of normal this academic year we were met with similar challenges that schools across the nation were, including the vast social-emotional needs of students post-pandemic. Through the careful and well-thought-out use of funding, Dr. Hill, with the support of our BOE brought on a team of SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Specialists headed by Dr. Michael Mallery.
Dr. Mallery and his team of SEL Specialists have been an integral part of this 2021-2022 school year. So much so that the group of educators and administrators from Clover Street School named SEL Specialist Damion Morgan the Staff Person of the Year!
Check out this Q & A from Mr. Morgan following his recognition.
Why does SEL Matter to you?
SEL matters because I believe the competencies are the keys to a meaningful life. Every child has a virtual door with five locks in front of them that leads to a successful life. The five SEL competencies can open each lock. Exposure to SEL at an early age will prepare young people with the skills they need to open that door and step into a life with purpose.
How has implementing SEL at Clover Street for students and staff been for you?
Implementing SEL at Clover Street was a challenging but gratifying experience this year. Like any new initiative, systems had to be built from the ground up, or as my colleague Melanie Guiterrez so eloquently stated, 'we're building the plane as we're flying it" and that's been our motto all year. We've seen tremendous growth in students' SEL awareness and improvement in their behavior. This is a testament to the efforts put forth by our students and the hard work of the building staff.
What are one or two of your favorite student highlights or memories from this school year?
I'd like to highlight Bryce. He's a very talented and smart student who has faced many challenges this school year. He used to be routinely disruptive in class but over time has learned how to improve his behavior by utilizing his self-management techniques. He's also learned how to advocate for himself when he's having a difficult time and can ask for help before acting out in an anti-social manner. His journey with SEL is far from complete but I'm very proud of the strides he's made.
When you were named Staff Person of the Year, how did that make you feel?
When my name was announced as Clover Street's Staff of the Year I was humbled and shocked. Coming into a new district, new school, and being part of a team implementing a new initiative was difficult. I vividly remember sitting on the bus during the orientation tour wondering if I belonged in this district and if I made a mistake. I had one personal goal for the year and it was simply to make an impact and help highlight the work. So to be given this award was a true honor and I'm thankful to my coworkers for the recognition.
Last words of encouragement or inspiration for students and staff heading into the summer?
As we head into summer, I would encourage students to take a little time and reflect on the kind of student they were this year and who they want to be next year. You are never defined by your worst mistake. To the staff, I would say take this summer to relax and recharge. We took on incredible odds this year and we deserve a break. Celebrate yourself and enjoy time with your loved ones. I hope to see you in the fall.