Golden Hill Elem. Excites Kids with ‘Different’ Approach to Learning

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Story by Sara Paul

     Golden Hill (GH) Elementary School Principal Debbi Lisack enjoys riding her new bicycle, though not outdoors as most would be content with. With safety helmet responsibly secured and a basket of books hanging from her handlebars, this unconventional educator zips through the hallways, from classroom to classroom, on her journey to read to the children of the small elementary school in Florida, NY.

     Lisack’s Read Aloud program, which focuses on such things as social-emotional learning, allows teachers to sign up for 15 minute slots one week a month, a time designated for the Principal to read a story to the class. With enthusiasm and purpose, Lisack works hard to ensure that the reading experiences are educational, engaging, and current.

     “The messages are so strong, and the kids remember them and make connections to other books and to their lives,” said Lisack, GH Principal since 2015.

     First grader Gabriella Aiosa is all smiles when she sees her favorite principal cycling down the halls, gearing up for some good reads and meaningful discussions. Gabriella’s favorite so far is Sticks by Diane Alber, a story about finding one’s place in the world.

     “I learned to never say you can’t!” Gabriella boldly declares.

     Doing careful, conscientious research, Lisack makes sure all books contain powerful messages that give students confidence.

     “They listen so intently, and then they talk to me about how they relate to the stories. It’s great for their self-esteem and also great because reading affects all subjects,” said Lisack, who even e-mails videos of herself reading aloud when there are snow days, a correspondence that parents have been quite grateful for.

Attention to Physical & Mental Health

     Beginning last year, GH has incorporated Yoga units in the athletics activities. Students enjoy approximately 10 Yoga lessons over the course of the school year, another program that has been well received by students and staff.

     “The younger kids absolutely love it, and the older kids really like the more challenging exercises,” said Ryan Wall, GH Physical Education teacher for more 10 years.

     The students also benefit from mixed age group classes, when younger kids are paired with older ones who help their younger peers with their Yoga techniques.

     Wall emphasizes the importance of the concepts of mindfulness, noting that, “We get them centered and focused and ready to go back to class.”

     Some other programs and upcoming events at GH include a Science Symposium, Trep$ Marketplace, and the PARP Reading Program.

The above article by Sara Paul has been published in the Jan. 29 issue of the Warwick Valley Dispatch.

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