Special EDition Created by Dr. Crisonino, Candace Coccaro and Jaime Merced Winter 2017

Special EDition is a publication highlighting the latest student centered events and activities to keep families and educators informed throughout the Jersey City Public Schools.

Feature Photo - Trunk or Treat

by Dina Kosc

Special Olympics Unified Sports is an outgrowth from Special Olympics New Jersey. It is designed to ​bring ​athletes with disabilities and their​ ​non-disabled peers (siblings, friends and classmates) ​together for training, sporting events and competitions throughout the school year. ​​The program began ​in 1997 ​with four Track and Field sites, and has grown to include Aquatics, Basketball, Bowling, and Softball. ​​A primary goal of Unified Sports is to equalize the ability level of athletes and promote inclusion through team practice and competition. ​​Unified Sports is an important program because it expands sports opportunities and increases inclusion in the community.​

The pictures of our 4th Annual Trunk or Treat is just one example of how this program brings our community together. Students ​​​registered in the district ages ​six (​6​) through twenty one (21) are afforded the opportunity to participate in Aquatics, Basketball, Bowling, Softball and Track & Field. The program runs on Saturday mornings from 10:00AM until 12:00PM​ and applications can be accessed at the schools, and on the district website under the Special Education Department Programs.

Hudson Subaru Supports Science

by Heather Piechocki and Robyn Drag

The Jersey City Public Schools Department of Special Education is delighted to announce that 150 Prize Winning Science books have been donated to our students in the CHAMPS and TEACH Programs by Hudson Subaru. This donation was made possible by the Subaru Loves Learning Project in partnership with the Science Books & Films (SB&F) Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In 2015, Subaru created the Subaru Love Promise Campaign—a pledge to support communities. It is a promise to make a positive impact in the world by focusing on improving local neighborhoods and communities.

We are so grateful for this wonderful donation, as well as our partnership with Hudson Subaru! They always go above and beyond to make sure that our students receive supplies to enhance their learning. These Science books, along with online resources such as lesson plans, interactives, news and digital media resources are a wonderful addition to our classrooms for students in the Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Programs.

Thank you, Hudson Subaru!

Learn & Let Live

by the T.E.A.C.H. Program

The Learn and Let Live (L+LL) room is a Life Skills supplementary classroom for students with autism located at Dickinson High School (D.H.S.) . The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held last June. The staff praised the school's administration and the donor's from Donors Choose, who graciously supported and funded the materials in the classroom.

Learn and Let Live Classroom at Dickinson High School

The Life Skills room was designed with the core philosophy of developing real-life skills beyond the classroom. The L+LL room, as it's referred to by the students at D.H.S., is being utilized by students on the autism spectrum to develop many skills that are necessary for life after high school. The L+LL room aims to provide students with authentic opportunities for learning in a supportive environment. Currently, the L+LL room acts as a multi-purpose room within the school. Students are introduced to skills in the areas of social skills, independent/daily living skills, problem-solving skills, and team building/cooperation skills. In the L+LL room the students refine their skills while staying aligned to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (N.J.S.L.S.) set forth by their individualized education plan.

The Learn and Let Live room is one of many new exciting features of the autism spectrum secondary program. The students at D.H.S. are really excited for the opportunity to learn functional skills and to quote one student - "this is the best room ever!" The T.E.A.C.H. team, the teachers and staff at D.H.S. are excited for the new opportunities this room will bring to their students and look forward to creating more learning environments that focus on preparing the students for college and/or careers after high school.

Mindfulness through Sensory Experiences

by Melissa Cook

Sensory experiences in the classroom help students focus and relax. These may include stress balls, calming bottles, slime, paint, or anything that a student can use through their senses to calm down and regulate behavior. Another great idea is to have a calm down corner in the classroom. This is a quiet area of the room that is equipped with soothing materials to help a student de-escalate and calm down when upset.

Wonderful Writers

By Michele Anastos

Students in Mr. Harvey’s 5th grade class at Rafael Cordero de Molina School (P.S.# 37) are busy connecting their reading and writing skills. These enthusiastic students read the story “At the Beach: Abuelito’s Story” from Reading Street. After the students finished reading the story they began to write a skit based on “At the Beach: Abuelito’s Story”. The students connected what they had read along with using their creativity in order to write their skit. Once the students finish writing their skits they are going to perform them to their classmates.

This activity is not only providing the students with the opportunity to grow in reading and writing, but also to be creative and work collaboratively with each other. I cannot wait to sit in the front row to see them perform their skits!

Keep up the good work boys and girls!

Striving for Reading Mastery

by Mrs. Lynette Garcia

P.S. 22

As part of my regular instruction, I incorporate the Direct Access Program (SRA) into my fifth grade Language Arts Class for students with autism. During this activity, I am presenting a lesson to my students following a correction procedure which requires me to give immediate corrective responses to students that are divided into groups by their reading levels. They are provided several opportunities throughout the lesson to practice literal understanding of the text. In this photo, group B is learning literal comprehension strategies.

Mrs. Garcia's Classroon3

We are currently reading and answering who, what, when, and where questions in which students are required to be active participants. Students engaged in this activity and gave their responses when I said, “my turn” and I started over (correction) “that word is_____. ”, “ get ready ” (using the hand signals).

This reading program allows me to monitor progress and correct errors immediately throughout the lesson.


by Andrew Esposito

Under the direction of the Jersey City Public Schools Department of Special Education, a new program called CATCH is being instituted this year at Dickinson High School for the students with autism who participate in Adapted Physical Education (A.P.E.). The program is run by the A.P.E. teacher Andrew Esposito, and is focused on building social and physical fitness skills.

The program has been developed in three parts. First, in a small group setting students are taught the physical and social skills they need to be successful interacting with grade level peers. Mr. Esposito includes peer volunteers at this time so that students have the opportunity to practice the skills he is teaching in a smaller setting. Second, the students join regular physical education classes once per week to practice the same skills in a larger gym setting with coaching from Mr. Esposito and the general education teachers. Since Mr. Esposito coaches two high school sports teams, he is able to enlist the support of these students to assist with the A.P.E. program. It is a win-win for everyone. Third, students utilize the Wii Gaming Sports Package with peer volunteers in the Social Skills Room.

This program is a great opportunity for teachers to collaborate and support all students within the general education setting. The program allows teachers and students to focus on the ways everyone is alike rather than how they are different. In the short time the CATCH program has been implemented, teachers have noticed the increased social interactions, and the positive and independent support the students with autism are receiving from their grade level peers.

A Sonday Success Story!

by Donna Middlebrooks

Ms. Earlene Flowers, a School Social Worker on the Child Study Team at James F. Murray School, P.S. #38, reported this success story of one of their students who was referred to them as a non-reader. The young man was provided daily instruction using the Sonday System Intervention by the Collaborative Consultation Teacher. This young man graduated from P.S. #38 as a fluent reader, and is now meeting with success in high school and is no longer in need of an intervention. Great Job Ms. Holly Hurley for not giving up on your students, while patiently and diligently working with them.

A “Sher” Fire Success

by Tiffany Magliulo-Fallon

The start of Rachel Sher’s first year as a Kindergarten Self Contained teacher was filled with uncertainty and anxiety. The veteran teacher at Dr. Maya Angelou - PS #20 was taking on a new assignment in a new grade and all the apprehension that comes with it. There was good cause for her concern. Many of her new students couldn’t recognize most of the alphabet and the ones who could, didn’t understand many of the basic sounds attached to each letter. It was an uphill battle from the outset, but Rachel knew for "Sher" that her students were capable of so much more. Not to worry, the Special Education Department's My Sidewalks, Early Reading Intervention can help.

Ms. Sher, Paraprofessional Ms. Reid and One On One Aide Ms. Little, got to work right away on identifying the fundamental skills their students were missing on their path to literacy. Through a carefully planned combination of cooperative learning activities, creative station teaching and targeted interventions, such as My Sidewalks Early Reading Intervention, Ms. Sher and her little scholars have made tremendous strides. Just 12 weeks into the new school year, many of her students know the entire alphabet and each letter sound. The Special Education Department wishes to commend Ms. Sher and all the other teachers who go the extra mile and have the courage to meet difficult situations head on with hard work and the resolve needed to drive our students on their path to success.

We are "Sher"-ly proud of you!


by Lynette Chiorazzi-Dinardo

Embedded in the C.H.O.I.C.E.S. program is a mentoring and pen-pal project with law enforcement, the M.A.R.R.C. Initiative (Mentoring and Rebuilding Relationships with Cops). Officers from the Jersey City Police Department and the Hudson County Sheriff's Office volunteer to exchange letters with students in the C.H.O.I.C.E.S. program.

Additionally, officers from the Community Relations Unit visit their classes to discuss pertinent issues such as bullying and internet safety, and answer the students' questions. The project aims to reduce the social distance between at-risk youth and law enforcement, improve the students' written expression, and offer an additional layer of support in their lives. After six months of letter exchange, the students meet their pen pals at a special event hosted by the Special Education Department, where they spend time together playing sports and games.

A Day of "Mindfulness"

by Sabrina Martin and Melissa Cook

During Jersey City’s Faceoff, the Special Education Department’s lead teachers offered a workshop entitled, “Integrating Mindfulness into the Classroom”. Over 40 participants which included teachers and support staff from Pre-k to high school learned the meaning of being mindful. They were given techniques to help teach these skills and incorporate them into their daily classroom. There are four ways to integrate mindfulness into the curriculum and bring calm to the classroom.

Mindfulness through sensory experiences

Sensory experiences may include stress balls, calming bottles, slime, paint, anything that a student can use their senses to calm down and regulate behavior. Another great idea is to have a calm down corner in the classroom. This is a quiet area of the room that is equipped with soothing materials to help a student de-escalate and calm down when upset.

Melissa Cook and Sabrina Martin had our teachers create calm down bottles using glitter and glue. They also made stress balls using balloons, rice and beans. These were two activities that the teachers can easily do with their students.

Mindfulness through breath

When we are stressed or anxious, we often take shallow breaths into our chests. By breathing deeply into your belly, you can use your breath to calm both your body and mind. Being aware of our breath and using simple breathing techniques throughout the school day will help with difficult situations including testing and transitions.

Our teachers were able to participate in a breathing activity. Paul Kates and Jenn Manno, Creative Arts Support Program (C.A.S.P.) music therapists, had the teachers sit in a circle and they used musical instruments in order to practice focus, attention and control of breath.

Mindfulness through guided imagery

Guided imagery helps bring a feeling of calm and wellness to the self. These techniques involve the practice of creating a mental image of a peaceful setting or environment. This exercise alleviates distraction and anxiety. It helps to redirect attention and focus on something relaxing and non-stressful. During the workshop, Bonnie Schultz, C.A.S.P. art therapist, guided the teachers through a relaxing journey.

Mindfulness through movement

Yoga is an excellent way to incorporate movement and breath to focus the mind and recharge the nervous system. Yoga in education improves physical fitness, increases focus and concentration, improves self-control, and adds a positive personal responsibility.

Mary Hussey and Andrew Esposito led the teachers in a yoga activity. They used simple moves that the teachers could easily take back to their classrooms.

Working Hard Towards Success

by Cara Van Note

The Special Education Department provides different interventions for our special education population, as well as our “at-risk” students. These interventions provide extra support in all areas of literacy, including comprehension and phonics. The Sonday System is an intense intervention with the focus being on phonics and phonemic awareness. My Sidewalks on Reading Street is an intervention that focuses on the five priority skills, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies and skills.

Top Left: Mr. Bartuck, a Resource Room Teacher at PS #30 implementing the Mysidewalks Intervention. Top Right: Student Ashley Paiz, who received the My Sidewalks intervention from Mrs. Caporale at PS #30 has successfully transitioned into grade level core curriculum. Bottom: Mrs. Portento, Mission R.E.A.D. teacher at PS #30 implementing the Sonday System during small group instruction.

The goal of the Special Education Department is to have our students move through the tiers (there are three tiers of interventions) during their education in Jersey City. Students that are successful in the Sonday System, then move towards a less intense intervention, My Sidewalks. Students that are successful in My Sidewalks, then transition into grade level core curriculum.

At Alexander D. Sullivan, PS #30 in Greeneville, there have been several success stories with having students transitioning into less intense interventions, and even being mainstreamed into grade level content area classes. These interventions are research based and proven to be successful. Great job to our students, as well as the teachers implementing these interventions!

Hats off to H.A.T.S.!

by Sean Healy & Cara Van Note

Solar System Project

The Helping All To Succeed (H.A.T.S.) summer program was conducted in the summer, 2017. It provided a rigorous academic experience for 2nd and 3rd grade special education and “at risk” students as part of the extended school year. Students were selected from a wide range of class types including general education, inclusion and self-contained LD and BD classes based on a demonstrated need for extra Mathematics and Language Arts intervention instruction. The goal was to provide these students with extra support to increase inclusion opportunities for students with disabilities and reduce referrals to special education for the “at risk” general education students.

A portion of time was spent providing targeted interventions in reading and math. The H.A.T.S. program also included daily lessons focused on a Solar System project based unit designed to develop writing, technology and communication skills. Students participated in weekly related field trips and utilized technology to demonstrate learning. The program included project based and small group instruction designed to close the achievement gap and meet New Jersey Learning Standards. Assessment drove instruction for students during daily intervention in math and reading with the purpose of closing the gap in those areas. Student learning was monitored throughout the program and adjustments were made based on that data. H.A.T.S. students will receive continued support from lead teachers throughout this school year in their current learning environments.


by Sean Healy and Cara Van Note

Donna Middlebrooks and Sean Healy / Bonnie Shultz and Jenn Manno

The Special Education Department records monthly Public Service Announcements (P.S.A.) that are excellent tools for reaching out to parents to encourage them to play an active role in their child’s life, both outside and within the classroom setting. P.S.A.’s are aired daily with a new topic being recorded every month by a rotating group of Lead Teachers.

Donna Middlebrooks and Sean Healy conducted the first one of the 2017-18 school year highlighting tips on organization, motivation, healthy routines and homework help for parents, teachers and students at the beginning of the school year. Public Service Announcements can be found on the jcboe.org website under JCETV or on Channel 1 on most cable providers.

What are the Art Therapist up to?

"The Shadow"

by Bonnie Shultz

Special Education Art Therapists encourage, engage and challenge their students' creativity.

During group, the Art Therapist focused on what defines a shadow. The students explored by creating shadows using their hands and a flashlight. They seemed enthusiastic about this particular lesson. The students were provided with a variety of manipulatives, such as wooden figurines and people stencils, to help them understand this concept. At this time, vocabulary words associated with the word shadow were reviewed. This gave the students an opportunity to focus on body awareness, figures, and movement.

When looking through different people stencils, the students selected a position to draw or trace. Some of the images were colored in with crayons and some were formed out of aluminum foil to create a figure-like sculpture. After the images were completed, each student re-created the figure by drawing or tracing it onto a bright yellow piece of paper and then colored it black or gray to represent a shadow image. The figure was then glued adjacently to the outlined image to look like a shadow. The students were engaged and seemed to enjoy working together during this creative process. This group activity promoted autonomy, awareness, vocabulary skills, and fine/gross motor skills.

What would you do?

by Donna Middlebrooks

T.V. Star and Host John Quiñones with Teacher Asst. Corinne Decker-Gingles

“What Would You Do?” is an ABC TV Show that uses actors to create provocative situations and hidden cameras to capture people’s genuine reactions and Anchor John Quiñones explores the choices people make when faced with these tough and sometimes uncomfortable scenarios.

When two Latino men placed an order in Spanish at Wonder Bagel in Jersey City, they are met by extreme prejudice from the cashier. Will the other customers speak up?

Well one of our own, Teacher Assistant Corinne Decker-Gingles from James F. Murray School – P.S. #38 stepped up to the plate and took out her Smart Phone to interpret the order for the two men while ignoring the rude and insensitive remarks from the cashier. She also told the cashier to put their order on her bill. When asked by John Quiñones why did she do it, her response was that people can’t be judged because we don’t know their circumstances or limitations, so we should be willing to assist others. Not only is Corinne an educator, but she also serves the community in which she lives. Hat’s Off to Corinne!

Training Teachers to Serve our Students Better!

by the L.I.N.K.S.Program

The Special Education Department is very proud to offer an array of workshops that strengthen the skills of teachers, and thereby stimulate the minds of students throughout the District. Roughly eighty (80) professional development sessions were provided throughout the district on a variety of topics including co-teaching, CPI, UDL, instructional interventions, strategies to enhance reading skills, assistive technology, accommodations & modifications.

Establishing a Culture for Learning

by Kathleen Kowana and Pedro Lopez

On October 27, 2017, the first of a four part Instructional Practices high school workshop took place at the JCEA titled, Establishing a Culture for Learning. The workshop was presented by Lead Teachers Kathleen Kowana and Pedro López with eighteen high school teachers in attendance. Attendees were involved in a variety of strategies utilizing Differentiated Instruction and Cooperative Learning.

During their time together, teachers participated as if they were students in the classroom. Various team building and Kagan Cooperative Learning structures were demonstrated and presented through hands on activities. For example, one of the activities involved the use of 6 balloons and 3 feet of tape to create the tallest standing tower. It was used as a team building activity to create an atmosphere of cooperation and working together to achieve a common goal. Strategies utilized during the workshop covered various content areas the teachers would be covering in the weeks following the workshop. The participants walked away with ready-made lessons to use in the classroom to keep their students actively engaged in the learning process.

A favorite activity presented that day was a team project. Teachers were shown a video created by a student of a rap song to explain Photosynthesis. They were given music and all the information on the topic necessary to create their own rap melody. Each team then presented their rap song to the entire group. The teams were very creative and were video-taped doing the presentations. All teams provided positive feedback on each group, various colors of sticky notes were given to each team for accountability and to make sure that only positive feedback was given.

These activities help develop positive relationships among classmates, as well as providing a medium that they enjoy. Many of the teachers will be returning and look forward to the rest of the series of workshops later this school year.

Created By
Jaime Merced


Jersey City Public Schools Department of Special Education

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.