Jayden’s Bee-Line to Success at Pelham Bay Early Childhood Center
When Jayden started his first year of pre-school at Birch Family Services Pelham Bay Early Childhood Education Center (PBECC) in the Bronx, he was all over place, literally. But while the high-energy three year old burst into Ms. Krystal’s class last September with a short attention and very little focus, he came out on the other side ready to start his second year as an engaged student eager to learn about the exciting world around him.
“Since beginning his journey at Pelham Bay, Jayden has been provided with a variety of meaningful experiences to nurture his love for learning,” says his Aunt Kellyann, whom he lives with in Orange County with his uncle while participating in Pelham’s Bay virtual Summer Session. “Jayden’s engagement supported his ability to grow in all areas of development and accomplish imperative developmental milestones.”
But like Jayden, who really kept his teachers on their toes, these changes didn’t necessarily come in a straight line. As late as this past December, his classroom team and family discussed moving him from his 12-student class to a smaller 10-student setting that would provide him with more individual attention and support. However, the move never took place. In January, Jayden, who started school nonverbal and did not make eye contact with his teachers and fellow students, began to show substantial progress. His focus and engagement in hands-on activities with his classroom staff and school therapists just really took off. A few notable gains included an improved ability to communicate his wants and needs, an eagerness to complete his work and manipulate all classroom materials, and his enthusiasm for socializing with his peers and adults. Thanks to his team and critical family involvement, Jayden’s turnaround suggested that he was in just the right setting to learn.
“We could not be more grateful for all of the hard work, dedication, and love that the team has given us, especially while participating in remote learning. We are so proud of Jayden and look forward to seeing him grow and flourish in all areas of learning.” — Jayden’s Aunt Kellyann
Jayden, who can now string together multiple words to make himself better understood, continued to make gains over the next several months as Birch Family Services schools had to shift from school-based to a remote-learning model as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded over the spring. “Of course we feel the strong foundation in school helped him grow and we were able to build on this base remotely with assistance from and connection with his home and family life,” says PBECC Principal DeAnna Diamond, who describes Jayden as a “real doer.” “But we feel his greatest accomplishment is how much he has grown in regards to his engagement and desire to learn.”
Family engagement was key to Jayden’s success, especially during this tricky time for schools when educators must rely on family partnerships to help facilitate learning. In fact, Jayden’s family is so involved, his aunt recently participated in PBECC’s Secret Reader program, surprising students one summer Friday by taking time to read them one of her nephew’s favorite books, “I Can’t Eat This Stuff,” by author Liz Fletcher. Everyone – especially Jayden – had a blast.
School programs like Secret Readers, in which families and members of the community are invited to read their favorite books on Friday mornings to students, have proven especially useful in keeping students like Jayden engaged in learning while adapting to sitting still in front of a computer. Now, according to teacher Ms. Krystal, “Jayden is excited when he opens his laptop. He looks for his teacher, and says ‘Where’s Ms. Krystal?’ Or ‘Hi, Ms. Megan!’”
“The teachers, therapists, principal, and other team members at Pelham Bay have gone above and beyond to provide Jayden and our family with enriching activities and individualized support so he may fulfill his educational, language, and social-emotional goals,” says Aunt Kellyann. “We could not be more grateful for all of the hard work, dedication, and love that the team has given us, especially while participating in remote learning. We are so proud of Jayden and look forward to seeing him grow and flourish in all areas of learning.”