NASHVILLE, TN — Members of the West Essex Middle School staff, who were featured at Friday's New Jersey Association for Middle-Level Education (AMLE) State Conference at Kean University, have been invited to present their workshop at the AMLE National Conference in Nashville, Tenn. later this year.

Eigth grade science teacher Danielle Purciello presents a session entitled “Engineering and Design Challenges for the Middle School Mind” and Principal Vee Popat, Director of Special Services Tania Symmons and Student Assistance Counselor Dana Leblein collaborate on a session entitled “WE Rise - a school-based program for emotionally fragile children.”

Popat, Symmons, and Leblein have also been invited to present their workshop at the national conference during the weekend of Nov. 7 to Nov. 9, 2019. 

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"We are honored to share the WERise Program with the members of NJAME at the annual state conference," said Popat, who credited that the creation of the WERise program as a collaboration between him, Symmons, Leblein and West Essex Superintendent of Schools Barbara Longo.

He explained that WERise is an offshoot of the WEConnect program at West Essex High School. Both programs offer an alternative classroom setting for students who, for a variety of reasons, are struggling to function in the traditional classroom setting. 

WERise is currently running English and math as the two core subjects. According to Popat, there are goals to expand the program to all core subjects for the upcoming school year. The WERise Committee at the school examines all referrals to the WERise program, basing admittance on a variety of data points and teacher feedback.

WERise provides a calm classroom where students can work one-on-one with a teacher, Popat explained. He stated that the program can either be a dedicated block of time in a student's schedule or a starting block for students who have been absent from school for an extended period of time. 

For these students, Popat explained that the middle school builds a schedule out from the WERise periods until the student is back to a full-day schedule.

Popat added that the program has been extremely successful in serving as an intervention for students  that are facing challenges in the traditional school setting.

On Friday night, Purciello presented on the topic of how to create engineering and design challenges that engage students in constructing, revising and testing models to find solutions to problems that are important to them.

The New Jersey AMLE is a professional membership organization focused on meeting the needs of young adolescents. As an affiliate of the AMLE, formerly known as the National Middle School Association, New Jersey AMLE serves as a voice for middle-level educators, students, parents and other stakeholders committed to excellence in middle level education. 

According to its website, the New Jersey AMLE provides leadership, professional learning and advocacy in support of its belief that all young adolescents must be academically challenged in an educational environment that meets their unique cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs.