SPARTA, NJ – November was quite a month at the Helen Morgan School. The school was immersed in Wonder, the R.J.Palacio novel recently turned movie. Beginning with a school wide competition to earn a ticket to the preview screening of the movie and ending with a big thank you, the school was focused on kindness in the month of Thanksgiving.
Several staff members made a point of pointing out it was all possible because of the "leadership," "enthusiasm," "passion" and "kindness" of their principal Doug Layman. On the last day of November, after one of their monthly safety drill the whole school thanked Layman.
The students and staff silently evacuated the school, lining up in the field as they had been taught. When the drill was completed each teacher unfurled a poster that spelled out THANK YOU KIND MR LAYMAN. The students had signed and written notes to Layman on their class’ poster.
Momentarily stunned, Layman thanked everyone for their efforts. He then walked to gather the posters from each class, shaking hands and high fiving students and staff.
“He really put a lot into this,” teacher Meg Milligan said. “We wanted to thank him. Not many principals would have done all this.”
In addition to reading the book, the Wonder experience for the school included door decorating, painting kindness rocks to line the walkway to the school, discussion groups and activity boxes supporting the curriculum. The week of Thanksgiving the entire school of nearly 500 students and more than 50 staff members went to see the movie.
“It was all [Layman],” media center specialist Stephanie Bernardo said. “This is his favorite book. He started working on this last spring. Without his encouragement and leadership, this would not have happened.”
“We thought he deserves to be recognized for all he did,” Milligan said.