WESTFIELD, NJ - Members of the Westfield Board of Education, faculty, parents and students met Tuesday night to honor outstanding teacher, Denis McMorrow, and discuss plans for the future.
"The one thing I don't want to hear from kids is I can't," said Denis McMorrow, Roosevelt Middle School teacher and winner of the Optimist Club of Westfield's Recognition of Intermediate School's Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.
"I've been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best educators in the business. The thing that's made the job easy is to have the students that I've had. The importance that Westfield families and residents place on education is astounding. The past 16 years have been very positive for me and I can't express how grateful I am and how deeply appreciative I am to receive this honor," McMorrow said.The word "transition" was discussed extensively at the meeting, describing how different transitional stages in a student's life will determine their future progression. Examples of these important transition periods of schooling include the stages between grades K - 1st and 8th into 9th grades.
A video, made by current 6th graders, was shown. In the film, the students discussed their transition from elementary to intermediate middle school. They talked about concerns that they had including being "nervous about how big the new school was," "what the first couple of days would be like," and getting lost and being late for class. They also discussed two things they loved about the 6th grade and what resources helped to ease the transition.
Programs at the intermediate level are important, according to various studies and surveys done in the State of New Jersey. A number of factors are researched that help guide the decisions made by the Board of Education including student enrolment. Sixth grade enrolment is particularly important because this determines who is entering and leaving a critical transition period.
The Westfield Intermediate Guiding Principles are as follows:
1. Maintain class size parity among academic students
2. Commitment to team concept as an essential, effective instructional practice for middle school students
3. Commitment to provide students comparable excellent academic experiences
4. Commitment to efficient use of resources as they relate to fluctuating enrollment.
An essential part of the middle school process, as described by the Board of Education, is the utilization of "teams." A team, in the educational forum, is a small learning community in which students are grouped by grade level. Students, according to the Board, need to be progressing in an interconnected level. Staff participates in interdisciplinary teams and a team consists of a minimum of four teachers. Teachers plan and collaborate for the continuity of instruction. The students have the same teachers and do not move as a group. They do move based on needs and courses that are selected. The team staff can include teachers in Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science and World Languages.
According to the Board of Education, the three key elements of the progressive education of young adolescents in Westfield include:
1. Social equity;
2. Academic rigor and excellence; and
3. Developmentally responsive behavior.
These three elements will determine "the people the students will become when they move into high school and they will begin to get a definite feeling of independence."