What makes The Craig School Craig? It’s an amazing faculty and staff. One of our very favorite teammates is Jonathan Pieri, our Help Desk Analyst. Jonathan is always professional, helpful, and never judgemental, even when the answer to your problem is to simply, “Reboot your computer.” Jonathan always takes time out of his incredibly busy day, countless projects, and other responsibilities to lend a hand. Jonathan was also on Craig’s front line supporting our distance-learning efforts, laptop pickups, and help desk calls while most of us were in a state of lockdown as COVID-19 arrived. Jonathan is a team player we could not be prouder of.
He is a Badger in every sense of the word!
PLEASE ENJOY OUR WINTER 2019 EDITION OF CONVERSATIONS.
We are highlighting two dynamic programs used at The Craig School.
✔ The Library Program at the Lower/Middle School
✔ Self and Group Dynamics at Craig High
Happy Holidays to all of our Craig Community
TAD JACKS, Head of School
I have heard these statements or endless variations of them for years. It is true we as a society lead busier lives than decades ago. When children leave school quite often they are shuttled to a practice, games, lessons or tutoring. The days of unstructured lazy afternoons have long gone. Recreational or independent reading has suffered at the hands of this new norm.
You might be thinking, “so what?” If they read their assigned reading isn’t that enough? The answer is a resounding no for all students, but particularly Craig students. Research shows that vocabulary is developed through reading, so if a child is not reading, their vocabulary is not growing. Additionally typically students at Craig have come to our school with a reading deficit.
They have not read as many books as their peers, thus it is not only their vocabulary that is weakened, but they have not had as much exposure to varying text structures, word choice and figurative language.
Steven King has said, “books are uniquely portable magic.” Books have the ability to take you away from your life and move you into a different universe. Neuroscientists have studied people reading and see that the same regions of the brain that demonstrates you experienced an event are lit up in a Fictional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI ) which measures brain activity when you read. Reading is transformative, not only making us more informed, educated citizens, but it transforms our brains and shapes our world views.
At Craig we focus on reading instruction. Our students don’t have the time to peruse library shelves after school and just clicking on Amazon isn’t helpful when you have no idea what you are looking for.
Students are brought to the library weekly with their reading teachers where they are guided to books that they would enjoy and experience successful reading. With their teachers expert guidance there is a much greater chance that they will find a better match than if they looked for a book independently.
Over the past six years our library has grown from a handful of books to our current collection of over 4,300.
Books matter. In our busy lives they offer a quiet retreat where you can dive into another world. They allow you to see other perspectives, deepening empathy and understanding. Book by book our library grows developing and strengthening academic skills and ushering in a welcome respite to our noisy lives.
THE OVERALL GOAL OF THE SELF AND GROUP DYNAMICS CLASS is for students to begin their high school experience by gaining a better understanding of how they learn best, what makes them “tick,” how to manage their own emotions as well as under-standing those around them and how to relate, understand and interact with others appropriately and effectively. Craig High School’s Freshmen Year Self and Group Dynamics class is the first building block of Craig High School’s Self Program, a collection of progressive courses that provide opportunities and direction for our students to learn about themselves as both individuals and students. It also provides them with the tools and self-knowledge to be active participants in their transition beyond high school. During this first year of high school there are three basic elements.
FIRST, we help students acknowledge and embrace their Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligence strengths and weaknesses. Students take a series of inventories throughout the course. One of which conveys the various modalities of learning and helps to prioritize which modality that they learn best in (visual, auditory or kinesthetic). Next, we practice how each modality can be translated into classroom learning and support their independent learning.
SECOND, we focus on Mindfulness, which was begun for many of the students while they attended the Lower and Middle School, where students learn the importance of being in the moment. They also build greater awareness of their own emotions and how to best manage them. Guided meditation is practiced throughout the unit as the students are actively learning and apply deep breathing and relaxation techniques.
THIRD, and new to our program is Empathy. This is a unit in the course curriculum which focuses on our students becoming more understanding of others’ thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They learn to be active listeners to those around them and to use this information to adjust their behavior based on someone else’s state of mind. Students role-play expressing themselves in various scenarios where they might be upset/frustrated etc., all while trying to understand someone else’s point of view.
As the year ends, we hope we have helped the students focus on understanding and accepting their learning disabilities through various projects and presentations. One popular project is where students develop and choose from a list of well-known celebrities, politicians, entrepreneurs, and athletes who have been identified as having a learning disability and have found their own personal success. Through research, the students find information on how these individuals did not let their learning disability define who they are and how they were able to achieve their goals through self-understanding, self-acceptance, and hard work. This project culminates in the building of our annual “LD Wall of Fame”, a display of their projects.
LS/MS - January 14th
HIGH SCHOOL - January 15th
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Debra Gallo
Ph: (201) 400-2188
“Transforming Lives at Craig”
The Craig School has just completed Reading and Orton Rooms Renovation.
The Craig School, located at 271 Boulevard in Mountain Lakes has completed its’ third major building renovation since 2016 as it creates the best learning environment possible for the approximately 85 students in grades 2-8, with language-based learning disabilities at Craig .
“Transforming Lives at Craig," a school renovation that has been designed specifically for the special educational needs of students with learning disabilities has completed a special classroom wing and the entire lower level of the Wilson building. We have completed renovating teaching spaces, ideally for 2-4 students, for focused Reading programs, and the core of our instructional program, the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading. This latest project is the third major one since 2016- including The Reeth Furlong Gymnasium and the second-floor renovation and creation of classrooms including a STEM/Science Lab.
One of the most frequent comments we have heard in the first few weeks since the opening of 8 classroom spaces on the ground floor is “ The new teaching and learning space is inspiring as the colors used are replicative of colors in nature and it helps our students focus and maintain a calm and nurturing environment while learning.
The latest renovation features newly designed classrooms that are ideally suited for small group instruction. Research has suggested that small group instruction is efficient and very effective for faster acquisition of essential reading skills. The classroom set up with teacher supported technology and furniture design is educationally effective for struggling readers- our focus. Our new space enables teachers to better share ideas, learning materials and educational strategies. Classrooms have been designed with special lighting, noise-attenuating materials on walls and floors to provide an optimal learning environment for Craig's students.
Highlighted classroom features include a Front Row system for amplification, acoustical panels and Biolfillate wallpaper for positive visuals. Similar features to our other previous renovated rooms included standup desks, chairs that rock, yoga ball chairs and hokki stools. The room and furniture functionality compliment and accommodate our style of learner.
Although the latest features are a welcome addition, there is still work to be done. “We will continue to raise funds to improve our facilities on our Mountain Lakes campus and our High School.” Tad Jacks, Head of School explains.
As an independent school, Craig does not receive major funding from state or federal agencies. The highly specialized educational program is supported by tuition and the gifts of parents, alumni, foundations such as Hyde & Watson, Summit Area Public Foundation and fundraising activities.
The Craig School and Craig High School, with approximately 40 students, located in Boonton, NJ, is a member of the NJAIS - New Jersey Association of Independent School and a member of the National Association of Independent Schools.
The additional building renovations and expansion of programs at
The Craig School - Mountain Lakes Campus ( grades 2-8) is continuing and on schedule.
We have begun the third phase of our expansion with the development of the new
Faculty and students describe our new renovated spaces and additional classroom building from our “Transforming Lives at Craig” campaign as “Priceless!”
In 2016,The Reeth- Furlong Gymnasium was completed.
The Reeth Furlong story is an example of how education can become a personal story more than standardized tests and curriculum. Our renovated gym provides our students and staff a first rate facility.
This transformation of the 3rd floor of the Wilson Building features five classrooms and a STEM/Science lab.
The teaching space is designed specifically for our typical class size of eight students. The rooms feature standup desks, chairs that rock, yoga ball chairs, and even Hokki stools. The functionality compliments and accommodates our style of learner.
The classroom design draws inspiration from colors of nature and helps our students focus and maintain a calm being while our environment assists learning.
Our Orton Gillingham Program is a hallmark of The Craig School and we are very excited for the additional space and access to tools to help students unlock their reading and learning potential. Seven Orton Gillingham teaching rooms are being designed and are described as “bright, airy and spacious”.
There will be three additional classrooms focused primarily on reading instruction and social studies.
Enhancing our Social Studies and Science Curriculum, these new classrooms will be closer to the outdoor spaces we have created for science. Students are growing vegetables and learning about food production, sustainability, seasonality and life cycles.
by Colleen Whitcombe
The journey to the Craig School was not an easy one for our son. He struggled for years in a public-school that was not equipped to provide an appropriate and supportive learning environment. The years of struggle chipped away at his confidence and self-esteem. He was frustrated and confused, and the experience left our son feeling unsupported, misunderstood, alone, and well, different. For our son, being "different" meant being "dumb." Undoubtedly the most heartbreaking thing to hear your child say about themselves. Perhaps our son wasn't the first child to come to The Craig School feeling "different." But once they get to Craig, they become a part of a truly supportive community of teachers, coaches, and specialists working together to help them '\ succeed. And along the way, they often discover many marvelous gifts and talents that accompany their so-called differences.
THE TALENTED CRAIG SCHOOL STAFF utilize various methods and strategies to guide students toward achieving individual success. Our son was introduced to one of the many incredible strategies, one that he probably uses the most, on his very first day. I like to say, this was the day he was introduced to 'the binder things in life.' The Craig School Binder System. For our son, staying organized, even with the best organizational methods at our fingertips, is no easy feat. Keeping himself, his schoolwork, homework, various reference sheets, permission slips, etc. organized has always been a massive challenge for him. Figuring out a system that works can be the biggest hurdle, then actually sticking to a system is another story altogether. If this sounds familiar, it's time to embrace "The Binder Things in Life!" Each year the Craig Team thoughtfully assembles a color-coded binder for every student, (no one feels "different") and ALL students use the organization binder in the same way, in each classroom. The secret ingredient is that ALL teachers are totally unified in reinforcing its daily use. This simple yet brilliant system is more than a fundamental organizational tool, it's a proven method Craig Students develop to BE, and STAY organized on their own. I see it as a way of life. A true skill that will serve them a lifetime.
Find out more about our annual College Fair and our College counseling by clicking here
as of 3/15/19
Branford Hall Career Institute
College Living Experience
College Internship Program
County College of Morris
Morris County DVR
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Georgian Court University
Johnson & Wales University
Lesley University Threshold Program
Morris County Vocational Technical School
New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program
Ramapo College of NJ
Sacred Heart University
The College Experience
William Paterson University
Head of School Tad Jacks reached out to Alyssa Sorrenti who attended Craig through the 8th grade to talk about her experience as a student at Craig. Read all about it.
Save the date and join us Saturday, February 23rd, 11am to 1pm
Download, print and return the form to tell us if you're a family of chili cooks or chili tasters!
Download the form here:
The Craig School began as a very small community of adults and students who needed a specialized education. The need for a school was powerful and hence our wonderful school began.
I have been asked periodically what we are doing at Craig to build community. It is assumed that because we have a community of learners who learn differently, Craig must be a built-in community, already formed. Others remark we only have a community when we have shared "community-wide" events. Both points of view are correct. Concerning community-wide events, I ask all to look at formal and informal "events" on the school calendar that do build community. You do not have to look far. I will start with our youngest learners whose parents of our emerging readers come together annually to listen to the student created stories that our students read out loud to their parents, hosted by our talented and dedicated Orton Gillingham teachers. When these students joined us, most of them could not read. We can also look at our school events for targeted populations - artists, athletes, and scientists. All have the chance to participate in afterschool clubs, teams, and fairs with student and parents with the same interests. Our annual Auction is a community event, as are our family and student alumni events. Periodically, we add additional community events, such as a chili cookoff, for the entire community to enjoy. We could always do more, but as I am reminded almost daily, our 120 plus student population live in over 60 towns or “other communities,” and those communities receive your support as well.
The Craig School “experience” does build the feeling of community. My own personal experience is that my “Craig like“ school that I entered at age 10 was a community. There, like at Craig, as a student I found the confidence to grow. That has led me to join several other communities in my life – some geographical and some school specific. For me, the communities that focus on helping others are the most powerful. These were the communities that taught me the broadest meaning of community – for which I am grateful.
As we approach the mid-point of this school year, I remind all of us that Craig has welcomed over thirty new students to our campuses – about 25% of our total student population this year. Having “newcomers” so frequently is a part of our culture. It is only possible because of our dedicated faculty and staff, who are called to serve schools like Craig. We strive to get to know your youngster. Our school has a purpose and those who are here – faculty and staff, parents and students, are doing purposeful work, and with that focus we have a vibrant and valuable community serving young people and their families.
TAD JACKS, Head of School
BUILDING COMMUNITY AT CHS:
AT CHS, building community is as important and as influential as any academic skill we can teach our students. It reinforces our safe and supportive environment while uniting the various people that make up the CHS family.
Through community, we become bigger than ourselves, part of something special, and can do some amazing things together from problem-solving for our school, supporting other organizations, or just celebrating each other's accomplishments! Here are a few examples of our community building.
COMMUNITY in the LS/MS:
EACH WEEK AS PARENTS YOU RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER. Hopefully, the information does more than inform you about activities. We hope it helps you be part of the community. In our Lower and Middle Schools, there are intentional things we do each day to build community. One example is Mr. Smith (known as George) who greets each person daily coming out of a vehicle. Another example is students starting their day in Morning Gym or the Quiet Room and the familiarity that this brings. It is not long after that the shared experience of the Homeroom group, along with a daily Mindfulness exercise that bonds us all. As the day continues, formatted and deliberately the same, binders, lunch, and group activities all help students feel a sense of belonging. Finally, although some aspects of a day could be different by each class, all finish their day back with their peers in the homeroom.
The rituals of a school day form community, and that is what makes it work so well for most of our youngsters. The greeting that teachers and students alike give every day, set the tone for the community. For us, the more we can laugh, cry, support and demand the best from each of our friends, the more the community thrives.
COMMUNITY – PARENTS:
FOR PARENTS, community is different for each of us. We form our own community by the events we join in. The car line is one form of community, as we can get out of our cars and chat with one another, say hello to George, greet Mr. Jacks in the morning, or wave to one of our dismissal teachers. Another place where we come together is on the athletic field/court. Sitting in the stands, cheering on our children, we are able to talk about "things" while supporting our students. Also the events that the school and PACS (Parents Association of Craig School) provides are all opportunities to join in the Craig community - Grandfriends Day, STEM night, Coffees with the Head of School, Waffle Breakfast, Expo/Talent Show, Book Fair, Trick or Trunk, Annual Auction, Golf Outing, PACS meetings, Class Parties, to name a few. While it is harder for us as parents to find the time to join in, it is always time well spent.
Micki Boas, a proud parent of Matias, a third grader here at the Craig School shares her story on early intervention and finding The Craig School.
“We brought him here in the second grade when we realized that he needed individualized support and attention.”
Among children who have reading difficulties, if intervention happens in 4th grade it takes four times longer, than if you give him the help they need in kindergarten.
“With Matias, he missed so many milestones. We found The Craig School and learned that the curriculum was built from the ground up in the way that his brain was meant to learn versus the way that the New Jersey curriculum wanted him to learn.”
Small class sizes, teachers who have Ph.D. level training and like-minded classmates to socialize with.
Learn about the programs at The Craig School for early intervention.