In mid October, the South Colonie Central School District announced a new series titled “Meet the Pack” aimed at highlighting South Colonie staff members that go above and beyond for the school community.
Rachel Clement has only been teaching at South Colonie for a year and a half but she is already making waves. Clement teaches special education to fifth and sixth graders at Sand Creek Middle School. She started in the district as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for four years at Lisha Kill Middle School. This gave her hands-on experience before even beginning her teaching career. During this time she was in graduate school at The College of Saint Rose, getting her masters in special and general education. She also holds a psychology degree from Siena.
Clement is working with eight students this year, with her two TAs, Ellen Harker and Diane Cade. The three women work on creating a safe environment for their students, where everything is a victory and there are plenty of dance breaks. She also makes sure that her students know adults make mistakes too, and you can always turn things around for the better.
Clement was nominated by an appreciative colleague. “Rachel is amazing at teaching coping strategies to her students. Allowing their self-confidence to grow and their communication skills with it.”
Another reason Clement was nominated is her ability to encourage students to come out of their shells. Her nominator wrote, “One student in her class had intense dread about coming to school. Now he looks forward to coming everyday and spending the day with Ms. C. She has completely changed the student’s mindset towards school.”
In the month of November Clement focuses on understanding the power of gratitude with her students. “November is a great month for our classroom. When we work on gratitude, it’s working on connecting my students better with their expressive emotions. It builds their confidence in their receptive communication so they can better socialize. This helps them feel more at ease in the outside world.”
During her lessons Clement explains to her students that not everyone has a bed, access to an education, or clean clothes. “The aspect of gratitude and seeing things around you to be grateful for helps make everyday easier. It allows you to take a step back from the stressors of life and be grateful for what you have.”
During a visit to their class, the students were working on a project Clement calls, gratitude turkeys. On each feather students wrote something they are thankful for. A bed, their family, their pets and food topped the list. School, a good day, movies and games were some other favorites.
“Appreciating the basic things we tend to take for granted is so important. Whenever my students are having a bad day they can look at these turkeys and remember all the beautiful things in life.”
When asked about her favorite part of teaching Clement said, “I love what the kids have to offer. No two students are the same. Their perspective on things wakes us up as adults and makes us think outside our personal view of the world. Figuring out their emotions leads to so many amazing and eye opening conversations.”
Outside of the classroom Clement is the junior varsity volleyball coach and the modified track coach in the spring. She is also on the character ed board for Sand Creek. Some things she is grateful for? “My yellow lab buster and my amazing colleagues. It really takes a village and I am so lucky to have such a great support system.”