Teaching students to cope with school

Buczkowski brings SEL program to RB

Danielle Buczkowski works teaching academic support and social emotional learning to at-risk students.  This is her first year at RB and the first year that RB has had a specific SEL-designated classroom.

Daniel Mancoff

Danielle Buczkowski works teaching academic support and social emotional learning to at-risk students. This is her first year at RB and the first year that RB has had a specific SEL-designated classroom.

Isabelle Echevarria, Staff Reporter

This year, Danielle Buczkowski, known already to her students as Ms. B, will be working at RB in a new program focusing on teaching social emotional learning (SEL) skills to struggling students.

“Everyone has personal struggles with getting along with peers, getting along with staff members, or maybe even getting to school on time,” Buczkowski said, “so social emotional learning teaches kids how to accept compliments, how to complete tasks. It’s teaching people how to take responsibility for themselves.”

Buczkowski did not originally imagine she would be working in SEL.  She wound up teaching SEL after completing her student teaching in special education at an alternative school in Chicago.

“It was brutal,” Buczkowski said about her start with teaching SEL.

She struggled with the kids acting out against her until an old professor of hers explained to her that kids came to her classroom for a reason.  Since then, Buczkowski has learned not to take student-teacher interactions as personally.  Following student teaching, she went into counseling and now loves what she does and loves being able to see changes in students.

Buczkowski’s road to RB was quite a coincidence. After having started two programs at different schools, she was looking for a new adventure. She ended up contacting an RBHS counselor she graduated with, and the counselor revealed that there was a perfect spot for Buczkowski.

With ten years teaching experience, Buczkowski has brought valuable experience to RB.  She has earned her LPC, a professional counseling degree, and a school counseling degree which allows her to provide students with a therapeutic-type setting in her classroom.  In a previous job at Plainfield Central, Buczkowski also taught all four levels of high school English, and she brings a balance of the academic and social sides of learning to the classroom. She also hopes to share collaboration ideas and data with other RB teachers at a future institute day.

Buczkowski currently has only four or five students in her class every day, but the room is open for teachers to bring students there, so she can have up to ten. However, Buczkowski can easily see the class size growing once teachers and parents find out more about the class.

Buczkowski revealed that her approach to these kids are like her approach to any other adult or person.

“The struggle can come when kids feel disrespected,” Buczkowski said, so from the beginning she has been honest about herself and why she is there.

Buczkowski said that her fellow staff members in RB are doing a great job with communicating with students as well as they can, considering their class sizes, but she does have advice for the teachers.

“Recognize that as teachers, we come across as expecting kids to be perfect and put aside other things in their lives, and as teachers, we have to do the same. We need to look at ourselves, and recognize that sometimes when students are upset or angry and it seems like they’re taking it out on us, there is a reason they’re acting this way, and we should see if we can help out with the reason,” she said.

Placement in Buczkowski’s SEL class is not for every student.  Teachers recommend students for the class.  The class gives students a chance to receive extra help with any academic subject while, at the same time, deliberately teaching them coping skills.

“It’s the personal piece that goes into the academic piece, and helps with social views and awareness,” Buczkowski said.

The biggest thing that Buczkowski hopes kids can take away from the class is that they function better for themselves.

“I want them to recognize for themselves what they need to do to be productive in school and outside of class,” she said. Buczkowski also strongly believes that everybody, student or teacher, has struggles and additional help can be beneficial for anyone.

Buczkowski has had numerous accounts of success with what she does.

“I had a female student that I worked with for all four years of high school. She struggled with everything like language, running away, fighting in school, even numerous arrests, and a lot of it was trust, and getting  her to come to school, and not going through all the details, but I can say that she graduated and she’s in college now to be a nurse. We are still in contact and she is 20 and fantastic,” she said.

The RB administration and board has its fingers crossed that Buczkowski will make a big impact for the school, and will be able to help the students make the most of their extra help. Remember the term SEL, it’s here to make students recognize what they need to do first to accomplish big things in the class room.