WESTFIELD – People often think about reading aloud or helping teachers make copies when they think about volunteering in a classroom. But what about giving students tips on how to calm down before public speaking, or how to shake hands?
These are some of the skills that businesses brought to the Westfield Public Schools this past year through the Adopt-a-Classroom pilot program.
Coordinated by district Supervisor of English Mary Keane, the program was conceptualized through the Westfield Education to Business Alliance (WE2BA). WE2BA is a partnership between the schools and the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce that brings businesses into the classroom in a variety of ways.
Keane said this year three businesses adopted classrooms, including PeoplesBank, Forum House and Mestek. The commitment for businesses is minimal, she said.
“It’s four days, but it’s really only about an hour each day,” said Keane.
One day is spent brainstorming with teachers on how the business can best help the class. Keane said to keep the lift light for teachers, the project is something that’s already in their curriculum. For example, at Abner Gibbs a class had a State Fair project where they had to do research on a state and create and give a presentation. PeoplesBank was able to help prepare the students for speaking in front of a group.
Forum House is a place for adults who have been socially and vocationally disabled because of mental illness and provides them with skills to obtain jobs. Among those skills are confidence and responsibility.
Keane said the partnership gave her and students the opportunity to learn more about Forum House and it was a mutually successful experience.
With Mestek, Keane said, the philosophy of Plant Manager Peter Letendre was that the students in the adopted classroom are his future employees.
“He said he is investing in his future workforce,” Keane said. “He encouraged other businesses to participate because the kids are the people that will be working with you – why wouldn’t you want to have a direct impact on their skills?”
Abner Gibbs Principal Stacy Bergess said teachers had some reservations before the program was implemented, but they were “pleasantly surprised” with its success.
Keane hopes to extend the program this coming school year. Any business that would like to Adopt-a-Classroom should contact Keane at [email protected]