During this extraordinary time when New York City’s educators are working closely with students and families from the confines of their homes, we will be publishing a series of posts describing their experiences in their own words. We are now #DOEconnected!
Follow our hashtag, #DOEconnected, join the conversation, and connect online with your neighbors across the City. Share stories of how you, your child, a teacher, or a school community member has become your hero. Remember, not all heroes wear capes.
Angelica Cassimiro, physical education teacher at P.S. 20, the Clinton Hill School, in Brooklyn
“This is a time when our students’ and families’ physical well-being—which, in turn, directly impacts their emotional and mental state—is more important” than learning new skills within the national standard of physical education requirements.
Angelica Cassimiro is one of our extraordinary teachers that played a large part in our schools’ monumental transition to remote learning. Although nervous at first, she was able to overcome her initial jitters through preparation and by focusing on how to best reach her students across 22 classes from kindergarten through fifth grade.
“I am learning a lot, because in the first two or three weeks, I over-provided—meeting every class, schedule five different meetings each day, and it became too much.”
In order to manage her workload and her workdays, she consolidated all her classes by grade. Her days are still full, as she juggles lesson planning, remote teaching, meetings with staff members, and online courses in pursuit of a graduate degree.
Her approach to keeping calm and carrying on? Daily 15-minute breathing breaks.
A year and a half ago, the Clinton Hill School partnered with Brain Power Wellness, a Department of Education vendor that provides social emotional support while teaching children and staff members breathing techniques along with physical movements to support overall wellness. As the lead teacher for Brain Power at P.S. 20, Angelica offers a 15-minute breathing and meditation break every morning—for her students, but also their families!
“I try to make it as inspirational as possible, so that the kids can be like, ‘this is the best part of the day!’ We are taking a moment to take care of our bodies. We’ll do a one-minute dance break to shake it out, and get back to the breathing.”
Even after the wellness break is over, students stay connected with Angelica to chat with each other, and the breaks always end up being 20–30 minutes long. “I think they come to the meeting to do the exercises and stay after to chat!” But beyond the daily 15-minute breaks, Angelica makes an effort “to get face time with as many as I can of the 20 different classes I see on a weekly basis,” as she wants to check-in on her students regularly and feel what her students are feeling!
“Being physically involved in the lesson is important” for Angelica and her students. Her vision is to stress the importance of physical education by making physical activities inspirational, and a priority. While there are so many more expectations from other academic subjects, “it is important for kids to take a moment to shake it off. And believe it or not, it will make them feel more energized and engaged in academics too!”
Angelica continues to prioritize the physical and mental well-being of her students. “I have been focusing on assigning fun activities that get the children excited to complete, and leave them with a feeling of accomplishment, all the while increasing their heart rate and keeping them healthy.”
Angelica Cassimiro is emblematic of how New York City’s educators are adapting to these unprecedented times on behalf of our students and families. We thank all of our staff members for helping all of us stay #DOEconnected.
Did you know that every Wednesday is Wellness Wednesday NYC for City students and their families?
Every week during these challenging times, the DOE is providing digital resources on its website to help students and families learn skills and habits that promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Each Wednesday, you will find new activities and resources on our Wellness Wednesday website that will help you learn about key aspects of wellness, including the importance of physical activity and good health, caring for your mental and emotional health, and others.
For more information, check out our Wellness Wednesday NYC page, and check back every Wednesday for updates!