A group of eight young children listens to their teacher in quiet anticipation as he reads aloud Froggy’s Worst Play Date. No one budges from their spot on the semicircle; the students remain silently captivated by the story, amused by the distinct voices the teacher invents for each character. The ability to sit still and focus on story time, a seemingly routine classroom occurrence, is an astonishing feat for this particular group of kids, a testimony to their teacher’s expertise.
In his 13 years teaching kids with special needs, Michael Wojcio has aquired a reputation as a miracle worker among SOMA parents and administrators alike. Wojcio teaches a multi-age class (kindergarten through second grade) at Marshall Elementary School in South Orange exclusively for children with behavioral disorders, or BD’s, which often manifests as hyperactivity, or trouble with focus and concentration.
His experience as a special education teacher fostered Wojcio’s insight that the ideal environment for kids with BD’s differs vastly from what works best for children with other learning difficulties. Wojcio convinced his school district to let him implement and instruct a strictly BD class; the 2018-2019 school year served as the program’s test run.
“As a first year goes,” Wojcio says, “this one was extremely fleshed-out, which made things go smoothly from the beginning. I had great coworkers and staff in the room. We were able to work specifically on behaviors such as anxious outbursts and heightened emotions, to the extent that many of these behaviors not only lessened but became extinct.”
The goal of Wojcio’s BD program is to make it possible for kids to transition into an inclusive classroom setting, one in which students with learning disabilities work alongside general education students…