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Building a School Community with One Person at a Time

It’s no secret that schools have experienced many challenges since the onset of the pandemic. Remote learning, hybrid schedules, social distancing, quarantining, mask requirements–and the list could go on. All of these things have affected the students and staff in many ways.

At Burlington County Institute of Technology, they are deeply aware that although things have returned to some level of normalcy, There is still a need to support students and staff upon the return of school. BCIT was committed to ensuring that the social and emotional well being of the entire school community was the primary focus to start the new school year.

The BCIT school district hosted professional development for staff that included resources and strategies on supporting students and their colleagues that may be experiencing trauma and additional stress on the return to school. The BCIT Staff Equity Champions facilitated professional development sessions that highlighted mindfulness and stress reducing activities and resources to help educators assist students and colleagues during this difficult time period.

“We thought that students and staff may have different social/emotional/health needs as they returned to full-time in-person learning. Some students experienced a loss of family members and friends due to COVID. We,as an organization, had to be ready to support and assist all students who may be fearful, anxious, or overwhelmed with grief related to the pandemic. We wanted to provide support, interventions, and assistance to students who are struggling. Strategies were provided to address individual needs in hopes of alleviating some of the issues impacting our students and staff.” Laura Reiglesperger, Director of Pupil Personnel Services

Students opening up to one another and connecting
Students opening up to one another and connecting

Although BCIT successfully completed the 2020-2021 school year in-person, the students attended on a hybrid model, coming in on alternating days of the week. This meant that all students and staff  did not have the opportunity to build the entire school community foundation that had been done in years past. Understanding how important it is to the culture of the school community, administrators and key staff brainstormed on ways to bring everyone together, safely. Community Day was declared.

Senior students creating a pride banner for the Class of 2022
Senior students creating a pride banner for the Class of 2022

Both campuses of BCIT, (Westampton and Medford) set aside a day to build community amongst students and staff with team building activities and ice-breaker activities designed to unite the BCIT school community. Each campus had  a little bit different design with staff members facilitating the events of the day. Students participated in creating class banners, playing board games, outdoor team-building and icebreaker activities, trivia games show and,of course, refreshments. Superintendent, Dr. Christopher Nagy was excited for Community Day as “it symbolizes a new milestone and new beginning in the ongoing Covid-19 environment where students are able to return to school in-person and reconnect with classmates each and every day.  This is also an opportunity to promote the value of community, meeting new friends, celebrating everyone’s wellbeing, exercising mutual respect and the embrace of the power behind team building and what can be accomplished when all are working together and for one another. “

MedTech student hosting Trivia Game Show
MedTech student hosting Trivia Game Show

The overall feedback was positive. Students relished the opportunity to get to know their teachers and peers, while the staff understood the magnitude of building a foundation of trust and support with the students. It was the perfect way to begin the road back to normalcy.

“It was fantastic! The snow cones, outdoor/indoor activities and the game show were awesome; the day was safe and enjoyable!” DeeAnn Scott, Senior

Sports Medicine students want you to know that "It's all up to you!"
Sports Medicine students want you to know that “It’s all up to you!”

While it certainly wasn’t the beginning of a school year that many had hoped for, BCIT is making the best of it by building a positive school community where its members work together. With that approach, they are sure to be successful!

Burlington County Institute of Technology serves students from all of Burlington County, New Jersey. BCIT is a county-wide career and technical education school for students grades 9-12. For additional information, please visit their website at

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Michele Hill
Michele Hill is a passionate educator who serves as a Coordinator of Admissions and Communications and equity Specialist at Burlington County Institute of Technology. Throughout her career as an educator, Michele has been a champion for struggling and impoverished students.In her new role, Michele strategically markets and brands BCIT to attract and retain students and staff and highlight the amazing things happening in the school district. Michele has been a guest blogger for ASCD Inservice, McGraw Hill, Principal Leadership, Teacher Tool Kit UK, Edweek and ASCD Road Tested and is the Co-author of Fired Up Teachership and 100 No-NonsenseThings That All Teachers Should Stop Doing.

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