Since the Alternative Learning Center (ALC) at Maybrook opened about six years ago, it has given students in the Valley Central School District who struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem a place where they can reach their full potential. Mike Stoduto, a teacher at the center, and Alitsa Chabut, a school psychologist at the center, provided an overview of the ALC at the Board of Education meeting on March 9.
The ALC gives students in grades 4-12 in the district an additional pathway to graduation. Teachers create a caring and nurturing environment by providing consistent, unconditional support to make students feel safe, accepted and respected. Students are taught through the use of traditional and nontraditional instructional methods that are flexible and accommodating to students’ needs.
“If you need a few minutes, you can have a few minutes,” Stoduto said. “If you do really well with worksheets, I can give you a bunch of worksheets. If you do really well with visuals we can do that. Whatever works to help the students get through.”
Emotional, academic and personal development is at the heart of the ALC’s curriculum. Teachers facilitate growth by building relationships with students. They care about the students’ personal lives.
Most classrooms at the ALC offer a more comfortable classroom environment featuring couches and tables. The staff make students feel comfortable by greeting students in the morning.
The small class sizes are an asset to the ALC.
“We are a very successful program because we are able to establish a sense of community,” Chabut said. “We have to have a small environment because that’s what lets us build those relationships with other students on a very personal level.”
It all starts with the staff. The ALC has a very active and dedicated staff.
“We’re all committed to our students’ needs,” Chabut said. “We’re very flexible, accommodating to what they come with every single day...We meet together all the time to figure out what we need to do to meet the needs of each student on an individual basis.”
The ALC hosts a number of special events to build a bond between teachers and students. There was a pumpkin decorating competition this past Halloween, a giant feast for Thanksgiving and a celebration for Cinco de Mayo featuring a mariachi band. Teachers constantly play games with students at the ALC.
“Teachers are always playing with them. We’re always involved with them,” Chabut said. “It lets them see us in a different light as a person that’s not just on your team for games but also in life as well.”
Students have praised the center’s laid-back environment and the effectiveness of its teachers. Parents have praised the ALC, with many noticing improvements in their childrens’ demeanors. Superintendent of the Valley Central School District John Xanthis commended the ALC for boosting the district’s graduation rate.
“Without ALC, that three to four percent depending on the year that they add to it, we’d have a good rate but we wouldn’t have an outstanding rate or among the best in the county,” he said.