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Spotlight: Student Support

Gaining the skills, strategies, tools, and mindset to be successful at school often hinges on the relationship between emotions and academics. The SEAD (Social Emotional Academic Development) program at Chartwell provides students with explicit, systematic, and multimodal instruction to better understand the relationship between their emotions and behaviors. Director of Student Support Billy Swift answered some questions about Chartwell’s research-based approach and why SEAD is one of the highest priorities at the school.

From left: Katie Whitman, Speech Pathologist; Billy Swift, Director of Student Support; Lisa Benjamin, Occupational Therapist; Carolyn Kelleher, Counselor; Emily Garber, Student Support; Reggie Roberts, Student Support; and John Lukin, Student Support

What do you see as the main purpose of chartwell's student support team? What do you strive to do every day?

The main purpose of the student support team is to ensure all students are able to effectively and efficiently access their program at Chartwell. In order for

this to occur, student's strengths need to be leveraged to increase the development of skills that are less advanced or haven't been explored yet. This might be in an academic setting, during free time, or in extracurricular activities. The student support team strives for all students to have the skills, strategies, tools, and mindset to feel confident with and enjoy learning and socializing.

How is Chartwell's approach different or unique?

Chartwell has the uncanny ability to balance intentionality with flexibility. What is meant by this is that Chartwell is very systematic in what it does, based on scientific research and years of experience. Yet, Chartwell is willing and able to bend certain variables to cater to each of our student's unique needs. Beyond that, what makes Chartwell different and unique are the families we work with: the real heroes. Parents or guardians saw a need for their child, and in many cases made sacrifices to send their child to Chartwell to help meet this need in their struggling child. This commitment is not lost on us and is the keystone to the work we do to meet each family's expectations, wants, and desires.

Why is a strong student support program even more important for students at Chartwell than perhaps other schools?

Many students who arrive at Chartwell have already gone through all the tiers of Response To Intervention (RTI). This means they have probably been on behavior plans, partook in a lot of pull-out services, were in separate classes with students that didn't have their intellectual abilities, had teachers that didn't understand them, didn't want to and/or teachers that didn't know how to teach them. Many students come from a system where they feel different, not understood, and where their weaknesses are highlighted. This leads to a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence, which not only impacts their ability to do well with academics, but it impacts their social world and the relationship they have with themselves and their loved ones. The student support team at Chartwell is here to help all our families and students who might need additional help with rebuilding a positive relationship with education. 

What is a typical day like for the Student Support Team? 
 

During the day, members of the Student Support Team are doing various tasks. Related Service Team members (counselors, speech and language pathologists, and occupational therapists) meet with individual students on direct services. They do this one-on-one or in small groups. They might also run social groups with students, observe students in classes, and meet with teachers about various methods to support students through their expert lens. Other members of the Student Support Team work with individual students in their classes or help support an entire class to ensure behaviors are conducive to learning and helping reinforce skills, strategies, tools, and mindsets. 

All Student Support staff also have coverage responsibilities supervising students during free time such as lunch and recess. At the front office, members of the Student Support Team respond to any student's immediate needs such as medical issues or if a student is struggling in the moment to regulate themselves to be productive students. Additionally, when needed, we work to respond to unexpected behaviors and when students have unwanted emotions by providing time to learn, reflect, and repair relationships with themself and others. Also, many members of the Student Support Team will offer to teach classes to focus on a specific topic relevant to their field of expertise, and they also lead workshops for parents and others in the greater community.

What do you love most about the work you do? 

I love being at Chartwell and working at a school. It is all about the people. I am inspired by the faculty, who are talented professionals and have a love for life-long learning, and the students who provide me with youthful energy and curiosity. I believe the best part of my role, and all those on the Student Support Team, is providing students with the opportunity to grow as people, understanding the intimate relationship between the emotions and behaviors and behaviors and emotions that contribute to our and others’ existence. 

Billy Swift is the director of student support at Chartwell School. Prior to Chartwell, Mr. Swift was a teacher and case manager at Landmark School near Boston, MA, a leading boarding and day school specializing in language-based learning disabilities. His roles in education have included working as a reading specialist, expressive language teacher, and advocate for students with learning and attention differences. He is versed in various Orton-Gillingham-based approaches including Wilson, PAF, and Lindamood-Bell. Mr. Swift holds an MFA from Lesley University and a Master of Science in Education from Simmons College. He is the co-director of Chartwell’s Teacher Training Institute.