South Orangetown Central School District

While this school year has been a unique experience for most teachers, William O. Schaefer Elementary School teacher Jaclyn Nandlal has had an extra learning curve. In September, Nandlal, who taught sixth grade social studies at South Orangetown Middle School for the past four years, became a second-grade teacher at WOS.

“Early on, one of my students lost a tooth and it took me a beat to realize ‘Oh wait, this is a really big deal,’”she laughed.

While the ages of her students have changed, Nandlal’s enthusiasm for infusing learning with adventure has not. At SOMS, Nandlal brought in mounted police who demonstrated how they train their horses so that students could make connections to how the domestication of animals helped humans advance. Although there haven’t been any live visitors yet, animals remain a part of Nandlal’s approach to curriculum. In fact, her students adopted a dairy calf named Cheerio as their virtual class pet.

“Second-graders are learning about communities,” she explained. “We wanted to bring life to the unit by connecting with a rural community. We’re working with Nate Chittenden at Dutch Hollow Farm in Schodack Landing. Students aren’t just learning by reading texts, they’ll be talking with Farmer Nate and taking virtual class visits to the farm to experience this firsthand.”

Nandlal also makes the most of technology to connect her students to the world around them. Friends serving in the Air Force and Army participated in a “Ask a Veteran” program to answer student questions for Veterans Day and she hopes to pilot a pen pal program with a local nursing home.

“It’s important that students learn not only in the classroom but by making connections to our community and world. These projects leave an impression and create experiences that they will never forget,” she noted.

In the classroom, Nandlal makes sure that students have time to play. Just before the snowstorm last month, she surprised them with an indoor snowball fight!

“Our class name is the ‘Second Grade Navigators’ because we’re in uncharted territory,” Nandlal said. “We’re on a daily journey to explore, learn and make connections to our community together.”

Second-grade students with teacher Jaclyn Nandlal