St. Mark School Increases Focus on Student Well-Being Amid COVID-19

STRATFORD—St. Mark School in Stratford is pleased to announce that amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it has increased its emphasis on student well-being. This year, the school initiated a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Program into the Preschool – Grade 8 curriculum and hired a part-time School Counselor.

“Recognizing the new challenges that the pandemic has brought, educators must be proactive in our response to our students’ emotional and mental health needs,” shares St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner.

According to the National Education Association, SEL should be priority during the COVID-19 crisis and is key to successful student performance, especially in preschool and elementary school.

This year St. Mark School implemented Second Step, an evidence-based, interactive SEL curriculum, supported by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), through which students learn and practice vital social skills, such as cooperation, problem-solving, empathy, emotion management, and impulse control.

St. Mark School Counselor Jennifer Flynn adds, “I am proud to work at a school that understands and promotes social emotional learning and fosters a community built on compassion and kindness to all. I feel Second Step is an important program as it is developing student’s socio-emotional skills and increasing social competences.”

Preschool Director Julie Larracuente remarks, “I think the program is a great addition to our Little Lions classroom. The preschool students get so excited when our SEL puppets, Jerome and Maria, come to visit us. The puppets talk about their emotions and show us different ways to express our feelings to others. Our sessions always end with a fun, active game that requires the children to listen to and follow directions.”

During a recent lesson on Emotion Management, second grade students learned that when they have strong feelings, it is hard to think clearly. However, if they focus their attention to clues which their body gives them about how they are feeling, they can help their brain get back in control. Students enjoy their “turn and talk” discussions with classmates in which they share how lessons can apply to their situation and life experiences.

“SEL gives students the tools to excel in and out of the classroom,” shares Second Grade Teacher Stacey Zenowich. “The program’s age-appropriate games, activities, and media engage students and set children on a path to lifelong success.”

Fifth Grade Teacher Alyssa DiMaio reports, “My students always look forward to Second Step lessons in the classroom. By learning about important topics such as empathy and respect, our classroom culture has greatly improved.”

St. Mark School is a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school and a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence. St. Mark School opened its campus for full-time, in-person learning in September and continues to offer robust educational programs for students in Pre-K through Grade Eight, including those who choose to be enrolled in remote learning. For more information, call 203.375.4291, email or visit