Jason Poniatowski doesn't rely on classroom lectures to bring the business world to Valhalla’s Southern Westchester BOCES. He instead outfits his students with the computer and communication skills they will need to succeed in the workforce.
“Sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture doesn’t work for them,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure they are employable now and in the future.”
Lessons in Google applications, Microsoft Office and public speaking are all part of the curriculum for his students with special needs. Poniatowski also had them create their own Gmail accounts, which he uses as a tool to advocate professional communication.
For example, last month they used their accounts to send follow-up e-mails to customers who ordered pies from them during the school’s holiday fundraiser. The phone number to order the pies was directly forwarded to Poniatowski’s classroom, which he says gave the kids valuable experience in customer service they didn't have before.
“From earlier in the year to the end of it, you wouldn’t believe it’s the same students with the public speaking skills they have developed,” he added.
Poniatowski says he is in frequent contact with nearby businesses to assess what kind of skill-set they are looking for in future employees. A recently developed partnership with the Business Council of Westchester will function as a resource for their community.
He says his latest project with the students will be to aid in the development of a school supply store. They are currently polling the entire school to find out what the store should carry. They will then be responsible for tracking and stocking inventory.
“Every year we update the curriculum to add something new,” he said.