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Kerri Gilmore: Teaching with Kindness

November 15th, 2017

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Kery Gilmore Assistant Principal ACES Mill Road School
Kerri Gilmore is the new assistant principal at the Mill Road School and excited by the opportunity to work directly with all students to learn and spread kindness in the community. (Photo by Matthew DaCorte/The Courier)

Kerri Gilmore: Teaching with Kindness

By Matthew DaCorte, Staff Reporter • Contact Reporter
Published November 15, 2017

Classroom teacher, special education teacher, assistant principal; Kerri Gilmore has done all these jobs and kept her work right where her heart is: ACES Mill Road School in North Haven.

“I didn’t want to leave ACES, or my students, or the connections that I have here. The relationships I have here, they’re really strong,” Kerri says, “I had the certification, I just didn’t want to leave, so it was the perfect opportunity.”

That opportunity was the role of assistant principal, to which Kerri was promoted in August this year. ACES is a regional education service center serving more than 20 districts in New Haven County. Kerri says students come to the school from many different towns, and are placed there due to behavioral challenges in their neighborhood schools.

Beginning her professional career as a special education and classroom teacher at the Mill Road School 12 years ago, Kerri graduated from the Sacred Heart University administrator certification program in 2015. However, she didn’t apply for more senior positions at other schools because she says her heart is at the Mill Road School, where she enjoys helping students to spread kindness and give back to their communities.

The classrooms at Mill Road School have no more than 10 students and Kerri says teachers really get to know and form strong connections with students and their families, bonds they may have not had in their neighborhood schools.

“They’d start to trust you, whereas in their neighborhood schools, because of their behavioral challenges, they didn’t always have great relationships,” Kerri says, “So you feel like here when you do form those connections and you’re helping them, the students as well as the families really appreciate it and you can make a difference in them with the small classrooms.”

Kerri says this unique teaching environment can be challenging some days, but its is also rewarding, for example when students will say or do things that “aren’t so nice,” and come back later on to apologize and thank whoever it was who helped them.

“It just takes time for them to be able to recognize that and accept it, but it’s really rewarding when they do,” she says.

Kerri is a member of the Mill Road School “kindness committee” joining with student ambassadors to achieve the goal of spreading kindness throughout the school and the community.

Last year, Kerri took her group of students to the Mary Wade Home, a senior care community in New Haven, and sang Christmas carols to the residents.

“It made the students happy to be able to give back because a lot of times they’re the ones who are receiving, so it was nice to let them have the opportunity to do something nice for somebody else,” Kerri says.

The kindness committee also completes community service projects, including its partnership with Community Plates (now known as Food Rescue U.S.) about two years ago. The organization has volunteers deliver fresh food from businesses to groups or individuals in need.

Kerri says students and a couple staff members go to a Trader Joe’s to pick up a food donation, and bring it to a local Head Start program for young children from low-income families in New Haven or a soup kitchen.

She says the kids love doing it, and that Trader Joe’s often also gives them flowers to distribute to staff members at the drop-off places. Kerri added that some students at the school receive food assistance themselves.

“It’s nice for them to be able to help somebody else and pick up that food donation and give back to the community,” she says.

Kerri says it’s important to give back to the community, and wonderful to see students who have behavioral challenges do something positive in the community.

This year with her new role, Kerri is excited for the opportunity to move outside one classroom and work with all of the students in the school.

“I’m able to form relationships with our students who are as young as five years old in kindergarten all the way through our 8th graders, so it’s been really nice to know that you can make a difference in each one of their lives and give each one of them an opportunity to do great things,” Kerri says.

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