Journal Inquirer

March 24, 2016
MANCHESTER — A retired Manchester teacher of the year has returned to local schools to teach skills that will help children in and out of the classroom.
Patty Lavey, a former Manchester third-grade teacher, was welcomed back to the classroom as a yoga/mindfulness coach at Martin, Bowers, Robertson, Waddell, and Washington elementary schools in January.
Lavey, a Glastonbury resident, was named teacher of the year in 2010-11 — the last of her 35 years in Manchester schools. She taught at Robertson for 10 years, Waddell for 17 years, and spent her last seven years at Martin Elementary School.
Lavey teaches two afternoon yoga sessions at Martin and instructs classes at Washington all day on Friday. Classes last 15 to 30 minutes, she said.
The yoga program under Lavey’s tutelage is part of Manchester schools’ new social thinking curriculum introduced in the past year.
Manchester Schools’ YouTube channel provides a tutorial video of Chelsea Gordon, a Keeney Elementary School teacher, explaining the social thinking curriculum, aimed at children in kindergarten through Grade 5.
The curriculum “teaches kids strategies on how to manage their own behavior,” Gordon said. “It puts ownership on them rather than the teachers telling kids exactly how to behave and then rewarding or punishing them.”
In addition to yoga classes, the curriculum features monthly assemblies at elementary schools called “GROW,” where students are rewarded for positive behavior and the Stop Bullying Club presents messages of social acceptance. Another program called “Heroes” brings high school students to elementary schools to discuss appropriate behavior.
The intention is to head off problematic behavior, such as bullying. Parents recently have complained school administrators’ lack of responsiveness to complaints about bullying.
After getting her yoga certification in 2009, Lavey said she was allowed to bring daily yoga into the classroom until her retirement in 2011. She has been practicing yoga for more than 10 years, with experience volunteering in Manchester and Hartford schools.
In September, Lavey met with Washington Elementary Principal Jim Collin and Geary to plan the program, she said.
“Incorporating yoga/mindfulness throughout the school day will provide benefits to support the whole child, thus maximizing the learning process,” she said.
Yoga promotes “healthy ways to balance and express emotions, brings one to the present moment, promotes a more relaxed state of being, encouraging community and connectedness throughout the day.”
Lavey said while the children enjoy the class, the older kids are harder to reach — adding the ones who are most resistant are the ones who need yoga most.
“Yoga provides opportunities for motor breaks throughout the day, eases anxiety and tension, enhances concentration, provides opportunity for reflection, improves confidence and self-esteem … creates a calm, harmonious classroom,” she said. “This list goes on and on.”
Integrating yoga in every school is necessary, Lavey says — just like gym, art, and music. “Emotional intelligence, or social emotional learning, is as important as academic intelligence, if not more,” she said
Looking back over her career as an educator, Lavey discussed the significant changes in kids’ lives today that influence their behavior.
“The demands of school, Common Core, extra-curricular activities, competitive sports,
single-parent households, poverty, inappropriate child-directed media, social media,” she said. “Schools are expected to do the jobs of parents.”
Lavey said she is committed to establishing a foundation of yoga instruction throughout schools for a broad social change.
“A little bit of yoga, mindfulness, kindness, compassion integrated into the schools just might help,” she said. “This is my mission.”