EASTCONN Where Learning Comes to Life

ACT, LEAP & QMC High Schools Graduate In-Person with Joy, Hope

female graduate at graduation







 In response to students’ wishes, EASTCONN’s magnet and alternative high school graduations took place outdoors, with student and guest speakers. Above, ACT’s valedictorian spoke to her fellow seniors about challenges, hope and the future. 

LEAP 2020 male graduate

The LEAP School’s seniors graduated in brilliant sunshine on an outdoor stage, marking a unique and joyful milestone for the school’s inaugural class. Face masks, social distancing and cars packed with happy families set this year’s celebration apart.

Boy in car with mom at graduation

QMC seniors celebrated being able to see one another in-person, if only at a distance, for the first time in months
during their awards-filled, inspiring graduation ceremony. All three June graduations followed state safety guidelines.



8 ACT & 5 QMC Students Win Poetry, Writing Awards

CSW 2020 Page









Thirteen EASTCONN magnet high school students have won awards for their works of poetry and fiction in two different contests this year.        

Eight students who attend EASTCONN’s Arts at the Capitol Theater (ACT) magnet high school in Willimantic won awards in the 2020 Connecticut Student Writers (CSW) contest. This year, the contest drew more than 2,000 entries from K-12 students statewide. 

The contest is held annually by Connecticut Student Writers, a magazine established in 1987 by UConn’s Connecticut Writing Project to honor excellence in students’ creative writing. ACT’s 2020 CSW winners include: Kayla-Mae Morgan, Alaina Rousseau, Annabel Brown, Madison Stevenson, Olivia Scheck, Rachel Charron, Ellis McGinley-Knapp and Lauren Ruggiero. Contact ACT Principal Sarah Mallory at smallory@eastconn.org to learn more about ACT’s Creative Writing Program. 

Five of EASTCONN’s Quinebaug Middle College (QMC) magnet high school students have won awards in the Julius O. Sokenu annual poetry contest, sponsored by Quinebaug Valley Community College.      

The Sokenu contest was established in 2007 at QVCC to encourage college students, and more recently, EASTCONN QMC students, to pursue their poetic talents and dreams by participating in the contest.
QMC’s student winners this year include: Jennifer Oldroyd, first prize; Andrew George, second prize; Abby Fowler, third prize; and honorable mentions, Evey Wehner and Sierra Girard. QMC is co-located with QVCC on its Danielson campus.

Learn more about QMC by visiting www.eastconn.org/qmc, or by contacting QMC Principal Mary Kay Tshonas at mtshonas@eastconn.org


EASTCONN Magnet High Schools Enrolling Students Now for 2020-2021; Limited Seats

Arts at the Capitol Theater (ACT) If your student is interested in Acting, Creative Writing, Dance, Theater Production (lighting, set design and set construction and costume design) or Audio/Video, then ACT’s small-class, rigorous, arts-infused high school program may be the ticket. Motivated students are invited to call 860-465-5636 or visit www.eastconn.org/act to apply.

The LEAP School LEAP is a regional, alternative high school that provides a personalized academic and career-oriented learning environment for over-age and under-credited students who want to earn their high school diploma. LEAP learners participate in paid internships, field research and community service projects that reinforce learning and help them graduate. Learn how students may apply by visiting The Leap School site at https://leap.eastconn.org/.

Quinebaug Middle College (QMC) Students seeking an independent learning environment in a regional magnet school with small classes, an excellent staff-to-student ratio and free college credits may find QMC is the perfect choice. Areas of study include STEM, Liberal Arts, Allied Health and Advanced Manufacturing. Learn more, or apply at www.eastconn.org/qmc.



Autism Program Gets Creative

parade of teachers for autism group 

In mid-March, EASTCONN Autism Program (EAP) staff found themselves switching unexpectedly from an in-person, center-based program to a new, all-virtual teaching and learning system. The transition required swift, intensive planning, collaboration and creativity in order to build a comprehensive, at-home learning plan for each of EAP’s 16 unique learners.

 “If a child has an autism spectrum disorder, in some cases, we have to think so far outside the box to teach them remotely that there is no box,” said Dr. Ravit Stein, EASTCONN’s Director of Psychological and Behavioral Consultation Services, who oversees EASTCONN’s Autism Program. 

EAP staff mobilized and quickly developed a personalized, online learning framework, which focused on the central tenets of EAP’s program: promoting functional independence and communication skills, while capitalizing on opportunities to apply new life skills in students’ home settings. It was no small feat to figure out how to deliver instruction virtually and ensure that students’ and families’ needs were being met. 

EAP teachers Becky Gianforte, Nicole Constantine and Claire Pellino knew that listening to families and understanding parents’ concerns was central to providing meaningful support. They developed a tool to learn what the families of students with disabilities really needed during extended school closures. That tool was shared widely and is now being used by educators across Connecticut, as they develop distance learning for students with complex needs. 

Stein noted that EAP families faced significant challenges during the pandemic, since they were often not trained in the highly structured, explicit teaching techniques used at EAP. 

EAP staff provided coaching and direct instruction to broaden EAP parents’ skills as they worked with their children in home settings.

“We are committed to building the capacity of the amazing parents whom we support, to maximize outcomes for all the students in our program,” Stein said.

Personalized family coaching calls were made regularly to each family. Calls included an array of services, such as training on assistive technology, physical therapy exercises, or ways to make reinforcement more effective. For students who were not yet able to learn virtually, parent coaching calls proved to be an excellent way to stay connected and ensure student goals were addressed. Among students who could learn on platforms like Zoom, each had opportunities to brush their teeth, for example, in their own bathrooms with their occupational therapist on-screen “beside” them, providing guidance and tips for parents to help maximize their child’s independence.

Supplying such critical supports to parents helped ensure that all EAP students, including those who couldn’t access a screen, could continue engaging in meaningful online learning opportunities at home. 

According to Stein, EAP instructors and instructional assistants spent long hours and days creating at-home enrichment activities, driving across the region to deliver materials to families on a weekly basis, and participating in weekend car parades and reverse parades to stay connected with their students, many of whom didn’t understand why their routines had changed.

Extended school closures also created an unexpected silver lining, Stein said. Closures provided staff with new opportunities for extensive training to support EAP’s complex learners. 

Stein and Amy Margelony, EASTCONN’s Pupil Services Director, had high praise for EAP staff. 

 “Our ability to provide comprehensive and meaningful schooling at home lies in the creativity of our special education teachers, instructional staff, board certified behavior analysts, interventionists, as well as our related services professionals,” said Stein. “They commit themselves to the planning, implementation and delivery of programming for our unique learners every day.”

“This is an amazing group of educators,” observed Margelony. “They’ve responded in every way possible to support these exceptional students during the COVID-19 crisis. There was never a moment of hesitation. I am honored to be part of such a remarkable team.” 

Please contact Dr. Ravit Stein to learn more at rstein@eastconn.org


Quinebaug Middle College
742 Upper Maple St, Danielson, CT 06239
Phone: 860-932-4100
Fax: 860-932-4950