Inside the Life Skills Classroom


Jade Acker, Staff Writer

When I recently sat down with Mr. Mitchell and his class of Life Skills students, I was inspired by all of the great work they were doing and how kind and caring the classroom environment was. Each student was eager to get involved in the class activities, with a one-on-one teacher by their side. I was excited to learn more about the program. Life Skills students at East Hampton High School learn basic academic courses while also practicing valuable skills in the areas of hospitality, cooking, gardening, planning, shopping, and more. Mr. Mitchell explained: “We work on academics just like everybody else does, we do math, we do reading and writing, we do science, we do social studies; but we also focus on life skills that will help all the students in our classroom better perform in our society.”

The Life Skills class is composed of six students: Sean Lester; Nicole Verdugo; Dominic Coronel; Austin Miller; Liam Baum; and Miczar Garcia. The majority of these students are freshmen from Springs. In order to qualify for the program, the students have to require a greater need for special education than others in the population. As Mr. Mitchell told me: “These are more uniquely-abled students, so they have a higher need day-to-day. Their math skills aren’t up to par with the general population at the school. We’re not doing algebra quite yet, hopefully in years to come we will scaffold them up to doing algebra.”

Like all students at EHHS, each Life Skills student has his or her own interests and strengths. Dominic Coronel has a special talent for planning. He led an entire class trip to The Dollar Tree, coordinating the bus driver, school bus, and route there. The trip was particularly special for the students because it was during the holiday season, so each student was able to buy their family gifts. Another fun activity the students take part in every week is that each person gets to pick a dish that the class will cook. They use the fresh fruits and vegetables from the school garden in their meals. Ms. Sanniola, another Life Skills teacher, shared: “We’ve made tacos, we’ve made spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant parmesan, salad, chocolate cake, and tomorrow we’re making quiche.”

Each Thursday during 4th period, the students participate in the Life Skills Cafe, where they go around the school and deliver coffee to teachers who can place orders. Mr. Mitchell noted that, in this way, the students “get to practice their social skills [and] their math skills.” He emphasized the value of walking around the school building, entering other classrooms, and witnessing teachers who are teaching and students who are learning. Accordingly, by delivering coffee around EHHS, the Life Skills students have the chance to become more integrated into the broader school community and meet people they would not otherwise meet. When I asked where the profit goes from the coffee sales, Mr. Mitchell explained that all the money from the Life Skills Cafe goes to the students. “It rebuys the materials for [the Cafe] and we use some of the money to buy the holiday cards that we pass around to some of the teachers. We are looking to buy aprons and visors as well.”

Overall, the Life Skills program provides these EHHS students with a fun, engaging curriculum that will help them prepare for life after high school. Each student spoke fondly about how much they love East Hampton High School, their friends, teachers, and the activities offered in the program. “I like all my teachers, all my friends, and I like Mr. Mitchell, Ms. Sanniola, Ms. M, and Mrs. S. and Mrs. DeFranzo!” said Sean Lester. “This class is so perfect because this is the best school ever!” added Dominic Coronel. Liam Baum emphatically announced, “I like to bring in different things to show the class… I like school!” Austin Miller wanted me to know how well he is doing in his classes, stating: “I love to get 100s and A+s!” and Nicole Verdugo noted, “[I like] my friends!” Mr. Mitchell expressed the teachers’ great pride in their work with the Life Skills program: “It’s incredibly rewarding to be working with these kids and their families with it being such a small group of kids you get to know them so much more…It’s really cool how it’s a family and it’s [our] own little community.” Our EHHS community is made richer by these Life Skills students and we are lucky they are a part of it.