BEST Summer Institute 2002

Fostering Social and Thinking Skills in the Classroom (upper elementary/lower middle school)

Presenters: Mary Bronga, Donna Sweaney, Danford Cieloha


This is an experiential based course in which participants learn effective methods for promoting thinking and social skills in whole-group classroom settings. Their learning is enriched by the inclusion of simulations that require them to think and act from both child and adult perspectives. participants play and learn together using authentic classroom activities, group discussions, and personal reflection to increase their methodological knowledge and theoretical understanding. Course participants gain additional hands on experience by working together to create their own Getting Along/ Thinking Ahead activities. The course also provides participants with a field-tested system for student self-assessment and evaluation that supports young people in becoming increasingly responsible for monitoring their own behavior, values, and ability to think. Participants will receive the Getting Along/Thinking Ahead Program at no additional cost.


Mary Bronga has been an educator for 26 years. She started her career as a special educator for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents at an alternative program in upstate New York. That is when she first became interested in teaching pro-social skills. This lead to her graduate studies in school counseling with a particular focus on Reality Therapy. Sixteen years ago, she made the decision to move to Vermont and become an elementary school counselor. Mary has been at State Street School in Windsor ever since. For the past 6 years she has worked on the GATA Program as a member of the design team and as a trainer.

Mary's educational background includes completion of advanced studies in Educational Leadership at the University of Vermont, a M.S. in Guidance and Counseling from Syracuse University, and a B.A. in psychology and special education from the College of New Rochelle.

Donna Sweaney has been a school counselor for over 30 years primarily at the elementary grade level. Donna received her M.Ed. with a major in school counseling from the University of Hartford in 1972. She then worked for the CT Department of Children and Youth Services as Assistant Principal and Director of Guidance at the Long Lane School in Middletown, CT.

Donna worked in Brattleboro as a Student Service Coordinator providing school counseling services to four elementary schools. She then worked in Claremont, NH as an elementary school counselor for eight years where she eventually served as acting principal at the Claremont Middle School. Donna is presently employed as an elementary school counselor in Woodstock, VT. She is a past president of the Vermont Counseling Association.

She has been a member of the selectboard for the town of Windsor and presently serves as the Representative to the legislature for the town of Windsor. Donna is also a Director in the Vermont Partnership for Interactive Learning, and was instrumental in the development of the Getting Along Thinking Ahead project.

Danford Cieloha is an educator whose areas of specialization include creating experientially based learning environments for children and adults, training, evaluation, curriculum development, early childhood, elementary, special, and informal, education, youth development, education policy analysis and organizational development. His most urgent concern is to educate adults to the fact that what they say, do, and create must promote children's active involvement in constructing their own knowledge and under-standing, foster their desire to seek commonalities, and to value differences in themselves and others.

Dan's educational background includes Doctoral studies in Educational Organization and Policy Analysis, University of California, Berkeley, Master's studies in Education of the Exceptional Child, and Bachelor's studies in Political Science, San Francisco State University.