In addition to Schaefer being named Haverhill’s top educator, every student at the Alternative School received a free membership to the YMCA.
“For me, that went above and beyond anything I expected,” said Schaefer, who received a $100 gift card courtesy of Target in Haverhill and a $50 gift card courtesy of Staples in Plaistow.
He also received citations from state Rep. Brian Dempsey, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Mayor James Fiorentini and state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives.
Tracy Fuller, executive director of the Haverhill YMCA, said Schaefer embodies what the YMCA looks for in an Educator of the Year because of his commitment to helping his students grow and learn.
“He likes to think outside the box when working with students, and I found that to be inspirational,” Fuller said.
John DePolo, principal of the Alternative School, nominated Schaefer, with his work ethic and constant energy to support at-risk young people, rivals anyone he has worked with in the past 23 years.
“The creativity in the curriculum and effort that Jay puts into connecting with his students is remarkable,” DePolo said.
Schaefer wants his students to learn “real life math” as well as textbook math, so he gets them involved in following the stock market, balancing check books and solving daily group word problems that require critical thinking.
The majority of Schaefer’s students arrive in his classroom well below grade level and therefore require a customized approach to learning,
Twice each week, Schaefer stays late so his students can make up work, get extra help or simply connect with him for support if need be.
“A lot of kids, when they fall behind, feel they’ll never get caught up,” Schaefer said. “I don’t want to see that happen. We push all of our kids to graduate.”
After classes let out last Friday, Schaefer accompanied one of his students on a 5K practice run in preparation for the school’s first 5K Run/Walk on Nov. 10. He wanted to be sure the boy could make the run safely.