OUR PEOPLE: Mindfulness Practice in our RISE Academy Sites Advances Student Outcomes and Achievement

OUR PEOPLE: Mindfulness Practice in our RISE Academy Sites Advances Student Outcomes and Achievement

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present. It is a way of clearing the mind to be in the current moment. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our lives, jobs, classrooms; it improves the quality of our life.

RISE Academy is a program created and supported by our Special Education Department that collaborates with educators, support staff, families, and guardians to provide special settings in school to support students with social, emotional behavior needs. RISE provides a highly-structured, alternative, therapeutic learning environment with a low student to staff ratio, differentiated instruction, and program-wide Behavior Support Systems where students learn to monitor their academic and behavior performance.

In a classroom, teachers guide the students through a meditative relaxation session. Special Education Director Edie Desimone participates, far left.

RISE Academy educators incorporate mindfulness into daily teaching and learning in order to help students develop coping strategies and self-regulation. Practices include meditation, centering, music, breathing, and relaxation. Schools are seeing great success in RISE students; some have been higher achievers on NWEA/MAP tests than their peers in the mainstream environment.*

Hartford Public Schools Special Education Director, Edie Desimone was charged with establishing the RISE Academy program and she manages sites at MD Fox School, Bulkeley High School, Hartford Public High School’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology, and at West Middle School. She says, “There is a lot of research about neuroplasticity of the brain and on the positive impact of mindfulness practices.”

According to Dr. Kirk Strosahl and Dr. Patricia Robinson, “research indicates that brain training involving mindfulness practices can strengthen areas of the brain responsible for attention, emotional control and problem solving… There is even emerging evidence that mindfulness-based brain training produces permanent structural changes in the brain.”

Ms. Desimone confirms, “If our children are arriving at school in toxic stress, or functioning in their limbic system–  the area that promotes the fight or flight reaction to stress– guided mindfulness practices are bringing them out of that limbic system and into the parts of the brain that regulate academics, learning and problem solving.”

Emerging research on gratitude shows many benefits for teachers and students. Per the Mindful Teacher Foundation, positive outcomes include fewer emotional and physical symptoms, stronger relationships and communities, improved alertness, happiness, self-esteem, resiliency, motivation and attitudes in students.


At Hartford Public Schools, the future is presence; teachers meditate with students.

A  security guard at one of our RISE Academy sites confirms that, “The students I see who complete one year or two years of RISE Academy re-enter the mainstream environment and now have the tools to succeed there.”

Other Hartford Public Schools have incorporated mindfulness to great effect, including Breakthrough Magnet School South, whose principal, Julie Goldstein reflects, “Since implementing mindfulness school-wide, Breakthrough Magnet School students have made steady gains academically and the need for additional behavioral support has gone down.  Students like taking mindful moments after recess or before getting to work because it helps them feel calm and relaxed.”

For more information about RISE Academy, please contact Edie Desimone at (860) 695-8578 or desie001@hartfordschools.org, or Jill DeVane, Team Leader at MD Fox 860-695-7870 or devaj001@hartfordschools.org

*RISE Academy participants are selected by their schools’ teachers, support staff, and administration.