Teacher Spotlight: Louis De Carlo & The Respect Mystery Readers Series


My name is Louis De Carlo and I am the Crisis Intervention Teacher & School Anti-Bullying Specialist at Dr. Michael Conti School PS 5, Jersey City, NJ.

Character and social-emotional learning is extremely important to the development of students inside and outside of the classroom. If students do not feel safe and feel that they are valuable, they will not learn. It is imperative to establish a culture of respect and inclusiveness at a young age, so that it is second nature to students as they progress through school.

Respect Mystery Readers Series

This school year, a Respect Mystery Readers (RMR) series was established. It will be rolled out in two phases.

RMR Phase 1
In the first roll-out of RMR, 32 classes from Pre-K through 5th Grade was read to by various school staff, older students, parents or volunteer community partners. Each grade level had a book that was selected for their grade level and tied to a specific theme related to character education. After reading and discussing the book, there was a culminating activity that tied to the book. These activities ranged from an arts and crafts activity to a self-reflection writing piece. A parent handout was created relating to the book that was read in class, allowing for the lesson to continue at home. A virtual library of the selections that were read to the classes was created and shared with the teachers.

RMR Phase 2
Phase two of the RMR is planned for the next month where our middle school students will be working on original fables and stories related to readings. These original writing pieces will be presented to the lower grades and allow for continued classroom discussions related to character education. Students will also participate in a Kindness Challenge, where they keep track of kind deeds done at school and home. Finally, students will participate in a Pennies for Patients coin drive with the funds collected during a three-week period going toward the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The Impact

Its been extremely fulfilling to receive feedback about the RMR series. Teachers commented on how engaged the students were during the activities and how they wanted more. The students loved the stories and activities. Parents loved the communication and concept behind the lessons. For example, our grade 2 students read a story called Zach Gets Frustrated and regularly use the frustration triangles they created after the reading. “Name it, tame it, reframe it” has become second-nature to them.

Peekapak is a wonderful program that will allow lessons like this to continue. Character education is something that might not always get the attention it deserves. Often, lessons about character education are reactionary and the impact on students isn’t the same. When we proactively teach character education and encourage all students to take an active role, this impacts not only their learning, but their development as people.

Also check out Dr. Michael Conti School PS 5’s video showcasing their Inspiration Challenge and the wonderful ways students inspire teachers every day.

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Ami Shah is a Co-Founder & CEO of Peekapak, an edtech startup that teaches social-emotional learning skills like self-regulation, empathy and team work in the class and home. Peekapak is backed by; Silicon Valley based accelerator, Imagine K12, the Edtech vertical of Y Combinator and; the Unreasonable Institute.