• There was a little bit of madness at Sunrise Drive Elementary in March for the S.T.R.I.D.E.S. character trait of “EMPATHY.”  Borrowing the name March Madness from the flurry of month-long basketball competitions, Sunrise Drive’s Eileen McCullough, Michelle Kearney, and Library teacher Kelsey LaPort created activities to bring “Empathy” awareness to the students.  

    “What is S.T.R.I.D.E.S. March (Empathy) Madness you ask?” the Sunrise Drive Empathy Committee educators asked. “It's a March Madness bracket system all about Empathy.  We have leaders from our building and district who have recorded themselves reading different books about Empathy. We've received read-aloud videos from Sunrise Drive classroom teachers, specials teachers, social workers, our principal, a security guard, AIS teachers, Sayville's Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, and more!”

    To make the program resemble the actual March Madness, “ read-aloud books were separated into Kindergarten-through-Second and Third-through-Fifth groups and paired up into brackets,” Mrs. LaPort explained.

    Among the empathy-themed book titles considered were: Last Stop on Market Street, Those Shoes, Most People, Enemy Pie, The Invisible Boy, The Rabbit Listened, Strictly No Elephants, Hey, Little Ant, We’re All Wonders, 14 Cows for America, and A Chair for My Mother.

    Throughout the month of March, there were three rounds during which classroom teachers played the prerecorded videos, and after each round, the students voted for their favorite empathy-themed book. Similar to the college basketball tournament, the book moved from the “Sweet 16” in week one, followed by the “Elite 8,” in week two, and culminated to the Final 4.  “We actually had to tweak the numbers a little,” Mrs. LaPort continued, “because we ended up getting more videos submitted than we anticipated!”

    In addition, to reinforce the attribute of empathy, the Sunrise Drive community collected books to donate to The Book Fairies, a non-profit organization that distributes new-and-gently-used books to underserved communities in the New York area.

    On Friday, April 1st, the ultimate March (Empathy) Madness winning books were announced: congratulations to Second-grade teacher Denise Philp for winning the Third- through Fifth-grade bracket with her reading of Enemy Pie and to PTA Treasurer Nicole Tracy for winning the Kindergarten through Second-grade bracket with her reading of Strictly No Elephants.

    The culminating surprise at the event was special guest Jack Coan, a former Sayville student and potential NFL draft pick. While he was on a brief visit to his hometown, Jack surprised the Sayville community as a guest reader in the wrap-up of the month-long empathy project. After reading Ed Vere’s children’s story How to Be A Lion, Jack ended with an endearing message about empathy for the kids.

    Sunrise Drive Principal Dr. James Foy gave a shout-out to Jack along with a “huge Sunrise Drive and Sayville ‘thank you’ for adding to our Empathy (March) Madness project.  Your video was great and the children were so excited to watch it!  I know we have never had the pleasure of meeting, but from everything I have heard, and now see for myself, you are the true star that people say you are.  Whether you know it or not, your name comes up very frequently with the children. They all look up to you and we are lucky to have you as such a strong role-model for our children.  Thank you for being you!”

    A special thanks go to all the guest readers and committee organizers who made the March (Empathy) Madness memorable!


  • To view the videos of Read-Aloud participants, click on this link: READ-ALOUD VIDEOS