The Academy at Palumbo, a school of 646 students, improved its overall attendance rate to 97 percent in seven weeks to win the East Region of the national Get Schooled Foundation’s Fall 2011 Attendance Challenge.
The friendly competition engaged nearly 80,000 students from 73 high schools in 17 states, between Oct. 3 and Nov. 18, students through a variety of online, social media and in-school activities. Across all participating schools 1,000 additional students came to school during the course of the challenge.
In the Eastern region, the Academy at Palumbo, motivated by the idea of a national competition and the chance to rally their school around a common goal of improving attendance, worked hard to improve upon their attendance rate.
“We are so proud that our Academy students showed their commitment to their education and their future by showing up to school and participating in the Attendance Challenge,” said Adrienne Wallace-Chew, principal of the Academy at Palumbo.
Kiana Thompson, the Academy’s Roster Chairperson and the school’s Attendance Challenge’s coordinator, said, “As a school, we were trying to think of creative ways to increase school attendance, and the Get Schooled’s Attendance Challenge and Wake-up calls came at the perfect time to help us reach our goals.”
Attendance is the greatest predictor of graduation and a significant driver of student achievement. Research shows that missing just ten days a year can lead to academic problems. Students who miss 20 days a year (or about one month) have less than a one in five chance of graduating from high school.
Few districts report these chronic truancy numbers despite their correlation to low graduation rates.
“Hundreds of students came to school this fall who historically have not,” said Marie Groark, executive director of the Get Schooled Foundation. “Thanks to the hard work of the students and staff, the Academy’s improvement means the school is on the right path to improving its graduation rate.”
To celebrate the school’s achievements, Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom, hosted a red carpet experience for the students, with a “Mission: Impossible”-themed event at the school and preview screenings of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” at the UA Riverview theatre in Philadelphia for all students.
Get Schooled brought a mix of celebrity encouragement, interactive educational games, and plenty of opportunities to elevate the youth voice, resulting in an average of 2.8 percent attendance rate increase across all participating schools. Schools earned points in the challenge by improving their attendance, nominating teachers who inspire them to come to school, testing their knowledge in an on-line trivia bowl, and signing up for wake-up calls from their favorite celebrities such as Tyra Banks and Trey Songz. There were185 students who signed up for Wake-up Calls from celebrities.
During the Challenge, the Academy hosted a Halloween attendance-focused pep rally with more than 600 students and teachers to celebrate their high attendance rates and to showcase their school spirit.
Academy students also completed 1,050 Sporcle quizzes testing their knowledge about science, geography and hip-hop stars’ real names.
This month, Get Schooled launched another national challenge — this one focused on a key milestone related to students’ likelihood of success in college: completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Details are at www.getschooled.com
Get Schooled is a non-profit organization dedicated to using media, technology and popular culture to improve high school graduation rates and college success rates. Get Schooled connects with young Americans through its combination of on-air programming, online content, on-the ground events and school-based engagement initiatives. Together with hundreds of schools, educators, and students, and boosted by partners like Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Get Schooled motivates and empowers students to make high school education a priority and college education a possibility. To learn more, go to www.getschooled.com or follow Get Schooled at www.facebook.com/getschooledfoundation or www.twitter.com/getschooled.
Although the test scores at Joseph Pennell Elementary School are low and the school is working toward making Adequate Yearly Progress, the students are held to a higher standard.
“We don’t refer to our kids as students. We really refer to them as scholars,” Principal Jason Harris said. “It’s an exciting place to be because everybody here is new. All of the faculty here, for the most part, is new and so it gives us an opportunity to really shape this school the way we really want to.”
Harris initially agreed to become the principal of Pennell when he thought it would be turned into a Promise Academy. Those plans fell through because of budget constraints. However, Harris chose to stay and help turn around the low performing school.
“As a turnaround administrator, you work with what you have and you still make a difference,” Harris said. “So we’re still implementing a lot of the initiatives that were associated with the Promise Academy because they’re just best practice initiatives anyway such as professional development, positive behavior support and all those things that a school should have in the first place.”
Another key component was to change how the students viewed themselves and the perceptions others had of them.
“I’m charged with being accountable for scores, but that’s part of my job. My main goal is to really make sure that we are advancing students so that they are successful period,” Harris said. “It requires changing systems and that doesn’t happen overnight. It requires changing belief systems and that can take a long time to do. There’s a lot more work to do but I see a lot of progress.”
Thus far, the scholar mindset is one that has been embraced across the board at Pennell.
“I love it. Whatever you keep saying to them and keep in front of the students’ eyes, that’s what they’ll cling to,” said Trina Pemberton, a sixth-grade teacher. “It’s changing their mindset. I’m not a clown. I’m not hanging around. No, I’m a scholar. I’m an educated young man. I’m an educated young woman. I strongly believe in the power of words and the power in how you think affects how you act. And so, if they think like scholars, they’ll act like scholars.”
Pemberton has reinforced that they are scholars even though the test scores reflect differently.
“It’s a little frustrating because I see the potential in them. I look at their scores from previous years. I know that they make great gains when they come to me so it’s disappointing when it comes back and yeah, that wasn’t good enough,” she said. “But I don’t give up. I keep pushing. I know we’ll get there and I think that this is the year that we can definitely do it because there’s a change in the atmosphere. So, it’ll be good.”
Andrew Walker, another sixth-grade teacher at Pennell, spoke about how his students reacted to being identified as scholars.
“The first day of school, I actually wrote scholars and just what it means. None of them knew what it was at first but I gave them the definition. I told them that’s what I’m going to call you. We all are. Everyone in this school is a scholar,” he said. “It changed their demeanor and just how did they view themselves in the classroom setting. So, they feel they want to uphold that name because it sounds so prestigious. They really like that.”
Harris acknowledged that much rested on his shoulders but he was more than up to the challenge of laying the groundwork in order for Pennell to regain its footing.
“I think it’s all about being confident, being reflective, being able to have that ability to receive criticism and feedback and act accordingly,” Harris said. “If you have a vision for student’s success, then everything else falls into place and you have to be willing to act on that vision too and communicate it well enough so that people will be willing to follow you exactly where it is where you’re going.”
He was prepared to give it his all even during the difficult and trying times.
“This is a school that is making significant changes. We’re on our way. Things will be different and change might be difficult but that’s OK,” he said.
As a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) Division and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, nine teams from District schools competed in robot performance, presentation and design on Jan. 28 at Penn’s Irvine Auditorium for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO© League Championships.
The competition is meant to promote greater exposure to STEM; a District program that supports innovative learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math.
Students represented the following District schools: Rhoads Elementary School, Heston Academics Plus School, Roberto Clemente Promise Academy, Feltonville Arts and Sciences, Juniata Park Academy, Andrew Hamilton School, Lowell Elementary School, Baldi Middle School and Ethel Allen School. Along with these schools, more than 15,000 teams from around the world attended.
ESPN, the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles hosted The Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Series luncheon in advance of the Philadelphia Eagles–Chicago Bears game Nov. 7 at the Lincoln Financial Field.
The Chalk Talk honored two Philadelphia student-athletes, Monique Bowman from Jules Mastbaum High School and Martin Hicks from Arise Academy Charter High School, for the ESPN High School RISE ABOVE Award. These student-athletes have overcome challenges, and found the time to excel academically and help others in their community.
Bowman is a student-athlete playing both soccer and volleyball. She carries a 3.5 GPA, is involved in student government and works 30 hours a week at K-Mart helping to support her one-year-old son and younger siblings. Bowman says receiving this award makes her feel special.
“Today, I feel like I’m famous. It makes you feel better about yourself when you get recognized for doing something that you never thought someone would recognize you for and just achieving your goals,” Bowman said.
Although Bowman was unsure if she would play sports after having her child, she says playing sports helps her emotionally to live a balanced life.
“At first when I had my son, I’m like, ‘No, I can’t go back. I don’t want to play anymore,’ but then I just realized that, that’s what I wanted to do, play sports.”
Bowman does have future plans to attend college at West Chester University and law school.
Hicks plays football and basketball as a part of a co-op program between Arise Academy and Ben Franklin High School. Growing up was extremely difficult for Hicks. With mental health issues and drug abuse, both his parents were unable to take care of him; leaving Hicks in the foster care system. After living in five different homes and attending multiple high schools, Hicks and his sisters were able to settle in a stable environment with their grandmother.
As starting linebacker and captain of his basketball team, Hicks says he is not used to all the attention he received, but he says it feels good.
“It makes me feel like it’s worth it and to just keep working hard,” Hicks said.
He has an uncle and two cousins who serve in the Navy and he plans to enlist after high school.
During their experiences at the Lincoln Financial Field, Bowman, Hicks and their friends and family took a behind-the-scenes tour and talked with ESPN executives about career opportunities in sports. Students learned about marketing, advertising, networking, internships and planning of events. Additionally, the group learned about the pre-production of Monday Night Football games.
Alumni players from the Eagles and Bears were in attendance. Jevon Kearse, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook and Curtis Conway discussed their experiences playing in the NFL and other football topics.
In its fifth year, The Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Series began as a tradition in the 1970s. The tradition was that the on-air personalities in town covering the Monday Night Football game would share their insider analysis and experience with guests of the community. ESPN and the NFL revamped the Chalk Talk Series in 2007 to showcase the host cities participating in the weekly Monday night games. Additionally, student-athletes like Bowman and Hicks are honored for their achievements in school and off the field.
Edison Nation, an idea-to-shelf product developer, opened online casting calls Feb. 21 for Season 5 of the Emmy Award-winning public television series, “Everyday Edisons.” “Everyday Edisons” is a TV show that showcases inventors, their ideas, the successes and the challenges that can be faced when attempting to bring an idea to market.
Everybody has a great idea that could change the way we work, the way we live or the way we play. According to a recent survey conducted by Edison Nation, 81 percent of respondents said they have had a great idea that they didn’t pursue only to later see it in the market. Of those respondents, 75 percent cited money and not knowing how to bring it to market as the two major challenges to successfully acting upon an idea.
“‘Edison Nation’ and ‘Everyday Edisons’ provide an invaluable opportunity for ordinary people with extraordinary ideas,” said Louis Foremen, CEO of Edison Nation and executive producer of “Everyday Edisons.” “By eliminating the majority of the risk and capital needed to bring an idea to market, we provide a trusted and cost-effective way to validate ideas and help make them a reality.”
Casting calls run online from February 21 through Monday, April 30, at 11:59 p.m. After reviewing the ideas and picking the best of the best, “Edison Nation” will fly up to 50 inventors to Charlotte for an in-person audition. At the conclusion of the entire casting process, the Everyday Edisons Edison Nation team will select 10 great ideas to develop and feature on Season Five of the show. Priority consideration will be given to those ideas submitted before 11:59 p.m. on April 2.
To submit your ideas now for Season 5 of “Everyday Edisons,” please visit: http://www.edisonnation.com/everydayedison5.
To see the auditorium stage filled with xylophones, keyboards and bucket drums (tall trash cans) is a vast difference from the once barren landscape of simply desks and chairs that was once called the music room.
Seven years ago, the music department at General George G. Meade School was introduced to Musicopia — a non-profit organization that restores musical education programs in schools. Through this partnership, students were given resources, opportunities and dreams of musical talents.
Recently, the Knight Foundation, through its Knight Arts Challenge, gave Musicopia a $90,000 grant which will be used for programming at Meade.
“We built it and they came. That’s how I can describe it. The kids are very humble and appreciative. They’re now going to be well resourced as their suburban contemporaries. So the playing field has now been leveled — which is wonderful,” Meade music teacher, Patrick Urban said.
This 2006 Temple University alum has spent his six-year career teaching musical education at Meade. Along with learning about instruments, rhythms and notes, students learn discipline and respect.
“When I walked in [the school], I could tell that there was something special about the music program, but it wasn’t until I saw the management. Mr. Urban can walk away and the kids can play. It’s a seamless operation. That’s what you see in these kids. They monitor one another, so it’s amazing just to see,” Principal Rosalind Tharpe said.
“He’s a rocking teacher because he teaches us stuff that we like to play,” fourth-grader and cellist, Tony White said.
“He comes up with the coolest beats,” fourth-grader Ashanti Armstrong said.
Fourth-grader, Tatyana Owens plays violin and xylophone. She expressed her sentiments about having music class.
“My favorite thing is that you get to learn how to use different instruments. I love the violin because I always wanted to play it since the third grade. I wanted to play the violin because it’s just a calm instrument and it’s fun to play,” Owens said.
She even mentioned that she wants to continue her musical studies in high school.
“When you get to high school, you could be famous when you get older. People will want to learn from you,” Owens said.
Urban also leads an after-school drumline program. Executive director of Musicopia, Denise Kinney said the drumline program enriches students’ lives.
“This is really an alternative. They perform and compete across the tri-county area. It’s very based on discipline and commitment and hard work and all the things you’re going to need to be successful in life,” Kinney said.
“I would like to be apart of the drumline because they make awesome beats and watching them inspires me to make music,” fourth-grader Jhyir Champion said.
“I think it’s a very empowering program and empowerment is very important to a community that is very often disempowered. So that’s why this is such a transformative program,” Urban said.
From the grant, Meade will continue to develop more musical opportunities for students.
“The Musicopia program is apart of the Meade culture. I’d like to see that program extend and grow. I’d [like] us to have a choir,” Tharpe said.
As the pin hit the vinyl record, a crackling sound of an old record player was heard. Swinging sounds of the jazz band filled the room as Bessie Smith uttered the soulful lyrics to “Lost Your Head Blues.”
Students listened attentively to the muffled song and jotted down the lyrics they heard. This was the assignment in Amy Ponansky’s music class.
At Feltonville Arts and Science, classes are infused with cultural references, technology is used and students are engaged academically.
In his second year as principal, Michael Reid said he likes the diversity of the student population. With eight different languages spoken by students and staff, Reid said this cultural aspect is appreciated.
Two years ago, before Reid came, the school may have looked different. There were not many initiatives encouraging students to come to school and learn.
Now, with the help of Reid, school administration and parental involvement, changes have been made at Feltonville. Several initiatives that are engaging students academically.
One program is called Leadership Group. This is a pilot program consisting of an all-boys’ seventh-grade class. In its premiere year, 26 male students are learning in a single-sex environment. The Feltonville administration wanted to assess the impact this model had on the level of achievement among the male students.
“This year, actually, the boys seem to be making that difference. It seems to be working for them. They like being in the class. They felt no pressure. When they were in the class, academically, all of them have been improving. I’m really interested in seeing when they take the PSSA if all of their scores will improve, because they’re much more engaged,” Reid said.
The young men do have the opportunity to interact with other students in elective classes and at lunch.
The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program is a college preparatory initiative. Twenty-five students benefit from this program. AVID prepares students for college, takes them on college tours, teaches them to be organized and communicate.
Lead teacher Allen Wing, has been with the program at Feltonville for 2 ½ years.
“My most memorable experience was when we went to the White House and Times Square. When we go on college trips they’re always excited. They always appreciate it because it’s a lot of work. We took them to Howard and Georgetown and Columbia. They had a ball. They met the president of the university and basketball players, and we took them to the football field,” Wing said.
Eighth-grader Jazmin Miller is in the AVID initiative and explained her experiences in the program.
“It prepared me a lot, because it gets you ready for college and it motivates you to want to go to high school, to want to go to college. We go on trips to different colleges. I like math and science. When I grow up I want to be a chef or fashion designer,” Miller said.
The Golden Attitude Club also encourages students to check their behavior. Regardless of grades, 10 percent of the student population is chosen to receive extra rewards based on the criteria of responsibility, reliability and respectfulness.
This year also features the first autistic class. Assistant Principal Peggy Klova-Davis said this group of students has shown abilities to adapt to the school’s environment and show signs of development. Some have been integrated into other classes.
“We just love our autistic students. They’re really coming along. They’re comfortable in the classroom. They have an excellent teacher. This is the first year, so we are really enjoying having a new group of students in our school,” Klova-Davis said.
Students have the opportunity to get involved with choir, drama, dance and the school’s instrumental ensemble. There is also a robotics team. Technology is infused in classrooms. Whiteboards and laptop carts are also used.
The Extended Day Program and Saturday School were implemented to prep for PSSAs.
Even with school initiatives, extracurricular activities and modern technologies, students have additional support from parental involvement.
A parent who is the school improvement support liaison, Wanda Vazquez, said she has noticed a difference in the school.
“Because I’m so close and see what’s going on in the school, everyone is really involved and gives that support. That’s really important. I think the teachers really love to create different things to make the school a better school. I think that’s really great, that we want the kids to [do] more than just reading books, but in other areas where they can grow and mature,” Vazquez said.
Seventh-grade parent Elise Villafane credits the positive changes to Reid.
“In the last two years, since Mr. Reid has been here, this school has been through a traumatic change. It’s wonderful. Just everything. The students, the staff just everyone is more united working together and really focused on these kids,” Villafane said.
Reid said with the various initiatives implemented in the school structure, he believes that Feltonville will reach Adequate Yearly Progress this year.
The Russell H. Conwell Magnet Middle School, named after the founder of Temple University, has started off the school year with even loftier expectations and the desire to go above and beyond its legacy.
Tamara Thomas-Smith, who has a doctorate in educational leadership from St. Joseph’s University, just completed her first full week as principal at Conwell. She was on maternity leave from August until the latter part of October. Even though she was not physically in the office, Smith made her presence felt through e-mail and other means of correspondence with her staff. “I think one of the biggest jobs that I have is trying to implement different programs and implement new things, but keep the heart of Conwell what it is historically,” Smith said. “It’s been a magnet school for years. It’s been performing well for years. (I hope) to keep that, but add a little different flavor to it as well.”
Smith took over her position as principal from Edward Hoffman, who was with the school for more than 30 years. “It’s difficult to follow a legend, but I’m keeping the best of what he had in place here,” she said. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if things are working, but I’m also trying to bring some of my style of leadership to the school.”
Smith outlined what she and her administration have prioritized at Conwell. “We have 86, 87 percent roughly of our students who are proficient and advanced, but what I always tell my staff is that until we get to 100 percent, there’s always work to do,” she said. “I feel just as much pressure as those other principals. Not just to make AYP (adequate yearly progress), … if one kid in this school isn’t at the highest level of achievement, then there’s still work to be done.”
Smith has been given assistance by Conwell’s new assistant principal, Erica M. Green, who started her tenure at the magnet school this year also. “Conwell has lots of traditions. What makes us a unique school is it is a magnet middle school. So that means young people have to apply to come here, and that means your grades have to be good. You have to be a stellar student,” Green said. “You have to have good attendance and in some cases, you have to be willing to travel. We are located in this neighborhood, but it’s not a neighborhood school; our young people come from all over the city.”
Conwell is at 1849 E. Clearfield St. in Northeast Philadelphia.
Green takes pride in how well rounded the students at Conwell are. “They’re interested in academics. They have a zest for learning, and it’s a school where the students really want to do their best. They also have a sense of giving. Recently, we did a pink and denim day for breast cancer awareness and raised a good amount of funds for the cause,” she said. “It just shows you that the kids want to do well academically, but yet they want to have a pulse on the people. They want to have a pulse on doing something good in the community and really making a difference.”
Nicole Leone teaches social studies at Conwell and shared her perspective. “It’s been a good experience. It’s a lot different from what I’m used to, because I was at an empowerment school, and since this is a non-empowerment school, there’s a lot of difference in allowing the students to do more with the curriculum,” she said.
Peter Koller, who primarily teaches art, just started at Conwell and has been finding his footing.
“The students work at a very high level. A lot of them, their scores are high, and so their capacity for learning is that much higher,” he said. “The students are really easy to engage and they’re really interested in the lessons.”
Michael Rocco is a seventh-grade teacher who has taught at Conwell for five years.
He commutes from his Quakertown home to be a part of the school’s continuing achievements.
“Our kids, we can do so much more with them,” Rocco said. “This being a magnet school, they have much more ability than your neighborhood school.”
He spoke about how their high grades vouched for him as a teacher.
“As a teacher, how they do on different tests is a reflection of you. So, when I give a quiz and the kids do poorly, that’s a reflection on me,” he said. “So, here it’s almost a validation for what I do as a teacher. They’re doing well, which means that I’m doing something well, and from there, can do different things and explore.”
Cassidy Fantuzzo, an eighth-grade science teacher, is in her fifth year of teaching. She shared some details of how she keeps her classroom interesting for the students.
“I teach a variety of kids. This school is very, very diverse and so we get a chance to teach kids from all over the city, which is pretty unique — a lot of different backgrounds — a lot of different abilities and skills,” she said. “We do a lot of labs and projects. We do a lot of demonstrations, and because it’s so interactive, it makes the kids more engaged. We do a lot of group projects. They learn a lot off each other.”
Smith says she wants all of the students to continue learning from all that is around them and use it as a valuable lesson beyond school hours.
“It’s nice to have the academics, to have that piece, but also in middle school, this is a big year for transitions; in terms of social transition and emotional transition; being a mom, I have a set of twins that are 16. I’ve been through it with the males,” she said. “I’ve been through it with the female and I know that this is a very tough time being in this age group — and I think it’s more than just test scores.”
Smith reinforced the school’s declaration that the students and staff abide by.
“The motto for our staff here is ‘Every child, every chance, every day.’”
More than 60 sophomores, juniors and seniors in the Communications Academy at Roxborough High School put their tech savvy to the test in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) and Story Board Poster competition on Dec. 16.
Presented by Philadelphia Academies, Inc. — a nonprofit youth development organization that introduces career-focused programming into public high schools — the competition leverages the power of digital technology to strengthen students’ 21st century skills, improving literacy and web proficiency.
On the video design side, 35 cinematography students wrote, directed and produced a technically sound, 30- or 60- second PSA that brought awareness to a problem or cause in society. Students utilized programs including Photoshop and Final Cut Pro for video production, and screened PSAs on topics ranging from cancer to domestic violence. In order of first to third place, Eric Krok, Brionstar Minyard, Jabar Small and Dinisha Hanible won in the cinematography category.
The literacy element of the project tasked 30 Web design students with creating a Wire Frame story board, also known as a flow chart, for an adventure video game. Detailing a game plan plot, conflict, character details and “win” requirements served as the students’ first steps in building and designing a game platform. Web design collage winners were Brittany Baxter, Mark Matthews and Guia Longasa. Film Poster winners were Nina Longasa, Mike Vacante and Brittany Fisher.
The judges of the competition were Mick Weeks of Apple Computers, Neil Kleinman — Professor of Multimedia and Communication at University of the Arts and Larry Bender — Creative Director at Drexel University.
The Communications Academy is one of 10 Academy career areas. Other career areas include: Applied Electrical Science; Automotive and Mechanical Engineering; Biotechnology; Business and Technology; Environmental Science; Health and Life Sciences; Hotel, Restaurant, Travel and Tourism; Process Technology; and Urban Education. For more information, visit www.academiesinc.org.
Syncopated sounds of computer programs alerting students of correct responses rang in room 203. Some used their index fingers to quickly tap on the mouse pads. Others had their small hands cuffed on laptop keyboards. Instead of seeing students embarrassed to raise their hands and answer a question when called on, technology has changed that dynamic at Philip H. Sheridan Elementary School. Now, students from kindergarten to fourth-grade are working at their own varying paces and are focused on individualized lessons.
“There is not one child that isn’t on task. They’re all engaged. They love this. The kids can work independently, and they’re not threatened by, ‘Oh, you know this answer or you have this,’ or not raising their hands and being identified in a negative way,” technology teacher Marsha Ryan said.
Known as the traveling technology teacher, Ryan has spent 20 years observing how technology is helping with students’ learning. From the vast array of programs available to students, Ryan said she likes that they are learning basic keyboarding skills, spelling, math and reading.
“It’s fun. I like what we learn. I like the math and reading,” second-grader Serenity McCorey said.
Having laptop charts on each floor and five smart boards throughout the school, Principal Awilda Aguila said technology is important to Sheridan.
“The fact that we really promote technology use is big. It’s just really neat,” Aguila said.
By reducing the school’s suspension and detention climate, allotting preparation training for teachers during and after-school and instituting several initiatives to raise PSSA standings, Aguila has implemented many changes to Sheridan within the past two years.
“This year’s focus is instruction,” Aguila said.
One system that was put into place was the Five Bees. This is a behavioral system for students to earn 12 loose bees given by the assistant principal, nurse, counselors and teacher leaders. Whenever a student is being respectful, responsible, positive, being a peacemaker and an active learner, a bee is handed out. Classes must fill their “Buzzin’ Dozen” to get a class treat. Treats are usually an extra 10 minutes of recess.
Another incentive is for students to have perfect attendance. In each class, there is a pizza pie chart, which is colored every time all students are present for class. Winners are rewarded with a pizza party.
Additionally, the school participates in the monthly Fact, Add vocabulary, Measurement, Estimation (FAME) initiative in order to increase academic standings. In January, classes focused on mathematics. In February, the focus is on literacy.
There are five areas of socialized recess organized by colors. Areas for soccer, hop scotch, jump rope and hula-hoop are separated. There is also an area for those who want to read quietly.
To help implement these programs at Sheridan, Aguila gets help from the teaching staff. This year, there are a lot of new teachers.
“I like my new staff because they’re very excited, motivated [and] they want to do things differently,” Aguila said.
Second-grade teacher and grade group leader, Margaret Breen was recently named a Nationally Board Certified teacher through Temple University.
“We’re really proud of having her here. I’m hoping she promotes it and gets other teachers motivated to do that,” Aguila said.
Additionally, there are two teachers who are specifically focused on increasing PSSA math and reading scores for students.
In room 308, Theresa Montgomery did “centers” with her third-grade students. For 45 minutes during the day, students worked on literacy skills. Montgomery used a smart board during instructional periods.
Teaching at Sheridan for 15 years, Montgomery said her most memorable experience was seeing former students.
“The kids that I’m teaching, I taught their older brother or sister. So, they come back and you get to talk to them and find out that they’ve been successful. That makes you feel good,” Montgomery said. “Seeing the kids successful and moving onto bigger and better things is always a joy.”
Nashyah Cooper-Long said she likes Montgomery’s class.
“I have many friends, it’s nice. Everyone is nice to me. Everyone is sweet and kind, and it’s just going great. I love this school,” Cooper-Long said.
In room 301, Megan Melnick and fourth-grade students reviewed PSSA practice target questions deciphering between facts and opinions. With seven years of teaching experience at Sheridan, and previously teaching first grade, Melnick said the students are responding well to the practice questions.
“I’m noticing that they like it. They like the challenge of it. They try. I love fourth-grade. I was nervous when I came here. I was afraid that they would be afraid of the test, but they’re looking at it as, try to reach for the top. They’re very responsive,” Melnick said. “I put a lot of extra effort into researching and try to create a good classroom environment and always constantly learning new things to implement. I think I build a good rapport with the students and I’m constantly joking with them.”
“She teaches in a fun way,” fourth-grader Karizma Naples said.
“She teaches us everything we need to know for fifth grade,” Tionya Murrell said.