I had the pleasure of visiting the Roosevelt K-8 School this month. Located in Hyde Park, it is surrounded by single-family homes at the southern edge of the city. Expansion to K-8 a few years ago and the presence of over 400 students led to use of the former Hemenway building as a “lower campus” for K1-Grade 1 classes.
I started my visit at the “upper campus” (grades 2-8) where many classes were engaged in math and science activities. An older student was reviewing math concepts with a group of third graders at a table in the hallway... a great way to make connections across grade levels! Fourth grade students were investigating millipedes with Marina Ostrov, while art teacher Sally Wattles’ seventh graders were creating self-portraits and surrounding the drawings with symbolic representations of things that are important to them... family, sports, etc.
All classes at the Roosevelt are fully inclusive of students with special needs, with a teacher certified in special education and a paraprofessional working with each grade level. There were at least two adults in every classroom that I visited, which was nice to see. Cathy Lyon’s second grade had several adults available to give students 1:1 attention during a literacy period!
A short drive away, the primary building feels like a mini Early Learning Center with its colorful playground at the entrance. I loved visiting music teacher Sharon Hamel’s K1 class... she greeted each and every student by name with a lilting “hello” accompanied by a furry stuffed bee, who got lots of hugs from the children. After greetings, she had students marching around the room to a lively drumbeat, changing their movement to match the beat: two beats is “BROWN BEAR” and 4 beats is “caterpillar”... lighter and faster. Integrating arts and language, these four year olds were learning syllables with their music! In Sharon Robinson-Byrd’s first grade class down the hall, students were counting syllables to write original haiku poems about fantastical sea creatures.
While primary teachers love their little building and the “family feeling” it creates, it’s hard to build a sense of community across buildings. A middle school teacher told me how much respect she feels for her colleagues, and praised principal Emily Glasgow for “challenging me in my teaching practice.” Changes and challenges are everywhere in BPS these days; the Roosevelt seems to be meeting them with a professional spirit that would be the envy of any school.
Please invite me to visit your school!
Amika Kemmler Ernst is a recently retired BPS New Teacher Developer with extensive experience as a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and graphic artist. Her “We’re Learning Here” Project features images of everyday learning in our public schools, along with the words of the students pictured.