I took the Orange Line downtown on a crisp fall day to visit Snowden International High School. Classes are held in two buildings near Copley Square, the main one being an impressive brownstone on Newbury Street built in the mid-19th century. Inside, an elegant staircase leads from the main entrance to the second floor.
Assistant Director Vicky Magaletta escorted me through a maze of classrooms in this former mansion, some with huge windows overlooking Dartmouth Street, others with no windows at all. Students were reading textbooks or novels, solving algebraic equations, and using laptops to research topics of personal interest. On the door to Jaclyn Snell’s class was a poster-sized graphic that caught my interest by highlighting a variety of ways that mathematics is used: from reports on how many Americans have allergies (50 million!) to evidence that people have been blowing kisses since 3000 B.C.
We then walked to the former YWCA, where several other classes are held in the basement. It was fun watching ELA teacher Seth Peterson’s 11th grade World Literature students, who were planning and enacting scenes from The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. History teacher Karen McCarthy had painted her room in the most wonderful colors and filled a wall with masks from around the world. Lin Liu was reviewing vocabulary by having students name each Chinese character she held up on a card. She escorts a group of her students to China every year and one wall was filled with photos from their most recent trip.
Although it has always taught several world languages (currently Japanese, Mandarin, French and Spanish), Snowden has recently added an International Baccalaureate Program. Headmaster Cara Livermore explained that this academically challenging program gives Snowden its focus and inspiration, with all students encouraged to take at least one IB class. In addition, every year a teacher volunteers to organize a service-learning project in a different country during April vacation week – this year a group of students will travel to Costa Rica!
I hope the daily journeys with your students are joyful and satisfying, and the challenges more invigorating than exhausting... HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Please invite me to visit YOUR school!
Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.