We're Learning Here!

Curley K-8 School
A project by: Amika Kemmler-Ernst

The Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain serves nearly 900 students; nearly half are English Language Learners, mostly from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and more than 25% have significant learning disabilities. I have been volunteering regularly at the Curley since retirement and feel blessed to be part of this school community.

It was a treat to visit just about every classroom during the first week of the school year to take photos for this column. I enjoyed watching Laurie Ciardi’s first grade class figure out alphabetical order based on the second letter of their names. K2 teacher Traka Smith sang a lovely “Stand up...” song to acknowledge each child as they transitioned from the rug to their independent activity. In Kim Taylor-Knight’s dance class, children were moving to the changing beat of a drum: marching, walking, galloping, and taking giant steps.

Several teachers were introducing their classroom libraries: Christina Burke’s second graders were selecting “just right” books for independent reading, while the fourth graders in Mariana Pradas’ class were learning to categorize books by genre. Maria Amy-Moreno’s SEI students read aloud what they’d written about how it felt to be eighth grade “seniors” at the Curley.

I had an opportunity to introduce Multiple Intelligences to our fifth graders later in the morning. Teachers Kim Daly, Kate Davis, Danielle Moran, and Sarah Quatrale brought students from AWC, SAR, SEI Inclusion, and “GenEd” classes together to complete surveys and create graphs showing the many different ways they’re smart.

The Curley has a new set of school-wide expectations that came out of School Climate meetings throughout last year, creating a common language for the first time since it became K-8 school: “We care about ourselves. We care about each other. We care about our school.”Throughout the building classes were exploring what these expectations mean at each grade level, while posters designed by a parent decorated every wall.

So many people go “above and beyond” to make the school a welcoming place. The director of the Curley’s after school program, paraprofessional Torri Canada, has brought together a variety of community organizations to teach classes in everything from Chess to Zumba! ELA teacher Alissa Ferro leads Sole Train, a group of students and adults who train together to run a marathon. Curley families raise funds to support arts and field trips, and last year inspired a city-wide group to fight against the budget cuts that have affected so many of us.

8th grader Mark Wilson summed up his experience at the Curley with these words: “Here at the Curley I’ve learned that to be friends with other people, you need to treat them with respect.”


Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.