Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) shares the old Hyde Park High School site with New Mission High. It serves five hundred students in grades 9-12, including four Multi-Disciplinary Classes for students with autism.

Flags of different countries hang high on the hallway walls and inside each classroom “Essential Questions” are posted to guide student studies. Johanna Ochoa-Martinez‘s students were discussing Nazi Germany’s gender-specific education system and reading a first-person narrative of an 8-year old Holocaust survivor – their essential question: “How do the choices people make impact history?” In David Sims‘ history class students were learning how to include counter claims in their persuasive essays.

The Essential Question in Amanda Chaloupka‘s ESL2 class is: “How does language give me power?” She and long-term substitute teacher Milton Samuels were working with small groups of students as they planned and practiced short skits to present to their classmates.

Arielle Freeman asked her biology class to “turn and talk” about traits such as dimples or a widow’s peak, which led to a question about whether or not transgender operations involved any genetic change. I was impressed by the teacher’s comfort talking about “trading a penis for a vagina,” and the maturity of the students who were able to discuss this with equanimity.

In Jenny Trieu‘s math class, a young woman was using an overhead projector to show how she solved an algebra problem. In the library two seniors were working on an English assignment, while Guidance Counselors Ron Johnson and Maureen O’Donnell helped students register for the SAT exams.

I learned about the school’s Community Action Seminars (CAS) from English teacher Sarah DeCruz. These are weekly classes in which teachers select a topic they care about and students get to choose something they would like to work on throughout the school year. A wide variety of issues are explored in these cross-grade groups – e.g. Cultural Diversity, Immigration, School Spirit, and Healthy Teen Relationships. Students develop leadership projects to address them, earning community service hours toward a graduation requirement, while teachers get to share a personal passion. Sarah says this class is the highlight of her week!

Here’s hoping you experience joy in YOUR teaching on a regular basis – Happy Spring!

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Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.