The Jeremiah E. Burke High School is located on Washington Street near the Grove Hall section of Dorchester. A huge “School on the Move” banner hangs from the front of the imposing building, which serves about five hundred students.
In Alisa Rodny‘s art class, students were working on self-portraits. A small group of students was working with PE teacher Patrick Mudie on a variety of exercises to strengthen abdominal muscles and coordination.
In Carlos Monteiro‘s AP Environmental Science class, big posters around the room asked thought-provoking questions (with student responses below) such as, “How does China’s growing affluence affect resource use and pollution?” One girl explained that the class was graphing and analyzing population data in a study of international development.
Students in ESL classes were reading books about the immigrant experience: for example, Always Running: La Vida Loca by Luis J. Rodriguez, an award-winning memoir about a young gang member from Mexico surviving the dangerous streets of East Los Angeles. Thirty percent of the Burke’s students are English Language Learners, the majority from Cape Verde.
ELA teacher Alicia Mooltrey‘s students were reading Macbeth aloud, taking on different roles. I was impressed by the mathematics students were learning: I had never heard of “z scores,” and it’s been a long time since I worked with discreet and continuous functions!
Signs near the drinking fountains advertised Peer Mediation training and I asked one of the organizers, ELA teacher Vanessa Hernandez, to tell me more. She said the Burke is transitioning to a restorative justice approach to intervention and discipline: “We are now in the process of designing a Multi-tiered System of Supports for students, and this is our first year starting a Peer Mediation program.” She expressed her passion for this work, based on personal experience, that addresses both the emotional and academic needs of students.
Instructional coach and media technology teacher, Artis Street, also credited the Burke’s “whole child approach” for helping students develop their individual interests and potential. A variety of community partners provide support, such as BuildOn – a service learning organization that has taught Amnesty International curriculum in one class, will take a group of students to help build a school in a developing country, and is organizing a march against violence in honor of Raekwon Brown.
It does indeed “take a village” to nurture successful students, and it’s heartening to see how the Jeremiah E. Burke High School has reached out to the community in their efforts to do so.
Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.