The Nathan Hale Elementary School is located on Cedar Street in Roxbury and serves about 180 students in grades K1-5. Entering on the ground floor, visitors walk past a “gallery” of ornate picture frames painted on the stairway walls leading to the main office on the third floor. Currently filled with photos and information about accomplished people of color, I imagine student artwork featured in each “frame” as the year progresses.
I visited the Hale on the first day of this school year, when most classes were working on “getting to know you” activities. In Kevin Fagan‘s fifth grade class, each student was creating a personal coat of arms, while Jennifer Orsini‘s third graders designed name signs that shared information about themselves and their families. It was a treat to see George Cox, another retired BPS educator, who volunteers in this classroom!
In Carla Bolden‘s art class, a sea of hands sought an opportunity to share how different colors made the students feel. Intrigued, I watched as they then looked at a projection of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and Munch’s The Scream, describing the feelings evoked by these famous paintings. I learned that this was part of a lesson on how artists use color to express what they see, remember, imagine, and feel.
Out on the playground, PE teacher Adam Bruno led students in cooperative games, then reviewed rules of safety and sportsmanship. Science teacher Luis Arroyo was helping students set up their notebooks for the year, and Resource Room teacher Dominique Gilmore encouraged second graders to share drawings illustrating their first day of school. Later in the afternoon I visited Jonathan Holden‘s fourth grade class, where he was helping his students learn to “read like writers” by highlighting powerful language in a former student’s story.
Being a small school helps build a sense of family, but doesn’t guarantee it. According to art and technology teacher Carla Bolden: “The real sense of community comes from our trust and concern for one another on both a professional and personal level. Here there is an unshakable knowledge that you are not alone. This is the first school that I have worked at where the after school PD is catered by a designated team of teachers. Forget the bags of chips and dip. We have homemade spaghetti or BBQ ribs. We sit down at the table to share a meal and our knowledge. A family that dines together shines together!”
What makes YOUR school shine? Please invite me to visit!
Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.