The James Otis Elementary School is in East Boston, a short walk from the Airport stop on the blue line. The three-story brick building houses almost 400 students in grades K1-5, including an SEI strand. Inside, math facts are written on steps and hallway walls are covered with inspirational quotes — including those from children’s authors such as E.B. White and Roald Dahl, complete with illustrations from their books!

Students in just about every class I visit are working on literacy. Jessica Hyland’s fifth graders are reading and answering questions about Holes. A group of 3rd graders meets with Sheila Hanson to read and discuss Julie of the Wolves, with stuffed animals representing the book’s characters. Second graders in Meaghan Ragusa’s class and students in Mari-Joy Eisele’s fourth grade are doing independent reading.

Elaine Mallios’ first graders are writing in their weekend journals, while Teresa Sousa helps her 2nd grade students write poetry and third graders in Jared Prince’s class select biographies about people who interest them.

Kindergarten students are in specialist classes. Science teacher Lance Margolis is helping children in Emily Katz’s K1 class make whirligigs, while Caitlin Diehl teaches Spanish with a song. Racks of costumes, a hat tree, an ironing board, and puppets galore line the hallway leading to Drama class and fill the classroom itself! Teacher Kathleen Doyle uses her face, voice, and gestures to dramatically read aloud a “Cinderella” story — about a girl who wants to play basketball — to Kathryn Husgen’s K2 students.

The Otis is fortunate to have a Community & Family Coordinator, Mara DoSantos, who facilitates parent breakfasts and workshops every Tuesday morning throughout the school year. K1 SEI teacher Maria Mehdizadeh tells me that parent involvement is high and there are numerous occasions for them to attend publication parties, test analysis sessions, and other classroom-based or school-wide special events.

Here’s hoping that you create opportunities for families to be fully engaged in your class this year. Please invite me to visit your school!

Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.