The Ellis Mendell Elementary School, serving approximately 270 students in grades K1-5, is on School Street in Roxbury within walking distance of Egleston Square. Visitors enter by walking through the playground on the right side of the building. Space is in short supply at the Mendell – fifth grade classrooms are in the basement, and teams meet regularly around small tables in the hallway.
Art teacher Ida Vozzella helps K1 children learn how to draw facial features. K2 students in Kelsey Duggan‘s class work in pairs and small groups, following printed directions to build robot-like figures, vehicles and other structures out of Legos.
In first grade classes Jessica Walters meets with a guided reading group, while students in Shawniece Higginbottom‘s class are gathering on the rug to learn the week’s vocabulary words – all related to the Fair Trade unit they’ve been studying. Haley Smith introduces a rubric to her fourth graders so they can self-assess their writing.
In a small classroom off the cafeteria, Jerick Vieira‘s fifth graders work on multiplying fractions, while Meghan Donahue‘s fourth grade students are measuring all kinds of things around the room — including their teacher!
Science teacher Elizabeth Hadley is directing fifth graders as they explore how salt, honey and oil react when mixed with water. Meeting with a colleague outside her classroom during the science lesson, Ana Abreu is a first year teacher who says she really appreciates the support from everyone at the Mendell.
All grade-level teams produce a weekly newsletter that goes home to families to share what children are studying in each subject, as well as upcoming activities or special events. Fourth grade teachers say they most appreciate the communication and collaborative process initiated by their Family Engagement Team, which includes high expectations for students and colleagues
Posters in hallways and classrooms featuring student responses to “It’s okay to be different,” and “How does it feel to be included?” make the Mendell’s focus on inclusion explicit. Teachers are also learning how to incorporate core Restorative Practices in their classrooms.
Please invite me to visit and share what’s working in YOUR school!
Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.