It has been more than two years since I’ve been able to visit schools, and I feel grateful to the BTU for the opportunity to continue creating and sharing my “We’re Learning Here” series with all of you! I hope you will invite me to visit YOUR school!

We’re Learning Here: NOVEMBER 2022
Dearborn STEM Academy
by Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.

At the beginning of this school year I was thrilled to visit Dearborn STEM Academy (DSA), located in the heart of Roxbury, a few blocks from Nubian Square. Opened in the fall of 2018, DSA serves 580 students in grades 6-12. Registrar Hakim Johnson, a student of mine at the Blackstone Elementary School many years ago, gave me a warm welcome and a tour of this spacious, light-filled, state-of-the-art building.

I was surprised that the cafeteria, on the ground floor, is in the center of the 4-story open space. Wide stairways lead to classrooms above, situated mostly along short “wings” radiating away from the center. On reflection, I think the very openness of the space helps maintain order, as students are always visible to adults throughout the building.

My visit started on the top floor, where most of the middle school classes are held and math teacher Luis Bonilla was helping his seventh graders with a pre-algebra assignment. In Carmen Medina-Silva‘s inviting ESL/SLIFE class, students in grades 6-8 with limited formal education were learning how to pronounce long and short vowels in our challenging non-phonetic language! DSA has a substantial population of recent immigrants from Cape Verde.

In her ninth grade African American Studies class, Sentidra Joseph was encouraging students to share whether they identify as “Black” or “African American”. One of her students later told me, “We start each class with a question or a quote to discuss, which I like because it gets you thinking a lot!” In Rachel Barlage‘s AP ELA class, tenth graders were engaged in a fishbowl discussion of excerpts from memoirs by Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X on how they each learned to read and write. She observed: “I was really impressed by their insights and by their ability to engage in a fully┬ástudent-led discussion so early in the year.” So was I!

Every classroom at DSA is fully equipped with technology to support instruction, and every student has a laptop. Each ninth grader selects a STEM-related career pathway to follow throughout high school: Computer Science, Engineering, or Health & Life Science. In their Anatomy class with Sandra Nunes, seniors were reading an online article about the body’s resistance to antibiotics. One of the students explained that all her core classes — ELA, Social Issues, and Science — connect to her chosen pathway, and an end of year project brings them all together.

David Moreno, a seventh grade inclusion teacher, says what he likes best about Dearborn STEM Academy is that “kids feel safe” here. This was echoed by a newly arrived seventh grader, who told me: “I like the building, the kind teachers, and the positive atmosphere.”

Rm 463
We are learning about the sounds of letters with Ms. Medina. In this picture we were identifying short and long vowel sounds to help us read and write better in English. — Students in Ms. Medina-Silva’s ESL/SLIFE class, Grades 6-8


We were looking at the map and reading the names of countries in Africa. This is our U..S. History class with Ms. Hughes, where we’ve been learning about the Great Depression. We learned that a lot of people suffered in the Dust Bowl. People were broke because they couldn’t make a living as farmers and the banks closed. We read an article about people using corn as fuel because they couldn’t afford coal. Some even sold their children as laborers to earn money.
— Jamary Reed & Rafael Mendonca, Grade 10


I was in Ms. Nunes’ Anatomy class. I read an article about antibiotic resistance and how our body fights it. In this photo I was writing about the article’s big ideas: identifying the major problems associated with antibacterial resistance and what pharmaceutical companies are doing to solve them. Over the past couple of years we’ve been learning about how bacteria can help or harm us, and how our bodies fight infections like Covid-19. I am in the Health & Life Science Pathway, so all my classes — ELA, Social Issues, and Science — connect, and our end of year project brings it all together. — Claudia Alves, Grade 12


I was asking Ms. Joseph a question about our assignment in African American studies. We start each class with a question or a quote to discuss, which I like because it gets you thinking a lot. We watched an Edpuzzle video about Mansa Musa and learned that he was a rich person who gave away gold to people in an ancient African empire. I never knew that there were many African empires in the times before slavery! — Larissa Barbosa, Grade 11


We were in Ms. Minchenko’s ELA class, sitting in the “cozy corner” and writing letters to our senior selves, asking which goals we’d achieved and what challenges we had to overcome. We’ve been learning about self-identity. We each chose an independent reading book and shared our choices with classmates, learning what interests them. — Ceasar Glover & Danilson Barros, Grade 9


We were reading a story on the computer and Ms. Gomes was helping us understand the text. It is hard learning a new language like English!
— Elias Correia & Lee Edson, Grade 11


450 (Math)
In this picture I’m writing about a math equation and Mr. B is explaining what to do. This is in my pre-algebra class where we’re learning how to multiply and divide negative and positive numbers. This is my first year here and I like the building, the kind teachers, and the positive atmosphere. –
Terrance McGhee, Grade 7


420 (ESL)
Marcos is writing the important information from a story we read about going to a new house, and Marcelo is listening to the teacher explaining the assignment. We are from Cape Verde and we are learning how to read and write and speak English.
— Marcos Ledo Pontes Mendes & Marcelo Teixeira, Grade 7