Known for its rigorous curriculum and various programs, Wagner Middle School continues to have its students perform at an advanced level. Wagner’s mission is to prepare its students to be to be successful in a college preparatory curriculum in high school
“Wagner is a really good school,” said sixth-grader Jabree Smalls. “The teachers at the school have our best interest at heart. We not just learning our lessons from the books that we study, but we are also learning by interacting with the community.”
Wagner currently serves more than 700 students in sixth through eighth grades. The school is divided into three Academic Academies. Each is staffed by a full-time dean who assists teachers in planning the activities of the Academy, making sure students are prepared for learning, helping them cooperate with each other and working with parents to provide the best possible education to their children.
“The teachers here have learned innovative ways to connect with students beyond the simple textbook method,” said principal Maya Johnstone. “Through these methods, the students have seen that they can change the community they live in. I’ve seen students become more confident and take on leadership roles.
“We don’t just prepare our students for high school, but we are also teaching them how to be productive citizens in everyday life. It’s always good for our students to book smart, but sometimes some of the best lessons come from life. At Wagner, we’re teaching them both.”
Wagner has a writing program with LaSalle University called Writing Matters, where mentors come to the school to help students with their writing during and after school hours. The book they learn from is called “Voices of Teens: In Their Own Words.”
“I actually like the class,” said sixth-grader Dyanah Love. “Math is my favorite subject, but through the class I’m a better writer. It helps me tap into my own creativity. I think the reason why so many people in my class like reading the book is because the authors of the stories in the book are the same age as us. So a lot of us can relate to what we are reading.”
Sixth-grader Brent Moses not only likes attending Wagner, but he also likes to read and write poems in his literacy class.
“My favorite subject is literacy,” Moses said. “I like to read, but I also like to write. Poems are the thing that I like to write the most. It’s a good way for me to use my imagination and express myself. I often write about things that are important to me in my life. Wagner is a good school. There are so many opportunities here. I’m looking forward to rest of the school year.”
In addition to the core curriculum, some of Wagner’s extracurricular activities include the Girls’ Club, student government, math enrichment, yearbook and the Environmental Club.
“Wagner will change your life,” said sixth-grader Anyah Coffey. “The programs and opportunities here are endless. I’m really glad I go here. It really prepares you for later on in life and high school.”
The school also has a recycling program, which is taught by science teacher Gretchen Thompson. All students at the school participate. There are also certain students who tend to the recycling bins daily.
“I wanted to be in the recycling program because I wanted to help the Earth,” said eighth-grader Kareema Salaam. “You will be surprised at how much better the Earth will be just by taking time to recycle. The students at Wagner have been recycling daily. Everyone is pitching in and doing their part at the school. It’s a collective effort between everyone and the final result will be a better place for us to live in.”
When it comes to recycling, eighth-grader Oriel Grant like composting the best.
“I like composting the best, because you can make new things from old things that you recycled,” Grant said. “A lot of people don’t know that you don’t have to waste food or the materials in order to compost. The process is really interesting. You can see the changes from food and how it changes into dirt.
“Because of the program, I’ve learned so much more than I did last year. It’s very important to save our Earth now, because if we don’t it won’t be good in the future. Going to Wagner has not only helped me excel academically, but it’s changed my life personally. Because of the opportunities given to me at the school, I’m not only changing the community, but the world.”
Take a look inside Kathryn Melnick classroom at G.W. Childs Elementary School. Students in this first-grade class can be seen reading on the carpet, under a beach umbrella, and at their desks. Other students in the class are laughing and talking about their lesson, where they had to compose a sentence and then draw what they wrote.
“My sentence was about me going to the park and playing,” said first-grader Samiyah Jones. “I love to go to the park and play; it’s nothing like it. I love to learn especially reading and writing. I also like to draw whether it’s people, a playground, houses, or flowers. I just like to do it all and this class gives me a chance to do a little bit of everything.”
First-grader Hasan Campbell not only like going to Childs, but he says the school makes learning fun.
“This school is just a lot of fun; I’ve learned a lot since being here,” Campbell said. “Every day I’m learning something new. I never get bored and my teacher really makes sure I’m getter better at everything that I do. I like to read, write, and draw. I really like this school.”
Childs is a K-8 school that currently has about 600 students. The school’s mission is to achieve excellence by having partnerships with parents, businesses, and the community, through full and effective application of technology and a commitment to student-centered curriculum.
“Childs has a wonderful reputation for hard-working, respectful students, committed and supportive parents, and active community members,” said principal Eileen Coutts. “I want my students to participate in a multitude of challenging academic activities as well as enriching multi-cultural events. When our students leave Childs School, they should have their hearts and brains filled with significant memories for a lifetime. They will be ready for success in high school, college, and life.”
For first-grader Kalaijah Brown, going to Childs has been quite the experience.
“This is my first year at this school,” Brown said. “I like it. I’ve made a lot of friends here. The teachers are nice and I like doing my work. I like to read, so anytime we read a book in class I’m all for it. One of the books I like to read now is called The Mitten.”
When kindergartner Somotica Prom was given a lesson where she had to draw something she wrote about, she drew something she loves the most- her family.
“My family means everything to me, so when my teacher gave me my lesson I knew that I wanted to draw them” Prom said. “Going to school here is fun. I have a lot of friends and my teacher is really nice. I’m looking forward to learning more new things this year.”
Childs recently started a literacy initiative. The goal of the initiative is to help students get better in reading and writing.
“This is a new program to the school,” said school based teacher leader Adrienne Mansfield. “Reading and writing both work hand in hand with each other, so this initiative allows our students to get better in both areas. We have the teacher’s model with them step by step in writing. Every class does the same activity. Our goal is to start in kindergarten and be uniformed, so by the time students get in eighth grade they’ve been exposed to the whole program. By the time our students go on to high school, they will see the ultimate benefit from this program.”
In addition to the core curriculum, Childs also offer their students various activities and program including Girl and Cub Scouts, Technology Club, Kindergarten Enrichment, Homework Clubs, Cup Stacking Club Music Club, String Ensemble, Instrumental Music, Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest, the Power of Poetry, Art Club, Yearbook, math clubs, Reading Across the Curriculum, and student government.
“This is really a good school,” said fifth-grader Rudolph Gary. “The teachers really work with you and make sure you understand everything before moving on to the next lesson. What this school is achieving is really beyond words. We may not have a lot of what other schools have, but we do have the love and support from our teachers, various programs, and a safe environment to learn in.”
One of the newest gems to the Roxborough area is Academy for the Middle Years (AMY) Northwest Middle School. AMY moved from Mt. Airy into the historic Levering building, which closed its elementary school in June. While the school has moved to a new location, the school values remain the same as they continue to prepare students to enter high school through its vigorous academic program.
“Our greatest accomplishment is that our kids go on to the best high schools in the district,” said Principal Marco Zanoni. “The kids here take their academics and programs very seriously. We have staff and teachers with excellent credentials, who really are the backbone of the school.
“We just want to prepare our students to be socially responsible and academically successful as they encounter challenges in school and beyond. We will continue to provide the students with the educational skills and tools necessary to be productive and engaged citizens. The early stages of preparing for their future starts here.”
AMY Northwest formed 33 years ago and is a magnet, application-only middle school. The school provides multiple opportunities for test preparation and enrichment through the PSSA, Terra Nova Saturday Academies, and parent test preparation workshops.
“This is my second year being at AMY and it’s a really good school,” said eighth-grader Amber Wilson. “This school has so many different programs. As far as academics, the course load can be challenging, but that’s not a bad thing because they are preparing us for high school. I’ve learn so many things while I’ve been here.”
In addition to the core curriculum and extra-curricular activities, AMY has numerous programs including instrumental music instruction, the Mentally Gifted Program, Writing Matters Program, and Emerging Scholars Coursework. The school also offers art, yearbook, and computer technology.
“In addition to academics, the various programs is what makes this school so unique,” said eighth-grader Kayla Garcia. “I play the flute, so I use to participate in the music program. While in the program, I learned so much about music itself. I really like the art class and we’re also having more talent shoes.
“What made me want to come to AMY was the academics and various programs they offer hear. This is a good school, which is preparing me go a go to a good high school and college. They’ve helped shape my future on so many levels.”
Forty students at AMY participate in the Delphi After School Art Museum Club. The club takes place at the Philadelphia Art Museum. The students are divided into two groups, where they do a project with two teaching artists.
“My students currently have their art work at the museum,” said art teacher Lydia Lim. “Right now, we’re working on a clay project and we’re also doing a community mural project, so the students are coming up with some great ideas. My classes and the art club are very hands-on. I just want to give my students various opportunities.
“I want them to be inspired and have an appreciation for art. I know they’re not all going to end up as artists and designers. I just want them to be inspired, use their creativity, and understand the concept behind art itself.”
Sixth-grader Le’najah Coleman has not only excelled academically at AMY, but she also does a lot outside of AMY. Coleman has been a cheerleader since five-years-old. She currently cheers for the Oak Lane Wildcats. The team recently won first place in nationals in Florida.
“The whole experience was wonderful; I was so excited,” Coleman said. “We competed with two other teams that were really good. We’ve been to Florida before, but we never came in first place. I did have to miss a couple days at school, but I still had to do my schoolwork while I was down there.
“Everyone at AMY has been so supportive of everything that I’ve done. I really like this school. The principals and teacher want to see you succeed. I’m looking forward to all the different things I will learn at this school.”
Other points of pride at AMY include achieving AYP status in PSSA testing for the last eight consecutive years, the Finley Recreation Center Essay contest winner (2011), and the Northwest Region 24 Challenge champions grades sixth and seventh and Platinum division. Last Year, the school was number one in the city and commonwealth for the “First in Math” program. They also finished number two in the whole nation for the program.
“I really like AMY,” said seventh-grader Tiy-Janae Jones. “Even though the distance is far with the recent move, the school is so good that I wanted to continue to attend. Everyone is nice and they make sure we receive the best education that will prepare us for our later years.
“AMY is a challenging school, so you have to be on your game when you come here. All the students who goes here wants to succeed, reach their full potential, and do something with their life. I want to be a pediatrician when I get older. AMY is already helping me prepare for my future.”
Math, science teachers reinforce each other’s lessons
Often called the “The Package Deal,” AMY Northwest teachers Rebecca Haldeman-Newschaffer and Theresa Lewis-King continues to enhance the middle school students learning experience through a new approach of teaching math and science.
“My passion has always been science and Rebecca’s passion has always been math,” Lewis-King said. “A lot of the lessons that we do coincide with each other. When we arrived at AMY, our classrooms were right next to each other. We both thought that this would be the perfect time to combine our passions to teach our students.
“The way teachers have been teaching students have been isolated for years. We wanted to teach using a different approach. So far, the students have really been receptive to this new teaching style. They are learning so much from it, because they are making that connection it two subjects. It’s a wonderful thing to see.”
The teachers are currently in their first year at AMY after working together at Blankenburg. They’ve been friends for five years. The new teaching approach combines the lessons students learn in math and science. It provides students with an opportunity to learn the same lesson in more than one subject- thus enhancing their learning experience.
“It really works out well,” Haldeman-Newschaffer said. “Sometimes I can hear what Theresa is teaching her students in science and I will then put together a math lesson that goes along with what the students is learning in that class. What makes our teaching so unique is that we’re using the same language in both classes.
“Right now in science class, students are doing a lot of formulas and graphing and we’re doing the same thing in pre-algebra. Theresa is providing students with the real life experience. I’m providing students with the tools to help with those real life experiences. It’s all about connecting the dots and giving the students the ultimate learning experience.”
Student teachers from Temple University Mary E. Penxa and Daniel Fitzgerald have been helping both teachers with their classes.
“As a whole the lessons have been going well; its nice that we have the same students,” Penxa said. “As far as the flexible grouping, its definitely different having the high achieving students because they know the work, but its more about getting them excited to keep doing the work. I haven’t seen a combination like this in a school before on this level. It really gives students an opportunity to achieve and learn more on a whole different level.”
Through the new program, Fitzgerald says he has not only seen his students reach their fullest potential, but they have also realized their future goals.
“Jeremiah, who also practices First in Math at AMY, told me how he wants to be a scientist,” Fitzgerald said. “He already knows that in order to be a scientist he has to be good in math. He’s doing all of the science and math work already. He’s sees the connection between the two, just like the other students. By having teachers like Theresa Lewis-King and Rebecca Haldeman-Newschaffer, the students are able to learn on a different level that will help them prepare for their future, like Jeremiah.”
Seventh-grader Troi Young believes that by combining the lessons in math and science, students will learn more in their classes.
“It’s a cool concept they are teaching us,” Young said. “They split us up on how well we do in math. By doing this, we’re learning more of what we actually need to learn instead of learning stuff that we already know. It really helps us get a better understanding of what we’re learning.
“We’re not just learning a fast lesson and moving on, the teachers are taking the time to make sure we understand what we are learning. It makes attaining the information that we’re receiving easier. I really like the classes.”
Another student who likes the combination of math and science at AMY is Kyle Sierocinski.
“I like the fact that we understand more because the groups are in smaller sessions,” Sierocinski said. “When you in smaller groups your not afraid to ask questions. It’s a good way to learn math and science.
The teachers make sure that we’re not just learning but also having fun; they’re the best. I’m looking forward to learning more in both classes.”
Featured in 2012 Philadelphia Magazine as "One of the Best Schools in Philadelphia,” The Science Leadership Academy (SLA) continues to prepare its students for the next level academically by providing a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship.
“Everything that we do here is built on our five core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection,” said founding principal Christopher Lehmann. “We’re truly creating education opportunities that are redefining how education is delivered. We teach our students to be ready for the future.”
SLA is a partnership high school between the School District and The Franklin Institute. Students at SLA learn in a technology-infused, project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection are emphasized in all classes.
“It’s a rigorous program, but a really good school,” said senior Yasmeen Brownlee. “I want to be a veterinarian, so I wanted to go to school that will have a lot of science programs, SLA was the perfect fit for me. The overall experience that I received was good; it definitely will prepare me for the next level.”
Each student of SLA receives their own personal Macbook laptop, which they are responsible for throughout the school year. The majority of schoolwork is done on the computers through the school's Moodle course-management system.
“This isn’t the traditional kind of school,” said junior Goldie Robins. “At this school we learn through research-based projects, collaborating with one another, and working both in the classroom and in the community. It’s a better way of learning and retaining the information that we learn. The curriculum is challenging and you really have to stay on top of your game academically, but it’s all worth it in the end.”
For junior Amanda Cartagena, digital video is her favorite class because it allows her to tap into her creativity.
“Digital video gives us an opportunity to explore our creativity,” Cartagena said. “When our teacher assigns a project, we’re able to choose what we want the video to be about as a group, whether it’s a commercial or something else. We all get to bring our own original ideas to the class. I like the class because it allows us to see things through other people eyes.”
SLA has a partnership with Drexel University through the STEM GK12 program. The program pairs Drexel graduate PhD students with high school teachers through academic fellowship to enhance the math and science education of high school students through the context of the National Academy of Engineering.
This program has been displayed in the Biochemistry 1 class where students were creating an indoor green space. An engineer from the Drexel comes to the class once a week to help with the built and design of the project.
“The engineer that we have for the project will be traveling to Africa to work with a school in Kenya,” said Biochemistry 1 teacher Stephanie Dunda. “He will be offering them the same project, but the emphasis on their indoor structure will be on growing food because the are an agricultural community. The kids are preparing a structure.
“They are also making a video of what they are doing, so that if someone wants to build this structure they can. They will also be able to share their videos with the kids in Africa and vice versa. This project is truly great and all students will be able to learn from it.”
Drexel University P.H.D candidate and GK 12 fellow Ezekiel Crenshaw is helping the students at SLA and Africa with their structures.
“The whole concept of the structures came from the five-story bio-wall at Drexel,” Crenshaw said. “The goal of the whole project was to show students how plants can help better than environment as well as learn the functions of plants. This project will show students how its possible to live in green environment.
“This is also a good way for students from different countries to interact with one another through the same project. This will be the ultimate learning experience for all students, because they are learning from each other.”
SLA has won numerous awards over the years. The school was featured in the PBS documentary, Digital Media: New Learners for the 21st Century; was names Apple Distinguished School (2009-2012) and 2011 city debate champions.
SLA other points of pride include a ninth grade program and Franklin Scholars Speaker series, which brought Bill Gates to the campus in 2010. President Barack Obama met the graduating class of 2012. The engineering program has also designed and built a solar distillation system for a hospital in Sierra Leone and has two patents pending for a flow process bio-diesel generator
“When I was younger, I kept getting first place in science fairs, so I thought this was the perfect school to go to for science,” said freshmen Jordan Meriwether. “SLA gives all us an opportunity to succeed whether it’s in science or other fields. This school is top notch and what SLA has accomplished over the years has proven that. I’m looking forward to setting my own imprint here and taking what I learn at SLA and apply it to my future goals.”