At Wagner, learning isn’t limited to books

Students from the Environmental Club pose in front of a school banner. –PHOTO BY ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

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.”

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