Cook-Wissahickon: Where students reach academic excellence

From left, La’Shae Thomas, Breanna Gallagher and Isoke Nelson in math class. — PHOTO BY ABDUL R. SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

Cook-Wissahickon School has various school activities, a small class setting, relatable teachers and engaging class assignments where students are supported to reach academic excellence.

“We have really good teachers at this school,” said 6th-grader Delanie Franczyk. “They really care about us and they challenge us — both academically and personally. They not only want us to succeed in the classroom, but they also want us to succeed as a person. If we need help with something they are right there willing to help. As a student, it’s always good to have a teacher that really cares about you and wants to help take you to the next level, academically.”

Located in Roxborough, Wissahickon is a K-8 school. The school’s mission is to maximize each student’s potential through academics, activities and programs.

“My experience at Wissahickon has been fantastic,” said 7th-grader Rozime Lindsey. “We do a lot of extra-curricular activities and the academic program is great. I’ve learned so much since being here. Before, I wasn’t really getting challenged in school, but as I went up a level I have been doing really well. They’re not just preparing us for high school, but also college and life. I participate in band and choir. Last year, I was also in student council. We really get a good education at this school.”

Wissahickon offers students a variety of programs to enhance their academic experience. The Comprehensive Reading Program addresses all the components of a research-based developmental reading program. The focus of the program is to have students become independent readers who can analyze and interpret text using critical literacy perspectives. In the middle years, “Elements of Literature” is used as a basis for teaching proficient reading skills for students.

The Everyday Mathematics Program provides a curriculum that emphasizes conceptual understanding while simultaneously building a master of basic skills. This curriculum is a research-based curriculum that recognizes how students learn, what they are interested in and the future for which they are being prepared.

The program is organized into content strands, which include: Data and Chance, Geometry, Measurement and Reference Frames, Numeration, Operations and Computation, and Patterns, Functions and Algebra.

“We are incorporating movement breaks into the school day to get students focused and keep them learning,” said principal Karen Thomas. “We’re adding lessons to help our students learn how to help each other, prevent and report bullying, and become community activists. Also, our curriculum now revolves around the Common Core Standards, which means our teaching is more about depth rather than quantity, mastery rather than test taking.

“Literacy is our focus across all classrooms. We want students to become avid readers, expand their numeracy and love of math, and use science and social studies to expand their view of the world and become problem solvers.”

For 7th-grader Amani Terry, going to Wissahickon gave her another support system aside from her family.

“We really look out for each other here,” Terry said. “We’re not just going to school here, but we really are family. Even though we’re separate from the elementary students now, we still look out for them and mentor them; we’re like role models to them.

“We all push each other to get better and to succeed,” Terry continued. “It’s a great thing to have other students, teachers and the principal be on the same page with one another. The only way we’re going to succeed is if we have support.

I’m fortunate to say that I have a good support system at my school.”

Wissahickon offers a large and active instrumental music program that includes an orchestra, band, string ensemble and various smaller performing groups. Lessons are provided by certified instrumental music teachers on the violin, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and various percussion instruments.

In addition to performing regularly at school functions, Wissahickon’s instrumental music students have been chosen as members of the highly selective All City Middle School Band and Orchestra and the West Region Band and Orchestra.

Former students of Wissahickon now perform in some of the city’s finest high school orchestras and bands at CAPA, GAMP, Central, Masterman and Girls’ High School. This year the band and orchestra members will participate in the Roxborough Cluster Festival Showcase.

“There are so many different programs at Wissahickon,” said sixth-grader Chyanne Chambers. “There is a little bit of everything for everyone here. I currently play the violin at the school. I have been playing the violin since I’ve been in the fifth-grade and I really like it. I also want to try out for the cheerleading squad when they have tryouts. This is a really good school; I’m really enjoying my experience here.”

Angela Clark, who is a parent of a student who graduated last year from Wissahickon, continues to give her support to the school.

“Cook is really just family oriented,” Clark said. “This school is about the children, and that’s the way it really should be. Even though my son graduated from Cook last year, I still come to events and help out the school when I can because the school has really made a difference in our lives. Over the years, I have built relationships with the teachers and staff. I come back to show my support, not only for them, but I also want to make a difference in other students’ lives.

“The one thing that my son took away from being here was that he built relationships with people that he won’t ever lose. He still has relationships with some of the teachers. When he was here, I hope he felt that he was a part of something special.”

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