Enter Nicole Cartagena’s first grade classroom at F. Amedee Bregy School at 1700 Bigler St., and you will see first grade students participating in centers.
The library provides students the opportunity to read alone, the computer helps students embrace technology, guided reading allows students to work in a small group with their teacher, and the word wall allows students to learn how to read different words on sight.
“The centers are a great way to help students with both their reading and writing,” Cartagena said. “Every couple of weeks, I will change the routes of the centers. I like to have the students work with different kids at different times because I want them to get to know each other.
“The kids really like participating in the word wall,” she added. “With the word wall, we have sight words that the children need to know by sight. Everyday we read the sight words and every week we also introduce five to six new sight words. These are the words that are used the most in books and stories.”
First-grader Kiama Buckner-Mickens not only likes the learning centers, but also her teacher.
“Ms. Cartagena is the best, she always finds a new way to make our classes fun,” Buckner-Mickens said. “One of my favorite things to do in the centers is read. When I read a book, I can either read it at my seat or go to the library. My favorite book to read is ‘Tales of Mr. Map.’ I like that book because it has different stories in the book.”
Bregy has been serving students in South Philadelphia since 1923. One of the things that makes Bregy so unique is the partnership between faculty, students and parents for the betterment of students’ success academically and personally.
“Our slogan for this year is ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish,’” said principle Shakeera Warthen. “The main things that we’re focusing on this year is our academic goals. We want to increase the reading levels of our students in K-3 and decrease the numbers of students that were performing below basic in our middle school.
“One of our big holes is attendance,” she added. “Our attendance rate is not where we want it to be, but we are higher than we were last year. One of the softer goals that I had for the last three years, was to increase the number of activities for students.
“We’ve been adding more to our extracurricular activities. This year we have a dance program after school for our middle schoolers. We have a football team. We have percussion club after school, cooking, scrabble, chess, yoga and homework help.”
In the program peer mediation, students learn leadership and communication skills. Facilitated by school counselor Lisa Bronca, the program allows students to resolve issues among their peers through conflict resolution.
“Before we can even be apart of peer mediation we have to go through the proper training,” said eighth-grader Starsheya Taylor. “Ms. Bronca does a good job of overseeing the program and giving us the tools and skills we need to resolve the issues that students may have. The program itself is really good. It’s a great way for students to address the problems they have with one another and come to a peaceful resolution.”
Seventh-grader Sharif Wells is also a peer mediator and reflected on the role as one that requires responsibility.
“We sit [students] across from each other, we talk them through their differences. I like it because I get to help people through their differences and stop fighting. Through this program,
I’ve learned that every kid has their own personality, so you have to approach each kid differently when your talking to them,” he said.
Bregy has a partnership with the organization Artist Year. With the partnership, students at Bregy are learning various skills and movements through dance.
“I’m employed by Artist Year, which is an Americorps funded organization and I was placed at Bregy as a partner in September,” said Artist Year Dance Fellow of the Americorps program Mary Stickney. “With grades pre-k through second grade, I’m in their classroom once a week for 45 minutes. With them, I work on is social skills through movement including working with a partner and consent before making contact with someone else while they’re dancing together.
“I do a lessons based around elements of creative movement and elements of dance like time, space, and the body,” she added. “I work with students in third, fourth, seventh, and eighth grade during their gym period. I’ll go over different choreography and dance movements. I also teach a dance program for middle school girls twice a week after school. I’m hope that through this program, the students will have a greater respect and appreciation for multiple art forms.”