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Grand Traverse Academy Feels Like Family

I had the pleasure of spending a full day with the students and educators at Grand Traverse Academy in Traverse City. GTA is the kind of school where kids are buzzing with excitement. The energy in the air is palpable. I began my day in the classroom of special education teacher Christine Nowak, a treasured member of the faculty. Christine is a teacher’s teacher – calm, patient, and thoughtful yet steeled in her expectations for excellence. She is imbued with the temperament and disposition that make her ideally suited to work with students with a variety of special needs. Her children feel safe and supported as they take risks and stretch and grow. I was certainly impressed with opportuniti

Lots to Love about Lakeview

Community pride. As a visitor to Lakeview Elementary School in Negaunee, I was struck by the intense passion for learning at the school and the sense of ownership and investment felt by everyone throughout the building. At Lakeview, relationships matter. I could feel it in everyone I met from the kindergartners to the secretaries in the office to the educators in their classrooms. Students take great pride in their school community and their own learning at Lakeview. Teachers value the opportunity to know their students and families well in order to best help those children grow. Together, there is a strong triangulation of support between community, families and school. Lakeview is the kind

The Power of Powell Township

Powell Township is power. The power of community. The power of individualized attention. The power of belonging. There are 43 students in Powell Township School out of a community of roughly 700 people - a close-knit place where the atmosphere is decidedly one of an extended family. Powell Township is located on the shores of Lake Superior in Marquette County. The students attend school in mixed-age grades Pre-K to eighth grade. I had the pleasure of spending time with Mrs. Wright's 5th and 6th graders. They presented book talks which helped generate excitement and a love of reading in their tight-knit group of 12 students. It's clear that the power of literature enjoys a meaningful role in

Hope and Heritage at Hannahville Indian School

Hannahville Indian School is a place that saves lives. Located 20 minutes west of Escanaba, the school is part of the Hannahville Indian Community, a rapidly growing entity whose mission is to preserve and enhance the Band of Potawatomi’s social, economic and cultural existence. I was amazed and impressed with the level of services available for students in programs ranging from infant to 12th grade. The active preservation of Potawatomi language and culture is undertaken through daily Potawatomi instruction designed to teach all students, regardless of their ancestral awareness or connection. While the majority of students at Hannahville are Indian, the school welcomes all children. I appre

Help Bring Hope

Change agent. Advocate. Crusader for justice. All of these descriptors only begin to characterize the profound impact Lena Juratli has had on her community as the founder of Help Bring Hope, a local organization which collects items for donation to local homeless shelters in Metro Detroit. By the way, Lena began this work as a high school student. In a recent visit to Birmingham Covington School, Lena and her team of student advocates spoke about their passion for social justice and desire to forge a more just future for all people. She also mentioned a critical lesson - the importance of refraining from judgement, especially toward people who are homeless. She spoke of her own biases and ho

White House LGBTQ Summit

I had the pleasure of attending a powerful gathering called the White House LGBTQ Summit in Dearborn, which brought together advocates and activists from all over the country. Along with our keynote speaker, Catherine Lhamon, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education and Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the White House Liaison to the LGBT Community, we were joined by federal officials from Health & Human Services, Housing & Urban Development, the Small Business Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture. Thank you to the University of Michigan-Dearborn for co-sponsoring this ev

Hunter Elementary Grows Its Mindset

Principal John Kernan lends a hand when it comes to facilitating teacher professional learning around student engagement Hunter Elementary School is a place of continuous, dynamic learning for both educators and students. I had the pleasure of spending time with staff facilitating a conversation around growth mindset and the power of risk-taking. When students realize it’s not only okay to fail, it’s a desirable part of the problem-solving process, our whole academic paradigm shifts. Hunter is a place where students are empowered to be self-directed, engaged learners. Whether in a fourth grade reading workshop or a four year-old pre-school class, I witnessed kids who were motivated and eager

Powerful Poetry at Pattengill

Fourth grade poets gather their thoughts at Pattengill Elementary School in Berkley Pattengill Elementary School is a place where a profound love of literacy is cultivated on a daily basis. Students at the school are real readers and writers. This reality is manifest by the enthusiasm students bring to the consumption and creation of both stories and poetry, and the disciplined approach they apply to their craft. I had the extraordinary opportunity of spending some time with eager fourth grade poets teaching them the art of haiku poetry. After a few select read-aloud’s, students were ready to try writing a few of their own. Considering favorite people, places and things, these poets produced

Keeping Connected in Two Cultures

Central Academy is the kind of educational environment that feels like family. This new reality began when Dr. Luay Shalabi and a group of educators and community members sat down over 20 years ago and decided to start a school where their children did not have to relinquish their ancestral culture in order to be fully American. The result is a school where Dr. Shalabi and his staff work hard to cultivate a community in which every child feels empowered to embrace two languages – English and Arabic. Many students’ home language is Arabic, and at Central Academy all students embrace the power and challenge of being bilingual and bicultural. The teachers at Central Academy engage in progressiv

Safe and Inclusive Schools for Most Vulnerable Students

You matter. You belong here. We care about you. These are fundamental principles that undergird membership in any community or classroom. In Michigan's public schools - and throughout the nation - there is a group of students who have routinely heard the opposite message. You are an abomination. We hate you. You'd be better off dead. I'm talking about students across our state who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or who are questioning their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Reid Ellefson-Frank, a transgender high school student from Williamston and his mother Nicole Ellefson, spoke eloquently at a recent meeting of the State Board of Education in Lansing about the ag