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  • Writer's pictureRick Joseph


“Hey, G, could you explain how to solve this equation?”

Dave Groenenboom has been working in alternative education at the high school level for over 29 years. He is at the top of his game. There is no question that Dave is almost engineered to work in alternative ed. He understands the myriad challenges that students at risk face and offers consistent, differentiated instruction across all mathematics disciplines simultaneously. Dave gets his kids. He knows it and so do they.

Like so many skilled alternative ed teachers, there is a deep and abiding love that Dave displays when he faces kids who are struggling. His patience is manifest in the way he proposes a variety of options for kids who either won’t or can’t seem to get any work done. As Gary Bigger, principal at Birmingham’s Lincoln Street Alternative School puts it,

“Here, we are a family. We work hard to cultivate relationships with our kids.”

The staff at LAS will do whatever it takes to help students succeed, and they are masters at creative, unorthodox, and ultimately successful learning strategies. They know when to push kids and when to back off. Teachers at LAS have more tools in their pedagogical toolbox than most general education teachers I’ve met. They have to. There is no question in my mind that this school and these teachers are saving the lives of the children they teach, one teenager at a time.

Gratitude plaques line the halls of the school offering words of encouragement from former students. Part of the graduation ritual at LAS is for outgoing seniors to create a colorful work of art that honors their accomplishment. Many credit their teachers for their efforts. One says,

“To all the amazing teachers at Lincoln – thanks for making this all possible.”

Another reads, “Sometimes I felt like I had guardian angels.”


Students at Lincoln Street Alternative High School

An example of a gratitude plaque that lines the walls of LAS

Teacher Mallory Soffin is not afraid

Dave Groenenboom or "G" as his students call him in action

(Left to right) Rick with LAS teachers Kelley Andersen, Dave Groenenboom, Garry Bigger, Anna Nelson-Lenhart, and Mallory Soffin

Kelley Andersen and students in English class

One-on-one support is central to student success

Dave and Gary in front of a host of facebook testimonials from LAS graduates

Alumna Molly Goldberg celebrates her growth in a Facebook testimonial

Dave Groenenboom in front of the gratitude plaques in the hallway at LAS

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