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Archive for August, 2015

My First ‘Official’ Day as a Student: Malia’s Story

Malia McMillian is settling into her new role as a freshman but her journey at TMA started more than a decade ago. Two of her older brothers attended Thurgood Marshall Academy. Her mother, Zabrina Ames, has been on staff at TMA for 11 years, serving as Project Associate for Student Support Services. To TMA faculty and staff, McMillian is simply Ms. Ames’ daughter.

“I was basically raised at this school,” said McMillian. “All the teachers are family. That’s why TMA is the school for me,” she says.

P1020635Today, McMillian is an official TMA Warrior. Over the summer, she joined more than 100 of her peers for Summer Prep, a six-week program that prepares incoming students for the TMA culture, both academically and socially. Students are brought up to speed in math and reading and delve into TMA’s law-themed curriculum during law day at Wiley Rein LLP, TMA’s summer law firm partner.

“The best part about Summer Prep was the field trips and enrichment activities,” she said. “They prepared me for the regular school year,” said McMillian, who is looking forward to Clubs Day—the day of the year when students can sign up for extra-curricular activities. “I’m excited about playing volleyball and joining the new dance team,” she says. “I plan on participating in the Debate Club because I’m a very argumentative person.”

McMillian is no stranger to the work ethic required to balance school work, sports, and other fun hobbies. She learned from her brother, Malik (TMA ‘15), who made school history last year as the first TMA student to be accepted into college on a full athletics scholarship. Malik’s accomplishment taught her that she “has to keep her head in the books.” So while McMillian plans to explore a number of enrichment activities that TMA has to offer, her main goal, she says, is “to not allow anything to take my focus off of my school work.” McMillian, whose favorite subject is History, hopes to earn a B or higher in all of her classes.

Thurgood Marshall Academy not only provides students with a college preparatory curriculum, but the school is unique in its mission to prepare students to actively engage in our democratic society. McMillian’s recent encounter with Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced her to the school’s law-themed approach that teaches students to advocate for themselves and others. McMillian was proud to help Mayor Bowser launch the DC Kids Ride Free program, an expanded initiative that allows students to ride the Metrorail to and from school for free.

“The Kids Ride Free program benefits me and my peers because now kids no longer have to worry about the financial struggle of having to pay to get to school,” she said. “Now they can save money for important needs like school supplies and college,” she ends.

 

 

Upcoming School Year Embraces New Leadership, Classes, and Clubs

Thurgood Marshall Academy photographs by Stephen Voss.Now that summer vacation has come to an end, Thurgood Marshall Academy is looking forward to an exciting school year, an energetic freshmen class and revitalized upperclassmen, and a unique law-themed curriculum that is coupled with college preparatory course work. It’s August 24th, and hallways are flooded with nearly 400 students and more than 30 teachers.

During these recent hot summer months, though, the leadership team didn’t cool off. Instead, Thurgood Marshall Academy faculty and staff forged ahead to ensure that the upcoming school year would be nothing short of successful.

Faculty and staff, including all grade-level Deans and Thurgood Marshall Academy’s new interim Executive Director, Richard Pohlman, welcomed students upon entry. After receiving their name badges, students journeyed off to their homeroom class, where they compared their class schedules with each other.Thurgood Marshall Academy photographs by Stephen Voss.

This school year, faculty will continue to have the support of former Instructional Coach, Kena Allison, who was promoted to interim Head of School. In this expanded role, she will work closely with new and seasoned teachers to provide academic leadership and support in a myriad of ways that ensure they grow as dynamic educators. Ms. Allison will work alongside Thurgood Marshall Academy’s new Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Bridget Abbas. Ms. Abbas has already provided a wealth of knowledge during Thurgood Marshall Academy’s intense Teacher Academy, where she led a number of workshops that explored learning approaches that better support students.

“I think that new leadership is a great thing,” said Ms. Allison. “It will bring new answers and ideas for those ongoing questions and struggles our students face.”

While a vast percentage of teachers are returning to Thurgood Marshall Academy, the school went on to invite new talent to its campus to teach courses just added to the curriculum. This year, juniors and seniors will have a rare opportunity to enroll in AP Statistics, AP Chemistry, and Global Studies.

To reinforce what students learn in the classroom, Thurgood Marshall Academy offers enrichment programs and extra-curricular activities that students can partake in after-school. Brandelyn Anderson, who was promoted to Director of Programs, is slated to host the upcoming Clubs Day, which gives students an opportunity to sign up for such programs. Most popular and recurring clubs include Green Club, Happy Black Girls (HBG), Debate Team, and more. But this year, Ms. Anderson is looking forward to introducing new clubs.

Over the summer, incoming freshmen and sophomores participated in Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Summer Prep, a 6-week program designed to get new students acclimated to the school’s culture. Rising juniors and seniors “went global” and explored famous attractions while abroad in Costa Rica, Morocco, Spain, and Tanzania. Other students dedicated the vacation to making up course work during Summer School, while others enjoyed internships and summer youth employment. Most students, though, enjoyed a slow-paced vacation in anticipation for back to school.

 

When a Student Becomes a Teacher: Alicia’s Story

Alicia on graduation day from University of Texas at Austin

Alicia on graduation day from University of Texas at Austin

Faculty and staff at Thurgood Marshall Academy continue to rave about Alicia Hargrove (TMA ‘10) and her many accomplishments. She graduated from the University of Texas, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in History. But it was a teaching position in Mexico that prepared her for a role at TMA. Now that the tables have turned—and Hargrove is the teacher and not the student—she embraces the ability to impact young people’s lives. In fact, she’s been on staff at Thurgood Marshall Academy since 2014, serving as a long-term substitute teacher and Programs Associate.

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Teachers & Students Benefit from Professional Development Opportunities

kena-allison-smiles-students-cheer-wildly

In 2013, Kena Allison was awarded $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation for her stellar performance as an educator.

At Thurgood Marshall Academy, the beginning of each school year starts with Teacher Academy, an intensive, two-week training that provides time for all teachers to collaborate among departments and grade levels for curriculum design and implementation. The Academy is in full swing, and new and seasoned teachers alike work together in professional learning circles that improve their work in the classroom.

In this Q&A, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Head of School, Kena Allison, shares how Teacher Academy is a resource that helps teachers develop and prepare for the upcoming school year. She goes a step further, though, to shed light on how the program and other professional development opportunities for educators are influential tools in the success of our students.

  1. One may automatically assume that Teacher Academy is a resource that only teachers and faculty can benefit from. But please share how Teacher Academy ensures that our students succeed.

During Teacher Academy, teachers are given opportunities to learn new instructional strategies and revise curriculum materials. The only reason we do this is to better educate students. The underlying goal is to ensure that when students return to Thurgood Marshall Academy they will have a refreshed curriculum and learning plan to look forward to. It keeps their learning and classroom experience invigorating and challenging. Teacher Academy tasks educators to present refreshing ideas, share teacher peer-to-peer feedback, and create new concepts that are sure to keep our students on the course to academic success.

  1. What are some initiatives built into this year’s Teacher Academy that were developed to help teachers perform better in the classroom?

Bridget Abbas, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s new Director of Curriculum and Instruction, is leading a session on “close reading,” which will equip teachers with strategies that help students navigate difficult text. This training will directly translate into a classroom lesson that each teacher will develop and introduce to students within the first few weeks of school. Last year, approximately 75% of new students performed on a 7th grade academic level. Therefore, Thurgood Marshall Academy is compelled to design strategies that improve student performance and reading skills. The specific session on “close reading” gives teachers in all departments, not just English, the opportunity to learn the procedure and plan a lesson that reinforces what they learned.

  1. What can other schools learn from TMA’s Teacher Academy model?

TMA’s Teacher Academy model is a lot more complex than a simple, two-week training for every teacher in the building. Instead, the Academy, and the time that goes into it, is critical for sharing updates and changes, and providing adequate prep time before students arrive. More importantly, it gives us time for team-building and a platform to identify our strengths and areas in need of growth. Essentially, Teacher Academy is a reflection of the focus and value that TMA puts on planning, collaborating, and professional development.

  1. Tell us more about Professional Development opportunities and how they empower teachers throughout the year.

I’ve learned that teachers work with students because we want to be lifelong learners. It’s important to remember that different generations of students learn differently, become interested in new and trending topics, and are eager to explore learning in reformed and modern ways. Even the most effective lesson becomes tedious after five years. Therefore, educators, whether seasoned or new to the classroom, must be willing to learn and adapt their teaching styles to better engage students. As such, teachers who partake in professional development opportunities are only embracing their desire for personal growth. Professional development affords educators the space to think outside of the box and integrate new strategies, better understand new standards, or experiment with new technology. The learning process through professional development is igniting for educators and empowers them to return that energy to students.

  1. As the former Instructional Coach and now Head of School, what have you seen first-hand that inspires teachers to go beyond the call of duty?

Institutional support and collaboration among leadership and colleagues inspire teachers to go beyond the call of duty.  All teachers work for students. But when the school does not support genuine efforts that teachers put forth for students, it’s possible for teacher passion and motivation to dwindle. Strong educators value frequent observations and feedback. They want the students to achieve and those around them to be on the same page to make that achievement a reality. TMA works to maintain that balance.

  1. How does TMA challenge teachers?

We are constantly asking, “how do we make that better?” and “why are students not improving with…?” Likewise, we are always conversing about what works and what doesn’t. Finally, the students and community challenge us. TMA is the go-to college school, but many students entering TMA are not on grade level—academically or socio-emotionally—when they arrive. As such, teachers face the challenge to close those gaps.

  1. What is your advice to new and returning teachers?

Remember that students are human beings who want relationships and are eager to learn from teachers who set high expectations. Don’t give up on them. Instead, make it your priority to support them when they struggle and want to give up.

  1. Now celebrating 15 years, tell us how this year at TMA may be different for teachers.

There is a lot of new leadership in the building—a new Executive Director, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and I’ve recently taken on the role as Head of School. Like all things new, change is good and I think that new leadership is a great thing. It will bring new answers and ideas for those ongoing questions and struggles our students face. Logistically, teachers will work with a new lesson plan template and may see minor changes in the evaluation system; however, the change that I think will be most valued from the new members of the TMA community is a new energy and the same steadfast commitment to our mission.