Principal Bruce Meissner and his incredible team of administrators, counselors, and teachers treated me to a special visit at the Clayton Pre-AP Academy. I was joined on my visit by Trustee John Mayer and Deputy Superintendent Kristen McNeill. We learned about the college team theme for their sixth, seventh, and eighth grade teams. The entire school has a focus on positivity and actively practicing SEL throughout the school. In fact, each school day starts with chimes and then again at their class immediately after lunch. Students are able to clear their minds, relax, and prepare for learning. It was refreshing to participate in this time with the students. I also learned something interesting and I believe unique to Clayton: they do not have bells to signify the end or beginning of classes. Instead, they have each teacher do this and amazingly, tardiness is very rare!
The school offers a wide variety of electives that appeal to all students. In addition they are the District’s only Pre-AP Academy and have a strong focus on preparing students for AP classes in high school. They also operate using a team and looping model. They feel that they have highly qualified teachers and the model works exceptionally well for them. They have a strong focus on professional learning for the staff that includes SEL. And, they have many opportunities to engage their families so that everyone feels safe and connected at Clayton.
We also spent time meeting and listening to students in the leadership program. Their Leadership Advisory Team is a great example of what a dynamic group of student leaders can do to make their school more inclusive. Clayton is a school where everyone fits in and feels valued.
I witnessed amazing teachers and students in action during my classroom visits. Our first visit was in Temoca Dixon’s elective class for eighth grade girls where they focus on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” and being positive role models and change-makers at the school. I was able to talk with these young ladies about values and how we all have different values yet can respect and learn from others as they share their values with us. It was a really awesome class!
In Tom Guy’s Science of Technology class, I not only saw students working on projects but I was able to see their work from the school year displayed throughout the classroom. There were some really cool, hand-made speaker boxes for cell phones, birdhouses, games, and signs. All of these items were made in the school’s wood shop that is set up with an array of tools and technology. I received a beautiful desk name plate from Patrick, a student who made it especially for me. I am proud to display it on my desk.
Jenny Salls’ students in GT Math were all working on individual activities. There was a positive buzz in the room while the students were all focused on their work. I understand that she has been an educator for forty years and this was evident in her classroom. Our veteran teachers are so valuable to students.
I sat with a student in Jennifer Morgan’s and Janice Rock’s math resources classroom. The students were solving problems on their own whiteboards and then taking turns solving them for the class. I was impressed with their respect for students as they solved the problem for the class.
The sixth graders in Arthur Pascual’s science class were enjoying a fun, hands-on bubble experiment. Students were making observations about the seawater before and after bubbling the water through straws. Every group was excited and engaged. They let the adult visitors participate in their experiments and did a wonderful job explaining it to all of us.
Students in Nina Sawyer’s reading class were spread throughout the room doing a closed reading assignment working on context clues. Some students were on the computer, some were in small groups, and some were sitting in comfy camping chairs reading individually. Each student was on task and seemed to be enjoying their reading assignment.
After each student grabbed a laptop as they entered the classroom, Martha Taylor’s seventh grade English students settled in their desks for the chimes to start the class. Afterwards, they were tasked with journaling, which I love, and then worked on the final draft of their essays.
I enjoyed hosting a large group of eighth grade students for lunch. The students were all very warm and welcoming. I was impressed to see how many of these students love their math and science classes the most. We talked about determination to keep them on-track throughout their education and life journeys. The students told me about how each of their teams are like their family and how their teachers do so much to help them with everything.
My sincere thanks to everyone at Clayton Pre-AP Academy for making my visit so memorable. There are amazing things happening at the school and for all of their students. I know this will continue in the future.