School of the Week: Schulze Academy for Technology and the Arts, developing leaders every day

IMG_3846Walk into any classroom at Schulze Academy, and you will be greeted with an energetic salute by every student.

Dr. Brenda Lyons has been the Principal at Schulze for five years and is extremely passionate about ensuring her students are confident, successful and driven leaders.

Named after the donation of land from Mr. Frederick J. Schulze, the school has been transformed into Schulze Academy for Technology and the Arts.

During the implementation of the reform/redesign plans mandated by the Michigan Department of Education, the Instructional Leadership Team put into place a smaller ‘school within a school’ concept for a Leadership Academy for grades 6-8.

The Barack Obama Leadership Academy requires recommendations from teachers addressing why students are eligible for the Leadership Academy. Students must also have excellent grades, exceptional attendance and positive behavior.

To keep students focused on their coursework, single-gender classes begin when students enter the fourth grade and extend through the eighth grade.

Apple or HP? Why choose when I can use both!

The well-rounded curriculum at Schulze incorporates a technology-rich environment with state-of-the-art equipment available in every classroom.

Schulze has a Computer Lab that enables students to become acquainted with both HP and Apple programs so that students have the proper skill sets to operate either program in their academic and professional careers.

Smart Boards, Clickers and Slates are tools that teachers incorporate into their lesson plans. Slates have become a very helpful learning tool because they allow teachers to walk around the classroom and engage students who may not be sitting at the front of the room, as opposed to being restricted to the traditional chalk board.

“One thing I say to my staff is when you are up in front, move,” says Principal Lyons. “Because for children, once their eyes move, their brains have to catch up and it keeps the kids engaged.”

In first-grade teacher Carly Cooper’s classroom, students are currently in their science rotation. The students are diligently learning about plant-life and even growing a few of their own—digitally.

Cooper’s class uses the Smart Board to allow students to digitally grow plants. It is up to the students to determine how much water and sunlight the plants need to keep them growing.

“Technology is so important to students because they gravitate toward it, whether they are at home or school, and it gets them very engaged in what they are doing to stimulate their minds,” says Cooper.

Student Council President and eighth-grader Lauren Crymes, 14, has attended Schulze since the first grade. She said Dr. Lyons and her teachers have made the school a lot better than it used to be.

“She brought so many amazing things to this school,” Crymes said, “And I love all of the teachers here. I am very satisfied with this school.”

Desmon Darby, a 13-year-old seventh-grade student, says his favorite subject is math because it always challenges him. Desmon is also a recent scholarship recipient and will be traveling to New Hampshire to attend the Phillips Exeter Academy during the summer. Desmon chose to study philosophy and learn about the Global Village  while he is away for five weeks.

“This school is cool because it is always improving and never stops improving. Every year we get something new and exciting and it’s never the same. We have a variety of teachers and students so we get a good cultural experience,” says Darby.

Ensuring all students receive the education they need

When Principal Lyons started at Schulze, the school was only prekindergarten through sixth-grade. She said parents reached out to her to extend the school to seventh grade because they were so motivated by the curriculum. The school ultimately grew into a middle school, and some students have been attending Schulze since kindergarten.

One attractive feature that Schulze parents appreciate is the additional assistance offered to students who need a bit more attention in certain subject areas. Schulze has two Reading Recovery teachers who are available to assist first-grade students struggling with reading. Their goal is to ensure the students are proficient by the time they begin second grade.

“Ms. Jackson is the Corrective Reading teacher. However, she likes to refer to herself as a Reading Interventionist.  She works with the fourth- and fifth-grade students who may not be reading at grade-level and helps them get back on track so they can have a successful learning experience,” says Principal Lyons. “Schulze is about closing the achievement gap so that all students receive the education they need.”

Fourth-graders who struggle with the curriculum engage in Scientific Learning, a web-based program that encourages both the right and left sides of the brain to work together. Through the program, students use the computer to listen to sounds and answer questions in order to stimulate both sides of the brain to function simultaneously.

In addition to offering a technology-rich academic program, Schulze is also an African-Centered school.“Hold your head high”is the motto at Schulze, and Principal Lyons says that being an African-Centered school helps to give students a boost of confidence.

“From holding their heads down, to holding their heads high and looking you in the eye, it gives them this strength that I believe all kids can learn from,” says Principal Lyons.

Schulze hosts African-American vendor fairs annually throughout the month of February in honor of Black History Month. Vendors will come to the school and set up booths where students have the opportunity to discover new and exciting information about the African culture.

Red-Yellow-Green

Schulze Academy incorporates Michigan’s Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative (MiBLSi) into the curriculum. All students start off in the “green” which is considered appropriate behavior. Once students get to yellow, they become aware of their behavior and know they need to speak to someone about possible solutions.

Schulze has a MiBLSi coach that is available to all students and works with staff members. When there are challenging situations, students are trained to focus on what they could have done to avoid negative behavior. Schulze has utilized the MiBLSi program for the past five years and has minimal misbehavior from the students.

“Inside every classroom, there is a chart that reminds students how they are supposed to behave at all times so that they achieve those expectations,” says Principal Lyons.

Upcoming at Schulze, students will become proficient using Gaggle, a student email system that has been programmed on all Netbooks utilized daily by students. Aside from being a student email provider, Gaggle has several popular features for communication and collaboration all within a safe, filtered, and controlled environment.

Gaggle’s collection of tools include Digital Lockers, Discussion Boards, Chat Rooms, Blogs, Profile Pages, Assignment Drop Boxes, Calendars, a Social Wall, GaggleTube, Zoho Docs, and filtered texting.

Schulze students will also be able to utilize Gaggle as a form of social media to communicate with other classmates, teachers and even Principal Lyons.

Something you didn’t know?

Starting just last year, Schulze eighth-grade students had the opportunity to choose five of their peers based on academic achievement, personal attitude and teacher recommendations. Once selected, the five students were highlighted as Living Legacies at Schulze. These students were also asked to write short biographies stating their goals and future plans which have been made into a mural prominently displayed at the school.

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