It takes a team, and there are many, to support the educational mission at Greenfield Union
Teamwork. Community. Family.
They come in many forms.
At Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School, there’s the teachers and staff who continually go the extra mile, such as the middle school teachers (known as the ‘Mighty Middles’) who came in during a recent break week to paint every locker in the historic wing of classrooms, changing them from a peeling orange to calming blue-matching the blue paint they applied to every classroom door, along with new red “I’m In” ribbons.
There’s the leadership team comprised of Principal Beverly Campbell, Academic Engagement Administrator Geraldine Chestnut, Science Instructional Specialist Rudaina Kainaya and Special Education Lead Teacher Anna Knott, who provide vision and direction to a family of teachers who are attracted to the learning community which they seem to agree they’ll not soon leave.
And there’s the community, both the immediate community and supportive partners. Campbell and her team are just as comfortable stepping outside, visiting the homes and walking the streets or assisting students crossing E. Seven Mile Rd. as they are welcoming the 20 or more parent, church and foster grandparent volunteers who show up for active duty as tutors, classroom aides and helpers each day.
That community, including neighbors directly across the street, look out for Greenfield Union’s students, families and teachers as any strong block club would do, reporting any unusual activity and during one of the winter’s many snowstorms keeping the street clear to ensure no one got stuck in a rut or a driveway.
Every Day Community
“We are a family of high-quality teachers and staff. We can walk the community because we know the community,” Campbell says. “They receive us because we’re always in the community.”
The families, community and Greenfield Union teams come together most often to raise academic achievement, provide for student and family needs, and ensure a safe and nurturing learning campus. One of the results has been an upward enrollment trend for two years after some significant declines over time. Greenfield Union has become a renewed catalyst for families to remain in the immediate neighborhood even when moving or upgrading.
The school actively engages the organization that is developing new homes in the community and the efforts to remove blight, and this summer will plant an Art in the Garden project in conjunction with a farmer’s market opening across the street from the school. That project will include student work, partnerships with Michigan State University, scholarships, and healthy foods for local residents.
“You see people coming in every day, all day,” says Instructional Specialist Kainaya. “It’s not once in a blue moon; it’s every day.”
Professional Learning Communities
The Mighty Middle Teachers are organized not just around locker painting but as a Professional Learning Community Team. The same is evident in the curriculum, hallway bulletin board themes, and instructional approaches to Differentiated Instruction in the classrooms and hallways of the newer elementary school on the dual building, well-organized and tidy campus.
This adds to the magnetic appeal for both older and newer teachers. Special Ed Lead Teacher Knott says, “Once the teachers get here, they don’t ever want to leave.”
Pre-K ECDD teacher Cynthia Nicholas is a relative newcomer to the staff who started in 2012 after 14 years as a teacher and substitute elsewhere. Now she drives the 70 mile trek each school day from her home in Byron, MI, often staying late, and doesn’t envision ever working anywhere else. “You want to come to work because it’s fun,” she says.
“I’m not here for the job. It’s a career,” says Nicholas. “When you go to school for so long for teaching, it’s got to be some place you want to be. We’re all here for the same reason.”
Second year Greenfield Union teacher Nicholas’ sentiments are shared by 3rd grade instructor Laucetta Edwards, who has taught at the school for more than 30 years. On Thursday afternoon last week her classroom mirrored others, with some students working in groups, others independently, one reading a book with a headphone and several others utilizing a bank of computers. In other classrooms where teachers were engaging in direct instruction, students were eager to give answers but sat quietly and intently as one of their peers spoke.
The Broader World
Campbell says there’s a conscious effort to expose the students to the world around them. The school has a robust field trip schedule, with 15 more trips planned before the end of this school year. The sites visited include traditional local favorites but also more unusual and distant locations such as the Toledo Zoo and the Spring Valley Trout Farm.
Even for the local trips, it’s an unbeatable opportunity for the children, most often their first such outing. Kainaya says that after a group of 76 students recently returned from the Detroit Institute of Arts, she polled them and found that for 74 this was their first visit to the museum.
AEA Chestnut says the Trout Farm visit was planned because most of the students never go fishing. Staff work hard to ensure that all students can participate in such opportunities.
Tutors, volunteers by the dozens
St. James Episcopal Church tutor Barbara Small has been coming each week to Greenfield Union as part of a team of 25 volunteers from the church who assist Kindergarten through 3rd graders with reading and math and also help to ensure that holidays are filled with clothing and baskets.
These volunteers and others are in virtually every classroom, hallway and corner. For foster grandparent Anna Garcias, who has tutored for 14 years at the school “because I love it. It gives us a chance to share knowledge and love with the kids.”
Parents who come up to the school can gather in the Parent Corner in the school’s main lobby, with comfortable furniture and posted school information, as well as home energy facts,
Student- and Teacher-of-the-Month features, and Marzano’s educational theory. It’s all part of the educational-community environment that has grown and flourished under Principal Campbell’s team.