I spent time Friday at Beecher Hills Elementary School, an IB Primary Years Programme neighborhood school with 360 students in grades PK-5 that feeds into J.C. Young Middle School and Mays High School. The school has a great sense of community. It sits on the Atlanta Beltline and the staff likes to walk on the path together to stay fit. Principal Crystal Jones, who also grew up and attended school in the Mays cluster, and has served Beecher as a teacher and administrator, led my tour.
My first classroom stop was to see Kristie Stargell, the school’s Teacher of the Year and its media specialist. The Beecher Hills library received a makeover in 2009 from our friends at Heart of America and Target and it still looks really sharp!
Over in Ms. Brown’s first grade class, students were learning about senses and descriptive language. In Ms. Fowler’s class they were on their feet, experiencing a hands on wind energy lesson in science. I sat in on the 3rd grade team IB planning period with teachers. The IB model requires additional, rigorous classroom certification by teachers and Beecher Hills received its certification in 2011.
Principal Jones expressed a strong desire to seek IB certification for the entire cluster. Currently, students who receive instruction under the IB model at both Beecher Hills and Deerwood elementary schools (Therrell High School cluster) have no IB continuum at their cluster middle or high schools. We also talked about how the district’s new charter model requires aggressive parent involvement at all levels, a trait also found in the IB model. I’ll be looking into the whether there is an appetite by parents in both of these clusters for this certification.
On my way out of the building, I noticed a colorful bulletin board created by the school’s PTA. The theme, “Have a ball with the PTA,” was supported by cute gumball machines containing one gumball for each parent in each classroom who joined the PTA. I love it! It’s the most creative display of parental involvement I’ve seen on my school tours. Keep up the great work Beecher Hills; this is a dynamic small neighborhood school with really big ideas.