A School Infused with Leadership
By Josh Caballero
One thing most people seem to agree on is that it takes strong leadership to turn things around at a school. If you’ve paid any attention to the Waco Trib recently, you may have read that Waco ISD currently has 5 campuses on the Improvement Required list. Superintendent Dr. Marcus Nelson and his team have proposed a bold plan to begin making improvements on these campuses which includes a partnership with Prosper Waco.
Brook Avenue Elementary School is one of those schools on the IR list and the faculty, staff, parents, and students there are also working hard to turn things around. Principal Sarah Pedrotti and her staff have implemented numerous things on campus to improve student achievement, teacher satisfaction, and parent engagement and they are already seeing success.
One thing that seems to be bringing together the leadership of the many different campus stakeholders is the development of an outdoor classroom. According to a recent article in Teacher Magazine, learning outdoors in nature not only has a positive impact on student learning, but also increases student engagement once they’ve returned to the traditional indoor classroom. (Earp, 2018). The idea for an outdoor classroom was first mentioned by a parent who really wanted to see the old school garden revitalized. Over the past year, campus administration, teachers, community members, parents, and students have all helped make this idea become a reality. Administration at the school was able to cast a vision to secure and utilize grant funding for the creation of an outdoor classroom. Teachers have brainstormed ideas about ways they could utilize the space to enhance their current lessons. Community members have offered support by giving their expertise in gardening and other needed areas. Parents have organized work days and students have already started planting in the garden area. Everyone has been hard at work planning, building raised beds, building benches, moving soil, and planting and the space is almost finished.
I believe we have strong leadership in Waco schools. I believe Dr. Nelson will get things where they need to be for Brook Avenue Elementary and the other schools in the district, but I also believe in the leadership I’ve seen on this campus over the past year working on this project. I believe in leaders like Principal Sara Pedrotti and Assistant Principal Jessica Torres who are dedicated educators who do everything they can to make sure their teachers and students have the tools they need to succeed. I believe in teachers like Mrs. McMeans, Mr. Jimenez, Mrs. Schuler, Mrs. Reeves, and so many more who are finding creative ways to help their students learn. I believe in the support staff like Carole Meriwether and Wade Mackey who are finding ways to provide additional resources to the campus. I believe in community members like Columbus Avenue Kid’s Hope USA Mentors, Klaras Center for Families, CIS, Antioch’s Star Mentoring Program, and the Garland School of Social Work’s BEAR Project who are finding additional ways to support the campus. I believe in parent leaders like Christy Perkins who are helping to organize efforts for the outdoor classroom space and I believe in the students at Brook Avenue Elementary. All of them are doing their part and each of them are leaders.
We hope you can join us to see our outdoor classroom space and meet some of our fantastic Brook Avenue leaders for a Ribbon Cutting Celebration on May 22nd at 6:00 pm.
Josh Caballero is a community organizer in North Waco for Grassroots Community Development and works closely with local schools, churches, businesses, and residents in the Brook Oaks and Sanger Heights neighborhoods. Originally from the panhandle of Texas, Josh has been a Wacoan for 12 years and enjoys living in the Sanger Heights neighborhood with his wife Jennifer and daughter Millee Grace.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.
Earp, Jo. (2018, January). Outdoor lessons boost classroom engagement. Teacher Magazine, Retrieved from http://www.teachermagazine.com.au