I’ve only recently discovered DNA Info and the fabulous profiles of schools, principals, and teachers they’ve been running. This is the kind of journalism I’ve been craving for YEARS—real stories of real teachers doing wonderful work with real kids in real schools. Last week featured TWO great stories: one profiling Lisa Nelson, principal of Isaac Newton Middle School for Math and Science (INMS) in East Harlem, and one profiling teachers at Columbia School for Secondary Education in West Harlem. BOTH emphasize the vital importance of partnerships and offsite experiences.
Having been privileged to work closely with INMS over the year and consistently witnessing the wonders the school creates for kids, it’s terrific to hear Principal Nelson reflect aloud about her philosophy.
“Kids growing up in Westchester, one day they have music lessons and they are on the debate team and they go to the museums and they have exposure to things that people who live in under-resourced neighborhoods don’t necessarily have access to," Nelson said. While she can't move Isaac Newton to Westchester, Nelson has brought many resources to the school on East 116th Street and Pleasant Avenue.”
And indeed she has, partnering with NYU, Mount Sinai, and Citizen Schools to provide a rich range of after-school programs, exposure to a variety of colleges, access to science labs, personal tutors and extracurricular activities.
Nelson speaks powerfully about the challenges and opportunities of early adolescence, the realities of her students’ lives, and the life-changing impact of the right kinds of partnerships in exposing students to possibilities that spark interests and passions beyond the conventional classroom.
These themes are further amplified in the article about Columbia Secondary School. Award-winning teacher John Russell notes that “I think that my professional philosophy as an earth science teacher is to open up the classroom as much as possible. Morningside Park has these beautiful grooves in the rocks that are perfect demonstrations from the last ice age.” Another teacher profiled in the article, Diana Lennon, puts a larger frame around their commitment to taking learning outside the classroom: “There is this movement of instead of no child left behind, it is no child left inside.”
Now THAT’s a credo I can whole-heartedly endorse.