Partnership Feature: Yawntreshia Coleman, Managing Director, Coleman & Company, LLC

Super-volunteer and jack-of-all-trades, Yawntreshia Coleman.

Super-volunteer and jack-of-all-trades, Yawntreshia Coleman.

Yawntreshia Coleman is the kind of volunteer that you all dream about.

I could use a whole slew of GRE words and resume adjectives to describe her – reliable, consistent, punctual, effervescent – and they would all be true. But at the end of a school year during which we have engaged over 400 individual volunteers in our work, the thing that has meant the most to us is that Tresh is always hungry for more. Continue reading

Getting To Know Our Families: Shasheema McKinney, South Hampton Elementary parent

1We believe that Birmingham has a rich history and a bright future and we are reminded of that everyday in our interactions with students and their families.

Take Shasheema McKinney, for example — born, raised, and educated in Birmingham, Shasheema is intricately a part of the history of our city and shares some of the experiences her children are now living.  Continue reading

Student Voice: Joseph Bannerman, Ramsay High School

FullSizeRenderJoseph Bannerman is nicknamed “Reverend” because in addition to being an academic star, he pastors like his father and uncle before him. In a nod to the changing times, his pulpit is located on Google Plus and his parishioners come from all over the world.

This kind of innovative thinking is a cornerstone of Joseph’s daily life and one of the big reasons he has already scored a 30 on his ACT as a high school sophomore.

Before participating in weekly ACT classes as part of a partnership among Ramsay High School, the Birmingham Education Foundation, and College Admissions Made Possible, Joseph had no opportunities for ACT prep. Since August, his score has shot up 3 points, and he’s not done.

He asserts that his “goal is to score a 36 before [he goes] to college.”

FullSizeRender-2 Right now, Joseph is focused on Harvard, Emory, Alabama, Morehouse, and Princeton as potential next steps; once there, he plans to study political science on his way to becoming a politician and a minister. Joseph credits the education he received at Minor, Arthur, WJ Christian, and Ramsay, and the support of his family as big reasons for his success. His favorite classes are Choir and History, and he recently participated on Ramsay’s Academic Bowl team, which had its best ever finish at Regionals.

His next challenges will be as student government representative for the Junior class and in participating in Ramsay’s rigorous IB program.

“Next year, I want my writing score to improve on the ACT,” he says, and judging from Joseph’s determination and the support system around him, Ed has no doubt that the best is yet to come.

Getting to Know Our Families: D’Anntoinette Johnson, Tuggle Elementary

IMG_3078I have to make a confession.

That first time I showed up to Tuggle Elementary to talk to Ms. D’Anntoinette Johnson about the upcoming student talent show, I asked for “Ms. Johnson, the teacher.”

When I first met Johnson, only a few weeks before, she stood up during the Marketplace at Tuggle’s Network Night requesting volunteers to help her organize and promote the upcoming event, and I took her up on her offer, unconsciously assuming she was faculty at the school. But this is the beauty of the Network and of the unique environment that Principal Teresa Ragland has fostered at her school: one that is filled with parents and regular volunteers who have integrated themselves seamlessly into the fabric of the school and are taking advantage of every opportunity, using their own skills, talents, and passions to contribute to student success.

Since that night, Johnson – a mother of four and Vice President of Membership for the Tuggle PTA – has been spending the last month nurturing her dream of organizing a talent show for the students of Carrie A Tuggle Elementary. As you might guess, one of Johnson strengths is the sense of personal responsibility and determination that characterizes her work on this project.  In addition to raising four sons between the ages of 21 and 3, she is also currently working to finish her bachelor’s degree. “It has been a personal goal of mine since high school,” she says, “and I want to lead my sons by being an example to them.”

For the talent show, Johnson and others first asked students to audition and then chose 13 students to participate in 10 acts. Since then, students have been practicing after school to refine their performances and get feedback.

IMG_3084On Tuesday, fifth-grade students Esmerelda and Kiara are deep in discussion, meditating on the modifications they are making to their performance in the hallway outside the gym.  “Our teacher suggested changing some of the moves,” says Esmerelda, “So we are practicing those new steps today.”

“We are really excited to show our talents,” says Kiara. “It’s the first time Tuggle has had a Talent Show and we are glad to be a part of that.”

While Johnson stands out as the lead on planning for the talent show, however, she acknowledges that the process has been a group effort.

I am so overwhelmed by the number of people who want to help,” she says. “Having our community contribute means they have a real interest in this event, and in our school, in our students. It is a really great feeling.”

fylerDuring the Marketplace – a dedicated part of the Network space during which members can make an offer or request, and people make exchanges in real time – Johnson’s request was met with an extremely positive response. Many people, like Tuggle alum Denzel Plump, offered to participate in the event itself as a judge.

The Tuggle Talent show will take place this coming Friday at 4:30pm. Judges will include Plump; Donnell Humes from State Farm; Ed Community Partnerships Director Marshall Pollard; Cynthia Northorp, Tuggle faculty; and Birmingham City Councilor Lashunda Scales. Tickets for students are $2 in advance and $3 at the door; tickets for adults are $5 and $7, respectively.

“I wanted to give students a opportunity to show off their talents and receive positive praise,” says parent D’Anntoinette Johnson. “I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long, long time, so when I got the green light, I ran with it.”

Partnership Feature: Birmingham Rotary Club

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Group tables gave students the opportunity to get feedback from Rotary mentors and their peers on pitching a presentation topic.

If you ever start to doubt the magnitude of the investment that the Birmingham community has placed in the success of our students, let me borrow an hour of your time and introduce you to Sanjay Singh, President of the Birmingham Rotary Club.

“Our members look forward to the Career Development Conference each semester,” says Singh. “Sitting across from these students, what stands out the most is their potential, their ambition, and their genuine desire to be change-makers in their community. It is an honor and a privilege to work one-on-one with Birmingham’s youth, supporting them as they prepare for their futures.” Continue reading

Educator Spotlight: Laura West, Hudson K-8 School

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Laura West’s students recently received a reply from President Obama after sending him some letters of their own.

Ask yourself: when was the last time I got a personal letter from the President of the United States?

If you’re lucky enough to be a student in Laura West’s seventh-grade English Language Arts class, the answer is: last month.

After working with Ed as a Teacher Connector at Hudson K-8 and participating in the school’s first Network Night, West encouraged her students to raise their voices, too, by writing to Obama to express their concerns about violence in their community and the implications of national concerns about police brutality toward black teens. The Commander in Chef received letters from over 75 students, and, as most people would do, he sent a letter back.

And that’s it for this month’s Educator Spotlight!

Just kidding.

As tempting as it is to let this wonderful story stand alone, and as moving as that anecdote is, there is so much more to Laura West that deserves recognition.

My philosophy for K-12 education is that students learn best from first-hand experience,” says West. “I am trying to make learning fun for my students, to brush off the idea that learning must be quiet and only take place while seated in a desk.”

West began her teaching career in Nigeria, spending a full school year there before coming to Hudson K-8 in August 2013. West holds a BA in History from Auburn University and an MA from Virginia Tech. She says she consciously designs curriculum units around topics that she believes will interest and empower her students.

“When we first started reading about Human Trafficking,” she says, “My students were a bit confused by the idea that modern-day slavery exists. Now, they are well versed on the issue and are activists in their own right. In this way, I hope to engage my students academically, but then push them to think about similar circumstances and issues in the world around them.”

West's call to action to be Revolutionary is a notion that her 7th graders take seriously.

West’s call to action to Be Revolutionary is a notion that her 7th graders take seriously.

West takes the responsibility for the education of her students very seriously, knowing that the language skills she cultivates in them now will have a huge impact on their lives. “I believe a strong vocabulary is a powerful tool for students. It will help them become stronger readers, writers, and enable them to articulate their thoughts in more profound ways,” West says. “So far this year, they have learned 150 grade-level vocabulary words and you’ll overhear them in the hallways using them in their everyday conversations like, ‘Those are counterfeit!’ and ‘I don’t know why he’s lurking in the hallway.'”

As the Network has begun to take hold at Hudson and surrounding schools, West has noticed that students are speaking up for what they want and talking about the ways in which Hudson could improve. It is the beginning of a very powerful dialogue in which even the littlest learners can be empowered to make change in their community and know that their opinions are valued.

In fact, West said her favorite memory from Network Night was watching one of her current students interact with community leaders and out-of-state visitors, such as a group of college students visiting from Washington and Lee University, exchanging email addresses and promising to follow-up.

“As his teacher, I stood in awe of my student who so boldly made himself a part of a situation that could have been overwhelming for the typical twelve year old,” West says. “Instead, he rose to the occasion and expanded his own cultural exposure by effortlessly connecting with people hailing from so many different cultural, economic, and racial backgrounds. You can’t help but wonder what they’ll do next.”

Student Voice: My HOSA Experience by Monique Shuford, Carver Academy of Health Sciences

At the beginning of the school year, Academy Coordinator Kristie Williams made it her priority to reinstate a HOSA Chapter at Carver High School, one that had been dormant for at least four years. With the support of Ed and their teachers, 10 students competed at the Regional Competition in Montgomery in February and brought home two third-place titles. Hear about the experience from the perspective of one of the winners below. 

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Monique, at left, poses with her fellow HOSA competitors on competition day. Moriah Craig, second from right, won third place in the job seeking skills category.

As soon as I officially became a HOSA member and was selected to participate in the writing competition I immediately went to work on honing my writing skills. I had been told that writing was one of my strengths and so, to prepare, I continued to learn about writing from my English teacher, Ms. Dorset. We were working on argumentative essays and rhetorical analysis essays at the time, so I paid close attention to the new techniques and new ways of writing and thinking that she shared with us.

I also opened up my mind to more possibilities of how something could be handled or read. I increased my ability to analyze prompts to see what it is asking and executing my response without adding irrelevant topics to the essay. Preparing in this way really helped me because the writing was extemporaneous.

When we arrived for the competition I was nervous but not nervous at the same time. It was a warm feeling there and I did not feel out of place. I enjoyed the other schools and learned more about the competitions. I learned how things are supposed to be done and what is expected of the individuals in HOSA. I felt very confident in my writing skills and in myself. I met the expectations and wrote my essay.

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Health Occupations Students of America, is a national initiative, connecting students across the country on topics related to the field of health sciences.

At first, I was nervous I would not finish in time, because we only had an hour to write the essays – but it turned out that I finished 15 minutes ahead of time! When we were given the assignments, I took my time re-reading the prompts and chose the one I could support the most. Within 45 minutes I had a six-paragraph essay giving three reasons why health partnerships are important with examples of each, including my experience with the Bridging the Gap Program at UAB Hospital with the Ed Foundation. With that essay, I won 3rd place and hope to go to the Nationals.

As a result of my HOSA experience, I am certain I am capable of achieving my goals in life. This experience helped me appreciate that I can do anything I set my mind to and that I am a winner. It meant that size does not matter, that my background does not matter. This is my first HOSA competition and I won 3rd place. That means a lot to me and those around me. I am glad I got the opportunity to have these experiences.

Monique and her fellow competitor Moriah will travel to California this summer to compete at Nationals and to that we say, best of luck ladies! You have made us so very proud. 

Educator Spotlight: Scotty Feltman, Avondale Elementary

scotty2 Around 3:00pm each school day at Avondale Elementary, students and families see a recognizable face in the car line. Scotty Feltman is both familiar and popular, and has been for the past seven years. This reputation has been established by preparing his 5th graders to be ready for middle school by going above and beyond what is expected of him as a teacher.

scotty1When asked if she was ready for 6th grade, one of Mr. Feltman’s students replied, “I do feel ready because Mr. Feltman teaches us stuff that we are supposed to learn in 6th grade. He has taught us more than any teacher I’ve ever had. I really like his class.” Ed doesn’t always get the chance to step back and listen to our students describe their appreciation for teachers, but when we do, it’s quite empowering.

Feltman began teaching in 2007, after earning his teaching degree from University of Alabama at Birmingham. “I wanted to be a teacher because I thought it would be fun and I could make a difference in people’s lives daily,” he says. “I love reading and learning how things work and teaching seemed like a perfect fit.” It’s obvious that Mr. Feltman makes a difference on a daily basis. During experiments, students’ eyes light up. One says, “My favorite [experiment] was [on] density where we figured out which liquids were more or less dense than others. It was super cool.”

To keep his students interested and invested in Science, Feltman maintains that getting to know his students is key.

I try and create personal relationships with each of my students,” Feltman says. “I try to challenge them daily and show them what they can do anything even if they think they can’t.”

This year, Mr. Feltman has visited the homes of his students to build relationships outside of the classroom with students and their families. Feltman knows that challenging students daily is a lot easier when you have established a strong relationship with them during and after the school day. He says, “I hope that each of my students has a chance to succeed in life.  I’m trying to show them what they are capable of and also teach them that quitting because things are tough isn’t an option.”

Scotty, Ed is very thankful for all that you do for students and your school on a daily basis. Thanks for holding such high expectations for your students, and having a whole lot of fun while doing so.

Student Voice: Moriah Craig and Christian Addoh-Kondi on Career Development Conference

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Wenonah student Kiaria Murray pitches an idea for a Prostate Cancer Walk to honor her late father.

It’s been a few months since our fall Career Development Conference and we have yet to recap the day for you but we hope that it was worth the wait.

Today, we are releasing a short film produced by 1504 Pictures that really captures the excitement we feel for this program, the power of partnership, and the potential of our students. Continue reading