Maija McManus

Boston Herald: Success of language program nets Mattapan elementary school $30G

Maija McManus
Boston Herald: Success of language program nets Mattapan elementary school $30G

By Kathleen McKiernan Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Mattapan Early Elementary School — with a first-in-the-nation Haitian Creole dual-language program for early education — has been recognized with a $30,000 prize that will help it grow and become a model.

The Phil H. Gordon Legacy Award from EdVestors, a nonprofit focused on improving urban education, recognizes schools that are leveling the playing field for all students to learn.

The school has been transformed, teachers say, from the once struggling Mattahunt Elementary School that has now closed, to a school where students are learning in two languages.

“It is a school that the community has built,” cheered Priscilla Joseph, a teacher at the school.

“The students are happy,” said Joelle Gamere, director of data and school culture. “It is very evident in our building.”

It was one of 10 teacher-led school projects aimed at bringing in new ideas and ways of learning in Boston-area schools to address issues many are struggling with. The 10 projects each received $10,000 grants from EdVestors to launch and test the initiatives from January to June. Money supports teacher training and allows teachers to get time out of the classroom to research programs and ideas.

This year, many teachers focused on student engagement and creating welcoming schools for LGBTQ students and project-based learning linking the real world to classrooms.

Projects ranged from using woodworking to improve math and science learning at the Donald McKay K-8 School to creating real world business courses for students at Excel High School.

At Mattapan Early Elementary School, teachers are developing new curriculum and materials in the Haitian language. The program is aimed at improving bilingualism for students in English and their native language and honoring the community culture. In June, teachers will travel to Haiti to meet with officials there to develop curriculum.

“It’s an idea pipeline,” said Laura Perille, president and CEO of EdVestors. “It’s not about problems. It’s about solutions.”

“BPS classrooms need to be places where young people are engaged in authentic learning,” said Superintendent Tommy Chang. “It is learning that replicates adult life. It allows them to practice skills and knowledge that will allow them to do the skills of tomorrow.”

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