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Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Heart Salem Academy Charter School

I've always been a big supporter of public school education in general and of our local school district in particular. My kids received a truly wonderful elementary education at the Horace Mann Lab School, a gem in the Salem public system with a small student population and a very big heart. I'll always be grateful for the educational, social, and emotional foundation my children received from the dedicated professionals at HMLS. When the time came for our children to move on, I was reluctant to send them on to the district's very large middle school that was such a huge change from their previous experience. I wanted a setting that would meet the diverse needs of my kids in a supportive environment, preferably a small school where my shy kids could blossom, where my kids with trauma issues would feel safest, and where each of my children would have a chance to develop to their full academic potential. I found just what I was looking for at Salem Academy Charter School (SACS), an excellent educational option available to us which serves grades 6-12.

Our oldest child entered SACS as a shy 6th grader; she's now a self-confident high school sophomore who has flourished socially and academically. Through the intervening years, each of our children have moved up from elementary school to the charter school so that at present, we have 4 of our 5 children enrolled at SACS. In a total school population of roughly 350 students spread over grades 6-12, our family is a presence. (This means that you can't walk down the hall without tripping over one of my kids at some point.) Even more important to me is that in a very real way, my kids count...not because we have one of the largest sibling groups in the school...but because every kid counts here.

Last night was Mom's marathon, also known as Parent-Teacher Conference Night at SACS. Conferences are scheduled on a first come, first serve basis between 5-8pm. Sign up sheets are provided at each teacher's door for 10 minute blocks of time. When I had one child in the school, seeing each teacher was a simple process. However, with 4 kids, it's a tad bit more complicated. I left the cherubs at home with a pasta casserole, gave Dad reminders about the evening's schedule, and told him not to expect me home until who knew when. I arrived at the school at 4:45, laced up my running shoes, and began careening through the halls, scribbling my name into an appointment slot for each of the 20!!! teachers I needed to meet with. Amazingly, I managed to touch base with every teacher for all 4 kids, a personal best for me...usually I miss someone and have to schedule a meeting at a different time...but I'm so glad I did because I'm just so darned proud. I'm proud of my kids and all their hard work; it was wonderful to hear praise for each of them. (When I got home, each child demanded a report on what their teachers said and it was a joy to see their smiles widen with each bit of positive feedback.) Even so, it's not just my kids I'm proud of; it's their educators. This post is dedicated to them and here's why:

I'm proud because my kids are real people to their teachers, known as individuals and treated with respect.

I'm proud because my kids are held accountable for their work and their behavior...but they are still accepted for who they are and what they are capable of. 

I'm proud because these teachers stretch the strong student to maximize his/her strengths and provide a support system for the child who might otherwise be left behind.

I'm proud because these teachers have taken the time to know what makes my kids tick, what pushes their buttons, and what helps them learn...even when learning is a long, arduous process.

I'm proud because these teachers are willing to partner with me to meet my kids' needs...even when those needs are great.

I'm proud because these teachers genuinely rejoice in my kids' successes and empathize with their struggles.

I'm proud because these teachers never back down from a challenge, are willing to think outside the box, to reach out to the community, to set the bar high and dream big. In so doing, they offer that energy to my children who are already internalizing that example as they look to the future.

I'm proud because both the teachers and the administrators are passionate about what they do. They have dedicated themselves to their vision for the school and the students they serve. These folks walk the walk; they REACH every day.

To each and every one of you at SACS who have touched the lives of our precious children...faculty, administrators, and staff alike...know that we are grateful. 

You are all our special Valentines this year.

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