Representing Our Community

Inwood Academy for Leadership has joined forces with our community of partners and families to provide a quality educational choice in Washington Heights and Inwood since we opened our doors seven years ago.

We are a community of first- and second-generation immigrants, mainly hailing from Latino countries, mostly from the Dominican Republic. It is vital for our students and families to connect with staff who look like them. Research has shown that students who share racial characteristics with their teachers tend to report higher levels of personal effort, student-teacher communication, post-secondary motivation, and academic engagement.

The diversity of our staff and resulting student-staff connections at Inwood Academy are a reflection of those findings. Our relationships with students create positive classroom environments that in turn help them throughout the learning process. In addition, a diverse population allows students to see adult relationships that model inclusion of this diversity.

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To recruit staff who represent our community of immigrants has meant we work with several local organizations to find qualified faculty who live within our community. In addition to hiring classroom teachers, we hire college students who are on a pathway to becoming teachers to work as Aspiring Teachers, Teaching Assistants and After School Tutors. We also provide aspiring educators hands-on work experience and help them pay for their college tuition through a reimbursement program. Now, with a degree in hand, many have become members of our staff and faculty. This is one of the ways we have modeled leadership for our students; they see how we are developing leaders from within Inwood Academy. We have also seen first-hand that if an educator believes in the potential of all their students and receives the right training and coaching from us, he or she can become a great teacher.

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Alina Ramirez, our Fiscal Manager, joined Inwood Academy as an afterschool tutor in 2010. Over the last seven years, we have watched Alina grow from a shy High School student to a confident City College of New York graduate contributing to our school community. Alina lives within walking distance of the school and has the ability to interact, influence and support our students and families on a daily basis.

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The many staff members who have connections in our community help us to serve our families in a personalized way and this, in turn, builds trust. While speaking Spanish is not a prerequisite for a job at Inwood Academy, it is a helpful skill that goes far when working with our families—many of whom speak little English.

Hard conversations are easier when trust is present. In a time when our nation is facing crises, being able to model unity within our school and community is a powerful message that creates stability.

As we look to graduate our first cohort of students in June 2018, we are hopeful that our high school graduates will return to serve the community as they have seen modeled at Inwood Academy!

 

Anything is Possible

We tell our students that anything is possible and we bring mentors, like Arel Moodie, into our school who can reinforce what we teach. We do this to help students build self-confidence. Arel Moodie teaches young people that anything is possible. He spoke to our high school students about how to succeed in college through leadership and effort. Arel grew up on welfare in the projects of Brooklyn, NY where he witnessed those around him being murdered and imprisoned. He is a best-selling author and motivational speaker who built a million dollar company before he turned the age of 30.

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Arel Moodie’s message of “effort is everything” in his talk to our students had also, I believe, impacted our staff. It was a reminder that where we are today happened not by chance but rather by the hard work we put in to be successful. As an educator, it is vital that we model what it looks like to work hard and consistently remind students of the importance of effort.

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In my new role as a College and Career Success (CCS) Counselor, I use “effort” and “working hard” more than any other words when talking with students. Our CCS department has to embody and stress effort in order to guarantee that our students are successful beyond our school walls. One day, it is our hope that they, too, will model this behavior and share with others that hard work and effort enabled them to meet their goals and reach their dreams.

Meet Jeannie Infante, Inwood Academy’s Family and Community Engagement Associate Director

Jeannie Infante began her career as a teacher and worked as a Community Director at a charter school before joining the Inwood Academy team in the spring. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the City University of New York City College and a Master’s in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jeannie was raised in Inwood and she and her husband have one daughter and are expecting a son any day now.

Q. What excites you most about Inwood Academy’s mission?

It’s how we are preparing students for both life beyond high school and after college that excites me most about Inwood Academy’s mission. If we want students be to be happy and successful in life, we must educate the entire child—the cognitive as well as the social and emotional skills. With a dedicated staff, committed students, and caring parents, the school has built a strong foundation to do just that; help students achieve academic success and to empower them within their community—preparing them for college and life.

Q. How do you plan to build a more welcoming school environment for parents this year?

Before I joined Inwood Academy, the school had established many ways in which they encouraged families to participate in school activities. Also, last year the Parent Council enabled great communication between families and the school and I plan to build on what they already put in place.

I am dedicated to establishing authentic relationships with families which involve a three-part process. First, I’ll learn where students and their families live, work, go to church, eat, and play. The second part involves assessing the needs of our families. Finally, I’ll use this information to create opportunities that are relevant to parents, such as coming to the school and volunteering, supporting academic work within a classroom or at home, obtaining services, and/or attending events.

Q. Is it the role of the school to help parents be more involved in their children’s education?

Yes. Children receive powerful messages from strong family relationships between family and school. That’s why schools must develop ways to collaborate with families. We are calling on every family to participate in their child’s education and become role models by volunteering at the school or within the community. I’m here to facilitate their involvement. I encourage all parents to go to Inwood Academy’s website and download the calendar for the Middle School and High School and check the online calendar regularly.

Q. What type of workshops will you offer to parents?

This year we are going to offer various workshops and the exact topics will be determined once we survey parents to assess their needs. However, we have our first set of workshops for the middle school and high school on September 26 at 6:00 p.m. Details will be made available on our website.

Q. How can community partners become part of the school’s family involvement program?

Partnerships in education enhance and improve the quality of education, meeting the needs of students and educators. Community partners understand that schools can’t do it all on their own and can help families feel more connected to their community by providing resources and strengthening school programs.

Q. What are your goals for the future?

I am passionate about making a difference to level the playing field in education, especially for under-resourced schools. My goals are to build on the success of Inwood Academy through the use of traditional and nontraditional approaches to family involvement, as research shows that family involvement strengthens and supports students’ learning and well-being.

Q. What are nontraditional approaches?

Traditional approaches focus on what parents can do to support the school or academic achievement while nontraditional approaches focus on what schools can do to support parents. It’s the parent engagement model where the school and families collaborate; distributing the weight of involvement more evenly between us. That’s why I’m taking the time to get to know our families and working with Parent Council to elicit ideas from parents. What we’ll end up with is parent energy driving the family engagement efforts at the school.

Q. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

When I am not working or spending time with my family I love to connect with nature by engaging in adventurous pursuits like zip-lining and running. I haven’t been able to do any activities lately but I have a few things on my bucket list for next year.

Welcome Families

Welcome new families and welcome back returning families. School officially began this week for all students.

The start of a new school year is such an exciting time to meet new people, reconnect with friends, and reflect on your goals for the coming year. One goal that I am most happy to share with you is our push to have more parent communication between parents, staff, and teachers. It feels like we are going back to our roots of how we started in 2010 as a homegrown charter school. I want the parent buy in that we had and continue to have to be reinvigorated this year.

This year, teachers will reach out to parents more and break down any walls that exist between parents and teachers, which shouldn’t exist but we know sometimes does. Some of the barriers that arise between parents and teachers are previous bad experiences either with the teacher or a parent, language barriers, or age difference when a teacher is very young and they feel insecure speaking to parents.

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Christina and daughter Anne

When I started teaching, I was timid and nervous when talking to parents. Since that first year, parent-teacher relationships have been important to me, even the hard conversations.

I’m even more sensitive now that I have a daughter entering her first year of school.

We’re going to break down the parent/teacher barriers by providing professional development for staff as well asproviding multiple opportunities for teachers and parents to come together and communicate.

We will have more parent events this year. More fun parent events: a mother daughter spa afternoon, Halloween night, potluck dinners, community service and a variety of other events that will happen each month. In the past, parents sometimes felt that they were not able to go on trips as chaperones and we want to dispel that myth. There will be caps to the number of parent cha perones but we want parents to go on field trips with kids, especially in the middle school but we encourage it in all grades.

I’m encouraged about our Parent Council and welcome Ms. Lourdes Fernandez and Ms. Jhoselyn Almonte as respective heads of our new High School and Middle School Parent Councils. Ms. Nancy Betances, who many of you know and love, is taking on the new role as our Middle School Parent Coordinator.

“I am very happy that we have this Parent Council forum for us” says Ms. Fernandez. We will be meeting every other month and we want you there. The parents who are part of the Parent Council know we can’t do this alone. We need as much help as we can get. We welcome you.” Please join parent Ms. Fernandez and Ms. Almonte, along with Ms. Betances at their parent meetings. For dates, see Parent Council.

I feel that the parent involvement will push us to be better as a school and when kids see their parents involved in the school it provides additional accountability for them. This also means that there’s going to be stronger safety net for the kids.

Christina Reyes
Executive Director

The 4th “R” of Education

Reading, writing, and arithmetic. The 3 R’s of education are rooted in the very fabric of all schools everywhere. It’s just what we do.

There’s a 4th R and it’s so important that without it, all else crumbles. But we can’t measure it on a state test. It won’t be on many report cards. There’s no real curriculum to handle its complexity. And some schools don’t even teach it or recognize its central value to educating young people.

The 4th R is for “relationships” and if you don’t think it’s important, just think about why everything else in the student’s learning falls apart.

Let me illustrate how complex and critical relationships are by listing the essential ones that influence even a single day of a student’s existence in a school. Some of these relationships are direct, but most happen apart from the student and yet still have a tremendous impact on how a child navigates education and growing up. Take a look:

 Student to family

Student to teacher

Student to student

Student to self

Student to community

Teacher to teacher

Teacher to administrator

Teacher to profession

Administrator to administrator

Administration to “the state”

School to the community

School to the “the state”

Honestly, that’s just a SHORT list! Think about how many more relationships can impact a student’s academic success, peace of mind, health, and capacity to learn. It’s staggering. Look through the list above, make any one or two of those relationships toxic and think of the impact that can have on a child. The reality is that the traditional 3 R’s balance on the needle’s point of the 4th R.

While I believe that all schools are cognizant of this in some regard, I know some schools work harder at the 4th R than others. There are (tragically) some schools who marginalize it with comments such as, “We know it’s important but we just don’t have time” or “We’d like to work on it more, but with state testing, we need to stay focused.”

Intellectually, I suppose those comments aren’t entirely incorrect. But the reality is that NO school can afford to marginalize this work. ALL students need the 4th R. ALL schools need to have their own 4th R houses in order. The risks of foregoing intentional efforts to build, sustain, and protect relationship capacities are just too great.

At IAL, we try every day to honor the role of the 4th R. This year we’re trying to increase one fantastically important relationship: that between the school and families. Families – we need you as much as you need us. Your children need us to be working well together because when we are, they benefit. They benefit to a degree that almost surpasses anything else we do.

We’re not sure it would make much of a bumper sticker or t-shirt, but we believe that “Inwood Academy: A Place that Honors the 4th R” would reflect a pillar of why we open our doors every morning. It’s messy, hard work. But we’re raising these kids together and there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing.

By Nathan Eklund, nathan.eklund@inwoodacademy.org | @nateek