Why Booker Academy?
It All Starts with the Students.
Years ago, I worked with a student named Marshawn. After a disappointing experience at their previous school, his mother had moved him to the school where I was teaching at the time. Marshawn was autistic, and in his previous educational experiences he had been isolated and didn’t have many opportunities to thrive. At his new school, our well-rounded, student-first program helped Marshawn identify and hone his strengths so that he could eventually find his voice and build meaningful connections with his peers. Years later, I had the opportunity to see a video of Marshawn delivering a speech to his church community, something that he and his family could not have imagined in that first, frustrating academic setting.
This experience reminded me that the ultimate role of an educator is to meet each student where they are and to guide them, respectfully and responsively, in their journey to becoming who they strive to be. As much time as kids spend at school, it is our responsibility as teachers to be active and engaged community members, working to empower students who are every bit as prepared emotionally and socially as they are academically. This holistic, community-oriented approach to education is at the heart of our mission at Booker Academy.
Read on to learn more about how I worked with our parent community to develop our educational model and why the Booker Academy Leadership Course is central to our school structure and mission.
Our Educational Model
Booker Academy is a 6-12th-grade school starting with grades 6, 7 and 8 in 2019. I’ve spent the past 20 months working with parents and community members interested in building a school where all students feel welcomed and each child is given the opportunities and support they need to thrive. Throughout these conversations, we’ve honed our educational model by looking to the extraordinary example of some of the most successful schools in the country.
One of these success stories is our partner school, Valor Collegiate Academies in Nashville, Tennessee. Their Compass model is an excellent framework for Social-Emotional Learning, which helps children develop into conscientious, self-aware, empowered adults. The impact of this educational model on academic performance isn’t theoretical: Valor’s middle school students score in the top 1% for academic growth.
At Booker Academy, we plan to build upon Valor’s work. We are committed to our students not only having the academic skills necessary to compete in the 21st century but also being equipped with the social-emotional skills to face a challenging, changing world. Those are the principles behind our Leadership Course, one of the most unique and exciting elements of Booker Academy.
What Does it Mean to be a Leader?
The Leadership Course focuses on three primary dimensions: the student’s mental, emotional and physical experience of themselves and the world around them. In a safe and supportive environment, we ask our students to explore each of these dimensions on a daily basis. The objective is to encourage personal and academic strength that is multifaceted and enduring rather than temporary and one-dimensional.
Each day at Booker Academy starts with the Leadership Course. For our students, developing leadership capacity requires that they explore their identity, challenge their assumptions and develop who they are as-soon to-be young adults.
Students will stay with the same teacher and classmates for two years. By staying together over multiple years, students will feel more comfortable expressing themselves, while being supported by peers who have the opportunity to know each of their classmates on a personal level.
Every week, students will gather on Fridays for ‘Circle’ to present what they have accomplished that week. They will share their triumphs and resolve conflict. Circle is a safe space where, as a community, we both challenge and support one another. This weekly space is a productive opportunity to practice conflict resolution so that students are prepared to solve disagreements before they occur. This is the type of skill building we believe creates effective, empathetic leaders and makes for a better world.
Our Leadership Course is beneficial for students and the school community as a whole. While many educators have recognized the importance of a strong social-emotional learning environment for students; what I have learned is that teachers do their best work when they, too, have this kind of support. At Booker Academy, every staff member will move through a similar process alongside students. After school on Fridays, the staff will come together to form our own Circle. At Booker Academy, we are a team, and we support each other.
By starting our school with a strong foundation, we believe that everyone at Booker Academy, students, staff, and families, will have a strong, supportive environment in which to thrive.
About Terrence Davis
Terrence has spent the past decade empowering students to achieve their full potential. Originally from San Diego, California, he has built his career in high-performing schools, helping students build the academic, social, and emotional tools they need to succeed in college and beyond. Throughout those teaching experiences, Terrence found particular purpose in supporting students who, traditionally, have lacked the individualized support they need to thrive. As a Special Education Director, his responsibilities included managing a team of teachers, creating pathways for multiple styles of learners, and ensuring legal compliance. He believes that true success comes when schools partner with the community to ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed. Terrence received his Bachelor’s degree in History from Morehouse College and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Chapman University.