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Starting school with five positive interactions

Teachers put students in a positive mindset for learning every day.
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 7:49 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WVLT) - For students at Star Academy in Memphis, the day begins long before the first book is opened. It all starts with a personalized greeting at the car drop-off line.

This is followed by four more positive interactions with adults on the staff before class.

Five before First is one of Principal James Johnson’s innovative ideas to ensure students start school on a positive note.

“So if something happened that was not so nice, prior to them arriving, we have the opportunity, we have five instances before the first period begins to try to assist the student with resetting their day,” said Johnson.

Star Academy serves a 100-percent-minority population. They have found making children feel welcome and valued is key.

And it affects how they perform in class, according to their teachers, who said they work hard to let the children know they’re in a protected environment where they’re cared for.

“Home environments, you know they are just different, so when we talk about school, school is actually a really safe space for scholars,” said teacher Omolola Ajayi.

Ajayi, an award-winning teacher recognized for her skills, is also a believer in the time and space Star Academy gives its students to help settle into their classrooms each day. It’s called “Strong Start.”

“Helping them to make that transition from ‘I was once at home, but now I’m in the building and I have something purposeful and intentional that I have to do’,” said Ajayi.

Another unique action the school takes to ensure success, individualized attention involving faculty, students and parents to assess what each child needs.

“We create this plan that says here is what the scholar needs to be doing, here’s what we are going to do, here is what we are asking you to do, to make sure that the student experiences at least 1.5 years of growth within the school year,” said Johnson.

And possibly most important of all, an inspired staff that believes with a passion in what they’re doing.

“I always say education is my activism right, everybody has their thing that they do and so education, being a teacher, is my way of giving back,” said Ajayi.

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