What makes a school great? What is the secret recipe for success?
According to the staff of MacFarlane Park Elementary Magnet School in Tampa, there are 5 key ingredients to making a school exemplary.
And they should know!
This past weekend, Magnet Schools of America named MacFarlane Park the top Elementary Magnet School in America! This is the first time any magnet school in Hillsborough County won the award.
There are more than 4,000 magnet schools across the United States, which makes winning this award something incredibly special.
“It takes a lot of work and dedication along with a fantastic team to have made this happen,” said MacFarlane’s Principal Denyse Riveiro.
“This is not an easy award to win,” said Robert Cox, Supervisor of Magnet Programs. “We have amazing Magnet Schools in our district, and to have one of them win this award for the first time is wonderful. It is incredible to see our Magnet Schools nominated for awards year after year and set records with the national recognitions they receive every single year.”
There are elements of MacFarlane Park's success that can resonate at every school.
Riveiro raved about the student body, and the amazing work they do inside and outside the classroom.
Students carry such a positive attitude which helps motivate the teachers and staff.
“What we are doing in our schools is being shown to our community through our students when they volunteer,” said Riveiro. “The program focuses on creating internationally minded students who think outside themselves and more about their neighborhoods.”
The backbone of any school is the teachers who spend countless hours working with our students.
Both Riveiro and Hartle agree, the teachers at MacFarlane Park are always thinking outside the box and finding new ways to prepare students for the future through creative teaching lessons.
Not every student learns the same way, so educators at MacFarlane are given the freedom to come up with different teaching methods to reach every child.
“Our teachers are focusing on the IB curriculum and the Florida Standards, but above that, they’re enriching our students and giving them opportunities for growth,” said Hartle. “They coordinate field trips, have guest speakers, along with coming to service events that students have on the weekends.”
Teachers work with the leaders in the school and collaborate to help students flourish.
“Teachers are encouraged to try something new, try innovative strategies and that’s all because administration has their back," explained Lead Teacher Angela Hartle.
Allowing teachers that freedom is another reason the school is thriving.
“Our administration doesn’t want teachers to feel like they’re forced to conform, we want them to teach how they feel is best,” said Riveiro.
Mentors, businesses and parents help students feel engaged and make them feel supported.
There is always a wide range of speakers at the school, connecting students with summer programs, along with learning about different careers.
“It really is like a family here and if there is one teacher, one student or one class that needs something then the entire community comes together to help,” said Hartle.
The PTA has won numerous awards for its involvement in the school.
For example, parents help tune the strings on all the violins used in MacFarlane Park's music program. They even moved all the books into a new media center. Modest steps that, together, make a big difference.
But it’s not just the volunteers who give; the students also give back to their community.
“Our students on the weekends are having lemonade stand sales, helping neighbors, cleaning our beaches,” said Riveiro. “They’re so active in our community because they want to make it a better world for everyone.”
With so many different backgrounds at the school, teachers are able to educate students on diverse cultures.
Hartle loves that students come from all different backgrounds. Many are bilingual, speaking more than a dozen diverse languages. She feels that has helped tackle issues like bullying because they understand they are all different.
“We have a lot of different perspectives that we are able to bring into our classrooms and different events to celebrate those differences,” said Hartle.
But it’s not just MacFarlane Park that has achieved a high honor. More than 82% of the Magnet programs in our district received national awards as part of this year's Magnet Schools of America Merit Award cohort. Nine Magnet programs in our district are certified as “Excellent Examples” for other programs around the nation to try to follow, with that number possibly growing in the summer.
The best part about the magnet programs is that anyone can join! Check out more information about the programs HERE
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