Walking into a classroom of students motioning in the direction of a classmate as he struggles through his math problem aloud is a familiar scene in homerooms at Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP). Students are demonstrating what BVP terms, “sending support." This is the action that allows scholars to silently support one another when their peers struggle to sift through answers aloud--something the culture at BVP works diligently to foster. When you observe in any of the classrooms at BVP, the expectation is that learning builds on a classroom culture where students feel confident to work through problems to support one another.
First year math teacher Allie Mohnk, notes it is this culture of support that produces a positive learning atmosphere in her math class. She reflects on a memorable teaching moment where a scholar felt uncomfortable to raise her hand and admit she needed help. Mohnk shares, “She said I don’t get it. That was huge for me because I know how difficult it is for students to say that and I was happy that I built that culture in my classroom.”
The Blackstone Valley Prep Middle School math team is comprised of 4 teachers serving 204 scholars in eight different classrooms. Both the College Class of 2023 and the College Class of 2022, more widely known as 5th and 6thgrades, are taught by 2 of the 4 teachers as they rotate classrooms to ensure scholars are exposed to different personalities and teaching styles. The math curriculum at BVP follows a sequential order such that one class builds on the previous period versus having two isolated math classes. With a longer school day in place at BVP, scholars receive 2 class periods of math daily, coupled with a schedule that also provides extended time in ELA courses, while still having time for social studies, science, chorus, art and P.E./Health.
When asked about why she is willing to work longer hours and spend summers mapping out the curriculum for the growing school, founding math teacher Marielle Emet, reflects on a conversation she overheard between scholars, “Fractions were so hard at my old school but here they just make sense.” A returning scholar chimes in, “That’s what happens here. You just get smarter.” It is this positive attitude toward learning at BVP that scholars are instilled with that reminds Ms. Emet why she is committed to putting all scholars on a path to college.
Similarly, when founding math teacher Drew Madden reflects on why he works so hard to put his scholars on a college bound pathway, he draws on the expressions of scholars when he shared their final grades with them last year. “Scholars jumped up and down, giving me hugs. The fact that their scores and success mattered to them and not just me reminded me why I work so hard to achieve success within my classroom.” Building off of that remark, first year math teacher Allie Mohnk adds that the team’s larger vision for math at BVP is not only achieving high-test scores but more importantly teaching scholars “to think for themselves, being able to explain work, and become problem solvers.” She notes, “You are building a failing system if you only teach scholars to pass a test. We must teach them to have a thirst for the broader conceptual understanding.”
A common practice at BVP known as home visits often occur at the beginning of the school year to bridge the home-school connection and to encourage a partnership between students, teachers and their families. Math teacher Aly Chatham, new to BVP this school year, reflects on a home visit to a scholar’s home. “The parents commented that the change that they have seen in their two boys at BVP has been drastic and continues to grow each day. The fact that our work at BVP reaches far beyond the school grounds makes my hard work worth the effort.”
In another conversation with Mr. Madden, he too reflects on a conversation with a scholar’s grandmother during a home visit. “She expressed she felt like she had a partner in me. She noted I was willing to match her efforts to put the scholar on a path to academic success.” He reminisces, “The family was on board just as much as I was and that was one of the keys that helped her show growth on the math final… we formed a triangle.” It is this triangle of community forged with BVP teachers, parents and scholars that enables students to achieve academic success.
The BVP concept of “silent support”, coupled with home visits initiated by committed teachers and a strong curriculum that builds scholars’ skills in a sequential manner, is a formula the math team works relentlessly to encourage. Every day is about getting all scholars “ahead of where they need to be at all points--not only performing operations but conceptually understanding the work” and evolving into problem solvers that are successful in college and in life.
Elementary School 1 291 Broad St Cumberland RI 02864 Phone 401.335.3133 Fax 401.305.3185
Elementary School 2 7 Fatima Drive Cumberland RI 02864 Phone 401.335.3287 Fax 401.335.3280
Middle School 3 Fairlawn Way Lincoln RI 02865 Phone 401.475.2680 Fax 401.475.2415