EAGLE Elementary Plays Up Its Diversity
In August, Phoenix Magazine named EAGLE College Prep Elementary one of the best schools in Phoenix in 2010. And while this charter school is great at getting kids ready academically (math, science, English and stuff), it also teaches students how to be good, caring people.
EAGLE stands for Expecting Academic Greatness with a Loving Emphasis. The students (461 of ’em) come from all corners of the world. In fact, about a quarter of the kids speak a language other than English at home. “We have families from Nepal, from the Philippines, from Vietnam, Nigeria, Somalia. Over 20 different languages in our small school alone are spoken at home by our students,” says Principal Wendy Noble.
“We focus a lot on character development as well (as academics). To us, it goes hand-in-hand,” Dr. Noble explains. “We want students who are intelligent and prepared to be good decision makers out in the world. We want them to go to college and finish college, but we also want people who care about other people and who take care of each other.” The EAGLE staff teaches its students to respect others and to be responsible, good citizens. “We want them to be not just really smart people, but really good people, too—people with a heart,” she adds.
Having a great mix of kids helps. “We start with celebration. We start by recognizing what is UNIQUE about each of us,” Dr. Noble explains. EAGLE’s third grade is a good example. Each year, the third-graders study how their families immigrated to the United States, and give presentations and write papers about what they learned. It all leads up to an immigration dinner, at which the students dress up in their traditional cultural clothing and bring a traditional dish to share. “It’s just a wonderful way for them to see two different things, to try different foods and kind of open that dialogue to learn about one another,” Dr. Noble says. Guest speakers from different cultures also help inspire students.
The staff also celebrates and recognizes students who show good character. “We really make an effort to take that positive stance as opposed to pointing out when people aren’t doing the right thing,” Dr. Noble says. EAGLE students learn what bullying is, what it looks like, and what are appropriate ways to stand up for themselves and help others.
Dr. Noble says adults could learn a lot from kids. “Too often, adults already have their biases—they already have their minds made up about other people. Kids are more moldable. They’re able to be worked with to help them develop empathy and compassion toward others, and to learn how to get along,” she explains. She adds that she already sees the kids rubbing off on their parents, which is breaking down barriers. “If adults could learn from children, I think they could be more accepting toward each other, which in turn creates peace.”