Classroom doors at Mendota Junior High School

Partner Spotlight: Making the Move to Middle School

Achievers, Leaders, Innovators, Champions, and Scholars. These are Mendota Junior High School’s (MJH) visions for its students, and are reflected in its Teach to One: Math program.

The students are right out of elementary school, so much about this school year for them is different. Students making the move to middle school now must navigate a sprawling campus, keep organized, and manage workloads across different subjects. In Teach to One classrooms, rotating between different learning modalities is another big adjustment.

Nevertheless, they are more than ready to meet the challenge with plenty of support and encouragement from their teachers.

From the classrooms to the gym to the library, teachers have adorned every space with reminders of the high expectations they have for students. An Aztec warrior, who represents the school, welcomes visitors at the main entrance. The campus sprawls out California-style, and its sidewalks have names: “Pride Drive” takes you from the cafeteria toward the math buildings. Each Teach to One classroom is named after visions of excellence, such as “Champions” or “Innovators”.

Pedestrian signs on Mendota Junior High School campus.

Teachers on the MJH math team also embody these values, particularly when it comes to cultivating a schoolwide culture of personalized learning. At every turn, they’ve looked for ways to connect Teach to One with the traditional math classes they also teach.

For instance, a few weeks ago they administered diagnostic assessments that helped Teach to One build a unique “skill library” for each of their students. Now, they’re thinking about strategies to capture similar data for students in other classes.

They’re also integrating procedures applied through Teach to One. In our Collaborative Learning Zone modality, for instance, students use color-coded signs to signal when they have questions. One teacher has begun to implement the practice to facilitate small-group learning in other classes.

Teachers have adapted their own best practices as well. This is evident during scheduled transitions, in which students rotate from one space to another based on their individualized lesson plan for the day. To ensure that the transitions are smooth and efficient, teachers have started singing and dancing to the music that signals to students when it’s time to move. They truly embody MJH’s strength in blending rigor with warmth.

Visitors experience this hospitality in other aspects of the community, as the staff takes pride in sending them away with more food than they can eat. During teacher orientation for Teach to One, baked goods filled a whole table. A counselor once offered a bag of freshly-picked watermelons just dropped off by a student’s family. 

As students enter their second month, the challenges of a new school and program gradually fade away. They are mastering new routines and taking charge of their learning everyday. Teachers have observed increased engagement in their students, who take pride in the daily progress they’re making on their individualized learning playlists. Given the care and determination that’s fueling their classrooms, we can’t wait to watch these students flourish.

Mary Kohlmann is New Classrooms’ Site Operations Manager at Mendota Junior High School. 

Mary Kohlmann