There are significant cultural differences between school leadership, the school’s teachers, and Hamtramck Academy’s families. Many of the households represented are Muslim and southeast Asian, while the school’s leadership team and much of its teaching staff are comprised of Black and White educators, born and raised in southeast Michigan, who whether they practice religion or not, adhere to Judeo-Christian customs.
A significant factor in the culture of the school – and a factor in its formula for success — is that Hamtramck Academy faculty and staff demonstrate a commitment to engaging families and honoring the many cultures represented in their school community.
For instance, they provide Arabic and Bengali translators, offer diverse reading materials, and use culturally-responsive communication.
“Each year we’ll do multicultural day, and we’ll have [other] multicultural events that encourage others to learn about where the population of most of our students are from,” said teacher Andreell Harris. “We also focus more on teaching the students to respect each other and about how everyone is different because [Hamtramck Academy] is a big melting pot of students.”
K-2 interventionist Karah Yancey also invites students to teach her their language and culture. “I will ask them, ‘Will you help me learn a few words?’ And they think it’s great, because I’m like, ‘No really, I want to try to say it—and, if I say it wrong, you have to correct me.’” Yancey uses what the students teach her to form stronger bonds with them and other students.
It takes a village
The team at Hamtramck Academy also honors the notion that ‘it takes a village’ to foster strong progress and growth for their students.
“A large number of our families may need to have [additional] support, so we have to be that anchor in the community. And we have that reputation, as a community,” said Ward. “That’s why our wait list stays the way it is, because parents know what we turn out, how we’re dedicated, and how we feel about our students.”
For instance, students at Hamtramck Academy receive support of a multi-faceted community – strong school leaders, skilled teachers, multilingual paraprofessionals and family liaisons, as well as academic interventionists, and parents all working together to ensure students achieve.
Students also work closely with each other to help one another grow academically. Teachers pair newer students with student veterans to help them acclimate to learning in a new language. Assessments are frequently taken to keep an accurate record of what students have learned and what they still need to know, and data is used to tailor instruction to each student.
To ensure students get the attention they need in grade-level instruction, additional fully certified teachers “push-in” to classrooms to support students during math and reading instructional blocks. This is in addition to the small group intervention students receive to accelerate their individual growth.