Grahamwood Elementary: A Midtown Educational Option

I recently had the distinct pleasure of being introduced to and touring one of Shelby County School’s (SCS) educational treasures. The shining star of which I speak is Grahamwood Elementary Optional School. While I had driven by the school on Summer Avenue many times, I never took the time to stop in and take a look. That was my loss. Let me tell you what I discovered when I finally paid the school a visit.

Grahamwood Elementary is a growing pre-kindergarten to 5th grade school. Currently there are about 990 students and according to the Director of Optional Schools, Linda Sklar, it is the most requested Optional School in the SCS district. The Optional School focus is on Enriched Academics and it shows with 94% of the optional students scoring advanced or proficient on the 2012 TCAP (Tennessee’s Competency Test) in Reading & Language Arts and 85% advanced or proficient in Mathematics. These outstanding scores helped make Grahamwood Elementary an elite Level 5 school—the highest ranking awarded to schools by the Tennessee Department of Education.

Grahamwood Elementary’s reputation continues to expand under the able administration of Principal Pete Johnson and Assistant Principals Donna Jo Miles and Tiffany Curry. Their commitment, along with all of the faculty and staff, is evident the minute you walk through the front door. The office staff is welcoming, courteous and helpful. The teachers are smiling and friendly, and most importantly you will observe that the students are purposefully engaged in the business of acquiring knowledge. The students’ work is displayed on every inch of the hallways and even a passing glance will tell you that it is of extremely high quality and rigor. Teachers obviously hold their students to exacting standards, and if asked the students will proudly tell you all about their displays—demonstrating their deep understanding of the purpose and knowledge gained through the assignment.

The Grahamwood Elementary’s student population is very diverse with virtually every group and subgroup amply represented. This diversity provides students with an early exposure to the mix of cultures, ethnicities, and divergent views that make Memphis the internationally appreciated city that it is. In the microcosm that is Grahamwood Elementary, students are immersed in this rich environment that daily provides them the social skills they will need to succeed in the increasingly global business world. By the happy looks on the students’ faces, it is evident that this inclusive educational environment is what our community needs more of to develop well adjusted, culturally aware citizens.

Beyond these outstanding qualities, I learned that Grahamwood Elementary offers a number of in-house extension programs that help students and their families. Both before and after care are available to accommodate working parents’ schedules. Additionally, students can take advantage of a number of classes beyond the core curriculum. These include Chinese, karate, ballet, tap dancing, gymnastics, piano, guitar, strings, tutoring, cheerleading, and chess. Beyond the traditional chess class, there is a traveling Chess Club that competes at tournaments across the region. During the day, students take part in a number of enrichment classes that serve to enhance their overall educational experience. These classes are library, CLUE, Orff music, computer/keyboarding, character education, physical education, and art. Finally, some of the most unique features of Grahamwood Elementary are the three greenhouses that sit near the playground in back of the school. These house community gardens that provide fresh food not only for Grahamwood Elementary but also for surrounding schools and the community. In a true show of school pride, I was told that students recently painted the adjoining shed that houses the tools students need when tending the garden.

I was constantly astonished throughout my tour of Grahamwood Elementary. I highly recommend that every parent of elementary age students give this school a look. It is conveniently located just minutes from Cooper-Young and all of Midtown. Whether you are looking for high-quality academics, looking to develop social awareness or just a well-rounded diverse educational experience for your child, Grahamwood Elementary Optional School is the place for you. I encourage you to give the school a call at 901.416.5952 to arrange a tour or drop by an Open House on either January 21 or 23, 2014. Once you do, I know you will be astonished too!

Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is an educator with over 25 years of experience. Please forward questions or comments to: djacksonmaxwell@gmail.com

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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