Muskogee school takes on new identity

August 16, 2018
Muskogee Phoenix

Students entering New Tech at Cherokee Elementary on Thursday morning were greeted with high-fives, hugs and handshakes from lines of adult well-wishers.

The first day of a new school year brought a new name and new focus to the former Cherokee Elementary School. The new name reflects a New Tech approach to project-based learning the school is adopting this year.

Dr. Reubin McIntosh

Thursday morning’s welcome line included members of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and Boulevard Christian Church, as well as community leaders and police officers.

Dannita Evans brought her son, Remington, for his first day of kindergarten.

“I’m glad this community is getting a New Tech,” Evans said. “It’s going to be something the kids are going to be proud of.”

She said she’s been told the New Tech involves students learning in groups.

“I’m excited that, since this is his first year, he doesn’t know a different way of learning,” she said. “Anything new introduced to him is going to be all he knows. There’s not going to be a transition.”

Principal Dr. Reubin McIntosh said New Tech at Cherokee Elementary seeks to build community and raise student achievement “by making students take ownership for their learning.”

Cedric Johnson of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity shakes hands with a New Tech at Cherokee Elementary student Thursday morning on the first day of school for Muskogee Public Schools. Fraternity members greeted students.

He said the model seeks to engage students in “real life situations.

For example, McIntosh said students in kindergarten through second grade would engage in reflective exercises and work in small groups. He said teachers would assess and teach four core subject areas — math, language arts, science and social studies.

Teachers shared their visions of the New Tech approach.

Julie Grober came out of retirement to teach at Cherokee.

“I’m excited to start at Cherokee New Tech because it’s a new venture,” Grober said, adding that she was among the first teachers at Ben Franklin Science Academy when it opened.

“New Tech is about project-based learning, which is what I had always done as an early childhood teacher,” Grober said. “Students can expect a staff that is excited about what we’re doing and excited about making this school the best school in the district.

Third-grade teacher Gena Whitaker said her students did projects last year.

“But we’ll just do more, and more intensive projects and discoveries, and research,” Whitaker said. “We’ll do group and individual projects, and we’ll incorporate all the subjects into the project itself.”

Music teacher Jared Johnson said his world drumming program, which focuses on West African drumming, fits Cherokee’s project-based program.

“Kids are collaborating to create ensembles and music performances,” Johnson said.

McIntosh said he wants to increase parental involvement, as well as student attendance, engagement and achievement.

He said increased parental involvement is possible by meeting parents “where they are.”

“It’s face to face contact,” the principal said. “When you see them, you have those critical conversations on how find the best help with the parents. If that’s staying in the evening, if that’s staying even on the weekend — it’s whatever it takes.”

Dannita Evans gives her son Remington a pep talk Thursday morning before his first day of kindergarten at New Tech at Cherokee Elementary. Thursday marked the first day of Muskogee Public Schools’ 2019 school year.

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