A space dedicatedto student success

  • Natalya Rosado Dixon and Chloe Cardoso work with Juls Marchetto, owner of Telebelle, a salon in Northampton, while Thea Piziali listens. The students were at the salon as part of a workshop which was part of the Community Classroom summer camp called Leadership Camp. Marchetto talked about how she started her business and the behind the scenes social media she does for her company. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Megan Allen, owner of The Community Classroom talks to students in a Summer Leadership Camp on the difference being passive, assertive and aggressive. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Megan Allen, owner of The Community Classroom, works with students Chloe Cardoso, Thea Piziali and Natalya Rosado Dixon during a Leadership Summer Camp. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chloe Cardoso works with Juls Marchetto, owner of Telebelle, a salon in Northampton, while Thea Piziali listens. The students were at the salon as part of a workshop which was part of the Community Classroom summer camp called Leadership Camp. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chloe Caradoso, a student in a Leadership summer camp offered through the Community Classroom, works with other students on the difference between passive, assertive and aggressive. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chloe Caradoso, a student in a Leadership summer camp offered through the Community Classroom, work s with other students on the difference between passive, assertive and aggressive. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 8/19/2022 10:13:04 AM

On an unshaded corner of North Maple Street, the Community Classroom, with its technicolor trappings and interactive hardware, offers pint-sized pedestrians some intellectual reprieve from the sweltering summer heat.

The Little Free Math Library outside, a sidewalk treasure-trove stuffed with math games for numbers-inclined kids, stalls curious neighbors and brings families through the door.

Some parents, explained Community Classroom founder Megan Allen, come to the classroom searching for an afterschool challenge for their high-achieving, accelerated learners; other families turn to private tutoring to supplement homeschooling, or for help catching up after falling behind, or for an extra edge on standardized tests, like the SAT and other college admissions exams.

But the school’s soft-spot, said Allen, who opened the classroom’s doors in 2020 after High Five Books vacated the 29 North Maple St location, is “helping girls fall back in love with math and feel empowered to take ownership of their learning.”

The classroom’s first Leadership Camp, a two-week summer session for girls aspiring to entrepreneurship, ended on July 29, with a literal leadership summit — campers climbed Mount Tom, were awarded completion medals, and shared reflections on ambition and sorority.

Inaugural coterie of three in-person campers and two virtual participants met daily to work on leadership goals through collaborative exercises, like learning to build consensus in an escape room, and each participant was posted at a brief internship with a local female leader or entrepreneur.

Internship hosts included Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, and the owners of Northampton-based clothing store 25 Central and printing and design agency CopyCat Ink.

“The leadership camp,” said Mary Phillips, the mother of a leadership camper, “blew us away. [Allen] has always been an outside-the-box thinker, I tell her she’s a ‘hashtag-boss-lady,’ and the leadership camp, it was sick, it was really empowering to the young women.”

Phillips describes Allen, and her vision and finesse as an educator, with expansive praise befitting their longtime friendship — Phillips, who lives in North Carolina and whose daughter attended the camp virtually, was Allen’s district instructional coach in 2010, when she became a Teacher of the Year finalist in Tampa, Florida.

She also lends her passion for and expertise in early literacy to the Community Classroom, tutoring remotely from her North Carolina living room. Like most of Allen’s tutors, Phillips keeps a day job in the education field, but said she couldn’t pass up an opportunity to tutor with Allen, regardless of the distance.

“Teaching a kid to read is usually done side-by-side, but learning couldn’t stop when the pandemic started, we had to find innovative ways to meet the needs of our students,” Phillips said of virtual learning, which she called a “worthwhile adjustment.”

Especially when paired with the social and emotional learning tactics prioritized by the Community Classroom, virtual learning, said Phillips, gives educators even greater access to students.

“The learning process is the same, only now I can see in their house, I met their pets, their families, I see into their lives, if anything I feel more connected as a tutor and like I understand my student more,” she added.

The Community Classroom’s it-takes-a-village approach to learning, a pedagogy that emphasizes a strong familial support system and is responsive to children’s and teacher’s needs, is apparent in its brick-and-mortar space.

Allen keeps hot cheetos and cheez-its in a wicker tray by the door, a small but meaningful response to her kids’ snack requests. The classroom is designed as a flex space, which, without designated areas for learning, enables kids to learn wherever they feel most comfortable — on the wood-plank platform, the couch, or even at the reception desk.

The rope lights framing the corkboard against the back wall were a design addition made by tutors. “If $15 spent on cool lights will allow them to feel ownership of the classroom, then that’s money well spent,” said Allen.

Christina Webster, who Allen considers her right-hand woman, lamented that Allen’s flexibility and administrative responsiveness isn’t easier to come across in the education field.

A tutor who left public school education to become a full-time independent contractor, Webster said she grew fatigued of seeing administrators fail teachers as the pandemic progressed and continue to fumble virtual learning plans after a year of remote education.

“COVID-19 kicked me in the butt, I was trying my hardest to engage the kids in my classroom, trying to compensate for the in-person education that I knew they deserved, but when I tried to provide individual instruction to 22 kids, it nearly killed me,” she said.

At the Community Classroom, Allen explained, instruction is one-on-one, with the rare exception for siblings who prefer learning together.

At discovery sessions, Allen administers a learner questionnaire to understand the child’s goals, the parents’ goals for their children, and which tutor best suits the family’s needs. Questionnaires are used continually as benchmarks for student success, and Allen communicates her recommendations to parents online after each session.

While students’ academic and socio-emotional needs vary — “extremely gifted children,” Allen points out, “often act out when they’re bored and parents have to learn to manage that behavior, and that work is different from kids who are a reading below their grade level, for example” — kids across the board share the desire to be seen.

“It’s kind of soul-crushing to hear a child say ‘I just want to feel better about going to the fifth grade,’ but the silver lining is that confidence is something we can build up,” said Allen.

She added that, in the era of remote education, she has observed apathy, a complete disillusionment with learning, spread among students. Her goal, and the Community Classroom’s mission, is to remedy that.

“We’re here to give kids the opportunity to slow down and find the joy in learning, that’s what we most want for them,” she said.

Although the inaugural Leadership Camp wrapped late July, the Community Classroom is open year-round. Allen says that there are around 150 students enrolled annually.

For more information, visit https://thecommunityclassroom.com/.


Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate

Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy