School Spotlight—The Ryer Ave. Elementary School

Shining a light on excellent leadership

School Spotlight—The Ryer Ave. Elementary School

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Recognizing In-House Heroes

While the recently completed mural makeover at P.S. 9, The Ryer Avenue Elementary School, celebrates Bronx-born heroes and legends like Sonia Sotomayor, Stan Lee, MC Debbie Dee, and Neil deGrasse Tyson on the walls, it also celebrates the impact that people are making within the walls of P.S. 9!

Tats Cru represents STEAM.

“We’re trying to create opportunities for our students to have access to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math)  opportunities so that they can control their own destiny,” said P.S. 9 Principal J and school social worker Natalie, explaining that the mural makeover project fits into their larger vision for uplifting the P.S. 9 community.

As part of his STEAM initiative, Principal J renovated a classroom to house a new technology lab complete with a Glowforge 3-D printer,  an 86” Promethean Board, and a set of Macbook Airs. Becoming comfortable with technology and learning how to code opens opportunities for students, he said “[Coding] is a skill-based thing. You’ll be able to provide for your family just based off that skill that you have.”

Artfully Uplifting Students

Beyond technology, Principal J is committed to creating an innovative, art-filled environment for the students. “Because of Natalie, we’re able to use art to change the environment,” he said.

Though technically the school family social worker, Natalie uses her passion for the arts to create colorful decorations and hallway bulletin board displays such as recent ones for Women’s History Month and to celebrate a recent visit from the Bronx District Attorney, Darcel D. Clark.

Marthalicia’s portrait of Darcel D. Clark.

While at work on the displays Natalie said, “I have a couple of fans and they come in; I leave my door open because I want them to see.” Natalie often invites the students into her office to show them how she creates the displays using simple tools and repurposed materials.

“We have a lot of students with hidden talents, and we try to really foster that. Because you never know, unless you actually take the time to have a conversation and find out their passions,” she said.

A Home for All

As part of their curriculum, P.S. 9 incorporates the Department of Education’s “Civics for All” program. According to Principal J, a P.S. 9 student is going to present a speech in an upcoming citywide competition through the program. The student, who uses a wheelchair, wrote her speech because when the elevator in the school goes out she has to stay alone in a classroom on the first floor and have her work brought to her.

The student, who doesn’t like being isolated from her fourth floor classroom, asked, “Why not bring the classroom to me? Everyone can come to me instead of me being isolated.” Impressed with the idea, Principal J created a contingency plan so that her classroom could shift floors given any future elevator issues.

Always on the lookout for ways to shift the environment to meet their students’ needs, Principal J and Natalie are in the process of adding a laundry room and health clinic to the school. Furthermore, Principal J recently had the cafeteria Halal certified. “People talk about being culturally responsive. That’s something I could do that didn’t cost me anything,” he said.

Natalie's Bulletin Board

Natalie’s bulletins pop against the new school mural!

Above all, Principal J made it clear that he wanted P.S. 9 to be welcoming to everyone. “We’re here to support families…Whoever moves in, let them know they have a home at P.S. 9.”



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