A Student-Centered Approach at Avondale Elementary School

Topics: Community Partnerships

The partnership between Jones Valley Teaching Farm and Birmingham City Schools has become a model for others locally, throughout the state and at the national level.Avondale Elementary School in Birmingham, Alabama, feels like a neighborhood school, despite it’s big city location. It’s one of the things that makes many of the Birmingham Public Schools special and something that Avondale Elementary Principal Courtney Nelson thinks makes her school unique.

A former KnowledgeWorks partner school, Avondale Elementary has seen great successes in the past years in literacy, reading and math.

“Courtney and all of the staff at Avondale take a student-centered approach to teaching,” said KnowledgeWorks Technical Assistance Coach Diana Tuggey.

Nelson reiterated that point in an interview with AboutTown. “We are in the business of children at Avondale,” she said. “They come first with every decision we make and that will never change.”

By developing strong partnerships throughout the community, Nelson’s team was able to create more opportunities for students. “Our success is absolutely a result of the community-at-large in conjunction with our local school efforts joining forces to make Avondale the optimal learning environment for the children we serve,” Nelson said to AboutTown.

One of Avondale Elementary’s partners is Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF), which provides students with hands-on learning opportunities. One student participating in the Avondale Farmer’s Market Club describes the club as a group of fifth graders who are entrepreneurs selling vegetables and fruits, learning about agriculture and business. He describes a social entrepreneur as “a person that is trying to help the community while making profit, so it’s a social enterprise.”

Avondale Elementary School is part of a five-campus feeder pattern known as the Woodlawn Innovation Network (WIN), which is supported in part by the Woodlawn Foundation. The schools, Woodlawn High School, Hayes K-8 School, W.E. Putnam Middle School, Avondale Elementary School and Henry J. Oliver Elementary School, were all part of a previous partnership to help re-imagined schools around interest-based themes.

“Our work in Birmingham was an exciting opportunity to help reorganize traditional school structures into models of innovation, moving from traditional classrooms to spaces of student-centered, blended learning focused on the academic growth of every child,” said KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning Robin Kanaan.

Learn more about Principal Nelson and the great work happening at Avondale Elementary School in this article from AboutTown.