Mesa’s Ishikawa Elementary ‘carries on’ with excelling academics - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Mesa’s Ishikawa Elementary ‘carries on’ with excelling academics

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Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 10:49 am | Updated: 9:06 am, Mon Oct 22, 2012.

Students are on the move at Mesa’s Ishikawa Elementary School — and not just during recess.

The Mesa Unified School District campus puts a focus on meeting students’ individual academic needs. So rather than keep them with their grade groups, students as young as first grade transition from one room to another at least once a day to get instruction in math and reading with students who share like skills.

It’s something that’s been in play at the school for at least nine years, said Shelley Heath, herself a 12-year veteran of the school.

So while second-grade teacher Susan Goodenberger works with one of three small groups in her classroom during a “reading adventure” period, Leanor Ritter works with a group of students the math concept of exponents.

Sixth grade students at the school switch for all their classes, Heath said.

“We’re always on the move here,” Heath told the Tribune during a recent visit.

Three years ago, the school added a reading lab for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. The black-and-red themed classroom is divided into pods so four teachers at a time can work with two or three students at a time on phonics, fluency and comprehension.

“If they miss out on reading lab, they’re upset. The reading lab is the place to go,” Heath said.

The campus in northern Mesa marks its 25th anniversary this year. The school was named after Zedo Ishikawa, a Mesa High School football player who was accidentally shot trying to break up a dog fight on game day, Sept. 22, 1932. His story, and the legend of “Carry On,” is a rich part of Mesa history.

The school holds an annual flag rising in Ishikawa’s name. This year, it will take place near Veterans Day, Heath said.

More than 800 students are enrolled in the neighborhood school, almost a fourth of them on open enrollment. Heath said the waiting list to get in numbers more than 100. Heath calls the student population, “diverse.”

The school was recently awarded an “A” grade from the state Department of Education. Besides a focus on improving student academics, it is one of several “healthy and active” schools in the Mesa district. The school’s “healthy and active coordinator” runs organized games during recess to, again, keep them moving. The school’s physical education teacher also instructs classroom teachers on a variety of one-minute physical activities to get kids out of their seats and give them a “brain break” during the day.

“It just get their blood pumping,” Heath said.

Each day starts with a reading of the school’s vision and mission statements. Students beginning in kindergarten memorize them.

The vision statement is: “Our vision is to equip our learning community to work together to become kind, respectful, responsible learners who proudly strive to reach their full potential.”

As the younger students moved through a transition Monday, the first day after fall break, they could be heard politely telling Heath “hello” and greeting each other.

It appears the vision is hitting home.

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