Posted on August 1, 2019 - Meerkats in the News

Mandela Meerkats are in the News!

Our talented scholars and team members are busy making a positive difference. Keep checking back regularly for updates on what our marvelous meerkat family is up to at their school and in their community.

Posted on December 3, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Mandela Scholars Continue to Thrive Despite COVID-19

Across the globe, COVID-19 has disrupted education. Yet, the Mandela team has faced every challenge head on, prioritizing scholar success. When the virus first began shutting down the country in March, Mandela closed its doors. However, almost immediately, teachers were sending packets home, distributing computers, and teaching remotely. The school also stuck to its year-round schedule and continued instruction throughout the summer. Since starting the 2020-2021 school year, the school has toggled back and forth between face to face and remote learning.

The efforts to continue instruction have not been for nothing. Test data from the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), a computerized assessment that measures a child’s academic growth from year to year, reveals Mandela scholars are right where they are expected to be for the beginning of the school year, and on average, there was little loss in learning. Genevive Core, principal, states, “We can clearly see the results of our hard work and determination.”

Mandela educators remain committed their mission: to maximize the success of all their scholars and bridge learning and achievement gaps.

Posted on November 19, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

COVID-19 Can’t Stop Music-Making at Mandela

The coronavirus has impacted a lot of activities at Mandela, but like everything else, the team figured out a virtual option. Families were able to enjoy their scholar’s first violin concert of the year by tuning in live on Facebook. The scholars worked extremely hard to prepare for the concerts, and they were so excited to share their music with their families and the community.

Scholars at Mandela play violin through the program String Sprouts, offered by the Omaha Conservatory of Music. Created by executive director Ruth Meints in 2013, Violin String Sprouts offers free violin classes to children ages 3-8 in underserved areas in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. Fifth grade scholars who completed their Sprouts curriculum last year were given the option to participate in orchestra or vocal music this year.

The String Sprouts curriculum was created specifically for kids. It uses unique compositions that are meant to keep kids excited to learn while also practicing basic music drills. There are play-along orchestrations, accompaniments, and videos to help with practice as well as variations that were created specifically for practice during the school day.

Jessica Davis, an Omaha Conservatory of Music Artist-Faculty member, is the String Sprouts teacher at Nelson Mandela Elementary.

Posted on November 5, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Mandela Celebrates Identity with a Black Lives Matter Advocacy Week

Mandela scholars concluded a week of reflection on identity, learning about historically significant African Americans, and discussing the Black Lives Matter movement with an advocacy event. On Friday, October 30, 2020 scholars gathered on the soccer field, with posters and Black Lives Matter t-shirts. They walked while listening to music by Black artists, many chanting, “Black Lives Matter”. Families and community members were invited to join the event via Facebook live.

The week came in response to the nation’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations and protests. Mandela, with 94 percent of its scholars identifying as African American, could not ignore recent events. The week kicked off the school’s re-commitment to its mission: to provide quality instruction that demonstrates ALL scholars can learn and develop academically, emotionally, socially, and physically, paying particular attention to the social and emotional aspects of that mission. Therefore, team members are reevaluating curriculum, making sure they are teaching accurate history, and teaching in a way that their scholars can be proud of their identity.

Posted on October 22, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Mandela Surpasses its Five-Year Goal for Growth in Reading and Writing

When Nelson Mandela Elementary opened five years ago in 2015, its leaders set out to close the achievement gap by making sure all attending scholars were on grade level in reading, writing, by the time they reached third grade. Data from the Woodcock Johnson, a comprehensive assessment used to evaluate academic achievement and cognitive development, reveals that current fourth grade scholars have achieved 5.97 years of growth in reading and writing. That is almost 6 grade levels in five years. Not only are Mandela scholars on grade level, but they are surpassing it.

Mandela uses a curriculum known as Spalding, a phonetics-based approach to reading and writing. Although there is no data to support a direct causation, the test data suggests that there is a strong positive correlation between Spalding and growth in reading and writing.

Mandela is proud of its team of educators, past and present, who have worked hard to help scholars at Mandela achieve academic success. The best curriculum in the world would mean nothing without wonderful educators capable of teaching it. The team at Mandela looks forward to what the next five years will bring.

Posted on October 8, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Virtual Learning Champions at Mandela

When asked, “if you could have any superpower, what would it be?” most people give standard answers: reading minds, invisibility, flying, etc. At Mandela, the teachers and paras already have one: motivation. The Mandela team are experts when it comes to motivating scholars to be their absolute best, and that did not change during virtual learning.

One fourth-grade teacher, Callie Burks, used assignment boards to keep their scholars organized. Each scholar had their own cardboard trifold, which was colorfully decorated with schedules, pockets for assignments, login codes and anything else they would need to be successful. Having these boards gave the scholars a sense of control and ownership over their learning—something undeniably important in such a chaotic world.

In a first-grade classroom, paraprofessional Bailey Shirley incorporated a kindness wall into their social studies lessons. She explains, “We are trying to fill the wall with hearts. The hearts represent any kind thing they have done at home or in the community. The scholars love doing this, and it also encourages them all to try something that is kind.” The wall was a positive way to keep scholars excited about their lessons and improve the community.

In this same classroom, Tracy Jones, teacher, Bajah Pittman, student teacher, and Bailey Shirley, para came up with a point-reward system in which scholars earned stars for good behavior (following directions, not leaving the screen without permission, etc.). Scholars had the opportunity to earn these stars throughout the day for each subject. They earned a home visit when they reached a certain number of stars. Masked up, outside, and socially distanced, scholars got to see their teachers in person and choose a prize.

Virtual learning has been a challenge for educators around the world, and The Mandela team has done a fantastic job of making the best of the situation and keeping scholars motivated and engaged to learn.

Posted on September 24, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Mandela to Return for Face to Face Learning October 12, 2020

COVID-19 has impacted everyone, and students across the world are no exception. Educators have scrambled, made plans, and then scrambled again in response to this virus. At Nelson Mandela Elementary, team members have worked tirelessly to continue their mission. They strive to get scholars on grade-level, learning and growing at their fullest potential, and they have met the challenge of virtual teaching in stride. However, nothing will ever match the value of teaching in person.

Mandela administrators have tracked the COVID-19 situation closely and have assembled a task force to address all the safety requirements needed to reopen. Since September 22, 2020, Mandela has started phasing scholars back into the building. They will continue to slowly bring back more scholars until the full reopen day on Monday, October 12, 2020.

Scholars will continue to be screened before coming in the building, masks are always required, cleaning and sanitizing have increased, and extra precautions have been taken in the classrooms to keep scholars safe.

Mandela team members are hopeful that this will be a safe process, and everyone is excited to be back and learning in person.

Posted on September 10, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Nelson Mandela Elementary Welcomes New Paraeducators

At Mandela, academic success depends equally on all members of its community, the volunteers, the scholars, their families, the paraeducators, the teachers, and the administration. These members all contribute equally but differently. Today, it is the paraeducators that receive the spotlight. Paraeducators around the world are known for their day-to-day support for both scholars and teachers, and Mandela is no exception. At Mandela, each classroom has a teacher/para duo, and they are partners. This year, Mandela welcomes four new paraeducators to the team.

Kate Pomrenke grew up in Orange City, Iowa. She graduated from Aurora University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music in 2015. She then went on to earn a Master of Music degree from Bowling Green State University. In Spring of 2018, she was offered a position at Opera Omaha as a Holland Community Opera Fellow. During this time, Pomrenke worked as a partner with Nelson Mandela Elementary, working with Meerkat Melodies and the after-school Opera Creative Program.

Bailey Shirley is from Sidney, Iowa. She graduated with a Bachelor of Education in 2018 from College of Saint Mary and a minor in Spanish. She did her student teaching in Sidney, Iowa. Shirley has worked at the YMCA as a preschool teacher/lead as well as Mandela’s afterschool program, Kids Can. She has experience with kids of all ages, from early childhood to high school.

Michael Wilhelm grew up traveling around the United States since his father served in the Army. After graduating from high school, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In 1988, he took a full-time position with the Emmy Gifford Children’s Theater in Omaha.  He spent the next 28 years working for the EGCT, which later became known as the Omaha Theater Company for Young People at the Rose. At Mandela, Wilhelm is excited to be in a classroom environment and spend more time working directly with scholars.

Mandela is excited to welcome their new paraeducators and confident that they will help the scholars reach their fullest potential.

Posted on August 27, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Nelson Mandela Elementary Welcomes New Teachers

Teachers have always been the heroes of society, working hard to care for and educate children around the world. This is true now more than ever. Schools are faced with tough decisions about whether learning should be in person, remotely, or a hybrid of the two, and teachers are asked to be prepared for every option. The teachers at Nelson Mandela have worked hard to ensure they can provide the best education for scholars for the 2020-2021 school year, and the new teachers are no exception.

Clarissa Redick is also from Omaha, NE. She received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Metropolitan Community College in 2009 and her Bachelor’ Degree with an endorsement in Early Childhood from Concordia University in 2018. This is her 12th year in education.  Previously, she worked as a kindergarten paraprofessional and taught second grade at Belvedere Elementary. She will be teaching first grade at Mandela.

Sadé Henley is from Omaha, NE. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a Focus on Journalism and Emphasis in Black Studies from UNO in 2008. She also received a Master’s in Education with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education and an emphasis in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in 2012. Henley previously worked as a paraeducator at Walnut Hill Elementary and taught kindergarten at Belvedere Elementary School. She will also be teaching first grade at Mandela.

Kia Montgomery is from Omaha, NE. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Inclusive Education (PreK-3rd grade) from Wayne State College and a master’s degree in Special Education from UNO. Throughout her teaching experience, she has both taught second grade and worked as a special educator. She will be teaching second grade at Nelson Mandela.

Alisa Moore, also from Omaha, NE, rejoins the Mandela team as a fourth grade teacher. Moore earned her a bachelor’s degree from UNO in 2014. During her time at the University, Alisa was and is currently a member of an assortment of organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta, NSSLHA, and NCNW. After receiving her degree Alisa also joined Urban League Young Professionals and continues community work on a regular basis.

Mandela is excited to welcome their new teachers and confident that they will help the scholars reach their fullest potential.

Posted on August 13, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Nelson Mandela Elementary Begins First Term Remotely

Last Friday, August 7, 2020, Mandela followed Omaha Public Schools and decided to begin the 2020-2021 school year remotely. The safety of the scholars and team members at Mandela was the driving force behind the decision. School was originally slated to begin August 13, 2020. However, in talking to the teachers and paraeducators, principal Genevive Core realized that it would be best to delay the start of school until August 20, 2020, to give everyone time to prepare.

The team spent the extra week in professional development, being thoroughly trained in the online platforms that Mandela would be using for instruction. Core States, “The Mandela team has worked incredibly hard to ensure they can continue to deliver the best possible education to our scholars, regardless of the method of delivery.” There is no question that the team at Mandela is dedicated to their scholars.

Even though Mandela will begin remotely, the team is working to create as much of a routine as possible. Scholars are being asked to be available during the normal school hours of 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. They will not be online the entire day, but they will be engaged with various projects when they are not in front of a screen. They will also be in full uniform. Altogether, the hope is to help create a learning environment that closely resembles what would be happening if the scholars were attending school face to face.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” These words resonate more powerfully than ever as everyone faces challenges in the world today. In reflecting on this quote, Core shared, “I fully believe that our scholars will change the world someday, and I am grateful that the team and I can be a part of their journey.”

Posted on July 30, 2020 - Meerkats in the News

Mandela Recognizes Volunteer Service for the 2019-2020 School Year

Mandela is more than a school; it is a gathering place for a family committed to the education of young people. The familiar phrase, “it takes a village” could not be truer. Everyone that belongs to the Mandela community does their part to make the scholars successful. The parents/guardians in particular deserve recognition for their engagement. Families at Mandela have always been required to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours per year, but many of them go above and beyond. Despite the global pandemic, collectively, Mandela families completed a total of 6,994 hours of service.

Several families earned over 50, 75, 100 and even over 200 hours of service this last year, and it is tradition to recognize them publicly at the conclusion of the school year during Mandela Fest, which falls on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Plans changed this year, but the families still deserve to be acknowledged. The Mandela Team would like to recognize the following families: Black, Braxton, Chapman, Humphrey, Kilgore, Kuhn, Partee, Rocco, and Stevens for contributing over 100 hours of service. The school will also be posting a video to their website and social media accounts that gives those volunteers their recognition.

Mandela also wishes to celebrate its extended family members—the community members that give their time throughout the school year. The Mandela Team is grateful to the following: George Lozier, Dee Sledge, the Campagna family, Tracy Tondl, Teresa Rainey, Pat Weddle, Stacey Lincoln, and Aloziem Okey, as well as the students of Creighton Prep, Creighton University, the College of St. Mary, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, and Marian High School for their service this year.