School Beat: Horace Mann Middle School Is Moving Forward

by Gail Eigl on December 17, 2009

Although I did not send my own children to Horace Mann Academic Middle School (located at 23rd Street and Valencia Street) where I work (we were already committed to Alice Fong Yu, a beautiful and solid Chinese immersion school just ten minutes walking distance from our home), were I looking for a middle school for one of my sons this year, I would certainly take a look at this one.

When I started my student teaching at Mann eight years ago, I could see the vestiges of the former California Distinguished School in the small families set up for every grade level, the music and art classes most students were receiving, the Spanish Science and Social Studies classes, the student murals and photos everywhere, and the innovation, hard work and passion of all the teachers I met and worked with.

Unfortunately, most of these veteran, talented teachers were gone when I returned the following year as a sixth grade teacher. More fellow teachers left the next year and the next due to uninspired management, district policies at the time that didn’t include teacher voice and stripped the school of its orchestra classes and full time art teacher. I write this mainly not as a lament but as a reminder. Whatever the school once was, it can be again, and things are definitely looking up at Horace Mann.

First, we have an amazing staff, from our committed administration to our efficient bilingual secretaries. Everyone works long hours to ensure that our students are getting what they need and want. Grade levels teams meet daily to discuss curriculum, behavior management, field trips, integrated units and our Tribes program that includes weekly community circles at each grade level. We have a full time art teacher who not only teaches stand-alone art classes but also collaborates with intervention math and language arts teachers to make sure all kids at Horace Mann receive art education, focused on the performing arts standards.

Our music program works similarly, with some stand-alone classes and more collaboration with support programs as well as any interested teachers who have a plan in mind–something that ties in with their curriculum. In addition, the SF Community Music Center works with our students on site throughout the week, including a special Wednesday early release jam session.

We still have a Spanish Social studies class at every grade level, and are looking to add an after school Spanish Language Arts class. We are starting a green program, headed by our caring and energetic inclusion teacher, and soon there will be a green house in the yard and a full blown recycling/composting program. This grant is just one of three large grants the school has received – and I’m probably forgetting a few extra!

I could go on listing more-more innovative programs, more dedicated staff members and their particular projects, more positive features, etc.; but as some say, seeing is believing. I highly suggest that any interested parties just come by – tours are held Wednesdays from 11:30-1:00. Horace Mann Academic Middle School is coming back to its former glory; no, moving forward into its new glory!

Gail Eigl teaches 8th grade English Language Arts at Horace Mann Academic Middle School.

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