Partnerships Fuel Real-World Learning at North Coffee Elementary

by | Mar 2024

NORTH COFFEE Elementary is a living legacy. Its weathered brick walls reverberate with the voices of generations past, each footstep leaving an imprint on the path to the future. Children walk the same hallowed halls as their parents once did. 

The scent of warm cookies from the cafeteria mingles with the tang of dry-erase markers, a timeless blend of childhood comfort and intellectual wonder. The scent of fresh paint beckons, hinting at classrooms where creativity bursts into bloom. Faces, as diverse as the books lining the library shelves, flash by. Laughter erupts from a huddle of children.

And then, a bell rings, interrupting the momentary stillness. A flurry of backpacks zip closed, and feet shuffle in eager anticipation. The buzz resumes, amplified, as classroom doors swing open and the learning commences.

For Principal Adam Clark “education” is synonymous with “legacy.” Growing up in Coffee County, with his mother as a dedicated North Coffee Elementary teacher, lent Clark insight into the world of educators. His experiences as a student instilled in him a deep understanding of the power of education and the community’s unique needs.

“I learned pretty quickly that I understood math well enough to explain it in a way my friends would understand it. It frustrated me that kids had trouble with math. And I took it as something I was designed to do.”

This foundation paved the way for Clark’s return to North Coffee Elementary as the school’s principal, guiding the next generation of students with the same passion that shaped his path.

When making decisions for the school, Clark asks himself, “What is best for the kids?”

One of the school’s key initiatives is the Building Strong Brains program. This statewide initiative equips educators with the tools to understand and address the impact of trauma on learning. This aids in understanding what hinders or helps the students, creating a space where every child can heal, grow, and reach their full potential.

“We, as educators, have to be sensitive to those things. It’s not the end of the road for them because they’ve had these things happen to them. ” 

The impact of this approach is evident in North Coffee Elementary’s achievements. Last year, the school was designated as a Reward School by the state, representing its commitment to both high achievement and growth. The school wouldn’t be successful without dedicated teachers, whom Clark describes as “top-notch” and “committed to educating kids.”

Partnerships with local businesses, like the Sportsmen & Businessmen’s Charitable Organization, provide essential resources and opportunities for students. Initiatives like the Lemonade Day program, where fifth graders interact with businesses and community members, fuel them with valuable real-world learning experiences.

Technology is another area where North Coffee Elementary embraces innovation. With one-to-one access to Chromebooks and iPads, students have the tools they need to thrive in the digital age. However, school faculty and staff recognize the importance of balance, ensuring that technology complements — not replaces — traditional learning methods.

Looking ahead, Clark is focused on building literacy equity, ensuring all students have access to the resources needed to succeed. This includes initiatives like the National Institute of Excellence in Teaching grant program, which focuses on building background knowledge through reading and literacy.

“You might have a student in class who’s traveled to Yellowstone, New York, or overseas and experienced things. So whenever you discuss it in class, that kid’s got a picture in their head of what that looks like. I may have another student in class who has never left Coffee County. Their experiences are vastly different,” he said. 

“We have to help develop and build knowledge amongst all kids. The kids who may not have a wide variety of experiences struggle because they don’t have the background knowledge, and we have to be responsible for leveling the playing field for all students.”

Clark’s advice for aspiring educators is to “simply love children.”

“If you don’t love kids and educating, don’t get into it,” he reiterated. 

Genuine passion and building strong relationships with students, parents, and the community are keys to success in education. 

“A kid doesn’t care what you know until they know that you care,” he said, expressing that love and support are the foundation for any successful learning environment.

North Coffee Elementary is a family, a community, and a glimmer of hope for the future. 

“This [school] is really just a neat atmosphere and environment to be a part of.” 

With a focus on trauma-informed education, strong social connections, and innovative learning approaches, the school is paving the way for its students to thrive academically and as well-rounded individuals ready to face the world with confidence and compassion. GN 

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