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Our DPS Weekly: CMS Community School: A DPS School to Learn From

Mar. 6, 2020
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Pictured above: Watch this video about CMS, a DPS School to Learn From.

Dear Team DPS,

When you walk through the front doors of Charles M. Schenck (CMS) Community School, it’s impossible not to notice the luminous mural that adorns the lobby wall. Large white wings stretch from one end of the wall to the other, with brightly colored words surrounding them. Words like perseverance, community, respect and integrity hover around the wings like protectors of a cultural truth. And at CMS, that truth is that these are the values lifting up students and staff every day.

Just look at the way a group of their second-grade students stand in a single line along the wall before entering their classroom. Their teacher stands at the entrance and greets them based on their own preference — a handshake, a high-five or a hug. This kind of warm and caring welcome is what Principal Nestor Bravo wants for all his students. When he first became the school leader at CMS, strengthening school culture was an essential goal for him, primarily as a way of encouraging values that school staff saw as important in students — and that students could take ownership of themselves.

“It’s important for us that our students share who they are, how they feel and what they bring to school every day,” Nestor shared. “We take those integral assets of the whole child and ensure that each child feels validated and knows they are part of this community. Then, we take care of the learning.”

CMS Community School is the only dual-language school in southwest Denver, and it emphasizes that students learn and express their identities in both Spanish and English. They boast an international school staff from countries such as the U.S., Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina and Spain, which reinforces their values of bilingualism and multiculturalism, while creating a place where all students can foster their native language, whether it is English or Spanish, and develop additional skills in a second language.

Nestor said that, as a dual-language school, CMS uses students’ culture as an entry point in getting to know them. And it’s been very effective.

In Shannon Nudera’s fifth-grade classroom, the lights were dimmed as her students sat together in a small circle considering the meaning of the word “perseverance.” Nearly every student raised a hand to offer insight on what perseverance means. More importantly, students talked with each other about how they would utilize perseverance: “never giving up,” “showing heart” and making an “extra effort” – even when nervous about things that can be unfamiliar or challenging. The class discussion felt more like a sophisticated college group than a gathering of fifth-graders!

“When we have morning meetings and we’re talking about community, we’re actually celebrating students who are showing our values that we find important in the whole child,” said Morgan Anderson, fifth-grade teacher and Senior Team Lead at CMS. “Not just about their learning, but what they’re noticing in themselves and each other. I think it makes a big difference in how our students feel coming to school, giving positive feedback and recognizing those values in each other.”

When you head back to that front door on your way out of the school and pass by the “white wing” mural again, you feel like the CMS wings — and values — are wrapped around our kids wherever they go in life. And you know that CMS is a school we need to learn from.

Warm regards,