Hartford's Breakthrough Named Best Magnet School in the Country
"Our students are champions."<br><em>Julie Goldstein</em>
Principal Julie Goldstein huddled with her staff, anxiously waiting to hear if her school had won. Holding her breath, the announcement was made.
It was confirmed. Breakthrough Magnet School in Hartford was named the best in the country by the Magnet Schools of America.
After hearing the news, Goldstein said she ran up the stairs with her colleagues, and in a moment of celebration, they broke out into a line dance. Such is the spirit of Breakthrough, which bested 319 schools across the country to be named the nation’s top magnet.
Speaking with WNPR, principal Goldstein said she got the news at a convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, last week.
"It’s an honor and a privilege every day for me to walk through he doors of Breakthrough Magnet School to be part of the team, and to be a leader of the team, is just the most humbling thing of every day," Goldstein said. "Our students are champions. They’re walking into the school now as champions."
Goldstein said that the school she’s led for the last two years has been successful because of its focus on what she calls “character education.”
“As a character-education-themed school, we have a very special set of values that are spelled out using the word, ‘BRICK.’ Each of the letters stands for one of our values,” Goldstein said.
The letters stand for breakthroughs, responsibility, integrity, contributions, and knowledge. Using these values, teachers create programs that have led to a school filled with the fruits of student work.
There’s a student-run store and a rooftop garden. Students can be found cooking in classroom kitchens or adding a story to the tree of kindness. Older students are also required to complete 60 hours of community service, and they also are taught about mindfulness.
“We all have a purpose to serve and we want to share that with our community. So it just kind of grows and it is really exciting,” Goldstein said.
Hartford's diversity has been challenging for many schools that struggle to reach students from a variety of backgrounds and abilities. But at Breakthrough, Goldstein said that diversity is embraced. Over 25 countries are represented within a student body of about 350 kids, and the school is one of the highest-performing in the region.
Goldstein doesn't have a secret sauce to offer struggling schools. It's really just important for teachers to keep doing what they're doing. Most importantly, she said it's about students authoring their own lives, and if everyone in her school takes responsibility for who they are and where they're going, great things can happen ... like being named the best magnet school in the United States.
Watch the video below that introduces the magnet school: