Editor, Townsman:

I have been a fifth-grade teacher at West Elementary for 16 years. It has been my dream job, and I am so fortunate to be able to teach and learn with my amazing students every day. The joys and rewards are numerous and definitely outweigh the challenges.

Teaching at West is my passion, however, the state of the building is a consistent hurdle in making all of my ideas and plans for my students come to fruition.

Our space consists of one rectangular classroom with about 25 students. It is difficult to offer groups private spaces to work and focus together.

When engaging with students in small literature or math groups, it is almost required that other groups whisper and tone down their enthusiasm to allow all groups to function productively in one space.

We also strive to accommodate all students in an inclusion model but need smaller and quieter breakout rooms to enhance re-teaching opportunities, utilize alternative teaching methods, and allow for true collaborative growth among students.

Andover has spent a great deal of time focusing on Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve teaching and learning for all students based on scientific research about how we learn.

I admire what my colleagues and students have achieved over the years despite the limitations of an outdated building, but we need plentiful and flexible space in order to encourage and facilitate multiple means of engagement and learning for our students, and offer various ways to express what is learned.

In addition teaching at West, I spent many memorable years in this same structure as a former student, always hoping to return to West and rejoin our unmatched community.

I have spent more than half of my life in this treasured building, but it is time for a new West and Shawsheen.

I am excited to see what I can accomplish and how many more students I can positively impact when given updated and appropriate space for 21st century learning.

Alia Mohammed

Grade 5 Teacher

West Elementary


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