Madrona Elementary: The not so hidden gem in our neighborhood

After our oldest daughter was born, my husband and I researched schools around Seattle. We decided that the school would be the primary factor in choosing a neighborhood to buy a house and raise our children. After countless school tours, principals, teachers and PTSAs we found Madrona. We had heard many things about Madrona….nothing positive…poor test scores, high teacher turn over and with the new principal what will happen? After multiple crowded schools with limited if any diversity, we were on the verge of giving up and then I posted an inquiry on MadronaMoms. A large number of moms suggested private schools (never an option for us) or other public schools (been there done that). A few moms, however, raved about Madrona. How could this be? After all of the negative reports, could this be true?

We gave it a shot, went on a tour and immediately fell in love with Madrona. I could not believe what I was seeing. Classes with such diversity, a beautiful school, amazing teachers and a wonderful principal. I wondered why so many people were so negative about the school and where these perceptions were coming from. After the tour, we were provided the opportunity to meet with the principal, a few teachers and representatives from the PTSA. I was impressed with the mission and stated goals of the school as well as the philosophy of education and peer learning. The principal’s vision of the school and her obvious love for the children was moving. A Q&A with the parents followed. During the school tour, as my enthusiasm and excitement grew, I watched some of the other parents’ exhibit signs of anxiety with each subsequent classroom we visited. I was not surprised then when one parent asked how her child would feel as a minority. What if her child needed special attention? Would the teacher’s be able and willing to provide the attention that her special child might need? As she asked these questions, I wondered why she assumed that the composition of the classrooms she saw would take anything away from her child. In my mind, the students – the diversity – unlike any other school in Seattle - would provide the most important learning for our child.

 Since kindergarten, our daughter has had incredible teachers who have motivated her, kept her interested and made every attempt to get to know her as a person. Recently my daughter tested for advanced placement. We had her tested to ensure that every opportunity is available to her. We visited yet another school – our district school for AP students. It was another disappointment. I wondered why I had even looked elsewhere. After further discussions at home we decided to keep her in Madrona. Madrona has consistently met and exceeded our expectations. Our daughter is not only thriving she is excelling. Currently, as a second grader, she is reading at a 4th grade level and math is her friend. More importantly, she LOVES school, is excited to learn and experience new things and is always ready for her next great adventure.

Recently, I met with her teacher to discuss her progress and identify additional ways that we could continue to work together to ensure her continued growth. I also just wanted to sit down and have an informal conversation with this phenomenal woman whom my daughter adores and has so many wonderful things to say about. As was the case with all of her teachers, Ms. Adams was immediately responsive and we scheduled a meeting that week. As we spoke, she described the many reasons why the students are the reason Madrona is so great. She then explained her model of peer and differentiated learning wherein the students help teach and learn from each other. I left my discussion with her feeling uplifted and even more convinced that Madrona is our home. Our child is treasured there. Difference is not only respected, it is celebrated. She learns to respect difference in our home and every day in school. Her friends are Islamic, gender nonconforming, Asian, Jewish, adopted, African American, African-Born, White, mixed race, experiencing housing instability and living in diverse social and economic environments. Their parents are interracial couples, same gender loving couples, White, Black, mixed race, Asian and Latinx. We love it!! Thank you Madrona. We owe you so much and are incredibly grateful that we took a chance on you.

-- Michele Peake Andrasik