Meet Courtney Lemon-Tate – the newest Principal to join the IMS network this school year, serving at Holy Cross Catholic School, an Independence Mission School. Courtney brings nearly 10 years of teaching, administrative and leadership experience to the IMS network and she recently earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Temple.
In this interview she shares why she joined IMS, her advice for new and veteran teachers alike, and her top three tips for preparing middle school students for high school…
Why did you choose IMS?
I chose IMS because I love that they make private education, especially Catholic education, accessible and affordable to children living in Philadelphia. The IMS mission aligns with my own personal belief that all students can succeed. I also think the Catholic school culture and small school atmosphere is conducive to student learning and success.
How do you feel about the work that IMS is doing academically?
IMS is doing a great job with choosing a curriculum that puts grade level, standards- specific content in front of students. It’s exciting to see that they are hiring exceptional teachers and staff, giving them the right tools, and allowing them to have input into curriculum decisions. In addition to the academic focus, IMS also makes character and spiritual development a priority in our schools.
What advice do you have for new and veteran teachers as they start a new school year?
To all the new teachers – just stick with it! The first year is super-challenging; don’t get discouraged when things don’t work the way you think; it gets better with time. Also, be yourself and be confident. Students respect genuine people and over time they will learn to love you. For our veteran teachers, I am filled with nothing but admiration for your ability to stick with it and come into work every day and give 100 percent to your students. Without that, I couldn’t run a school. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world and you are very appreciated.
What are your top 3 tips for preparing our middle schoolers for high school?
From working at West Catholic, I know what will be expected of kids when they get to high school. We had kids come in from all over the city and I saw what they struggled with. Here’s how teachers (and parents) can best prepare our middle schoolers to make that transition a little smoother:
1. Give time for productive struggle: Give them time to figure out problems – socially or academically – on their own. You can’t hand-hold; they need to fail and then figure it out. Find easy ways to build stamina and help them to develop the ability to persevere and not give up when things get tough.
2. Encourage self-reliance and independence: Teach them to be self-reliant and problem solvers. Have them try and figure out problems on their own before they ask for help. In high school, teachers are not following them around checking that they did their work, so they need to learn to be independent now.
3. Have high academic expectations: Students will be average if you let them be average. If they are pushed to work harder, they will work harder. We need to challenge them now, because that’s what will happen when they get to high school.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoy travelling. I have been to about 20 countries, but I’m also happy with just a long weekend get-away. To relieve stress, I like to work out (I’m a big fan of the Peloton) and go hiking.