Sault Ste. Marie’s Malcolm High School, Ending the Stigma for All Alternative Schools
“We want to change the stigma.”
Sandy Sawyer and Lisa Schulte work at Malcolm High School, an alternative school in Sault Ste. Marie.
“All kinds of students come to Malcolm. We have students are struggle with anxiety, depression, homeless. We also have students that are just comfortable in a small setting…What makes a school alternative is the teaching style and the learning experience,” says Sawyer.
Schulte, a Social Studies teacher, says, “Part of teaching at an alternative school, especially here at Malcolm, is building relationships. Getting them to trust you, that their experience with you is going to be different than it was before.”
The learning style can be described as personalized and interactive,
Giving students positive educational structure.
“Students can do credit recovery here…Try really hard to get them involved in the community and get more of a positive educational experience for those that maybe it was a little bit negative for starting out,” says Sawyer.
And part of that positive structure is connecting to the students and leaving a lasting impression.
“My experience here so far, since I’ve started, has been phenomenal,” says junior Jacob Dumas.
Noah Albakal, a senior, says “The teachers motivate you here, so do the students. Every staff member here has a positive attitude, it’s like they never have a bad day.”
“If you ask any teacher in this building, that is the best feeling when you see a kid come here, you know, they left the school, they wouldn’t even do a homework assignment. And now suddenly they’re doing their homework, making honor roll, and they’re volunteering in the community. That is by far the best feeling you can ever experience with these students,” says Schulte.
With great gratitude, Sawyer says, “I was very very excited as was my staff. We had just attended the alternative education conference, and to be awarded that it was so exciting. I get a lot of accolades sometimes about how wonderful the school is, but it’s not me, it is my staff. They are the ones day in and day out, in the classrooms, meeting with kids. They would give anything to help these kids be successful.”
“Mrs. Sawyer does not take enough credit for what she’s established here. The fact that we were ‘alternative high school of the year’ is a lot to do with her,
And her ability to connect with kids. It also is a recognition that our hard work has paid off. And hopefully it changes the view of alternative high school,” says Schulte.
Sawyer states, “Our students aren’t bad students, they just maybe made a poor choice here or there and they deserve a second chance and they’re great kids. And so that was a big goal of mine, is to just really change the perception of what people believe about Malcolm High School.”
“They are really patient with you. Everyone, they really care. Take care. It’s not just like they have to care about hundreds and hundreds of students, the individually care about you and what you’re gonna do with your life, and how you’re going to graduate and get out of here,” says Albakal.
Dumas says, “I always say perfect ain’t a good word for anything because nothing can be perfect. For learning, this is actually the closest thing you can get to being perfect.”