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School Spotlight:
East Garner Magnet MS

Many can remember that one teacher that exuded feelings of comfort and support and generated excitement about whatever lesson they were teaching. Now imagine that experience encompassed in an entire school. Wake County Public School System's East Garner Magnet Middle School is one of those schools that strives to generate a sense of belonging and support to their students or ‛scholars’ as Principal James Sposato would call them. Sposato's passion for the success of his students is evident as we explore this unique school.

Principal Sposato, how would you describe East Garner Magnet Middle School?

East Garner Magnet Middle School is one of the largest traditional calendar middle schools in Wake County. We serve our base students located in Garner and Southeast Raleigh and magnet students living in the southern half of Wake County. We are a member of the worldwide network of International Baccalaureate schools and a Creative Arts school. We offer high school credit courses in three world languages and a full slate of visual and performing arts electives in addition to career and technical education and physical education electives.

What does it mean to be an International Baccalaureate school and to receive the School of Distinction status?

We are a member of the international network of schools. We provide access to the “Middle Years Program” as part of a K‐12 option that includes Smith Elementary and Garner High School. The Garner Area IB Partnership's “local to global” perspective allows each school to equip students with a dynamic combination of knowledge, skills, and focus on international‐mindedness for the future. An IB school “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” Our scholars engage in study in eight content areas: Language and Literature, Individuals and Societies (Social Studies), Science, Mathematics, Design, Language Acquisition, Physical Education, and Arts.

Describe the culture of your school.

We strive to maintain a high warmth, high accountability school culture. We want our scholars to know we care about them and believe they are capable of greatness by holding them to a high standard. Equity and relationships are cornerstones of our culture.

Your school has a focus on creative arts. What does that mean, and how is that integrated into the school?

Our creative arts focus program is delivered through our elective program, which offers scholars the opportunity to take classes in dance, drama, visual arts, band, orchestra, and piano. A typical middle school program offers students two electives per semester, one of which is physical education. We offer four electives a semester, so our students have a well‐rounded experience.

Give an example of a successful lesson at your school.

A lesson that comes to mind is a science activity where scholars were challenged to create water filters out of basic, affordable supplies. The lesson combined scientific inquiry with the global context of the lack of access to clean water in many parts of the world. Students used the scientific method and trial error to develop and refine an effective and affordable water filter.

What do you see as one of the most important aspects of middle school education in the world today?

In addition to solidifying reading and math competence, mastering organization and study skills are several of the most important aspects of middle school education. Success in high school requires a greater degree of independence and self‐management. Scholars must take ownership of their own learning. Additionally, our polarized world presents many challenges for the next generation. Helping scholars learn to collaborate and listen to their peers leads to understanding. We can hold different beliefs and still value someone else's voice.