At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teachers, staff, and families work together to create a very dynamic learning community where every child is known and supported. The school uses a cohort model in which a vice principal, counselor, and two resource teachers follow the students from 6th to 8th grade, supporting them academically, socially, and emotionally.
The ideals of Dr. King guide the work of the staff. These ideals include: Equality, Academic Excellence, Community Action, Nonviolence, Respect for Self and Others, and Leadership based on Democratic Principles.
Principal Janet Levenson believes that the strength of the teaching community is the reason behind King’s success. “This staff implemented major educational reforms over the past few years and the fruits of their labor are evident in the school climate, test scores, and staff morale. This is a mostly veteran staff with the energy and curiosity and drive of brand new teachers. There is real commitment here.” That commitment shows in the high academic standards and equally high teacher morale. Teachers challenge their students with rigorous, creative and relevant projects throughout the year. There are many opportunities for students to explore and develop new interests in and out of the classroom.
King is the middle school with a newcomer program for children who arrive in Berkeley from another country. The teachers provide a strong foundation and support network for the students and their families and are constantly working to provide conversation and academic English language instruction. English Language Learner teacher Patty Rathwell happily claims, “Our Berkeley classroom truly represents the world with its myriad of languages, traditions and religions.”
King’s nationally renowned Edible Schoolyard, founded and supported by Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, began in 1996. Students work with a Schoolyard staff that includes a gardener, administrator and chef. In the two-acre garden students study plant cultivation as a science and learn to regard the earth as a friend. The new dining commons, completed in August 2008, has further enhanced the idea that nutrition and health are important aspects of the education of every student.
The King Visionaries After School Program offers a wide range of opportunities for students including intramural and competitive sports, theater activities, dance classes, sewing, gardening, homework tutorials, and much more.
The spacious King campus provides ample room for student activity. A baseball field, pool, tennis courts, and quarter-mile track are on campus, as well as the Edible Schoolyard. A sense of welcome greets visitors and students as they enter the school, past the striking student murals and breathtaking mass of flowers that fill the courtyard garden. The message resonates in the vibrant colors: The school is thriving!