Restoring Hope in her Students

Spartan Academy’s Denise Gammon serves as the middle school’s social studies teacher. Gammon, 30, a native of Richmond, Virginia, attended Virginia Commonwealth University. She joined the Camelot education family in 2016 and her favorite hobby is knitting.

Since then, she’s seen the program grow. Students at Richmond Alternative School – Spartan Academy have experienced disciplinary violations and were removed from their home campus. Students from this campus will return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics. Gammon said many of the students arrive in a desperate emotional state.

Denise Gammon with her students.

“Some of the students who come here don’t have any hope or dreams. But soon, they emerge as engaged young scholars who want to learn,” she said. “In my social studies class we mostly cover American History; the Los Angeles Riots, government rights of citizenship and the criminal justice system. Overall, I want my students to want to learn. I try to foster and nurture in them a desire to learn and to want to be in my class. We also help them develop social skills to take back with them when they return to their home campuses.”

When asked if the students pick up where they left off when they return to their sending school, Gammon said it depends.

“Some of them have been through the criminal justice system for a couple of years so you really have to start where they are,” Gammon said. “Generally that begins with addressing their reading skills. For students who haven’t been in a school setting for a while, you have to get them acclimated to being in a classroom setting. That means they have to learn to raise their hand if they want to speak; not just getting up and leaving the class if they have to go to the bathroom and being polite and respectful not just to the staff but to one another. Is that easy? No, of course not, it is however so very, very rewarding.”

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