Anna Hernandez walks the halls of M.A. Milam K-8 Center in Hialeah, and kids run up to hug her.
“This is a very loving environment at this school and I think the kids feel it,” Hernandez said, adding that she thinks it helps academic performance.
Hernandez has been principal at Milam for the past six years, consistently leading her school to “A” or “B” rankings.
She was just named one of six elite principals in the state of Florida by Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit watchdog organization, which teamed with the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University. They crunched the numbers and recognized principals from at-risk schools that show major learning gains in math and reading. Five of the schools are in Miami-Dade County, while the other one is in Pasco County.
“I cannot do it myself, this is definitely something that is a testament to the hard work that is done by my teachers,” Hernandez said.
Milam has a thousand students. Five hundreds of them are still learning English, and 900 of them are on either free or reduced lunch. Those numbers place the school firmly in the “at-risk” category. It’s a challenging environment for teachers.
“But I think a lot of schools have that same challenge,” Hernandez said. “I don’t want anyone to think we’re the only school like this.”
So how does Milam earn an “A” or “B” every year? Hernandez says she and her team make sure teachers are constantly analyzing student performance, doing their own data crunching.
“No longer do we have the days of the teacher going in and giving a lesson to everybody and the lesson is the same, that doesn’t exist anymore, now you have to know how the individual students are doing and you have to provide differentiated instruction in order to meet the needs of those kids,” Hernandez explained.
At Milam, that’s understood.