“Our school really is the center of this community.”
Over her first two months as Oliver Elementary’s new principal, Dr. Selena Florence has been a close partner of Jones Valley as we’ve begun Good School Food for the Oliver school community. Originally from Andalusia, Alabama, Dr. Florence brings to Oliver her experience with curriculum management and school leadership as a part of Jefferson County Schools. Oliver will be the first school in the Woodlawn pipeline working with Jones Valley to develop a project-based approach to the school’s instruction and curriculum.
“We’re trying to create kids who are able to communicate, who are able to work with groups, who collaborate on projects, and use technology,” she said. “Problem-based learning really is the tool to do that.”
Having worked at the Jefferson County central office working with all math and science elementary teachers — overseeing more than 30 schools in the County school system — Dr. Florence sees Good School Food as an opportunity to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom, and not just for students.
“Our school really is the center of this community,” she said. “If we have kids who can make good choices with their food, who are eating healthy, that’s going to trickle out into their homes. If we can work with their families and do the same thing with moms and dads and teach them more about nutrition and healthy eating, that’s only going to help our community grow healthier.”
Dr. Florence has a transformational vision for what it looks like to empower students to be active learners: she says it’s “almost a role reversal,” with teachers facilitating a classroom with students at the front doing presentations, deciding on how to research for a project, and working together to be active in what they’ll learn next. She’s quick to point out this kind of progress in school communities can only happen when communities grow with purpose.
“We can hope and wish,” she said, “but along with that we have to be very intentional about the kind of leaders we have in place and the kind of instruction we want to have in our schools. We’ve got to be very focused and have a vision for where we want to go.”