School Spotlight: Nasha Shkola Embraces Slavic Culture
Culture can be a very important part of one’s identity. One charter school in Brooklyn Park embraces post-Soviet culture in every day learning.
With a 120 students Nasha Shkola Charter School has the unique advantage of small class sizes. However, that’s not the only characteristic that sets them apart.
“I would say about 90% of the kids we have, come from families where Russian is spoken,” says Yelena Hardcopf a teacher and chair of the board at Nasha Shkola School. “Sometimes both parent’s speak Russian or at least one of the parents do, so there is always some sort of connection.”
All classes are taught in English. However, students have the option to learn the Russian language from Kindergarten to 8th grade.
“Originally this school was started by the members of the Russian speaking community,” added Yelana. “One of the ideas of the school was to help the Russian speaking community have a community school that allows kids to preserve their heritage.”
Preserving heritage is important to the school and their small class sizes have created a family environment for both the students and staff.
“It really makes you close with the families,” says Nicole Larson, a 3rd grade teacher at the school. “We have a lot of families that come through and they have three or four kids so you get to know them as a family. You get to know them year after year and you get to know all the siblings and you get really close with them. It gives you a better connection with students.”
Around 75 percent of students speak English as a second language. The English Language Learners or ELL learners originally created some challenges for teachers and staff.
“We dug ourselves out of a pretty deep hole about four years ago when I started here,” says Christian Schmitt and social studies teacher at the school. “We were what was considered a priority school. So, that’s a school that has been identified by the state as needing help. We’ve made progress each year since then to better meet the need of our students, especially ELL learners.”
Different Ways of Teaching
The school has since overcome those challenges by changing the way they teach.
“We have a guided reading program that was implemented last year,” stated Hardcopf. “Staff takes the kids to the Hennepin Library nearby to make sure they access to books and can read. We differentiate in different ways. We also provide one on one support and group support in math.”
The school has come a long way since its start. Teachers say the emphasis on Slavic culture helps bridge a divide that’s prevalent in today’s political climate.
“There are major divisions right now,” added Schmitt. “The relationship is probably at its worst point since the Cold War. You know our school is very small but it is building bridges between people speaking different languages and I think that is a really crucial thing.”
Nasha Shkola School is a charter school that anyone can attend. For more information on when open enrollment takes place click here.