Staff Focus: K-5 AP Jasmine Shepherd

At Challenge Charter Schools, we have a number of staff members in support roles to help our scholars and teachers do their very best. Recently, I had the chance to learn more about K-5 Assistant Principal, Jasmine Shepherd and her unique role at Challenge Prep. Shepherd’s own growth through education and mentorship have taught her the value of hard work and perseverance, and she brings those qualities to her work each day.

Messer: In your role as Director of Curriculum and Instruction, what are some of your daily activities, and how do they benefit the school/scholars/teachers?

 K-5 AP Jasmine Shepherd

K-5 AP Jasmine Shepherd

Shepherd: I work very closely with teachers by providing them with daily feedback on lesson plans, execution of their instruction, and by deep diving into our curriculum to ensure that teachers understand our curriculum and know the benefits of our program. In addition to coaching and developing teachers, I spend a lot of time researching best teaching practices and preparing professional development sessions to further advance our staff in their craft. The more confident our teachers feel with lesson planning, lesson executing, and understanding our curriculum the more our scholars will benefit.  

Messer: Name a person who was a positive influence on your career and why/what they did to help you?

Shepherd: My mentor who is currently a principal of a middle/high school in Queens has had a positive influence on my career as he has planted strong leadership seeds in me and has supported me through some of the toughest moments in my career. Through his mentorship I've learned to persevere and to work hard for what I want. I've learned from my mentor that there is nothing too hard to achieve as long as I put my mind and heart to it I can achieve it.    

Messer: What excites you most about education?

Shepherd: Being able to see my growth as an intellectual excites me most about education. I've come such a long way to where I am now, simply because I had a great education and have chosen to continue with furthering my education. Education has also allowed me to visit many places through my imagination. I am able to have intellectual conversations with my counterparts about many different topics because of the many things that education has exposed me to.

Messer: What is your favorite hobby or one thing that people might be surprised about you?

Shepherd: I enjoy going food shopping. Food shopping is therapeutic to me as I go through each aisle of my local supermarket looking for great deals on items that my family enjoys eating.  I could spend two hours walking up and down the aisles of my supermarket.




8th Annual Harvest Feast

November is filled with great and important events. Don’t miss Parent Teacher Conferences on November 7 and 8. Be sure to grab some great books at the Fall Book Fair, November 13 through 19. And our 8th Annual Harvest Feast organized by our Parent Association is on Friday, November 19th at 6:00P. RSVP by Friday, November 9th to reserve your family’s seats. Space is limited and tickets are first-come, first-served!

 Harvest Feast Flyer

Harvest Feast Flyer


Get to Know New Teacher: Shariah Bottex

 Ms. Bottex

Ms. Bottex

Our New Teacher articles let you get to know our new teachers as we welcome them to Challenge Charter Schools this year. This week, Shariah Bottex from Class K13 tells us what Italian dishes get her vote and why making learning fun is so important.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

Bottex: My favorite thing about being a teacher is being able to build the foundation for scholar's education and helping them grow as respectful, well-mannered young people.

How do you feel when you see a scholar learning something for the first time?

Bottex: I feel overjoyed, accomplished, and proud when I see a scholar learning something for the first time. I know that I am doing my job correctly when they can comprehend and execute new learning tasks.

What is your favorite food to eat?

Bottex: My favorite food to eat is my Mom's spaghetti and my sister's manicotti! Also, my homemade cheesecake.

What one word or short phrase describes your focus for the 2018-19 academic year?

Bottex: We always have fun while growing and learning. I say this because I put emphasis on learning being an enjoyable experience. As a child, the one thing that made me want to learn and keep coming back to school was that I enjoyed my time there. We never really know what a scholar may be experiencing at home, so it's best to make school a safe, positive, and fun environment for them.

Challenge Charter Schools’ Project Character in 2nd Year

 Champ works with our scholars to explain the Word of the Month.

Champ works with our scholars to explain the Word of the Month.

In 2017, the Challenge Charter community was introduced to a new version of the school’s mascot. Champ the Cheetah was no longer a 2-dimensional drawing, rather he had come to life as a puppet to visit the K-5 scholars on a regular basis teaching character curriculum at assemblies and special events.

With the start of the 2018 academic year, Project Character has grown to offer even more components. In addition to the monthly video featuring Champ and Principal Griffin as well as Parent Resources on our website, now teachers have lesson plans tailored to grade levels to help scholars understand the Word of the Month (WOM) as Responsibility, Citizenship and Kindness.

As Champ’s character began to take shape in 2017, CEO/Founder Dr. Mullings immediately saw the potential for offering a very unique way to approach teaching good character traits to students. Dr. Mullings worked with Steve Pennington and Senior Advisor, Michael Estep to develop Champ as a high-value investment in the lives of the scholars at Challenge Prep.

“We are always looking for ways to enhance learning. It shows up in the way we infuse technology into the classroom, the data-driven tailored learning we offer, our extra-curricular activities such as athletics and performing arts, and through our mascot Champ. We are dedicated to the whole child, and the development of Champ and Project Character shows how much we value raising great global citizens through our school,” said Dr. Mullings.

Pennington has been an educational entertainer and curriculum developer for more than 30 years. He is Champ’s biggest fan as the “man behind the puppet,” and this year, he is working more closely with scholars as they are featured in the monthly curriculum videos. The videos are a coordinated effort with K-5 administrators and the school’s Community Program Manager, Vicky Rosario.  

“I am always amazed at the depth of understanding all of our scholars bring to the video shoots that we are doing. We are taping unscripted conversations with the scholars and they are so much fun. Champ and the scholars are discussing the meaning of the different character words. They get it and are right on cue with their responses. It’s terrific!” Pennington stated.

 Citizenship is the Word of the Month for October.

Citizenship is the Word of the Month for October.

K-5 Principal, Nicole Griffin, has had plenty of up close and personal time with Champ during the WOM video shoots. In each video, she and Champ define the word and talk about what it looks like to live out that character trait in the context of CPCS. Principal Griffin has been pleased to see the success of Project Character over the past year.

“Challenge Prep is a very unique school in which we believe that education isn't only about learning subjects such as math, English, and science. A more comprehensive definition of education addresses the emotions, personality, and character as well. We adopted the approach of teaching good character traits to create a caring and supportive environment, to encourage scholars to develop morally and provide opportunities to grow morally and to promote core ethical and performance values to instill good character in scholars. From the fun, yet educational assemblies with Champ, our scholars have embraced this approach to learning,” said Griffin.

Parents are encouraged to visit our website for downloadable resources and the video for each WOM. Videos are also posted to our K-5 Facebook page. Families can benefit from utilizing the home activities and watching and discussing the videos with their scholar which reinforces good character and behaviors at home.

Champ’s live appearances will continue in assemblies throughout the school year.  




Get to Know New Teacher: Marissa Sciacca

Our New Teacher articles let you get to know our new teachers as we welcome them to Challenge Charter Schools this year. This week, Marissa Sciacca from Class 102 tells us a little bit about herself and her teaching style, and why she may be a great person to contribute to bake sales.

 Ms. Sciacca

Ms. Sciacca

What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

Sciacca: My favorite thing about being a teacher is working with the scholars and enhancing their knowledge in all subject areas.

What has been a pleasant experience or surprise for you at Challenge Prep so far?

Sciacca: A pleasant experience I have had at Challenge Prep thus far is working alongside Mrs. Lloyd.  As a new teacher, I was extremely nervous as well as excited coming into this year.  Mrs. Lloyd has made me feel extremely comfortable and confident. She is has made my transition into Challenge Prep smooth sailing. I am extremely lucky to be working and friends with such an amazing person.

What is your favorite hobby or interest? 

Sciacca: My favorite hobby is cooking and baking.

What one word or short phrase describes your focus for the 2018-19 academic year?

The short phrase that describes my focus for the 2018-19 academic year is PRACTICE makes  PROGRESS!

 Working with scholars in Class 102.

Working with scholars in Class 102.

First Day of School 2018

We commenced with our first day of school on Monday, August 27th. Our middle school scholars were welcomed at our new Academic Campus at 1279 Redfern. At our 710 Hartman Campus, our 1st through 5th Graders gathered in the gym to start the day while our Kindergartners were welcomed through the back courtyard into their classrooms. 

It was an exciting day to see returning and new scholars and their families with backpacks and school supplies in tow. K-5 Principal Griffin and 6-8 Principal Gordon led their teams of staff and teachers through the busy morning. At the K-5 scholars had a half-day dismissal to give teachers some additional Professional Development time while at the middle school scholars went through their schedules changing classes and getting accustomed to the new building.

Middle School #FirstDayofSchool pictures can be found in the parallel news story on the Challenge Middle website.

K-5 Parent Orientation

Our K-5 Parent Orientation will be held Wednesday, August 29th. This very informative meeting is a must attend for parents and guardians. Please plan to attend to gain valuable insights and practical information to make it a successful year for your scholar. Please RSVP to Mrs. Vaughn, the K-8 Family Engagement Coordinator using the link in the flyer below or by calling her at (718)327-4040 Ext. 108. We can't wait to see you there!

Field Day 2018

It was a beautiful day to have the annual Challenge Charter Schools Field Day, on Friday, June 22nd. We welcomed our almost 800 scholars, parent volunteers, staff, administrators and special guests to Bayswater Park for the festivities. The Parent Association and key staff members worked for months to plan the event, and our coaches created fun athletic field day stations to go along with the traditional bouncy houses and slides.

Dr. Mullings, Founder and CEO served as host, thanking sponsors and special guests from our Board of Directors such as Ben Waxman and local leaders such as Councilman Donovan Richards. Local sponsors included Herman's Deli, Chipotle in Lawrence, McDonald’s in Five Towns, Stop & Shop, The Corner Donut Coffee Shop and CostCo.

The theme for 2018 was “Take a Stand” to join with students and families in our community and across the nation who stand against gun violence and are advocating for better safety at schools. Scholars participated in the theme on the day of the event by putting their hand prints on a large banner that read, “Take a Stand.”

The June event celebrated the full charter for Challenge Preparatory Charter School with grades kindergarten through 8th grade represented. Challenge Charter Schools thanks our local sponsors and everyone who donated time, supplies, and food to make Field Day 2018 a success.

We have two albums of photos from Field Day. For K-5 photos visit this link.  For 6-8 photos click here.

5th Grade Graduation 2018

Challenge Charter Schools hosted its annual 5th Grade Graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 14th at Far Rockaway High School. Families, staff, and teachers gathered to cheer on the 5th Grade Class of 2018 as they looked toward their transition to middle school.

Rev. Dr. Les Mullings brought greetings to the audience and reminded the scholars of how much their families and teachers helped them get to graduation day. He encouraged the graduates to strive to be their best selves and to pursue becoming who they want to be. Principal Nicole Griffin spoke of integrity, admonishing the scholars to embody that quality even though it takes great heart and courage.

The strong care that the teachers of Challenge Prep have for their students was perhaps best displayed on graduation day by Ms. Boglio. She chose to miss her own graduation for her Masters in Teaching Children with Disabilities to be with her scholars at the 5th grade ceremony but celebrated the moment by donning her own cap and gown. The scholars and staff recognized her for her sacrifice with words of thanks and a bouquet of flowers.

Dr. Mullings thanked special guests that attended including founding principal, Mrs. Sonja Webber-Bey and community supporter, Mrs. Sheila Johnson. Salutatorian, Harmony Cooper, and Valedictorian, Dorcas Taiwo, gave words of thanks and inspiration to the audience and their peers. Scholars performed poems and songs throughout the program, and 5th grade scholar, Joelle Johnson accompanied the final number, “See You Again,” on piano as the 70-plus graduating scholars sang to their families and mentors.

The 2017-18 year has brought a 17% growth in Challenge’s middle school, and the first annual 8th Grade Graduation was held on Wednesday, June 27th.

Candid photos of the event are on our K-5 Facebook page (posted June 15, 16, and 18), and professional photos of the graduation are on our Middle School website for our rising 6th graders here. We are so proud of our graduates!

Field Day Theme Announced

The Annual Challenge Charter Schools’ Field Day will once again be held at Bayswater Park on June 22nd from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event is held for the entire student body of K-8 graders and is organized as a joint effort between our K-5, Middle School, and the Challenge Preparatory Charter School and Challenge Charter Middle School Parent Associations. Founder and CEO, Rev. Dr. Les Mullings announced that the theme for this year’s Field Day will be “Take a Stand.”

"Field Day is a long-standing tradition for Challenge Charter Schools focused on fun outdoor activities that bring our entire student body and staff together along with many valuable parent volunteers. It is a celebration day by nature. However, with the continuation of regular violence in our schools, I felt that our theme for the event this year needed to reflect our great concern for the safety of all students.

We acknowledge the changes that need to be made to keep schools safe, and we have reviewed and updated our own procedures for a number of emergency situations this year. Students have a right to go to school to learn and grow, yet many of them now fear for their safety and their very lives every day. To honor those students who have lost their lives and for those who are seeking change and making their voices known, our theme is 'Take a Stand.'

Leading up to the event, I've asked our principals and teachers to engage our scholars in the theme through student projects. I look forward to how our scholars will communicate and respond to this important issue," said Dr. Mullings.

Over 20 activity stations and food will be offered for 800 students, their families, teachers, staff and community leaders to enjoy. Local sponsors such as McDonalds, Stop & Shop, Herman’s Deli, Costco and Chipotle have offered to donate food and supplies for the event.

Dr. Mullings will serve as host to community leaders and elected officials along with scholar presentations around the theme. Over 1500 people are expected to attend this year’s Field Day, and we encourage the entire CCS family to #takeastand with us. Please share the theme and do what you can to promote safety in our schools.

 Field Day 2018 Flyer

Field Day 2018 Flyer