Staff Focus: Michael Sonnichsen

_O4A6810.jpg

Michael Sonnichsen is the Director of Curriculum for our 6-8 Grade Scholars. This sports enthusiast plays a very important support role at Challenge Charter Middle School as we found out in a recent interview.

Describe your role as Director of Curriculum.

Sonnichsen: My role as Director of curriculum consists of overseeing all instruction and supporting teachers with instructional planning and support in the classroom. I meet with teachers based on walk-throughs, snapshots, etc. and discuss the delivery of the lesson. The role also includes overseeing curriculum maps and scope and sequence for pacing within the units. These are just a few responsibilities of my role as Director of Curriculum.

What is the 8th Grade Honors ELA focused on this year? What are the honors scholars learning?

Sonnichsen: The 8th grade honors scholars are currently working in a unit that deals with taking a stand. The book they are reading is “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work?

Sonnichsen: My hobbies include anything involving sports. I currently play hockey and bowl in a league once a month. I enjoy going to sporting events and concerts. I am a New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys fan. I love the beach too.

What word or phrase drives you to be an excellent teacher at CCMS?

Sonnichsen: Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you CAN DO!

Staff Focus: Dr. Sheila Lyle

 Dr. Lyle congratulates a student at the 2018 First Annual 8th Grade Graduation.

Dr. Lyle congratulates a student at the 2018 First Annual 8th Grade Graduation.

At Challenge Charter Schools, it is no secret that we are always striving for the best. That aim is not only focused on our scholars’ achievement, but in having staff and teachers that also strive to be the best teachers and administrators for our school. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Sheila Lyle, Assistant Principal for Grades 6-8. The respect and honor she holds for our school, the leadership, and the scholars came through loud and clear in our conversation.

Messer: What inspired you to pursue a career in education?

Lyle: I was inspired to pursue a career in education some 25 years ago when I graduated with a B.S. in Business Management and had an opportunity to become a substitute teacher. I found that many of the scholars struggled with math because they lacked a true understanding of mathematical concepts. I then realized when I was able to remediate scholars who had academic deficiencies, that education in underserved communities was my divine calling and area of giftedness.

Messer: For someone who doesn’t understand what an Assistant Principal does, what are some of your daily activities?

Lyle: As an assistant principal, there are various activities that I carry out daily. I serve in the capacity of instructional staff, counsel staff and scholars, advise on legal matters, coach staff, and work collaboratively with leadership and the school body to improve the cultural, academic, and system thinking aspects of the school, just to name a few. Furthermore, I take very seriously our mission that scholars excel academically enabling them to successful compete for admission into high performing high schools and colleges in and outside of the New York State area. I believe middle school establishes the groundwork for further success. Most of all, I am privileged and honored to support our Middle School Principal, our CEO, and the Board of Challenge Charter Preparatory School to ensure that every child receives a first class education.

Messer: What is your personal hope for scholars at CCMS this year?

Lyle: My personal hope and commitment to the scholars at CCMS this year and every year is that I will do everything I possibly can to ensure they receive the best high level instruction that can be offered. The school body is constantly thinking, discussing, and implementing methodologies in our pedagogy to improve scholars academically. I know that scholars are being well prepared by conversations I have had with our scholars who are now in high school. I believe when you are under awesome leadership, an institute of learning has no other objective but to strive for excellence.

Messer: What is one thing that people might be surprised to know about you?

Lyle: Probably the one thing people would be surprised to know about me is that I come from very humble beginnings. I will always honor my mother and father for the sacrifices they made so that I could receive a proper education in a Christian setting. I have and continue to instill Christian principals in my three children.

Messer: What is your favorite part about your job?

Lyle: The part of my job that I enjoy the most are the scholars and school body with whom I interact daily.  We are a family where we have good days and some not so good. We approach every day as a new day where we can and will do better.  Everyone is respected, loved, and nurtured with a high level of fidelity and commitment to learning. Everyone learns in this environment, not just the scholars.

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.

Find photos of our K-5 #Firstdayofschool in the parallel news story at our Challenge Prep Charter website.

Parent Orientation

Our 6-8 Parent Orientation will be held Thursday, August 23rd. 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. Questions? Please contact Mrs. Vaughn, the K-8 Family Engagement Coordinator by calling (718)327-4040 Ext. 108. We can't wait to see you there!

CCMS Orientation Flyer UPdated-page-001 (1).jpg

First Annual 8th Grade Graduation

After many years of building a successful charter school in Far Rockaway, Wednesday, June 27th 2018 represented a milestone as the first cohort of 8th graders graduated from Challenge Charter Schools. Founder and CEO, Rev. Dr. Les Mullings welcomed the excited group of scholars, families, board members, and community leaders. 

Throughout the program special performances featured scholars through music and spoken word led by Music Banks as well as Performing Arts scholars led by Nadine Sutherland. Board Chair, Frederica Jeffries attended and briefly addressed the scholars and their families. 

During his address, Dr. Mullings reflected on the ceremony saying, "This is an exciting day because many years ago this day was just a dream in my mind. That dream that has come to fruition because many people have made it possible through hard work and dedication. Today I see sitting before me success. These scholars are evidence of how our long years of labor were not in vain."

Then turning his attention to the scholars he said, "Congratulations class of 2018. You are the pioneers. You have set the stage and standards for your fellow scholars. As you move on to high school, be the leaders that we know you can be. Remember the only person that can stop you from being who you can be is you. Never forget who you are. You are a Challenge scholar, and once a challenger, always a challenger. Go change the world!"

The graduating scholars were recognized for a number of achievements including city and state recognitions, honor roll, and CEO/Founder award. During their speeches, Salutatorian Dorcas Adewale and Valedictorian Davon McCoy both referenced rising above obstacles during the middle school years.

6-8 Principal Mavgar Mondesir-Gordon beamed with pride and shared several accomplishments of this first class of graduating scholars.

"What did we expect coming to this graduation? 90% of our scholars got into their first choice of high school. We saw a 20% increase in test scores. These scholars showed forth flexibility, focus, and formidability. With a force of educators behind them, these students have exceeded our expectations."

Mrs. Gordon continued by addressing the graduates directly: "It is important that you know that each and every one of you is here because you made a choice. You are cheetah warriors; you are leaders and the driving force behind your destiny. You are first class global citizens. And if the world gets too hard, get on the train, get on the bus, and come home to Challenge to remember where you came from."

Candid photos and videos have been posted on the school Facebook page since the ceremony on June 27th. Professional photos of the graduation can be found in two albums at these pages: Album 1 and Album 2.