Now that her daughter is in high school and her son has entered sixth grade at CICS West Belden, Mrs. Castrejon reflects on her family’s relationship with the school.
Since my daughter was in pre-kindergarten, we started to look into applying for CICS West Belden. We wanted to make sure she had a spot, but each year we applied there was nothing available. We had to enroll her at our neighborhood CPS school. Kindergarten was great, I was very happy because I believe she had one of the best teachers there. Halfway through the year she knew how to read and write already—she was even able to go and read to the preschoolers. In first grade she was also doing great, but when she hit beginning of second grade she started having issues because teachers had too many students in the classroom and they were putting first and second grade together. It was just chaos. She was very smart and getting picked to help the other kids, but she was falling behind and I realized it wasn’t for her.
When my son was going to start kindergarten, we got lucky that there was an opening for him at CICS West Belden. He got in, but my daughter didn’t. We were blessed that a week before school started, there was a seat for third grade available. When I got the call, I grabbed all my papers and ran to the school. We were very excited that she was accepted. Both of them started the same year, and they’re doing great.
The teachers there work so hard, they’re very dedicated to the students. I love how they teach and provide extra help that the kids might need. They truly do not move on to next level until the kids learn what they’re supposed to, and I love it. Both my kids are smart, they’re good, both taught by the family to appreciate reading—and the CICS West Belden teachers helped both of them a lot. My daughter graduated eighth grade from CICS West Belden on the honor role, and now she attends a great high school—Northside College Prep. She is adjusting to the strategy they use there, since they do more individual work than directly with the teacher.
One of my neighbors had her sons at CICS West Belden, and she used to tell me that it was one of the best charter schools. When I was looking for the best schools for my kids, I saw that many schools were out of the way. With my husband and I working it would have been hard to do. I started getting information on charter schools, learning about their curriculum, looking at comments of families with kids in charter schools. That’s how I got interested in applying, because I was always searching for a better educational option.
I have talked to a lot of friends and my cousins with younger kids. I always recommend CICS West Belden because of the extra staff and teachers in the classroom. I talk to them about charter schools and how much the parents are involved with the school and teachers. I tell them about the community and how we work with the school. That’s one of the things that’s so strong, the community. Parents at every meeting want to know what’s going on, what all the kids are learning. I get to go online 1-2 times a week to see what my son is learning, and if I see he’s stuck on something I know we can go and ask the teacher. When I know kids in my home daycare are starting kindergarten, I encourage families to look at CICS West Belden. I had a mom that has her daughter there and she’s proud to be a part of the community. I think most of the parents are very happy there. That’s one of the reason I don’t want to move out of the neighborhood. My daughter had a bunch of friends there that lived half an hour away and traveled to get to school. All my kids are fortunate to have the school so close.
I always recommend charter schools because they have great teachers, assistants, and a strong community. It might be 6:00 or 7:00pm and I see teachers coming out of the school. They are 100% dedicated to their students and their careers. They are always ready and motivated, and smiling in the morning! At CICS West Belden, they have new ideas and new strategies instead of the old way that I learned. I have to say the teachers there are awesome. When my daughter graduated, I wanted to cry! Teachers see their students grow through the years and then leave, but I see tons of students go back to visit teachers or share a speech in front of the school about their new experiences. And that’s great! Even yesterday my daughter went to say hi to her teachers because she still has that connection. She loves the school.
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