Imani head of school, Patricia Hogan Williams on educational excellence

The educational force that is the Imani School is preparing to celebrate its 30thanniversary of making a positive and powerful difference in the lives of students, their families and communities. 

Imani is a private Christian school founded by Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church. The school will observe its anniversary with a gala on Saturday, March 23.

Patricia Hogan Williams, Imani’s head of school since its founding, said their success is no accident, and spoke with the Defender about its commitment to excellence.

Defender: How does an education from The Imani School prepare its students, especially African-American boys, for future success?

Williams:At Imani peer pressure works for education. Often, students are teased and ridiculed for being smart, or getting good grades. Here, excellent students encourage others to excel. Research has shown that students live up to, or down to, the level of expectations. One report concluded that “The single most damaging factor in limiting the achievement of African American students is the belief that those students cannot learn, and the acceptance of their substandard performance as being inevitable.” We set the expectations high. We expect our children to achieve and we don’t accept mediocrity. We teach them that “good enough isn’t good enough.” 

We believe in our children and therefore they believe in themselves. Our curriculum is flexible, teachers work with the children to differentiate instruction to meet the unique needs and learning styles of each child. We focus on three enduring measures of success, the well-developed mind, the well-nourished spirit and the well-cultivated talents. We know that each child has unique gifts. We work to help the child discover his/her own.  When you find a child’s strengths and value them, you’ll find that the self-confidence he gains in one area spills over into other areas.    

Defender: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in education today?

Williams:The biggest challenge in education today is preparing them for a changing tomorrow. It is critical that we prepare our students with the critical thinking and technological skills they will need to adapt to a changing economy; to empower them with the ability to look beyond what they see to imagine what could be. Technology dominates more and more in our society and in many instances, it is replacing humans as workers.  However, as the world becomes smaller, and communication is instant, it is imperative that we help students develop “soft skills,” the ability to communicate face to face, to empathize, to see and hear another perspective. These are skills that are being lost in this age of technology, and yet are becoming more critical because of technology.

Defender: How is the Imani School meeting these challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities?  

Williams:We are tackling these challenges head-on. Our children are introduced to coding at the early age of 4 years old. This is done through fun, hands-on, interactive activities. This continues and becomes more complex as the children progress and move into writing programs like JavaScript. They are challenged to find solutions to real-life problems, such as flooding in our area or creating new ways to communicate. They learn to collaborate, to communicate, to work together for a common goal. They learn to respect and to celebrate their differences. They learn to pray for and with each other. 

Another way we are preparing our children to face the challenges of tomorrow is by giving them opportunities to put their skills to the test. Our students enter into many different academic, artistic, chess and athletic competitions. Through these competitions, our children learn that they have the ability to stand toe-to-toe with anybody. It gives them the self-confidence they will need to meet the challenges they will face.