Students at Southwest Elementary School can honestly say that they are greeted by at least five trusted adults each day. That’s because Principal Nick Rotosky expects that from his staff. It’s one of the non-negotiables he and his administration have developed to make school appealing and inspiring for the students who attend Southwest Elementary School. Rotosky, who entered the field of education as a lateral entry physical education teacher 18 years ago, has been at the helm of Southwest for eight years. His Assistant Principal, Torrey Flores, has been at his side that entire time, plus the three years she served Southwest before Rotosky’s tenure began.
Southwest is a dual-language themed school, where students whose parents entered them in the lottery-based program start in kindergarten with a 90 percent immersion into Spanish– that means, classes are taught in Spanish 90 percent of their time in school. Like sponges, they take their lessons in, becoming fluent very quickly due to the immersion model.
Rotosky calls his academic program student-driven, offers an open door to the principal’s office, and says he has built an on-demand culture where people want to be based on safety, love, and engagement.
While this philosophy is student-driven, “it fills our bucket too,” says AP Flores. “When we make decisions in the best interest of children, we can challenge each other, question, and support.”
The student population is indisputably diverse, and Rotosky describes it as a “culture that is a beautiful balance. It looks like the real world.”
Add to the school’s environment its strong, ongoing parent and community support. Those strengths are demonstrated through the Southwest Seagull Sustainer Society that grants teachers financial support for their lessons; a traditional PTA that spotlights teachers regularly, a Parents of African-American Children (PAC) organization that also sends representatives to the general PTA meetings; ALAS, which stands for -Alianza Latina de Acción en Southwest (Southwest Latinx Action Alliance). “Alas” means “wings” in Spanish, and our hope is that these alas will help our Seahawks to fly towards even higher goals, says Rotosky.
Rotosky proudly shares that the welcoming atmosphere has inspired parents to enroll in teacher education programs and become teachers themselves.