William in front of his artwork, holding anime books.
William and his teachers in front of his artwork holding anime books.
William Cruz, an eighth grade student at West Hempstead Middle School, has become a prime example of how the West Hempstead School District nurtures the specific needs and interests of students to progress them academically and personally.
Throughout the years, William didn’t naturally gravitate toward reading and art, then he discovered his love for anime and was given the space and support to explore this new genre. With the encouragement of his art teacher Christina Ferrante and reading teacher Allyson Kiernan, he was able to expand his skills and quickly flourished as a reader and art student.
“The best part of my job is when students truly fall in love with reading,” Ms. Kiernan said. “It is clear that William has found the genre that he loves and has really embraced it.”
In Ms. Ferrante’s art class, she recently instructed the students to paint a celebrity or well-known figure in a monochromatic fashion. William asked Ms. Ferrante if he could focus on anime characters for the assignment and she happily obliged after witnessing his new enthusiasm for the arts. Full of inspiration, William brought his favorite books to life. He not only created one piece of art, but seven canvas paintings of anime characters. Ms. Ferrante was so impressed that she dedicated a bulletin board to his work in the school hallway.
“Encouraging students to make art can sometimes happen easily and other times, it can be a challenge,” Ms. Ferrante said. “For me, I get more success with students when I allow them to create art on topics of their choice. It’s a way to earn trust and build confidence, and William is a perfect example of this strategy.”
Superintendent of Schools Dan Rehman encourages all of the teachers in the district to also follow this strategy. He believes in an independent but supportive atmosphere that allows students to find their unique paths in education.
“As the superintendent, I want to be a part of creating and enjoying a learning environment where rigor, risk-taking, symbiosis, autonomy and access for all are expected and valued,” Mr. Rehman said. “It is apparent William, and his teachers, are living examples of this philosophy.”
William is just one of many similar success stories in the district and offered some advice to other students who have not found their niche yet. He also had an anime book recommendation for his peers.
“Just give it a try, try something different you may like and then go for it,” he said. “And try reading “My Hero Academia” by Kohei Horikoshi, it’s one of my favorites and great for middle schoolers.”