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Middle school matters: Southwest Academy


In honor of national Middle Level Education Month, this March we are taking a closer look at Baltimore County Public Schools’ wonderful middle schools. Every day during March, one or two more school profiles will be posted. To see all that have been posted, please click here.

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Principal: Karen Barnes (quoted below)
Feeder elementary schools: Chadwick, Edmondson Heights, Johnnycake, and Woodbridge

School website:

Academic achievements

The school’s most recent Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) scores for English language arts were more than 10 points over the county’s designated goal for the school. Southwest Academy also met and exceeded its MAP goal in math.

22% of Southwest Academy students take advanced academic classes.

“This is the third year that we have had a Very Important Student Achievers program. Through this program, we acknowledge students who have earned only A’s and B’s. This quarter, more than 20 percent of Southwest students are VISA students. They receive ‘VISA’ cards and various special privileges.”

“Our students are very academically competitive. This past weekend a team of eight students participated in the History Day competition.”

Recent awards and grants

The school has received five Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools grants this school year. These grants will be used to support a new vegetable garden (coordinated by science teacher Elizabeth Kreutzer); the Young Men of Honor program (led by teachers Iterny Joseph and Talven Pearsell; a Makerspace project (directed by library media specialist Michelle Brown); WINGS (Women Instructing and Nurturing Girls in STEM, facilitated by teacher Claudia Johnson); and the Get Global club (coordinated by teacher Judith Barrera).

Principal Barnes has been recognized with multiple awards including being named the 2013-2014 National Distinguished Principal for Maryland; the 2015 Women of Color K-12 Promotion of Education Award; and 2016 Region II Principal of the Year for Magnet Schools

“Ms. Hawkins, our technology educator, received the Women of Color K-12 Promotion of Education National STEM Award.”

“Ms. Miller, our science chair and Project Lead the Way/Gateway to Technology educator, received the Magnet Teacher of the Year award.”

A Southwest Academy teacher and four students won a national award for $10,000 for a service-learning project to clean a local waterway.

“Every year, the number of magnet applications to Southwest Academy increases due to the dedication and support of the STEM teachers. This year we had eight times as many magnet applications as we had seats.”

Special academic programs offered

Southwest Academy offers a magnet program in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Related to the magnet program, each year, Southwest Academy hosts “Cool Women/Hot Jobs,” a STEM career fair for girls. Forty companies, organizations, and universities will be represented at the event this month. The school also provides opportunities for female magnet students to participate in an annual overnight stay with U.S. Naval female cadets at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. During this stay, the group studies dolphins and sharks.

The school offers Sea Perch, a national program funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The program teaches students about science and engineering through building a fully functional, remotely-operated underwater vehicle. Through the program, teachers at Southwest Academy have received training as well as teachers from Old Court, Windsor Mill, and Woodlawn middle schools.

The U.S. Department of Defense offers Southwest Academy teacher training, student field trips, and a summer program via their BEST (Building Engineering & Science Talent) program. Through this initiative, teachers learn how to make engineering and science lessons more engaging.

Three hundred students in Grades 7 and 8 participate in the college/career readiness program AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination).

Southwest Academy is a UMBC Professional Development School and is currently training interns in science and math.

Spanish is available for students in Grades 6, 7, and 8.

Popular/unique extracurricular activities

Southwest Academy sponsors WINGS (Women Instructing and Nurturing Girls in STEM), an afterschool program. This year, the program has about 35 participants from Grades 6, 7, and 8.  

“Our Young Men of Honor group focuses on brotherhood, scholarship, and community service and is offered to our male students as an afterschool program.”

“We have an awesome gospel choir. It just started two years ago, but it is already getting a lot of accolades.”

Members of The Baltimore Opera visited recently and presented a program for the school’s music students.

“We just started a marching band this year. The kids have really embraced it.”

“Southwest Academy partners with the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Nu Sigma Sigma Chapter to mentor boys and provide STEM activities/field trips two Saturdays each month.” The students go to conferences, the Black Engineering Conference’s school day, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and more. The mentors and students participate in many activities including working with computers and remote control airplanes. Speakers come in to talk to the students about career and college options.

Members of the school’s Get Global club email pen pals around the world and host an annual festival that celebrates all the cultures in the Woodlawn community.

School traditions

Every morning begins with students eating a complimentary breakfast with their teachers and classmates during homeroom period. To open the day, students recite the pledge of allegiance, a school pledge, and participate in a daily character education lesson and activity.

“A new school tradition is about to begin. Our performing arts chair Ronald McFadden initiated a schoolwide contest for students to write a school song. The school has never had a song before. Entries are due next month, and on the last school day in April, students will vote to select the song.”

Bet you didn’t know…

That “second to Sudbrook Magnet Middle School, our school has the most freshman entrants into Western School of Technology.”

That “prior to being a science and engineering school, we were a performing arts school.”

Southwest Academy Magnet School for Science and Engineering...

Every day... Every student...succeeding.


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