Back to school!
Schools around town are once again flooded with happy faces and eager learners as the educational year is now underway.
Classes resumed late last week, with staff excited about the coming year and looking forward to emphasizing literacy in all areas.
Brent Runnett, principal of Ross Ford Elementary School, said that the staff will continue to emphasize language arts and math because of recent success in those areas.
“Provincial results were great last year,” said Runnett, referring to the achievement exams, “L.A. and math were a big focus last year, and it paid off.”
He said that the school scored higher than average in those areas. The staff put a renewed focus on those subjects last year and weren’t expecting the immediate improvements that were seen on the results.
In the past, he added, they had been challenged as far as matching the ‘exceptional achievement’ rate, but this past year they pulled it up substantially.
Jeff Thompson, principal of Westglen middle school, said that they are also placing an emphasis on literacy.
“It’s certainly something we’ve always done,” said Thompson, “but we’re trying to put a renewed focus on it.”
He added that they will continue with the personalization of education, “meeting the kids where they’re at emotionally, socially and academically. We’ve got to make sure the children are ready to learn before they can really learn.”
A couple of newer programs continuing from last year include the YES program and the Heroes program.
“We started the YES program last year,” said Thompson. “We have youth mentors that come in and work with the kids. It helps us meet kids where they are, as adolescents.”
Carolyn Massel, vice-principal of Westglen, said that in the program, “kids have a lot of fun. They get really active and do things kids are interested in. They organize different activities, some of which are school wide and some of them are in small groups.”
The Heroes program, said Massel, focuses on building up students’ skills, peer relations, and helps with adolescent issues.
“It sets them up for success,” she added, saying that the program teaches students to be proactive, rather than reactive.
Corynn Sande, who started teaching at Westglen halfway through last year, is clearly excited to be getting into her first September at the school as a Grade 6 homeroom teacher.
“This year I’m working with two other teachers in the Grade 6 class,” said Sande. “And there’s a little less than 80 kids that are going to be in our classroom.”
She said that though it may sound different, “It’s about having three teachers get to know the students really well and then being able to cater to their very different ways of learning. We can do that when we have all the Grade sixers in one room.
“It’s really different, but successful when done properly.”
Garth Dagg, principal of Didsbury High School (DHS), is also looking forward to the new year.
“We have a new shop teacher here that I’m really excited about,” said Dagg, “he’s an interprovincial carpenter.”
Dagg said that this new teacher has been a judge for Skills Canada competitions and has a lot to offer to students interested in the trades.
“Another thing that we’re really looking forward to,” he said, “is our fourth year of running an after-school drama class. It’s a great opportunity for kids to get credit doing something they love and put on a show.”
He added that the school has already booked the TransCanada Theatre in Olds for early December for a musical version of The Wizard of Oz.
The school is also looking at new ways to emphasize literacy, he added. They have been looking at ways to integrate literacy with math and other subjects.
“The demand on students nowadays,” said Dagg, “is even if they’re writing a biology test, there’s so much to read and sort through. If they aren’t a good reader they might get the content, but get confused by some of the questions.
“Literacy is a huge focus where all the teachers in the different curriculums can have that as a focus and hopefully make our students better prepared for some of those written expectations.”
He noted that the athletic and band programs are still going strong as well.
“We’ve always been pretty fortunate to have strong athletic programs,” he said. “Our goal again is to continue that. We also want to continue our strong band program here.” DHS continues to be the provincial leader in what other schools are looking for, he added.