Friday, April 28, 2017

Westonka always asks, "What's best for kids?"

Today's post is from Mark Femrite, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning

As I start to plan for the 17-18 school year, I am reminded about what a special place the Westonka Public Schools is for students, their families and staff.

Over the past 10 years our teachers have implemented new instructional strategies, embraced technology and have developed new ways to meet the individual learning needs of all of our students. It has been quite remarkable the work that has been accomplished on these fronts. The process to innovate has always been the same . . . starting with answering the question, “What’s best for kids?”, then doing our research, piloting and figuring out how best to implement.

This process has served the district well. In the last 10 years, we have implemented the following:
  • The PLC (Professional Learning Communities) School Improvement Model 
  • EDGE21 Technology Plan and K-12 1:1 technology device program 
  • Westonka Tech Intern course at MWHS where students have the opportunity to become certified Dell Chromebook repair technicians 
  • A state grant to provide effective intervention programs for students needing academic support 
  • A new elementary literacy program that focuses on individual needs of students 
  • Incorporation of 21st century skills (critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication and creativity) into student learning 
  • Personalized Learning strategies to deepen student engagement and learning 
  • Implementation of a K-12 engineering program that includes elementary units on engineering, STEM (Stem, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) classes at the middle school and a certified engineering program at the high school leading to college credit 
  • The development of an Integrated STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) high school Physics course 
  • K-12 Phyed implementation of the Heart Zone Fitness Program that has been a game-changer to make physical education more relevant and meaningful to students 
  • The hiring of talented teachers to guide our efforts and support teachers with the implementation of technology and personalized learning strategies 
  • The continued tradition of strong music, theater and art programs across our schools 

All of these innovations started with an idea, a can-do attitude, a supportive school board and a staff willing to step up to the plate to make it happen. Affirming our work have been numerous awards for our schools from outside organizations calling out the exceptional education provided to our students, best-in-state standardized test scores and school districts visiting our schools and engaging in discussions with our staff about our programming and approaches to learning. The greatest compliment was paid when the Minnesota Commission of Education, Brenda Cassellius paid a visit to our school district on Friday, April 21st to learn about approaches to learning and programs for students.

I am excited about what the future holds for Westonka. As I shared at the beginning, the Westonka Public Schools is a special place for students, their families and staff. It is an honor to be a part of this team.

MN Education Commissioner Cassellius visiting with students from the MWHS Integrated Physics Class

MN Education Commissioner Cassellius visiting with Westonka first graders
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