A message from Assistant Superintendent Jane Ann Kammeyer:
As a grandparent, I love when my little ones ask all those why questions. Every parent and teacher knows that young children ask a lot of questions. Young children have more questions than answer and they have an amazing sense of wonder. In the January 2016, ASCD Education Update, Kathy Checkley wrote about Oakland Elementary School in Inman, South Carolina. In the first grade at Oakland Elementary, the students have many questions and they know where to go for the answers. They could ask their teacher, but more often than not, students will write down their questions and post them on the “Wonder Wall” located in the main hallway of the school. Fourth grade students are responsible for selecting a question, researching the topic, and then posting their answers for the entire school to see.
This activity supports many learning goals: the younger students learn that asking questions is encouraged and they recognize that their teachers and other students can be reliable sources of information. Fourth Grade students research answers to the questions and share what they have learned. When we give students time and space to wonder and follow their curiosity, students extend their learning far beyond expectations.
We can create classrooms that are not merely academic but also intellectual if we will explicitly invite students to ask probing questions. “The desire to know something has to be protected at all costs,” states Wendy Ostroff, a cognitive science and developmental psychology professor. “Preserving and cultivating curiosity in the classroom has to be our number one priority.”
Asking subject-matter questions is important, but the process of encouraging kids to come up with the questions that matter to them is even better. In the September 2015 issue of Educational Leadership, Alfie Kohn states, “Deep questions help kids stay curious and grow increasingly resourceful at figuring things out, and become active meaning makers.” Subject-matter relevance comes, as students become active meaning makers through their questions.
With technology, we have answers to just about any question we can think of right at our fingertips. In today’s world, again through technology, we find ourselves increasingly surrounded by new and unfamiliar information; we are experiencing something like being a young child, with our many questions, all over again. Everywhere we look; there is something to wonder about and investigate.
To help our students be successful in school and add relevance to their learning, as grandparents, parents and teachers, one of our most important jobs is to foster student’s curiosity and teach them to ask good questions.
While attending a summit along with 40 other superintendents from around the country, I had the unique privilege to meet Sir Ken Robinson. Many of you have listened to Sir Ken’s TED talk on creativity. That TED talk has been viewed more than 43 million times.
During a break, Sir Ken and I discussed several issues currently facing public education. As we visited, he shared a fascinating analogy that resonated profoundly with me. He reminded me that mass education is often compared to manufacturing and the industrial revolution. Sir Ken stated that a more proper analogy for education would be industrial agriculture. I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t following him. He continued, “The period of industrialization also brought great changes to farming, including the invention of mechanical ploughs and threshing machines. Additionally, the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides massively increased yields and productivity. Industrialized farming produced vast efficiencies in planting, harvesting and processing crops.”
I nodded my head, assuming this achievement was a good thing. But, Sir Ken argued that these advancements had come at a heavy cost. In many parts of the world, that price has been the degradation of the soil to the point where sustainability of these practices is in serious question. “You see,” Sir Ken stressed, “the emphasis was on yields and efficiencies. No one was paying attention to the soil.” He then described the practices of organic farmers, where the emphasis is not primarily on the outputs (crop yield) but on nurturing the soil itself, which differs fundamentally from industrial agriculture.
Then, he drove his point home, “As with industrial farming, the focus in education has been on outputs and yields rather than nurturing the children.” Now I got it! When we focus predominantly on educational outputs and fail to address the needs of the whole child it’s comparable to neglecting the soil. As we work with young people, we must never become so focused on yields and outputs that we forget about the children themselves and the vital role we play in nurturing their growth and development. It’s precisely what we’ve come to call, “The Weber Way!”
December is an exciting month with all of the holiday activities, the music, and the gatherings with family and friends sharing traditions and the spirit of the season. It is about the relationships we have with those we care about. I feel very fortunate, that on a daily basis I get to work with people that I call my friends. I have the opportunity of collaborating with talented teachers, administrators and support staff who are driven by a desire to help all students. Just as important as our education family are the amazing students we work with every day. I see the strong bonds developed between a caring educator and their students and how it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to teaching and learning.
During our October Professional Learning Day, conversations were centered around Relationships, Rigor and Relevance. You can see that the word relationship is first. As educators we must establish stable, warm, and trusting environments for students. One of our amazing educators, tells of a story when he was a science teacher. He was working with a small group of students and they had been asking him several questions. One of them said he had one more question and then asked, "How do you make every student feel like they are your favorite?" If we want to ensure students learn, communicate and think at high levels, we have to develop positive, trusting relationships with students, all students.
In a TED Talk, Rita Pierson challenges teachers to understand the power of relationships. She believes deeply in forming strong bonds with her students: through simple things like apologizing, laughing and just acknowledging their successes. Rita states, "Strong relationships encourage learner exploration, dialogue, confidence, and mutual respect."
In Weber School District, we have great people doing great things that impact the lives of our children every day. Continue to value caring, professional relationships between students and teachers. Enjoy the month of December and the energy the students bring to the classroom ... even though you are exhausted from all the holiday activities. May you treasure this season and all of its wonder as you surround yourself with family and friends. Happy Holidays!
Jane Ann Kammeyer
Every day for the past 25 years I have gone to work in Weber School District. It has been so much more than a job to me. Working with and knowing all of the wonderful students, families, administrators, staff, and business partners, has made the past twenty-five years of my life as rich and rewarding as I could have ever hoped for! Weber School District is a place where people really, really care for one another, champion each other's successes and support each other in challenging times. It has always been my goal to make the place that means so much to me a better place for students and staff. I have learned so much from all of you and truly value my experience. More than anything, I will miss the great people I have met and been able to work with every day. I consider every student I have ever known a friend, and every educator a valued colleague. Thank you for letting me be part of your lives and for being an unforgettable part of mine!
On behalf of the entire school district, we want to congratulate Reid on his appointment as superintendent of the Davis School District. For the past 25 years, Reid has served tirelessly as a teacher, coach, principal, CTE Director, Executive Director of Secondary Education and most recently as Assistant Superintendent and principal of Weber Innovation High. His influence and impact on students, teachers and our community has been tremendous! We are so grateful for his dedicated leadership and wish him the very best as he transitions into his new assignment.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is an oft-asked question that a student hears throughout their school career. While many have “no idea” what they want to pursue for future employment, for those that do, Weber School District has phenomenal opportunities available. Over the past nine years, WSD’s Internship program has grown from 40 students to over 140 students per semester. Having an internship has brought a whole new meaning to a young adult’s education as employer/mentors offer experiences as diverse as the workplace itself. Law enforcement, physical therapy, accounting, multiple health professions, engineering, education, and veterinarians are just some of the occupations that our students are able to experience. The opportunities encompass the full spectrum of real-world, relevant experience.
The cooperation and willingness of our business partners is incredible and indicative of the kind of support we receive in Weber School District on behalf of our students. Business Partners are establishing expectations, competencies and benchmarks that they want the interns to reach while out in the workplace. It’s not enough to just show up anymore, students are expected to develop skills related to their work experiences. With these higher expectations, the students come away feeling like they have really done something, having been involved in meaningful projects related to advancing the business. They become, as Dave Harris, engineer from Fresenius, put it, “Value added.”
Mr. Jeff Meyer, our CTE Work-Based Learning Coordinator organizes, initiates and manages Weber District’s Internship program and is a fantastic ambassador for this outstanding opportunity. With each quarter’s experience students submit a reflection sheet about their experiences to Mr. Meyer. When asked about some of the things that are related by the students, Mr. Meyer said that the most common phrase he sees is “…this was the best experience of my Senior/Junior Year,” and that feeling is echoed by our employers/mentors. Even though the internship is not meant to be a paid experience last spring alone more than 20 of our student interns had been hired in one capacity or another at their internship site. That number is especially high when many of our business partners are limited due to the post-secondary degree and certification requirements of their employees.
It would be difficult for our schools to replicate the type of learning that students receive through their internships. Many students realize these are the jobs that they want to pursue for their career and use it as a springboard as they continue on to post-secondary education. Some find out that the occupation is not for them and are able to pursue other careers. Regardless of the situation, each one of our students has developed soft skills pertaining to work-place etiquette and protocols that they will be able to utilize in whatever their pursuits may be. Student Internships….another part of “The Weber Way”!
Overarching Educational Truths -
As we settle into this new school year, I am once again reminded that working in schools is one of the most exhilarating, rewarding and demanding jobs that exists. While we interact closely with young people and provide them with a high-quality, broad education there are some overarching truths that can guide our efforts. By no means is this an exhaustive list. I know each of you could add something significant based on your experience and insight. Following are a few principles that have given me direction:
I invite each of you to consider these overarching truths as we begin this new school year. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many!
Welcome Back to School!
The advertisements for back to school are running. A new energy builds in the air as it draws closer to that time -- time for our kids to load up their backpacks, don their new clothes and head back to school. It can be a hard transition going from the freedom of summer to the structure of being a full-time student. But you know it is worth it. There is nothing like getting a good education, it gives our children a foundation for the rest of their lives.
Welcome back to all Weber School District students, teachers, support staff and administrators. We hope you have had a rejuvenating, great summer. I know teachers look forward with great anticipation to meeting their new students. Our teachers and administrators have been busy preparing for the 2016-17 school year and are ready to provide an outstanding educational experience for all students.
Though the halls of our schools have been quiet over the summer, a lot has happened. We appreciate the maintenance staff, custodians and computer techs that have all been busy preparing the buildings and grounds for the return of students. It is that time of year when we are excited to once again hear the sounds of students in the halls and classrooms...the sounds of learning.
As students walk through the school doors in August, you will be able to count on what is known in our district as the Weber Way: a whole child culture with a passionate, talented and dedicated faculty who go above and beyond to bring out the best in children. Welcome to the 2016-17 school year. May this year be filled with hope, anticipation, new learning and great growth.
Training always makes a difference!
A few weeks ago at Fremont High School, in one of our athletic training classes a student/athlete suddenly experienced a life threatening medical emergency. As the student lay motionless on the gymnasium floor, a group of our great coaches and teachers sprang into action. 911 was called, and CPR was initiated on the student in jeopardy. While doing CPR one of the coaches ran for the AED (automatic external defibrillator) machine installed outside the door of the gym while others ushered the other student/athletes to another room. Under the direction of the AED machine, the student was shocked 3 times amidst vigorous CPR administered by the coaching staff. Plain City Fire and others responded quickly and the student was transported to the hospital for treatment of this serious incident. Fortunately for this student and his family he is well on his way to a full recovery, thanks in large part to the initial care provided by an excellently prepared, caring coaching staff at Fremont High School. When asked about the incident Mr. Cole Price stated that "the training we received from our School Nurse, Mrs. Pam Ballif and Mr. Doug Kapp last year really paid off when it counted."
As Orion Junior closed out the school year, their student failure rate was an incredible 1%! Although we expect and want every student to succeed, for Orion's great staff to pull students through at that rate is a tremendous testament to their dedication and the massive amount of training and preparation they have participated in as a staff over the past several years. Joe Jensen, Principal of Orem Junior High and the 2013-14 Principal of the Year in Utah stated, "Research shows that the most likely people to not graduate are those who build a credit hole in 9th grade." This fact is something we have known as a district and are working hard to eliminate....the staff at Orion, has prepared to tackle this challenge.
The success of our Roy Cone Project has been well documented and recognized to the extent that in the past legislative session Representative Ann Millner ran and passed a bill earmarking funding for schools to duplicate the Roy Cone Model. Every school in the Roy Cone has seen remarkable increases in attendance, student achievement and ultimately graduation rates. This success has come through multiple teacher and staff trainings as well as new and innovative methods adopted by all staff members throughout the cone. They have prepared and trained and the results are that all students are more successful!
Throughout the past 3 years in our Bonneville Cone all of our schools have participated in a training program, Assessment to Achievement, designed to enhance Professional Learning Communities and increase direct intervention with struggling students. The number of students failing and falling through cracks has decreased significantly and they too are seeing increased graduation rates as a result of commitment and dedication to increased learning and training.
Our students get better when we as professionals get better! Attendance, student engagement in school, graduation rates all go up as our dedication, and application of professional training and knowledge goes up. YOU make a difference to the individual as well as to the masses.
As we enter summer break from school, we encourage you to read a book, attend a conference, even just contemplate lesson plans and method of instruction....it all makes us better and in turn saves students' lives....sometimes literally! It's the Weber Way!
Work Worth Doing -
With less than one month remaining in the 2015-16 school year, it is surprising to realize just how quickly this year has gone. I congratulate each of our students, teachers, support professionals and administrators on a successful and productive year. Thank you for your significant work and effort. Certainly, it has made a positive difference!
Earlier in the school year, I invited everyone in our district to rise to a challenge I termed, “The Weber Way.” That challenge entails maintaining a whole child focus, which places an emphasis on providing a rich and comprehensive learning experience for all children, while demonstrating greater awareness of the outside expectations associated with the testing and accountability model that permeates schools throughout our nation. I asked teachers to develop a renewed focus to teach the Utah Core Standards, allow all students to participate in interim SAGE assessments to familiarize them with testing formats and ease test anxiety, and take advantage of more instructional time by spiraling the curriculum and teaching for deep understanding rather than extensive year-end reviews. Great efforts have been made to prepare students for SAGE testing WITHOUT sacrificing what we know is right for children. That is an extraordinary thing! I know this has required extra work and effort on the part of every employee.
I have been pleased by the tremendous strides made to do things “The Weber Way.” Recently, I was presented with a replica road sign that reads, “The Weber Way.” It hangs in my office. Someone even suggested that Adams Avenue (in front of the district office) be renamed “Weber Way.” The “Weber Way” suggests that there is a right way to do things and that’s the way we do it in our district.
I love to read about Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States. Teddy grew up a sickly child in a wealthy family. Under such circumstances, he could have easily chosen a life of comfort and ease, but he didn’t. Rather, Teddy became an avid outdoorsman and competitive athlete. Most recall his leadership with the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill, as well as his successful political career. While governor of New York, Roosevelt preached what he called the “doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife.” With great conviction, he once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” I agree. The work with which each of us is engaged is definitely “work worth doing.” On behalf of the Board of Education, I wish to thank every one of you for a great school year.