I was, what I consider to be, a traditional high school student.  I played softball and volleyball, I earned okay grades (could have done WAY better), got in my fair share of trouble and had a bit of an attendance issue (specifically my senior year). I didn’t like high school but I got through it…barely. Up until recently I would look back at my experience, shrug my shoulders and was thankful it was over – thankful I ended up at a college I loved and thrived at in spite of not having a great high school experience.  

Over the past few weeks I have been in countless meetings and conversations with High School educators and administrators.  I do a lot of listening and reflecting at these meetings, I don’t have much to add not only because I was an elementary teacher and principal but because things have changed SO much since I was in High School!!!

Our high schools are doing such an amazing job ensuring that students graduate college, career, and community ready.  The first time I saw “community” added to this was in Kaneland when I was delivering a workshop and I stopped mid sentence and reflected on the importance of our students being community ready – it really is a profound statement.  I was academically ready for college but I was NOT community ready. Ready to cohabitant with others in confined quarters, be a contributing member of society who gives back, models core values, is open and reflective, etc.. Our schools are doing a much better job today than they did when I was in High School, over 15 years ago, ensuring students are ready to be contributing members of their community.  I see high school students volunteering, collaborating, solving problems, and interacting in their communities more than I ever had in the past….Keep up the great work. 

Helping our students be community ready is only one example of how schools are better preparing students for life after High School.  There are countless new programs, resources, and experiences available to our students today so that we can tap into each of our students interests and talents to provide a meaningful, personalized, high school experience for all!  Over the past few weeks I was blown away (and overwhelmed) by all the amazing work our high schools are doing to provide a meaningful and memorable experience for our students. I know I won’t even scratch the surface when I begin to describe the amazing work our schools are doing, but I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t take the time to highlight the many successes taking place each day across our High Schools on a daily basis.

I have recently had the opportunity to host two roundtable discussions geared towards our High School educators.  

At the Blended Learning Roundtable I was blown away to hear about the creative ways our districts are providing blended opportunities while adhering to state and board policies.  In addition to the unique and various implementation plans, the amount of professional development and support that is provided/offered to our teachers taking on a blended learning course to ensure they are supported and prepared to offer this experience to their students is remarkable.

I also had the benefit of attending an Edmentum Courseware roundtable.  Again, the outside the box thinking on how our districts are supporting students through credit recovery, Alternative Learning Opportunity Programs (ALOPs), homebound, and creating opportunities for students to take additional courses that can’t traditionally be offered due to teacher shortage, student’s schedules, low enrollment, etc. through the use of Edmentum was fascinating and eye-opening.

At the Edmentum Roundtable a side conversation was started about Career and Technical Education Pathways (CTE).  Many of our High Schools are partnering to provide more CTE courses top our students, for example you can be a student attending HS in one district and take a bus to another district to participate in their CTE course!  This is remarkable as it opens the door to more pathways for our students to be able to benefit from and take advantage of – Again, talk about outside the box thinking!!  

I could go on all day talking about Incubators, Elearning opportunities, Best Buddies, the variety of electives available now.  The bottom line is that we, as educators, are doing an amazing job every day providing resources, programing, and supports to our students that weren’t available to us when we were in school.  Again, I didn’t even scratch the surface in talking about all the amazing opportunities provided to our High School students. Please share below one thing you are proud of that your High School offers or does that wasn’t available (or you didn’t know about) when you were in High School!!

Thank you for all you do to make High School and experience to remember and benefit from, not one that adults look back on and think, “Well I survived”.  Keep up the great work!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning

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