A Visionary Model for the Future of Education: Preparation from Day One
Nov 17, 2015 03:09PM
● By Ryan Frisch
Preparing Rivendell students to meet the challenges of adult life starts early in one of the three preschool classes that started in 2000. Samuel Morey Elementary Principal Gail Keiling says, “Our preschools are an example of the district’s commitment to early education. We started the program way before the state of Vermont’s initiative because we know preschool programs work, and early intervention is really helpful to create strong students.”
The curriculum and structure of the Rivendell school system are creative and innovative. Rivendell Interstate School District Superintendent Brenda Needham says, “We have solid language arts and math programs, but we are very focused on the individual and helping achieve academic success. In an age of standardized testing and a focus on student performance, we haven’t lost art, music, and language programs like other schools.
“Our faculty comes from a variety of places with varied experience; this is deliberate because in a small school, it gives a sense of a more global experience to the students. They can use technology and get information in the classroom, but to experience teachers who have lived in different places and to share their experiences is invaluable.
“We also budget for extended learning opportunities; students have gone to Boston, New York, Quebec, France, and Peru, and we’re planning on going to Spain. Because of cost, many schools have cut out these types of experiences, but we feel they are important.”
How does all this success come about? Teachers at Rivendell take initiative and learn together; twice a month there is a district-wide meeting, and monthly the CFG (Critical Friends Group), 10 teachers from preK through 12, meet as well. At CFG teachers bring a teaching dilemma, student work, or a unit they’re working on and get feedback from their peers.
Gail says, “It’s very organic; each group is focused on something different each month. The beauty of it is that you get different lenses, so to speak, on the topic discussed. So a high school science teacher can get feedback from, for instance, a kindergarten teacher. It’s things like this that build a professional, successful, student-focused learning district.”