The event, free and open to all community members, features scheduled tours of the school starting at 9 a.m. that will emphasize 21st Century Learning, Project Based Learning and 1:1 Technology Initiative through the lens of strategic teaching.
“Our visitors will be able to tour the classrooms and see (these initiatives) in action,” WHS Principal Michelle Head said. “In our auditorium, we’ll also be showcasing our PBL projects that have been completed throughout the year. We’ve sent out invitations and we’ve tried to reach as many stakeholders as possible — that (includes) legislators, family members, community members and administrators from other school systems.”
According to Coordinator for Instructional Technology and former WHS Principal Craig Bates, the school’s journey into the modernized initiatives began in 2008 during former Talladega County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Elsberry’s final months with the system — progress continued by current Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Lacey.
“(Elsberry) had done some research, along with (Principal Vicky Ozment) and a few others, that (served) as the initial groundwork,” Bates said. “When Lacey became superintendent (around the same time I was hired as) principal,” she said, ‘We’re going to continue this work and hopefully, make some type of dramatic change at Winterboro because I feel like it’s a good candidate for a pilot program and we need some change.’”
Bates noted he spent his first year working with Lacey to build on the research of their predecessors regarding the concepts of 21st Century Learning and PBL.
“We visited some other schools in Indiana and we spoke with a consultant group (during this process),” Bates said. “We started creating our own model in the spring of 2009. We started construction in the school to make the school look different and (made purchases during the spring and summer) to prepare for the new school year. Our goal was to open in August 2009 with a completely different way of teaching and learning.”
Throughout the process, Bates stated there was very little pushback from teachers or students as the school made its transition.
“I don’t think there was any question about whether it was the right thing to do, it was just different,” Bates said. “It wasn’t very long before we noticed a drastic change in the school’s culture and in the way students and teachers thought about learning. We had quite a few parents who had questions, but I think once they saw students were excited about learning, what they were doing in class and how we were going to have them better prepared for their career choices and college, they were excited about what we were doing,”
“For teachers, it’s hard because it takes more time to plan and it’s not a traditional way that a lot of teachers are familiar with (implementing),” Bates added. “Up until recently, teacher education programs weren’t really focused on things like PBL. It took some teachers outside of their comfort zones, but I think all-in-all, it’s worked out really well.”
The numbers would support Bates’ theory that the shift to the new education initiatives became a boon for the school and led to Winterboro being crowned as the benchmark for other county schools to follow.
“Our attendance rate went up,” Bates said. “Children were more excited about school. Creativity was abundant in what students were able to produce when they were working on projects. Also, our test data was higher. In 2008, our graduation rate was 63 percent. Now, it’s at 88 percent.”
Head said she was looking forward to the opportunity to display the continued success of these initiatives at the school.
“I think we’ve gotten stronger,” Head said. “We’ve implemented small-group instruction into our high school. It’s commonly found in elementary classrooms, but it’s very effective. We do consider ourselves the school that launched PBL in Talladega County and we just want to maintain the momentum that Bates started here. We’re just excited to showcase all the great things that are happening at Winterboro.”
To RSVP for a tour slot, visit www.tinyurl.com/winterboroopenhouse.
Contact Shane Dunaway at email@example.com