I had the pleasure of giving my niece and nephew, both high school students in Minneapolis, a tour of West Homer this summer during their visit to Alaska this summer. As I walked the halls and described our school, I was struck by how many positive changes we have made these past 3 years and how each member of our community has contributed to making this place such a vibrant, creative educational environment. They loved the newly painted sign, retaining wall and light post bases. When they first entered the school, they commented on the mural and I was able to tell the story of its evolution from our mission and vision statements. They read staff commitment statements and felt like this was a place they would have liked to go to school. They saw the dishwasher standing prominently in the hall and I explained the years-long effort to reduce single use plastics. We walked the trail and I noted how it is an extension of our science curriculum, and how our science night this year was not a traditional science fair competition, but rather an inquiry-based event designed to engage students and parents alike. We talked about goal setting and quarterly assemblies. They lamented the fact that all the same kids at their school got all the awards every quarter and appreciated the opportunity we provide everyone to reflect on and celebrate their own learning achievements.
The new bus turn around was going in and I talked through our efforts to separate bus traffic from parent pickup, and my sister-in-law who has spent many hours in parent pick up and drop off lines immediately understood the safety and efficiency this will provide.
They commented on the school-wide expectations posted in the halls and the positive messages in the bathrooms. We walked into a couple rooms and they noticed PBIS student interactive boards where students could make positive comments on other students’ behavior, and bathroom checkout systems that give student’s control. They groaned about having to always raise their hands and wait for a teacher to go to the bathroom when they were in school. They noted clear “I can…” statements and rubrics they saw and wished when they were young that goals had been so clearly communicated to them. I shared how we get ideas from each other by visiting each other’s classrooms and they could not remember a time in their elementary school careers where another teacher had entered their classroom to learn.
I am so happy to be a part of this school community as we are always looking to find ways to improve the educational experience we provide with an eye toward helping students develop the courage and confidence to make positive contributions to the world.
Eric Waltenbaugh, Principal