Archive for Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Students encouraged to explore many options

May 22, 2002

Junior High! As adults we all have memories of what it was like to go through the tremendous years of growth in adolescence. If you can, try to remember what it was like to have your body start to do some really weird things: out growing jeans in a month, your voice starting to sound like something that vaguely reminds you of an adult voice that you hear around the house, and feelings about the opposite sex that are now the exact opposite of "yucky." The great thing about the middle level years is that we have an opportunity to truly mold their hearts, minds and dreams. As principal at Tonganoxie Junior High School, I am thrilled to be in a position where I know that the difference we make here will impact the rest of their life. I am also excited to know that we have an absolutely top-notch staff that is dedicated to the success of our students.

This year my oldest son entered our school for the first time. I was a little worried that he would be concerned about having a dad for a principal, but he was so excited over the opportunities that our school would give him in the coming three years that he has forgot the fact that Dad is also there (I won't even discuss the incriminating pictures of him I have as a tot in the bathtub with his brothers). As I sit back and consider all that our school is able to do for kids at this age, I am amazed.

Our core curriculum area teachers of math, science, language arts and social studies are doing the job so well that they take the super kids that come to our school every day and teach them to the point that they score as high or higher than almost any school in Kansas. Considering that Kansas is in the top 10 states in the nation as measured by standardized test scores, our kids being at the very top of that group is saying something.

The junior high school that my sons will attend (I have three that will work their through our junior high school) has a program that is being copied across the state and coast to coast that insures that the focus on the school is academic achievement. The program is called the Renaissance PRIDE Program, We believe that students will achieve what we choose to respect, recognize, reward and reinforce. Schools across our nation have done it for years with athletics. We want to make sure we celebrate academic achievement much more than we do athletic achievement. We also strive to make the respect, recognition, rewards and reinforcement available to any student who strives to work for excellence. Because of our strong teaching performances, super kids and the celebration of excellence in the classroom, roughly 60 percent of our students perform at the honor roll level. We score at or near the standard of excellence on the state assessments every year. Our national standardized test scores of our students continue to be top notch. Because of this authentic success, our students' self-esteem is high for good reason.

In addition to the core curriculum classes that our students take, we have a super group of classes that allow exploration in many different activities and possible future vocations. Our students can take classes in industrial arts and technology, computer keyboarding, art, family and consumer sciences, band, choir, Spanish, yearbook, mass media (radio and TV production), and ninth grade students can also take classes in debate/forensics and agriculture. Our dedicated staff relish the opportunity to touch lives in their own unique way through each of these experiences.

The number of extra-curricular activities our students have the opportunity to participate in this is mindboggling. When I went to junior high we basically had sports or nothing. We do have a wonderful athletics program that has at its heart the philosophy "everyone gets to play." Students can choose to play football, volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, wrestling and/or track. If you are a ninth-grader you can also choose to participate in cross country, softball, soccer or baseball. We have chosen to do beyond these opportunities in dramatic fashion. We offer an after-school program that offers unique opportunities and keeps kids busy. Research shows that students who are involved in extra-curricular activities perform academically significantly above students who are not involved.

We know that this age of student is growing not only academically and physically, but they are also growing socially. We hope to work as partners with parents in the building of one's character and the difference between "right" and "wrong." We know that building a child's character takes more than just learning about positive character traits that we all can agree on. Building a character is not something one can just learn in a book. True character is forged like steel. The more it is heated and worked, the harder and more resilient the steel becomes.

Another important ingredient in building strong steel and strong children is to have good raw materials to work with. We have wonderful raw material in our kids! As our parents and our school work together to work and develop our kids, it is a combination of pleasure and pain that we go through as the "metal workers." But the benefits of having a strong family backed by a superb school in this process can be astounding. We at Tonganoxie Junior High School relish the opportunity that you give us by allowing us to educate Tonganoxie's children. We promise to do it to the best of our ability. After all, most of us who work as educators in Tonganoxie live in Tonganoxie and our children receive the benefit of a Tonganoxie education. We cannot afford to give anything but our best for our kids. Thank you, Tonganoxie, for your support as we see our kids successfully through these rocky, formative years of adolescence.

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