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Countryman: Sycamore provides unique opportunities

Published: Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

Weather Forecast … DeKalb County … Week of October 21: The beginning of the week will be mild with temperatures nearing the mid 70s but, by week’s end, we will see highs only in the mid-40s.

It is definitely fall in the Midwest. It is hard to believe that it also is the end of the first quarter of learning for students in the Sycamore School District.

Our mission states the following: “Empowering all learners to succeed in their world.” To meet this mission, we continue to focus on student achievement and providing unique opportunities for learning for staff and students. In addition to the district’s mission, educational initiatives, both nationally and locally, have focused on ensuring that students are career and/or college ready as they leave high school.

To address these goals, Sycamore staff measures student achievement in many ways. We utilize assessment tools as provided by the state, as well as those developed by staff and in some cases, self-assessments developed by students. We also have continued to focus on student achievement in ways that may not be measured by a percentage or a single piece of data. As a part of our vision for learning, our strategic design states:

• Learning occurs in authentic ways and in authentic environments.

• Students find joy in their learning.

The following are a few examples of how we are hoping to meet the above vision statements for our students as they become career and/or college ready.

Teacher Assistant Program

Through this program, students at Sycamore High School spend an hour each day as a teacher assistant at an assigned school. Students receive high school credit and write reflections on their experience.

Students in this experience have an opportunity to connect with teacher role models as well as students. Many of these students are considering a career in education.

Business and Agriculture Academy

Students at Sycamore High School in these programs can receive Sycamore High School as well as Kishwaukee College credit. The courses involve a rigorous curriculum with a main component being community experiences. Students learn from area businesses who have generously volunteered their time to engage students in career opportunities.

Northern Illinois University

Sycamore High School seniors had an opportunity this fall to visit NIU for a day to experience what the college environment is like. The day involved tours as well as lectures from staff and students at NIU.

The goal of this trip was to expose students to life on a college campus as they begin to look at their post-high-school path.

In addition to the above academic opportunities we also feel that students need experience in community service. This year some of the following programs are available to students.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, which is affiliated with The Family Service Agency, high school students are matched with a “little,” or elementary student, to mentor. These students participate in activities, share conversation and create lasting relationships.

Service Clubs

Key Club and Interact are two of the service clubs in which students can participate. These clubs are arms of Kiwanis and Rotary. These groups complete many, many hours of community service. Most recently they have collaborated to work on a project at the historical North Grove School.

There are many more examples that I could list but wanted to share a few of these opportunities. Our staff and students are lucky to have a community that supports learning in authentic ways. It is our goal that students will become academically ready for their next step, whatever that may be and have had opportunities to become engaged community members.

So while we can’t predict the weather this time of year, what we can predict is that, with a vision for using a common sense approach to education that includes academic rigor and unique opportunities, students will succeed in their world.

• Kathy Countryman is superintendent of schools in Sycamore District 427.

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