Despite all the challenges COVID brought to schools in the 2020-2021 school year, some educators have taken the opportunity to reinvent some aspects and programs of their schools.
Brad van Middelkoop, vice principal at St. Mary’s middle school, explained the changes and option classes that will be implemented this fall.
“One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that there was a little bit of time to re-think the way we schedule classes at St. Mary’s school … Now we’re going to do three trimesters with two options each, so it’ll be a total of six options in a year and each grade is choosing from a list of about 20 different options, with about 10 of those being brand new.”
Middelkoop says he talked to all staff members and asked them about what they’re interested in, what they like or what gets them excited.
“They’d give me a list of stuff and I’d say, ‘well these things here, could you teach an option on those?’ and they said, ‘of course I can, that sounds awesome!’ So that’s kind of how the option programming was born.”
The list of options that will be offered to varying grade levels are Art, Band, CSI, Cosmetology, Drama, Foods, Games, Guitar, Academic Support, Outdoor Education, First Aid, Fitness, Driver’s Ed, Sports and Recreation, Mythology, Visual Communications, Performing Arts, Rube Goldberg, Shop, Psychology, Biology and Robotics.
They will also be adding a flex block to the timetable for all students, where teachers can get a feel for what the kids would like to focus on and go from there, van Middelkoop explained. He says everything from typing skills to mental health will be covered.
“Even though it’s going to be a lot of work for teachers over the summer to develop these courses and have them ready for the kids in the fall, our goal was really that every kid would be able to get six of their top eight requested options,” said Callie Sheppard, teacher and counsellor at St. Mary’s.
“So we really tried to come up with some new and different ideas of what kids might be interested in and … we found out what the most highly requested options were and then we developed our schedule based on what the kids were interested in.”
Sharla Lindsay, parent of a student at St. Mary’s and a member of the parent council, is really excited about what the school is doing for the students with all the new and different options.
“I’m super excited for the students, I feel that the school is really trying to reach the kids in a different realm,” said Lindsay. “Like doing the whole gaming thing, because let’s be realistic, that’s what kids do. I’m excited that there will be stuff to teach them about the safety aspects of it.”
Brynn Retzler is going into Grade 9 at St. Mary’s this fall.
“I was pretty excited that I could choose more options this year,” said Retzler. “I’m planning on taking guitar, art, archery, foods, games and industrial arts.”
Lindsay also explained why she thinks the wide variety of options is so important.
“I think it’s really important to learn these life skills,” said Lindsay. “It’s not all academics, some do thrive in that, but they can thrive in other areas. It builds confidence.”
Sheppard is excited for what the new school year will look like.
“We want to rejuvenate that love of learning and that love of going to school,” said Sheppard. “Especially after this last year and a half.”
LAUREN THOMSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News