MARYSVILLE — The first day of school for students started Wednesday, Sept. 4, but Marysville School District faculty and staff have been returning to their schools since at least Thursday, Aug. 29, and many of them began getting ready well before then.
At Cedarcrest Middle School on Aug. 29, while paraprofessional staff gathered in the auditorium to discuss such subjects as the legal procedures of harassment, intimidation and bullying reporting, the school’s educators went over both the new Common Core State Standards of Washington and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college-readiness system which has been adopted by 47 states, including Washington.
“Common Core focuses on student learning and growth over time,” said Dr. Sheila Gerrish, principal of Cedarcrest Middle School. “If they’re not learning, the question becomes, what do we do to adjust the instruction to meet their needs?”
While AVID has already been implemented in Marysville schools such as Totem Middle School and Marysville Getchell High School’s Academy of Construction and Engineering, this school year will mark its first year of full implementation at Cedarcrest Middle School.
“We have students who have GPAs in the 2.0 to 3.5 range, but their test scores are really strong, so we’re looking to address that disconnect,” said Gerrish, who explained that AVID is being offered as a seventh-grade elective, but Common Core is being implemented school-wide. “It’s all about intentionality. Before, we were very focused on academic achievement, which measures how students are doing at one point in time, but now, we know the direction we want our kids to be heading in, and we can see if they’re making it along the way, and if they’re not, we ask ourselves what we can do so that they can meet their learning targets. We continually conduct assessments as we go.”
Gerrish commended her teachers for their commitment to their students, noting that many of them had already been coming to school for a few weeks, preparing their rooms for the arrivals of their new classes.
“Our staff demonstrates the highest levels of professionalism and dedication,” Gerrish said. “They care tremendously about middle school kids.”
Eighth-grade algebra teacher Colleen Thomas has cared about the students of Cedarcrest Middle School enough not only to stick around for 17 years, but also to train up over the summer on new lessons and instructional techniques to incorporate into each year’s classes.
“This summer, I was part of the STEM Teacher Externship Program for the Washington Association of Better Schools for three weeks,” said Thomas, who has also received AVID training outside of school. “I put all of that back into the classroom. The new math and agile minds stuff is great, but it’s new, so it’s an adjustment.”
Thomas spends not only time but also money on gearing up for each school year, this year by purchasing a tablet for the classroom with her own money in addition to the regular assortment of school supplies that she already pays for out-of-pocket.
“It’s because of the hopes I have for these kids, as our future,” said Thomas, a National Board Certified Teacher. “I always wind up doing something new each year, but you need to be passionate about delivering a rigorous, high-quality education. There are those kids who come into middle school and think they can just blow it off and then step up their game in high school because that’s when it supposedly starts to count, but what we as teachers need to do, and what these kids’ high school and college mentors need to do, is pass onto them that, if they blow off middle school, they’ll either be taking high school for five years or dropping out. We have to be accountable.”
Lynn Dykgraaf teaches world history to sophomores, U.S. history to juniors and a senior elective class in psychology at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. After he and his fellow M-PHS teachers received their own training on Common Core State Standards on the morning of Aug. 29, Dykgraaf was visited teachers from the Marysville Arts & Technology High School that afternoon, who came to see him about implementing their own psychology elective class.
“The new state and federal guidelines have been unending for the past 15 years,” said Dykgraaf, who’s taught at M-PHS for 31 of his 32 years in education. “This has been a bigger year than usual for those types of changes, because of the new teacher evaluation system, but the whole social studies department piloted that program last year.”
Dykgraaf’s fondness for teaching young people has not only given him the motivation to make such transitions at M-PHS for more than three decades, but it’s also why he founded the Everett Rowing Association and still devotes two to three hours of each weekday afternoon training kids through that organization.
“You’ve got to love kids to do this job, and social studies has become an especially relevant subject in the past 15 years of real-world events,” Dykgraaf said.
M-PHS Principal Andrew Frost elaborated that the Common Core training for teachers puts them through their paces in studying the material in the same ways that their students will be expected to do.
“When those kids read assignments, they’ll be analyzing and breaking down the material on deeper levels than they were ever asked to do before,” Frost said. “If our teachers practice doing the same, they’ll understand better how to make that shift.”
Frost sees this style of education as corresponding with M-PHS as a “professional learning community,” in which teachers learn from one another.
“We’ve got a great team that’s very excited about the new school year,” Frost said.
While the first day of school occurred after this issue’s press deadline, you can read about it in the Sept. 11 issue of The Marysville Globe.