High school gains national honours

These are exciting times for a pilot project at William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler.

These are exciting times for a pilot project at William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler.

National recognition has created a proud moment for educators and students at the school.

The school’s High School Flexibility Enhancement Pilot Project received honourable mention in the Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

It was among the 15 honourees from the 73 applicants.

“I am incredibly proud any time any of our schools gets recognized for their good work,” said Clearview School Division superintendent John Bailey.

The excitement had been two-fold.

Myranda Shepherd, a vice-principal at William E. Hay, said a team of teachers and students from the school was the first international delegation to be invited to Washington, D.C., for the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference.

“It was a humbling experience,” she said. “Our staff perhaps doesn’t fully understand how phenomenal they are and how innovative the work is they do.”

Seven teachers and three students from Stettler attended the four-day conference, where they presented a 90-minute showcase of the “flex” project.

The delegation headed by principal Norb Baharally and vice-principal Shepherd, included teachers Joe Thibeau, Janine Klevgaard, Audra Lotoski, Dianne Enyedy and Alicia Kneeland.

Also participating were Grade 11 students Aaryn Lynham and Morgan Sorensen and Grade 12 student Claire Aspenes.

They were selected from 20 students in an application process.

The Stettler school is one of 16 schools in school divisions across Alberta involved in the three-year pilot project.

This is the final year of the project, but Bailey said the provincial education department is pleased enough with the results that it has extended and expanded the project to include more school divisions next year.

Shepherd was pleased with the extension on the successful program.

“There is no way we could remove the program now — it would be going backwards for us,” she said.

The program was designed so students are unable to go unnoticed and fall between the cracks.

The project grants schools the freedom to remove the Carnegie Unit — a standardized time requirement for the attainment of high school credits.

“There was an assumption that students learn at the same rate,” Shepherd said.

Educators are provided with the latitude to redesign the school timetable to rethink and personalize their students’ high school experience.

Teacher Advisors (TAs) are allocated regular class time each week to interact with students on a completely different level.

Students have flex time — a block of time created to allow students the opportunity to determine their area of greatest need and be able to access any teacher in the school.

Staff has been able to show with statistics the positive impacts education can have on students with the removal of the Carnegie Unit.

Student personalization was dramatically increased and students are more engaged, largely due to the fact that there are more one-on-one conversations happening, say those involved in the project.

“It increases student accountability,” Shepherd said.

She said the popularity of the pilot project has seen numerous visits by other schools to William E. Hay.

On average, there are at least two visits per month from other “school teams,” Shepherd said.

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