Pearson and AMLE, formerly National Middle School Association working together for adolescents
2011 Teams That Make A Difference Honorees
Grand Prize Winner
Principal: Suzanne Jarrard
Michele Hood, Dawn Richards,
Tracy Kell, Suzanne Jarrard
SOAR Academies of Inquiry & Talent Development
Second Place Winner
|Twin Valley Middle School
Principal: Dr. Susan T. Lloyd
Jennifer Moyer, Jill Dreer,
Meredith Weiss, Nancy Schneider
Raider Pride Student Advocacy Initiative
Third Place Winner
|St. Albans City School
St. Albans, VT
Principal: Joan Cavallo
Peter DesLauriers, Bill Gorman,
John Cioffi, Al Salit
Learning Community Team USA
A team of educators from Chestatee Academy, a public middle school in Hall County Gainesville, Ga., is the Grand Prize winner of the annual Teams That Make A Difference Award, sponsored by the education company Pearson and the Association for Middle Level Education.
The Chestatee Academy team won for its Project SOAR (Seeking Out Authentic Relationships) work to promote students' communication and collaboration by enabling them to take on real-world group projects that also address grade-appropriate learning standards.
Through Project SOAR, Chestatee Academy's clusters of interest-based student groups are established not based on grade level or ability but instead on common learning styles and interests. Students collect data, analyze research, and generate solutions to problems in their field or interest, creating products and services for a community audience and do this without any grades attached!
Recent student projects include
- "Gray's Anatomy," through which students developed healthcare skills while dissecting frogs and fetal pigs, applying their knowledge to human systems and teaching local elementary school children;
- Through "Authors and Poets," students interviewed community leaders and residents at an assisted living complex and wrote their biographies, putting these stories into books for the local library to preserve;
- Students partnered with a local homeless shelter and soup kitchen as part of "Chestatee Gives Back" and "Sustainable Foods," learning about childhood hunger and developing a program to teach nutrition and help soup kitchen patrons grow their own vegetables and fruits.
"Through Project SOAR, our students are taking learning into their own hands, exploring subjects that excite them and overcoming real-world challenges through creativity and critical thinking," said Suzanne Jarrard, Principal, Chestatee Academy. "By joining together and partnering with community organizations, these students are expanding their learning far beyond the walls of a traditional classroom."
The Chestatee team was honored at AMLE's 38th Annual Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, November 10-12, 2011, and presented its winning program. In addition to presenting at the annual conference, the Chestatee team received a $5,000 cash award from Pearson.
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Twin Valley Middle School
A team of educators from Pennsylvania's Twin Valley Middle School is the second place winner of the annual "Teams That Make A Difference Award," sponsored by the education company Pearson and the Association for Middle Level Education. The national award recognizes teachers, administrators, parents, and community members who work together to improve the education and well-being of adolescents.
The Twin Valley Middle School team won for its Raider Pride Student Advocacy Initiative, a school-wide effort focused on developing stronger peer relationships and students' self- confidence with the support and guidance of an adult advocate. For its work, the Twin Valley team will receive a $1,000 cash award from Pearson and a one-year membership to AMLE.
Funded by the Twin Valley Education Foundation, the school-wide Raider Pride Student Advocacy Initiative was launched during the 2010-2011 school year to promote a positive culture and climate for students. Through the program, small groups of 12 to 15 students gather on a regular basis under the guidance of a school official serving as an adult advocate. During these sessions, students and adult leaders complete lessons on team building, respect, school-wide celebrations, communication, bullying, and friendship.
"Our Raider Pride lessons are designed to allow our students to share comfortably in a small group setting about topics that are relevant to them. We are confident that our students are receiving support for their social and emotional learning in this setting," said Dr. Lorraine Sakoian, Middle School Principal (Grades 5/6).
Dr. Gerald Catagnus is the Principal for Grades 7/8.
One participating teacher commented, "Several students have approached me as their confidant because of the foundation of trust that has been established. One recent example of this occurred when a student came to me with a lot of anxiety about a decision she had made in school. After about a ten-minute discussion, she was much more at ease and felt like she knew what she needed to do. Just knowing that I was able to help one student is a testament to the impact of Raider Pride."
The Raider Pride Student Advocacy Initiative is continuing this school year, ensuring students are continuing their lessons in social and emotional learning.
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St. Albans City School
A team of educators from St. Albans City School in St. Albans, VT, won Third Place in the annual "Teams That Make a Difference Award," sponsored by the education company Pearson and the Association for Middle Level Education. The annual award recognizes teachers, administrators, parents, and community members who work together to improve the education and well-being of adolescents.
The St. Albans team was recognized for its approach to a student-developed government that has fostered academic success and instilled a sense of belonging among students.
Team USA (Undeniable Student Achievement) is a 7th and 8th grade learning community through which students study the pros and cons of various forms of government, and discuss how these might be used in a classroom setting. Working with teachers, students form governments based on their findings, and as "countries" elect a series of officials and committees. These governments then focus on school activities and improvement, and community outreach.
Team USA community accomplishments include:
- Hosting a senior citizen Thanksgiving meal, a Veterans Day breakfast, and a celebration for veterans.
- Organizing and hosting a televised debate for candidates to the Vermont House of Representatives.
- Working with the city of St. Albans, Vermont Electric Cooperative, and Energy Efficiency Vermont to help reduce their carbon footprint.
Academically, the school has continued to demonstrate tremendous growth. Their NECAP scores show that 66 percent of students are proficient or better in math, 78 percent of 8th grade students are proficient or better in reading, and 80 percent of 8th grade students are now proficient in writing. All of these are better than state averages.
"By empowering our students, focusing on effort over results, and instilling a sense of belonging to a community, Team USA continues to be a tremendous success for our school, with demonstrable results," said Joan Cavallo, principal, St. Albans City School.
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