Friday, October 25, 2013

Visual Arts "Fright Night" Festival

Congratulations to the Visual Arts Department  for their outstanding work on our annual Fright Night festival last night!  The pumpkin display at the Beebe Library was incredible - I am blown away by the talent of our young artists.  Our Culinary Arts students contributed delicious cookies, cupcakes, caramel apples, and pumpkin whoopie pies. Thank you to teachers Joy Schilling, Meg McKenna, Morgan Sharkey, and Susan Lacy for their hard work with our students.

The Film Festival in the Galvin Auditorium was really something special.  The quality of film production is certainly beyond high school level work - kudos to teachers Jon Berecz and Chris Constantine and all of the students involved.

Beyond that, a few things really struck me about our WHS students.  The auditorium was packed full - largely students and alumni - on a World Series game night and the excitement was palpable.  This is a tribute to the tradition and extended family atmosphere the Visual Arts Department has created over time. The respect students have for each other's work is wonderful - they were so supportive of every student, every film, throughout the night.  It was great to see our faculty starring in a couple of the movies and more were present in the audience.  Our kids absolutely love how invested their teachers are in all of their activities.  And finally, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the movie (caused by a water main break in town) and the 750+ house full of students moved quickly and efficiently out, waited patiently outside in the dark, and then filed back in 10 minutes later to resume the show.  Perfectly behaved.  

Our students' talent, performance, and behavior is such a wonderful tribute to our Visual Art Department, our school, and their families.  Congratulations on a great night!

Monday, October 21, 2013

MICCA Marching Band Festival

Pictured above is the WHS Warrior Marching Band, under the direction of Mr. Tom Bankert, earning a 4-Star rating at the MICCA Festival on Saturday Night as they performed the music of Dave Matthews.  The new field and facilities provided a beautiful setting for our show!  Congratulations to the Wakefield Music Boosters for hosting a first-class event. 

Highlights of the show were amazing solos by drummer Dylan Sellers and gorgeous vocals by Matt Stanley.  Marie Peduto and Vanessa Chin also delivered a dynamic duet on saxophone - their improvisation would make the Dave Matthews Band proud!  Drum Majors Sarah Crump and Adam Tarpey led the band with precision and style.  If you haven't had a chance to see the band, they host a NESBA regional marching band festival this coming Saturday night at Landrigan Field - a great opportunity to support the WHS music program while enjoying a night of true family entertainment!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Virtual High School

We expanded our Program of Studies at WHS by more than 200 courses when we partnered with the Virtual High School Global Consortium in 2009.  VHS provides a wide range of online courses that offer unique enrichment opportunities for students, many of which would not be available in a traditional high school course catalogue. As part of membership in the VHS Collaborative, WHS provides a teacher to teach one VHS course each semester.  The VHS Collaborative includes schools from 30 US states and 34 countries around the world!   As a member of the Collaborative, we can fill 15 student "seats" each semester in VHS courses.  

Here are some of the exciting elective courses our students have participated in the last several years:

Investing in the Stock Market
World Conflict:  A United Nations Introduction
History of Photography
The Human Body
Engineering Principles
Computational Science & Engineering using Java
Journalism in the Digital Age 
20th Century Women Authors 

Along with Advanced Placement courses:

AP Art History 
AP World History
AP European History
AP Psychology 

And World Language offerings:

Mandarin Chinese Language and Culture
German Language and Culture
AP French Language and Culture

Senila Yasmin working on a VHS course
Sophomore Senila Yasmin is taking a VHS course this year, in addition to a full slate of honors-level courses in school.  She told me that she really enjoys the independence required to be successful this class.  "It's a lot of work", she said, "and definitely a lot of responsibility".  But she is getting a true 21st century learning experience by working on a group project with her classmates - from all around the US - who sign on at all different times of the day and night to complete the work.  Senila's teacher is from Ohio.  Senila believes that this course is great preparation for the level of independence needed for college.

Ms. Beth Hughes teaches a VHS course called "Bad Boys in Literature"
WHS English teacher Ms. Beth Hughes teaches a literature course for the VHS Collaborative.  Ms. Hughes has been a passionate advocate for this educational opportunity at WHS; she often states the imperative of offering this kind of experience to our students if we truly want to be a high-performing 21st century school.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Ms. Lopez and Homeroom students
It may not seem like much, but in reality one of the most important elements of our school culture is our 5-minute daily homeroom period.  Students are assigned to the same teacher, in the same classroom, and with the same small cohort of students for all four years of high school - and they begin every school day together as home base.  The concept is to create an informal mentoring program in which all students have an adult in the school, in addition to their guidance counselor, who gets to know the student well and assists them in meeting their academic and personal goals. Homerooms are familiar and consistent, part of the daily routine, a welcoming and safe place, somewhat of an institutionalized "family" to start each day.  

The homeroom teacher is an important member included in their students' support teams, even though they may not have them in an academic class.  Homeroom teachers establish relationships with their students, helping them to navigate day to day issues and learning about their goals, talents, and interests.  It is not unusual for graduating seniors to name their homeroom teacher as a significant person in their high school experience.  

Four times a year, on the day we issue Term Progress Reports (the first of these is this Friday), we hold an extended 20-minute extended homeroom period.  Each term features a mentoring discussion connected to our school's core values and expectations, with themes that include self-advocacy, goal-setting, academic integrity, and responsibility to self and community.  Individual conversations about Term Progress Reports take place between students and their homeroom teachers, with a focus on strategies for improvement.

Pictured above is Ms. Lopez and a few of her homeroom students.  "You're the person they see every day", she said to me this morning.  "You get to know them so well, you know the little things, the funny things.  You can tell in a moment if they are having an off day".  It was nice being there this morning;  I laughed and enjoyed the camaraderie.  I can see why it is such a good place to begin each day.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

WHS Library/Media Center

The Library/Media Center is the hub of learning at WHS.  Our goal is to create a vibrant center of research, discussion, reading, and study for our students.  A school library no longer needs to be a setting of silence; instead it is a respectfully quiet but interactive common area for all kinds of learning activities.  Our new Library/Media Specialist, Ms. Diana Kelly, is bringing innovative ideas to our Library with a fresh view of how to use the space and how to cultivate an environment that is both essential and welcoming.  Our Library/Media Center is a place where technology lives:  along with wireless access, we host more than 30 computer stations, printers, digital recording devices, digital readers, and more.  I took these pictures today so that you can take a peek at the way Ms. Kelly has designed the space for a variety of uses...

Student study/project areas
Multiple areas for research

Full computer lab area 
Group reading and discussion area
Ms. Kelly's Teaching Assistants decorate the space for fall