English teacher Scott Hess and his team of six teachers at Tumwater High School received the Washington Education Association's Leaders in Restructuring Award for 1994 for an integrated applied English and technology program utilizing both Career Choices and Possibilities.
"Alarmed by a lack of motivation among freshmen in previous years," the group's application letter reads, "we aimed to develop a comprehensive, student-friendly, motivating, curriculum-intensive block to start each student's high school academic course on the very best foundation possible. We believe that we succeeded.
"Incoming freshmen were placed in a two-hour morning block to provide a home base where friendships could develop. English and technology rooms were realigned into pairs with a door punched in the adjoining wall to allow a flow of students between rooms. Freshman lockers were relocated so that students' lockers were near their morning block location. Standards for behavior expectations were developed for all classes, and reality therapy and control theory were taught by counselors early in the year to encourage freshmen to take control of their destiny from their first day at the high school."
By bringing together English and technology in one class, the team of instructors hoped to make both subjects more interesting and relevant to their students. Having students do English assignments on computers during technology class, for example, would provide a logical reason for learning to keyboard and use various software programs, while concentrating on what they had studied in language arts. "Essays now look and read beautifully," says the application letter. "Editing is a snap. Graphics add a special flair to student-created poetry. Book reports have become tri-fold brochures publicizing the novel. The classroom has become a workplace where professional appearing letters can be drafted and mailed to the editor of the local paper, to the manufacturer of a gender-biased toy, or to a pen pal in a high school across the nation."
The award-winning program has proved popular with students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community. Employers in the community have come to admire it because, as one told Scott Hess, "Most of the kids we see in the workplace don't have intellectual deficits. We can deal with them on an intellectual basis. What is difficult is forming a successful attitude."
Forming healthy attitudes is an important goal of the program, according to Hess. A favorite activity relating to that end is to have students pick one of the quotes on success from Career Choices and discuss how the attitude expressed could make or break a career. Hess videotapes the speeches and shows them not only within the school, but at various conferences to demonstrate how well things are going for the 9th graders in Tumwater, Washington. Congratulations to everyone!