SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Tongass School of Arts & Sciences - A Good Choice
By Wendy Gierard


October 25, 2008
Saturday PM

With two students now graduated from the Tongass School, I can say that the educational proof is in the pudding. I have a child who just started middle school and is excelling this year, and I have a high school student who continues to excel in school, even given that she spent 3/4 of her middle school years bounced around the district. My children are critical thinkers. They are problem solvers. They learned these skills through the efforts of the teachers and staff at the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.

I imagine that people who are used to a certain way of teaching, or have an expectation of the way school should be, do not appreciate the Integrated Thematic Instruction method of teaching. Teaching to a test is one way to teach. Teaching a child to be a critical thinker who can solve problems while instilling math, science, and language arts is another way to teach. The ITI model is based on five basic principles developed by research that explores how the human brain develops and learns throughout life. The principles state that 1) Intelligence is a function of experience 2) Learning is an inseparable partnership between brain and body. 3) There are multiple intelligences or ways for solving problems and producing products. 4) Learning is a two-step process: Step one: Making meaning through pattern seeking; Step two: Developing a mental program for using what we understand and wiring it into long-term memory. 5) Personality impacts learning and performance.

Not every child will learn in the same way. My son and daughter are very different in their learning styles, yet both excelled at the Tongass School and beyond. The efforts of Tongass School teachers and the ITI model helped in this success. While it is disappointing that the school missed the mark this year on adequate yearly progress, this marker is no indication of how successful a child will be in future grades. We have a drop-out problem in Ketchikan, and I would venture a guess that students from a variety of elementary schools are included in these drop-out numbers. Should we judge every school by adequate yearly progress or by how well children do in future grades? Can they handle the stress of different teaching styles? Can they handle projects that involve multiple skill sets? Can they interpret questions or problems and find creative, inventive solutions? Do they graduate and successfully attend some form of post-secondary education? To me, these are much more important indicators of success than one test in the day and life of a third grader.

As taxpayers, it is well within all our rights to speak our minds about the way our taxes are spent. Taxes pay for a lot of services I don t use. I don t appreciate having to pay for them, just as Agnes Moran apparently does not appreciate having to pay for educational choice in our district. I do believe that communities have a social responsibility to pay for that which ultimately makes our community a better place to live, attracts others to move here, and maybe even improves the economy through infusing new energy and efforts into Ketchikan. Providing a choice of schools is one of those responsibilities.

The Tongass School of Arts & Sciences provides parents the choice to have their children learn math, reading, science, history and language arts in an interactive, collaborative, respectful, fun and a highly educational space. The teachers and staff at the Tongass School are dedicated to and exceptional in the jobs they do. I truly appreciate all they did to share their knowledge and skills in educating my children, and I recommend the school to parents who want an exceptional educational experience for their children.

Wendy Gierard
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Former TSAS parent and supporter of district wide school choice"

Received October 22, 2008 - Published October 25, 2008


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Ketchikan, Alaska