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Engaging students in classroom key to increasing participation
Hall schools superintendent speaks at Rotary luncheon
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The education system looks different than it did just a few years ago, especially in Hall County schools.

“When you walk into a classroom in the Hall County schools ... whether it’s kindergarten, whether it’s International Baccalaureate, whether it’s (Advanced Placement) Physics, I really expect to see three things going on,” said Hall Superintendent Will Schofield. “No. 1, I expect to see students producing, not consuming. ... (Secondly, I expect) kids involved in scientific inquiry.

“And the third ... kids need to see the relevance in what they’re being asked to do without being told.”

Schofield was speaking Monday at the regular luncheon of the Gainesville Rotary Club. He said as children grow, they become disengaged with standard education procedures.

“What we’re seeing is that too many kids are enduring the school experience,” he said, noting by the time a student becomes a high school freshman, only 25 percent of his peers will find the relevance in their school day to what they ultimately want to do.

He said it’s important to ensure the world is left a better place for the coming generations.

“If we don’t start paying attention ... we will be the first generation of Americans who leaves fewer opportunities for our children and our grandchildren than were left for us,” he said.

For his presentation, Schofield invited teachers and students from Hall schools to talk about some of the programs that not only meet his three expectations, but also engage and involve students.

Bowen Corley, a fourth-grade student at Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy, shared her experiences at the elementary school’s Young Chef’s Academy.

“I know measurements better than I ever did in math class,” she said. “Most importantly I have learned how to work better in teams and to cooperate.”

Other Wauka Mountain and World Language Academy students spoke in different languages or played musical instruments.

“They’re not only teaching me the language; they’re showing me the culture,” said Jaime Baeza, a World Language Academy sixth-grader. “I mean, I know how to read, write and speak Spanish.”

At the high school level, Flowery Branch High senior Joanne Jacob spoke about the Honors Mentorship Program, another initiative of the school system that pairs high-performing juniors and seniors with a professional in the field the student is interested in pursuing.

“I’ve learned so many skills, so much knowledge, so much experience that it gives me an instant advantage when I go off to medical school, hopefully,” Jacob said.

“If anything, my mentorship has cemented and it made me sure that I know this is what I want to do,” she added. “It’s inflamed my passion for medicine.”

Schofield said perhaps the best measurement of a school system’s success is the “dinner table test.”

When a student is interested in the material and understands how it relates to the real world, he said, learning comes naturally.

“(You’re) sitting at the dinner table at night ... and (that student says), ‘Hey, you wouldn’t believe what we did in science class today. And I can’t wait to get back and do it again tomorrow,’” Schofield added.