Chesterton Tribune



Duneland School Board: Yost teachers tout new ways to learn

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Yost Elementary School teachers praised new learning approaches they've used with success this school year during a presentation Monday to the Duneland School Board.

Yost principal Anne Stillman said the initiative began with staff meeting with each other, sharing information, using the learning tools in the classrooms and then evaluating how they were received by students.

According to Second Grade teacher Heather Dunkle, applying the Kagan cooperative learning approach "had made a huge difference. It's tremendous."

Dr. Spencer Kagan developed his educational Structures to promote class interaction, cooperation, active engagement, tolerance, self-esteem and increased achievement.

Stillman said the teachers initially concentrated on the areas of technology, cooperative learning, behavior intervention and guided reading. The latter was for small groups reading at similar needs and levels with opportunities to be challenged and practice problem solving.

Special education teacher Lisa Joesten told the School Board that mindfulness --- paying attention in the present moment non-judgmentally --- is a popular educational tool with positive benefits. Such exercises teach children to pause before they respond, and that it's appropriate to stop instead of act in many situations.

Guidance counselor Sue Harmison explained the social thinking program where students are taught the difference between expected behavior and unexpected behavior that can make others feel uncomfortable. Superhero characters are used to explore various situations as teachable moments to develop coping strategies.

Dunkle enthusiastically explained the Kagan Structure for learning that doesn't change what is taught but how to get that information to students more effectively.

Stillman said a lot of Yost teachers are trying and asking about Kagan methods and it's been helpful. Yost hopes to be a resource for other schools that want more information.

A second presentation to the School Board came from Chris Lowery, Chesterton High School director of Forensics, accompanied by several members of the award-winning CHS Speech and Debate teams as well as team coaches. The Debate team won the 2013-14 state title, its 23rd overall, with the Speech team finishing fourth this season.

Lowery presented the School Board with a copy of an Indiana General Assembly House resolution recognizing the CHS team's achievement. Speech competition continues with 20 students attending the Nationals in June.

Lowery said Duneland Schools give Speech and Debate a lot of leeway and it is appreciated. He noted the program doesn't cut students and 140 are on the roster, one of the largest in the nation.

According to School Board member Ron Stone, "Speech and Debate is probably the best thing that can prepare you for a job." Board president Ralph Ayres said the CHS program has been "outstanding, and for decades literally."

In other business, the board unanimously approved the recommendation of Duneland director of Support Services Greg Lindy to accept the $363,241 low bid of Gluth Brothers Roofing to do the roof at Yost Elementary. The board indicated it will consider repairs to the Duneland bus barn at its next meeting.

Approved under personnel action were the upcoming retirements of Cheryl Marckese following 19 years with Duneland and Judy Yogodnik, who spent all 42 years in the profession here. Both currently are Fifth Grade teachers at Westchester Intermediate School.

Assistant Duneland superintendent Jim Goetz said the 14 teachers retiring this year represent 369 years of service with Duneland and 424 total years of teaching experience.

The board also approved purchase of language arts and world languages textbooks; Goetz said community members participating in a review of the textbooks signed off on the selection.

Dates for elementary summer school were announced as June 9 through June 26 from 7:45 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. at Bailly Elementary.

Board member John Marshall read a legislative update on bills of interest to Duneland signed by the governor following the completed General Assembly session. Ayres, a former legislator, said six study committees were named to deal with education-related topics.

School superintendent Dr. David Pruis invited educators, parents and supporters of education to view a 65-minute documentary Rise Above the Mark on April 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the CHS auditorium. The movie traces Indiana's struggles with the realities of public education including the impact of charter schools and standardized testing, and possible positive changes are explored.



Posted 4/15/2014