Franklin — As the start of another new school year approaches, students and parents aren't the only ones feeling a range of emotions and anticipation.
Teachers and administrators at Franklin High School this past week shared their hopes and challenges as students are set to arrive for the first day of classes Sept. 3.
The new guy
Alex Bondar is a freshman, of sorts. Entering his first official year as a full-time teacher, Bondar is replacing a virtual legend as he takes over the duties of long-time, popular auto shop teacher John Jewell, who died last school year after a long illness.
Bondar, who graduated last May from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and student-taught in Mineral Point, said he is looking forward building on the Jewell legacy but also putting his own stamp on the program.
"My biggest challenge is knowing what to do on my own and what project I should do next," he said. "I've gotten plenty of advice from other teachers, both at Franklin this summer and from other teachers who are in the same field. I need to get a feel for the school and the students. This is a very strong program (thanks) to Mr. Jewell, but I want to do things in a certain way, and it will be a little different."
What won't be different is his love for working on vehicles. He said he has grown up around this work because his dad is a metals engineer. Bondar also spends a lot of his free time restoring trucks and other vehicles.
"I am looking forward to the school year," he said. "This is a great program."
Entering her 12th year as the video production teacher, Gail DeClark is looking forward to the challenge of introducing new software that allows students to put their portfolio online.
"This way, they get to use the portfolio to look back on their work and see where they need to improve," DeClark said. "Their self-evaluation is an important part of the class."
DeClark, who said the changes also will serve a tech-savvy group of middle school students who will be entering high school, also looks forward to developing the online student newspaper, The Saber Roar. The enterprise will run as its own company, with students accountable as much to each other as to her.
"The other thing that will be different this year, and for sure next year, will be the introduction of a new assessment and grading system," DeClark said. "There has been a lot more professional development this summer than in past years."
Introducing a new Carnegie math curriculum that emphasizes literacy is the challenge of Amy Cowell, going into her 15th year as a math teacher and coordinator in the district. She also is working with middle school teachers to help introduce students there to math standards that stress "the context and not just the numbers" in linking math to other subjects.
"I have been able to take what I have learned and trained other teachers," Cowell said. "My goal is to support other teachers to figure out where they want to go this year."
DeClark and Cowell said they are looking forward to the physical changes taking place at the high school. Fueled by residents passing the 2012 referendum, a portion of the academic spaces is being converted to open-concept classrooms that will take advantage of technology and co-teaching possibilities.
"I see the changes in the math curriculum and the changes in the physical space as perfect opportunities for co-teaching," Cowell said. "That is the advantage of context-based math in that it can be presented with science and business."
Franklin High School Principal Mike Nowak and District Superintendent Steve Patz said they are looking for continued improvement.
Nowak said he looks forward to being more comfortable in supporting teachers and curriculum changes going into his second year.
Patz, entering his seventh year, said he looks forward to seeing the construction project progress into its last 18 months. He wants to continue developing leadership through professional development efforts that were kick-started throughout the summer.
"As always, we want to make progress in all the academic areas," Nowak said. "There's plenty of significant work that goes on throughout the summer to help make that happen. Summer is a time to recharge and prepare for what's to come."
Patz said the challenges of construction, such as working in a more demanding environment, are outweighed by anticipation for the high school's physical changes.
"It's a challenge because there are inconveniences," Patz said, "but it's one of those fun challenges because you know that the building will match what we are trying to do. We get better at our craft every year."
A last word
DeClark said the work this academic year will at least in part include getting ready for the following year, when classroom and other space shifts will occur upon completion of the remodeling.
"There are a lot of things both teachers and students will have to get used to through the (construction) work," DeClark said. "It's a good lesson."
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