The value of a strong and engaged school system

My grandfather finished eighth grade before being pulled out of school to help on the farm.

Despite ― or perhaps because of ― her limited education, her goal was to see her children finish high school and go on to college. Education, in his experience, sparked ideas, provided opportunities and enabled impact. In this thought incubator, my mother became a high school English teacher and inspired me with respect and a love of learning.

As a lifelong higher education professional and mother of four District 742 boys (one of whom graduated earlier this year), I know firsthand the value of a strong and engaged school system.

The learning environment impacts the growth and development of our children long after they leave our schools and serves as the foundation for personal, professional and civic success. Our schools should be a place where students feel safe and are both challenged and supported in their critical and holistic thinking throughout the curriculum. They must also learn work and life skills from kindergarten through to graduation.

The educational environment is different today than it was even three years ago (pre-COVID) and is certainly different from 20, 30 or 40 years ago. As we navigate our changing communities and society, our central focus must always be student success.

The reality in any diverse and engaged class of students is that there are different backgrounds, values, and experiences.

The reality is even truer in the classrooms of St. Cloud. Teachers and administrators must be empowered to provide multiple forms of instruction to support each child’s success and at the same time deliver an intentional, research-based, nurturing, and truthful curriculum. We must also continue to invite parents and guardians to the table and engage with respect and honesty in our educational partnership.

The old phrase “reading, writing, and arithmetic” may seem outdated in today’s world of technology and artificial intelligence, but for our students to work through next-level ideas and skills, they must have a solid background. in the basics. That was true before COVID, and as reading and math scores have plummeted nationwide during the pandemic, it’s even more important to regroup and recover. For some, it can be as simple as making sure the time is spent on improving skills. For others, like those who have had little or no support during COVID or are learning English, it may mean a more comprehensive and time-consuming solution. In any case, it is important enough to attend.

Today, our young people have access to more information in their pocket (literally) than at any other time in history. But it is only through the development of high-level learning, thinking and thinking skills that access to knowledge becomes wisdom. Stimulating and challenging classrooms mean that our students will be academically prepared for life and the opportunities and challenges they will face.

Moreover, the school should be an arena of functioning in the world.

We are fortunate here at St. Cloud that our students operate daily in a diverse community that reflects global society. They may see cultural differences, but more often they see the similarities of human experience. They can participate in activities where they can shine and lead as well as activities where they have to work hard to come off the bench.

Some of them can end up on the front of a game poster while others build the backdrop that creates the magic for the stars. Some can talk, dance or make music; all learn what it is to be an individual and to be part of the whole show. They can develop empathy, confidence and tenacity while learning the rules of sport, organizations and life. We must continue to foster this type of unity because it is essential to everyone’s future.

The primary responsibility of public schools is twofold: to prepare students for life through the development of academic skills, critical thinking, and social and cultural awareness; and to improve communities by supporting and graduating an educated and engaged student body.

Service to the school board has nothing to do with personal or political agendas. It’s about standing up for our students, our schools, and our community, and ensuring accountability to those same populations. The work isn’t easy and the path isn’t always clear, but we owe it to our children and our collective future to keep District 742 strong.

― Heather Weems is a commissioner for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and a candidate for School Board 742 in the St. Cloud Area School District.

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