Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Different Path to Educational Success

"Finding a Different Path" from Nebraska Loves Public Schools

I have had the privilege of teaching at VALTS since 2005. If you follow me on Twitter you will often see me tweet things like, "You know what I get to do today? I get to teach!" I am truly passionate about teaching and making a positive difference in the lives of my students.  I can count my "bad days" at VALTS on one hand. 

VALTS is an alternative school which is under the direction of ESU13. Districts participate in VALTS by purchasing seats. Students attend classes at VALTS, but they are still considered students in their home districts. They follow the credit requirements of their home schools. Students earn credits by taking classes at our school, working, and taking college classes. Once they meet the requirements they are eligible to graduate and earn their diploma from their home district. 

We just learned our school might be in jeopardy when Scottsbluff, the owner half of the seats at VALTS, announced they are exploring the option starting their own alternative program. While it is depressing to consider the notion that VALTS might have to close its doors at some point in the future, it is important to acknowledge that Scottsbluff has the obligation to make decisions that are in the best interest of all of their students. I sincerely hope that VALTS can still be part of their overall plan to meet the needs of their students.

Both current and former students are taking it upon themselves to use various social media outlets to share their personal stories of how VALTS changed their lives. I am trying to aggregate all of these testimonials in a Google Doc which is linked just below the video at the top of this post. I'm only sharing posts and stories that are positive. Negativity does nothing but create rifts during a time when we all need to work together to find a solution.

Within an hour of hearing about the possibility that their school might close, one of the students made a Facebook group and another one started a Facebook page. A current student who feels very strongly about out school created this moving video.

As an alternative education teacher, I have always been curious about what causes so many students to drop out of school. Since the vast majority of my students are "at-risk" I respect and value their insight and expertise on this topic. On at least two dozen occasions since I started teaching at VALTS,  I have asked my students what factors brought them to my school. They usually look at me with a puzzled expression then go on to explain that nobody has ever thought to ask them something like this. What they have to say is not always easy to hear, but they are brutally honest and their answers help explain why so many students simply quit. It is our students that can provide the answers to fixing what is wrong with our schools.

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