School Spotlight: Gleason Lake Elementary
Step inside Gleason Lake Elementary in Plymouth, and you’ll find a school with an abundance of natural light, artwork on the walls painted by a children’s book illustrator, and plenty of smiling faces.
“It’s a calm, engaging, focused learning atmosphere that’s inclusive of all children,” said Mary McKasy, the principal of Gleason Lake for the past 11 years.
She says the goal for the roughly 580 students enrolled at Gleason Lake in the Wayzata School District is that they learn important academic skills that set the foundation for the future.
“They are definitely critical thinkers, they have problem-solving skills, strategies to deal with real life situations,” McKasy said, when asked what she expects students to learn while they’re enrolled at Gleason Lake.
Along with academics, the students receive lessons that help their social and emotional growth.
“How we develop caring, committed students who will be compassionate leaders as they go out into the world, is some of the most important things that we strive to focus on here at Gleason Lake,” she said.
Compassion Shines at Gleason Lake Elementary
Compassion is a word that’s not used lightly around the school. For proof of that, look no further than second-grader, Cole McDonough.
“We do a lot of cool stuff in my class,” Cole said.
Cole is a book-reading, technology-loving, eight-year-old boy, but in his short life, he’s endured more than most adults have in their lifetime.
“Well, it hurt a lot and it was really hard for my family,” he said.
Cole was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two, and over the next several years, he had to undergo chemotherapy, dozens of hospital visits, and physical therapy.
“I don’t like other people having to have what I went through,” he said.
The rest of the Gleason Lake family felt the same way, so at the suggestion of Cole’s parents, the school took steps to help.
“I said we would, and it kind of turned into something really big,” said Betty Whitlock, Gleason Lake’s media specialist. Whitlock is also a student council adviser, and she helped the school launch a fundraiser for the organization, Pennies for Patients.
“Pennies for patients is a fundraising effort for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, where they ask schools to participate in raising as much money as possible to go to research for blood cancers,” Whitlock said.
Cole was one of the faces featured on the national ad campaign.
The school set a goal of $3,000. In the end, they more than doubled that goal.
“I think because it was personal,” Whitlock said. “Cole is one of us here at Gleason Lake. He’s the neighborhood kid and the face we see in the hallway.”
It’s the face of a child whose cancer is now in remission, thanks to the treatment he had undergone for nearly half his life.
“Well I still have to have a couple check-ups just to see how I’m doing, but every time I go, then it’s moved farther apart,” Cole said.
Books, computers and class discussions are some of the common tools used in education. But at Gleason Lake, it was the experience of an eight-year-old boy that taught students a lesson on life.
“Our school community just rallied around a great cause and a student here, and I think that’s what makes Gleason Lake an outstanding place,” McKasy said.
Cole’s family has launched a campaign to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society. If you would like to make a donation, you can click here.