School Spotlight: Wayzata East Middle School
Every day, more than 700 students in grades 6 through 8 make their way to Wayzata East Middle School in Plymouth.
“We’re charged with ensuring a world class education that prepares each and every student to thrive today and excel tomorrow in this ever-changing global society,” said Wayzata East Middle School Principal Paul Paetzel.
A world class education can come in many forms, and in one particular class witnessed by this CCX News reporter, the students were learning how to give impromptu speeches.
While the content of this lesson was certainly important, school staff members say it takes more than that to achieve excellence. That’s why every morning at 9:10, the students begin their day with what’s called, advisory period.
During advisory, staff members don’t teach a subject you’d find on any test. Instead, they’re teaching students about character skills.
“We focus very much on teaching them to set goals for themselves and to aspire for things beyond what they’re doing today,” Rachel Marcoullier, an eighth-grade teacher. “To dream and look at how they can achieve those goals.”
Marcoullier is one of the teachers in charge of planning the advisory program. Teachers like Kristian Bejarin then lead a class of about 17 students on lessons such as how to overcome hurdles in life.
“Even if they don’t accomplish their goal, we can say ‘You overcame this obstacle and this obstacle and this obstacle. This one got you, but look at how much you accomplished,'” Bejarin said
It’s a curriculum the students and staff take seriously. And when a student needs a little more guidance, the school provides one-on-one coaching.
“With middle school it can be really confusing, and for some kids, they’re not really clear on what they want,” said Paula Henn, a teacher at Wayzata East Middle School. “And so I work with these kids and then I also help them in the classrooms.”
Ultimately, the goal is to provide students with the skills they need to meet any challenge that’s put in front of them. It’s a strategy that can work both inside and outside the classroom and pay dividends for years to come.
“We want to give them confidence to be able to go into high school and beyond and know that they will be successful, that they can aspire to whatever they want,” said Marcouiller.
Going forward, school officials say they would like to see corporations come in to work with the students and help them identify a problem in the community and come up with a plan to solve that problem.