“What we are trying to do is close that gap, so when kids graduate from Walker Valley High School they have a foundation under their feet,” WVHS Principal Danny Coggin said. “We want them to have a solid foundation ... so (they can say), ‘I can do whatever is required of me’.”
Starting this school year, students will have a chance to enter one of three academies after completing the Freshman Academy. Academies will include business, humanities and STEM (subjects related to science, technology, engineering and math). These academies will provide relevance to classwork by teaching through the lens of an area of interest.
“A lot of folks have put a lot of time into changing the way services get delivered to our young people,” Coggin said. “The original detailed high school model has been around since it began in 1893. We’re trying to change that. It’s been around awhile and it’s time for a change.”
Coggin said the academies will provide a “big picture” approach to education. Students will not only have a focus for their electives, which is now required by state law, but core subjects will also be taught with the academy emphasis in mind.
“So, in the humanities academy we get to focus on history from the point of view of the arts,” Humanities Academy teacher Christian Mann said. “It really gets tailored to something that the students will enjoy.”
Within the academies, there will be multiple tracks that a student can follow. Students will also have the option to take classes in the other academies.
“The academies are about making connections within disciplines, making connections between our teachers and our students,” Coggin said. “It’s designed to prepare them (students) for something that happens after high school and that’s called life.”
Coggin said it also allows students to take a greater interest in core classes.
Business academy teacher Joe Bryan said the academies present an opportunity for more collaboration among teachers.
“We are really beginning to work as a team,” Bryan said.
Bryan said the academy is career path oriented, giving students a choice to focus on marketing, the Web, financial management or multimedia.
The STEM and business academies will also provide students with industry certification opportunities.
“We are trying to get our students in a STEM mind. We are trying to get them excited about STEM careers,” STEM Academy teacher Bo Borders said.
He said the STEM Academy would be the best fit for students who like problem solving, Borders said.
STEM Academy teacher Jason Kincaid said many of the classes in the academy will be hands-on projects. Many of Walker Valley’s career and technical classes are in this academy.
Kincaid said the academy is also looking to add a STEM Academy accreditation as an added honor for students to achieve for graduation.
Freshman students will still have separate classes in the Freshman Academy. Freshman Academy teacher Aimee Borders said this is the eighth year for the Freshman Academy.
“We transition (students) from their middle school mindset to the high school environment,” Borders said. ‘We give them the opportunity to grow and to shift into those high school students.”
The academy focuses on keeping students on track in completing credits.
Each academy has a core group of six teachers and then additional content area teachers.
The development of the academies is a continuation of the small learning communities mindset that Bradley County high schools and Cleveland High School have implemented using the Small Learning Communities grant. This grant is providing the needed funding to provide the change in approach.