Students Lead the Way

Compass Sign (1)-001

Student leadership teams will start meeting during second quarter

Office Beat Logo - ConleyStudents’ voices are now making the choices.

With the new school year almost a quarter of the way in, the school wants feedback on the high school experience from those experiencing it firsthand.

West Bend High Schools Administration has decided to create student leadership teams for each grade level. Beginning second quarter, any students interested can sign up in the main office or may be recommended by a staff member to let their voices be heard. Minimum monthly discussions will be held during resource time by the administrators, who will listen in as students talk about important topics that contribute to the daily flow of the high schools.

“What we would like is for our student leadership teams to have an impact on our school goals of being college and career ready, showing academic and social growth, having a voice and choice in their learning, and engaging in rigorous learning experiences and career planning opportunities,” said Darci VanAdestine, Director of High School Teaching and Learning.

“One thing is we would like the students to take more charge in the school and pursue more leadership opportunities,” VanAdestine said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘I want more voice in what we do,’ and we’re really trying to honor that, especially as it is one of our goals.”

VanAdestine

Student voices will clearly be heard as the meetings are designed for them to speak freely with one another, rather than just answering questions presented by the administrators.

“It’s all about students really driving the discussion, and the administrator is just more of the active listener reflecting instead of an administrator or teacher leading the discussion. Discussions that students have with one another, with an adult listening in, are more organic and honest. They seem to feed off one another better when developing solutions,” VanAdestine said.

There is no limit to the amount of students that can join the leadership program. According to VanAdestine, groups of 10 students for each grade level would be great, but more are always welcome.

“If there are more who are interested, it would be even better because then we could have additional student leaderships and have a couple of ninth grade teams or a couple of 10th grade teams,” she said.

The meetings would occur at least once a month and VanAdestine mentioned the great success last year’s students had working together.

“Last year I had sophomores and we started out monthly, but they enjoyed working collaboratively together and decided to meet weekly. So weekly we would pick a resource and meet during that time. They would bring issues or ideas up to the table, or if we had something we wanted student feedback on, admin would bring something to the table, and we would discuss,” VanAdestine said.

Throughout the year, the teams for each grade level will come together to form a “universal” school discussion, as VanAdestine calls it, so that they the entire student body can work to impact the school as a whole rather than just their separate grades.

“After theses grade level meetings, we’d bring some of the main topics of conversation from each grade level to the universal student leadership so everyone can be on the same page of what each grade level is thinking,” VanAdestine said.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘I want more voice in what we do,’ and we’re really trying to honor that, especially as it is one of our goals.”
– Darci VanAdestine, Director of High School Teaching and Learning

The leadership teams are meant to showcase the opinions of all types of students.

“We want a variety of students, a variety of academic levels and involvement within the school, to a student who isn’t involved in much to one who is highly involved, to get a good perspective and pulse on the school,” VanAdestine said.

A major point that VanAdestine and the administrators want to emphasize with these leadership teams is creating a healthy and fun school environment, where students can feel excited about attending classes and being a part of the West Bend high schools.

“Students, you guys know what the pulse of the school is, and your perception might be different than what teachers and adults feel. We want to get your feel. What do we need to change, what do we need to do differently to make it a good learning experience?,” asks VanAdestine.

“We want to bring the fun and energy back into school. We want to have a culture that gets students engaged and excited to be here. Seeing happy people, friendly people, and respectful people just helps the culture of the school in general,” she said.

VanAdestine hopes that the students who join the leadership teams use their leadership skills to make a positive impact on those around them to generate a better atmosphere.

“Hopefully when we build more student leaders in here, instead of waiting for a teacher or administrator to address a student, we can give students confidence to address their own peers if they’re not being respectable or responsible,” VanAdestine said.

The students that are part of the leadership team will not only voice their opinions but learn valuable skills that will play a role in helping other students.

“One of our focuses as a district is gaining empathy amongst students and staff, because people have different stories in their lives, and creating different service learning opportunities like older students being mentors to younger students. So if we can also morph that into student leadership and help students do something with their leadership outside of the teams, that would be another goal,” VanAdestine said.

VanAdestine said that she and the other administrators are invested in making student voices a priority and want use them to guide the decisions that will continue to further the school in the right direction.

“We want to get student voice as much as possible to help us grow as a school. We’re always guessing what students might want, but let’s start asking the students what they want,” VanAdestine said.

Office Beat chronicles The Current’s regular visits with WBHS administration, written by Kara Conley, Current Staff.

(Top photograph by Mike Smale, former Current Staff now graduated.)

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