Woodland Public Schools students from TEAM high school help improve student learning

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Students from Woodland’s TEAM high school recently got together with teachers from Lewis River Academy (LRA) to provide enriching and educational experiences for LRA’s younger students while also earning service house toward their senior projects.

Both programs of Woodland Public Schools, TEAM and LRA provide alternative learning opportunities for children from different walks of life. TEAM gives Woodland students a path to earning a high school diploma through means that accommodate individual life circumstances. Some students at TEAM work full-time jobs while others have family responsibilities or have troubles with traditional school schedules. LRA offers an alternative learning environment for K-12 students who want to participate in a different approach to learning. 

LRA regularly partners with businesses and professionals in the Woodland community to provide real-life experiences for the students. Teri Retter, a K-5 teacher at LRA. came up with the idea to partner with TEAM.

“I really wanted to help build TEAM’s positive reputation and offer opportunities to all the great students we have there,” she said in a news release. “While brainstorming partnership opportunities in the area, I thought, ‘How great would it be if TEAM’s students could help us out while also earning service hours for their senior projects?’”

Students from TEAM high school visit LRA on a weekly basis and provide teaching support for a variety of projects. In January, TEAM students worked as instructors, helping LRA students learn how to program computers and work with robotics. Last week, TEAM students served as hosts, waitstaff and restaurant help during LRA’s Fine Dining Experience where LRA students learned proper table manners and ate a specially prepared three-course meal.

Teachers from both TEAM and LRA plan to keep the connections between the two schools intact in the future. 

“One of the top priorities is building the relationship between TEAM and LRA,” Retter said in the release. “The older kids from TEAM really enjoy working with our younger students, and our younger students see these older, cooler kids as their own future — going to high school, earning diplomas and graduating.”

For TEAM students, having an opportunity to earn the required service hours for their senior projects closes the gap to graduation. 

“The biggest hurdle for students looking for service hours is often just making the first call to sign up,” Mary Burnett, TEAM’s program specialist, said in the release. “Being able to simply walk across the parking lot and help out at LRA is a huge benefit for students.”

LRA’s students have even given their high school counterparts an affectionate nickname. 

“The younger students call them our ‘TEAMmates’,” Annika Dukes, a teacher at LRA said in the release. “Our students love engaging with their older TEAMmates.”

TEAM’s teaching staff has also observed noticeable changes in behavior with their older students. 

“We have one student who can sometimes be challenging in TEAM, both talking a lot and not focusing,” Burnett said in the release. “However, during one of his visits at LRA, he was able to connect with a young LRA student who was very shy and help(ed) her come out of her shell; by the end of the event, she was chatting up a storm!”

For Retter, the TEAMmates partnership also provides an opportunity to promote TEAM High School and the great work both the staff and students accomplish there. 

“Unfortunately, there are often negative misconceptions about ‘alternative’ high schools; however, I will defend the TEAM program, its teachers, and its students day and night,” she said in the release. “I want everyone to see TEAM’s students the way I see them: bright, kind, funny, thoughtful and all-around great kids dedicated to their futures.”

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