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Revolution, Creativity & Reinventing Education

A Message from Dr. Shannon Wagner, Superintendent, Burrell School District

 

New ideas and innovation are what drive the world forward, and education is the engine that powers performance and relentless progress. Today, we are experiencing technological revolutions that will change the world tomorrow – with some of them taking place in our own backyard, like the 3D printing research & development initiatives at Alcoa. Other smaller scale, but equally significant, revolutions are happening right here in the Burrell School District.

Although the district’s goals remain unchanged over the past several years, our strategies for achieving these goals continue to evolve. We remain focused on student growth through four main objectives:

• “Meeting Students Where They Are” – academically, socially, and emotionally

• Aligning curriculum to PA State Common Core standards

• Embracing technology

• Improving instruction & developing a culture of collaboration.

One of the district’s primary challenges in reaching and engaging the 21st-century learners is to make school relevant to them. This is accomplished by improving student engagement, not just in terms of tasks, but by actively and creatively applying the concepts taught in the classroom.

Our educators work to move students out of their “comfort zones” and bridge the disconnect between what we do in school and what drives us as individuals. At Burrell, we believe that by tapping into the individual passions and interests of every student and connecting them to what takes place in the classroom, we can construct a customized learning experience that makes education real, relevant, and exciting for today’s active learners. And that’s where and when meaningful and lasting progress can take place.

How do we do this? It starts with changing the culture of the district – how we feel, think, and act regarding instruction and curriculum. This year, for example, Burrell has introduced a new initiative that emphasizes the Arts as a critical component of learning across the entire spectrum of the curricula, including math and science. We’ve asked our teachers to embrace the Arts in some way and creatively infuse it into their instructional practices while at the same time requiring our students to embrace expressive forms of communications that are not just social media-driven. From our K-3 “Attack Theater” workshops to the new Zulama high school elective courses that concentrate on developing high-demand STEM skills through video game programming and design exercises, Burrell is connecting each student’s passion to the educational experience to reach today’s learners where they are and help show them what they could be.

Like all districts in Pennsylvania, Burrell is in the process of aligning curricula to the more rigorous PA Common Core Standards. Common Core calls for a much deeper understanding of key concepts in each academic area, and we are striving to ensure that our curricula not only lines up, but measures up to the new standards. Burrell also continues to pioneer innovations in classroom technology and online curriculum.

STEM skills bring academia to life, and our educators are infusing Science, Technology, Engineering & Math concepts in all content areas. We continue to emphasize higher order skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, the application of knowledge, research skills, and the ability to work in a collaborative environment.

Fiscally, the district remains on solid financial footing without instituting a millage increase over the past two years. We are maintaining stable class sizes and enrollment levels. Burrell has also recently implemented several safety upgrades and new building access policies, including a new school resource officer position for 2015-16.

I believe in the Burrell School District, its vision, and the dedicated people who work tirelessly each day to make it real, relevant, and special. My own children are students in the district, and I would not want them to learn and grow anywhere else. By allowing our students to explore, be creative, find their passion and apply it to their dreams for the future, we are creating lifelong learners. These are the young men and women who will be the leaders of tomorrow’s revolutions in science, medicine, education, business, and other disciplines. And it all begins today in the Burrell School District. We invite you to join the “revolution!”

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