Willow Lake Elementary School is set to welcome students on August 1st and will be a brand-new facility for Washington Township Schools. While the community supported the building of the school by passing a referendum in 2016, The Advancement Center was able to provide several grants and other supports to the school to make the opening experience memorable for students, teachers and parents.
New can be exciting, it can also be intimidating. Building administrators Brittney Brown and Spencer Fort turned to The Advancement Center to help them in their efforts to make new students feel welcome. The result is every student entering Willow Lake receiving a Willow Lake Welcome Kit, a branded drawstring backpack filled with a set of headphones and a calendar magnet for families to have easy access to WLES contact information. It’s these little touches thought up by the schools administration that establish a culture of school pride and togetherness. Another service students will enjoy is a fully stocked brand new media center. The Advancement Center secured a $15,000 donation to fill the shelves of the new media center with age-appropriate materials to support a K-5 student population. Funding of this project will allow media center resources to remain fully intact at our existing elementary schools and provide adequate access to books and media for current and future students at Willow Lake Elementary. A grant was also secured to build a book room at the new school filled with intentional texts selected for small group reading and mentor texts used in coordination with our writing curriculum. These materials will be shared at the building level through a check in and check out system, allowing for maximum classroom impact.
“We are thrilled with the love and support from The Advancement Center throughout the design and planning process for Willow Lake Elementary School. Without the support for our teachers, students, and community, we would not be able to open our doors this August with such a range of robust resources, integral staff developments, and items to build school spirit. The Advancement Center and their donors have continually gone above and beyond for the Washington Township community, and we certainly feel supported as we work to provide an outstanding learning environment for all in the Willow Lake community.” Willow Lake Assistant Principal Spencer Fort
In terms of teachers, since Willow Lake was starting from scratch on most programs, they needed support from The Advancement Center too. Susan Schaeffer has been out of the classroom and serving the district as a literacy coach for seven years. She’s coming back to the classroom as a third-grade teacher at Willow Lake and needed current, engaging, age appropriate books for her students to read while in her classroom. Craig Brinkman is starting a new music program at the school and needed additional professional development training to expand the possibilities for student learning in the music classroom by allowing kids to experience rhythm in new and exciting ways! He took courses on drumming and working with special needs children through music.
“Through a grant from The Advancement Center and co-funding from the Special Education department, I was able to take two professional development courses to further advance the music program at Willow Lake. One course was Orff for All Learners based on Orff-Schulwerk, a teaching process that allows children to actively make music by singing, speaking rhymes and rhythmic chants, moving, playing instruments, and creating their own musical and movement settings. This course was unique in that it applied these active music-making opportunities to settings that are applicable to all learners, including those with disabilities. One of the many things that educators do on a daily basis is adapt instruction to the individual needs of their students. This course brought the concept of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into my teaching and planning. UDL is an approach to teaching aimed at meeting the needs of every student in a classroom. This concept is one that comes somewhat natural to me as an Orff Schulwerk teacher, however I was given the opportunity to begin thinking in a more detailed way about how I can craft my lessons so that they are more accessible from the outset of the lesson. This is a paradigm shift for me as I’ve always been taught to first craft my lesson and then look at the needs of my students to make adaptations. With UDL, the process begins first with the needs of the students and then subsequently scaffolds the lesson as appropriate for the teaching situation. I look forward to working with the students and staff at Willow Lake to implement UDL in my instruction to create a more accessible learning environment in the music room!” Willow Lake Music Teacher Craig Brinkman
Ashley Burns also got support from The Advancement Center for professional development in educational neuroscience. She learned about strategies to meet the needs of kids and understand their brains in the social world with math and reading as the focus. She brought the information back and will provide professional development for other Willow Lake teachers. In addition, the entire teaching staff received a Teachers Treasures membership for the new school year so they can stock up on supplies for their classroom at no cost to them.
The Advancement Center also supported new Willow Lake parents as the fiscal agent for the new Willow Lake PTO until they could get their own accounts in place.
Just like a new student entering a school building for the first time, when Willow Lake opens its doors on the first day they know they already have a friend and support system to enhance their learning opportunities. Be it through classroom needs, professional development, or community building initiatives, The Advancement Center and our donors have already been able to welcome them into our Washington Township community in meaningful ways.