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St. John's to implement new programs, technology this fall

The 2016-2017 school year marks Mike Strommen’s first full year as principal of St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Vermillion. With a new principal, comes new ideas. This year, St. John’s will be leveraging new programs, technology and resources to help their students succeed.

One of those new programs is the Maker Program. This program will allow students to work on something they are passionate about whether it be robotics, computer programming, movie making, visual arts or writing.

“It’s kids working, often times collaboratively, to create things of value,” Strommen said.

The projects will have learning objectives that span different disciplines and will help students develop skills like creativity, collaboration, and grit–when you start something and see it through.

“We want to produce students that after they leave here are ready and on a path to living fulfilling lives and we think you need to have those kind of skills to live fulfilling lives,” he said.

Strommen said he thinks the students will love the program because they will be able to work on things they are passionate about while quickly becoming an expert on the subject. Their knowledge may even surprise the teachers and parents, but Strommen said it will boost the children’s confidence.

“When you challenge them with projects like that, every time, inevitably, you get positive results,” Strommen said.

The Catholic Schools Center of Excellence, a nonprofit organization that helps Catholic elementary schools achieve and maintain excellence while increasing student enrollment, is helping St. John’s fund some of the new programs including the Maker Program. In addition, they will help fund the Resource Center, new Wi-Fi throughout the building and Chromebooks for the students.

The new Resource Center will work with students who may need a little extra help in subjects like reading and math. The students will have a one on one learning environment with a teacher. The full-time teacher, resource teacher and parent will be able to decide where the child should be. Once they have reached the grade level they should be at, they will get back in the classroom.

The Chromebooks will be an educational tool for the teachers. One thing, Strommen said they plan to use them for is foreign languages. Although the school has done some Spanish instruction in the past, this year it will be more organized with a plan to not only learn a new language but learn about cultural sensitivity too. The Chromebooks will let the students use programs like Duolingo and video chat so they can talk to children from other countries who are native speakers of the language they are learning.

Strommen said he is excited to see students react to these new programs because he thinks they will say, “This is really cool.”

“And then, not only is it cool, but for them to actually make great strides in their growth...that is completely fulfilling,” he said.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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