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AC's New Tech gets high praise

May 23, 2011

ONGOING ... . . . Workers at Adams Central's construction and renovation project are swarming as they smooth fresh concrete on the southeast side of the school. The $10 million project is expected to be done this fall. The job began last year and is being guided by Weigand Construction of Fort Wayne. (Photo by Jessica G. Hakes)

    "I get tingles."
    Those three words were used by a veteran Adams Central teacher, Harry Anderson, to express how happy he feels about using the New Tech (NT) style of team instruction.
    At the May meeting of the AC school board, a lengthy presentation about the first year of NT at AC was made by four teachers, five students, and high school Principal Sean McConnell.
    Anderson, now in his 14th year of teaching, said this year is without question "the most exciting" in his career.
    He said it's the first time that when a student suddenly blurts out an idea to do something, he can reply, "Go for it!"
    He thanked the school board for its foresight in moving to NT and said the teachers "poured their hearts into it."
    Anderson noted that when he came to AC several years ago, he said he quickly "felt pressure to be the best that you can be" because that's expected at Adams Central.
    He added that, when AC teachers talk to other teachers at NT schools, the AC teachers know soon that they are doing NT the right way. "We're nailing it," he stated. "The sky's the limit."
    The students who spoke to the board included sophomore Devan Barger and freshmen Ben Lehman, Brier Stucky, Deatra Gremaux, and Chris Litchfield.
    They talked about the projects done in NT classes, such as a make-believe political television commercial about the issue of illegal immigration into the United States' southern border. The commercial, which was shown to the school board, was made in the global studies NT class.
    There are also music presentations and "photo stories," in which pictures tell the tale and the number of words is limited to 25.    
    Lehman said there were some "kinks" in the NT process when it began, but they were quickly ironed out. Now, the eighth graders are being prepared by the freshmen to start NT next year.
    Stucky said the high school students gained confidence as public speakers when they gave NT-based presentations to AC's elementary students, telling them about books the freshmen wrote in NT classes. 
    Stucky added that, as students progress through high school (eventually all four grades will use NT), they will become proficient public speakers. Another point Stucky made is that when two subjects are combined in NT class (such as biology and literature), students who are not so good in one can use the other to raise their overall grade.
    Gremaux spoke about posing problems and finding solutions because NT classes break into four-member teams to do that. She talked about making lists of what students know and what they need to know to be good problem-solvers.
    Litchfield referred to making books, videos, and calendars in NT classes, which the teachers also mentioned.
    Lehman said being part of a team makes people better communicators and leads to better relationships among students.
    McConnell said one four-member team of "slackers" turned out to have a student who became a very good leader and that team came up with a very nice project.

'No longer teach in isolation'
    We no longer teach in isolation," since there are two teachers in each New Tech (NT) room, with two subjects taught at the same time, Adams Central English teacher Krista Jauregui said at the May meeting of the school board.
    She said during a discussion at the meeting that all the AC teachers talk to each other, so she has "never felt so much collegiality" at the school.
    She spoke about pamphlets and videos created by the students and said magazines were made by the youths to be read, prospectively, by people waiting to be served at various businesses in the area.
    Each student wrote two articles for a magazine and took photographs for that publication. The magazines, with slick covers, were professionally printed at the the EP Graphics plant in Berne.
    The NT students also took tours of EP Graphics and the DRG firm, formerly Dynamic Resource Group, a specialty magazine publisher in Berne.
    Jauregui said the students learned not just to write, but to rewrite and revise to make their work publishable.
    She added that the TV commercials were evaluated by four people from outside Adams Central to get unbiased perspectives.
    Spanish and English teacher Leanne Tijerina said teachers and students are engaged in shared decision-making in the NT setting, with teachers as facilitators and students gaining a greater voice and insights during class time.
    English teacher Katie Isch said NT students are not only having fun learning, but they are meeting all AC and state standards for 21st century skills. Writing is better this year than last year by the NT students and they are reading a lot.
    High school Principal Sean McConnell said 20 AC teachers will enter a workshop in New Tech at Grand Rapids, Michigan, this summer. By 2013, all the AC staff should be trained in NT, he indicated.
    The school board said Adams Central might become a place for other schools to study how NT works. Superintendent Mike Pettibone said officials from Blackford County schools have visited and officials from the Innovation Center in Fort Wayne may come, too.
    McConnell reportED that AC backed off of New Tech in the mathematics field and is teaching math through traditional methods, but he says the Gates Foundation, created by billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, is working to improve math literacy, which could include use of the NT system.
    Pettibone SAID a New Tech coach has visited AC six times this year to check how the school is doing and maintains good communications with the teachers.
    Pettibone, who has been in education for some 30 years, said this is "the most professional" system of instruction he has ever seen.
    In a related matter, Pettibone released a list of the subjects this year in which AC students are receiving dual credit for high school and college:
    — 11 in advanced placement statistical methods.
    — 16 in pre-calculus.
    — Four in advanced placement analytic geometry and trigonometry.
    — 36 in advanced placement U.S. history.
    — 14 in literature.
    — Five in building trades.
    — Two in software development.
    — Five in automotive services technology.
    — Nine in health careers.
    — Two in criminal justice and law enforcement.
    — Eight in technical graphics.

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