The Panther Press

Educators Hear about Tapping into Students’ Interests and Passions

School NewsGreg Higgins
North Lamar ISD Principal Angela Compton (left), Superintendent John McCullough (second from left) and Principal Kelli Stewart (right) welcomes keynote speaker, Dr. Gara Fields (second from right), at the district’s staff developmenton Monday. Fields spoke to educators from North Lamar and the surrounding area about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) that changed the path of her failing school.  

North Lamar ISD Principal Angela Compton (left), Superintendent John McCullough (second from left) and Principal Kelli Stewart (right) welcomes keynote speaker, Dr. Gara Fields (second from right), at the district’s staff developmenton Monday. Fields spoke to educators from North Lamar and the surrounding area about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) that changed the path of her failing school.  

Presidents Day for many is a holiday, but educators from North Lamar ISD and the surrounding area gathered Monday to hear Dr. Gara Fields share how she transformed an under-performing school into one in which all students excel. 

Since the fall of 2011, Fields has been the principal of Pleasant View School (Pre-K through 5) in Providence, Rhode Island.  There she was awarded a half million dollar Innovation Powered by Technology grant from the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to become the state’s first model school for blended learning.  Pleasant View students showed the highest statistically significant growth in Providence, as well as some of the highest gains in math last year in RI on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP).  In three years, Pleasant View is the only school in the city (and only one of four in RI) to successfully move from priority to rising status by hitting 100% of their transformation targets set by RIDE.

‘Spike’, as Fields called herself in first grade, was above average in math.  But by the time she entered third grade, her report card showed that she had fallen to average and needed improvement in several areas.  The trend followed her all the way through high school. She contributes her lack to thrive in school to the fact that no one took the time to see where her interests lay. 

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) implemented by Bailey Intermediate and Stone Middle School in the fall of 2015 focuses on enrichment for all students through high levels of engagement.  The enjoyable and challenging learning experiences are constructed around students’ interests, learning styles and preferred modes of expression. 

SEM has been renamed JUMP (Journey to Unlocking My Potential) at North Lamar.  The two campus have scheduled times during the semester for students to become involved in JUMP enrichment clusters that tap into their interests and strengths.  Examples of groups include guitar, farm and ranch, jewelry making, cooking, robotics, scuba, CSI, nail painting, powder puff football, fishing, woodworking, ceiling tile painting, yoga, gymnastics, fossils, refurbishing furniture, singing and broadcasting to name a few.  Enrichment clusters change semester to semester allowing students to explore other interests.

“We are thrilled to be given the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful program,” said Stone Principal Kelli Stewart. “This program is allowing our students to discover their gifts and talents and is giving them the ability to interact effectively with other students and adults who share common goals and interests.” 

Stone and Bailey scheduled their JUMP groups on Tuesday so Fields and visiting districts could observe students fully engaged in their enrichment clusters. 

“Just look how every one of the students are engaged,” Fields said as she walked through the CSI enrichment cluster.  “This is so exciting!”