Global Academy seniors hit capstone year in style

Being equipped with a global education for the future, as well as for the workforce, is knowledge strived for in the Academy of Global Studies. Whether in the first or the fourth level, students at West taking part in this program make strides toward becoming more globally aware, thus preparing students for life beyond high school. After receiving a U.S. State Department International Research and Exchanges Fellowship to study Global Education, Spanish teacher Kathy Heinen continues to oversee and develop the program into its latest incarnation. Now consisting of four levels, students from all grades study along with their peers and are developing into global citizens along the way.

“Being that the goal of the American educational system is to prepare students for life, the Academy for Global Studies fits into that framework, because we ask our students to prepare for a shared global future,” Heinen said.

Heinen works with students who strive for a deeper understanding of the United States through the various studies presented in the curriculum.

The main goal  of the academy is to educate students with a global outlook.

“Teachers in the Academy present curriculum emphasizing deeper learning so that students first understand how the world is changing and then work to improve our shared future,” Heinen said.

These students are on the path to achieve their Global Education Achievement Certificate. Academy I English teacher William Brydon says that it is definitely a great thing to have.

“The advantage of having the Global Education certificate is to physically show future employers and colleges the worldly knowledge that many students do not have,” he said. “But more holistically, it also signifies that you have gone to lengths to craft your education around being a global citizen, and setting yourself up to be a change agent in the future.”

In the fourth level of the Academy, the Senior Capstone course, students are asked to act on what they have learned by creating a project to make Oshkosh more globally aware. Senior Ashley Fontaine is currently working on the Capstone project using problem solving and organization skills which are valuable beyond high school into college, and also in the workforce. Heinen sees this process taking place.

“Those who are working on their Capstone projects are applying their knowledge in the community, and developing ways to make the world a better place,” Heinen said. “Then after finishing their projects, students will be recognized as Global Scholars by the Wisconsin Department of Education.”

The class of 2018 is the first group of students to go through the Global Academy. As the curriculum develops, teachers are learning new ways to teach. Fontaine witnesses the teachers adapting the curriculum and changing things that need to be changed.

“Parts of our experience were a little rocky at times, but still I can’t remember a time where we couldn’t work something out, and learn from the experience,” she said.

Junior Ariana Jiricka has shared experiences within her two completed years of academy. As she looks over the past year, she sees growth.

“Everyone in Academy has grown closer to each other, and accepting of each other,” she said. “I enjoy getting to know everyone more, and being in a comfortable setting every day.”

Reflecting on her experiences in the program throughout her West career, Fontaine has defined skills that will be used in her future.

“I have also seen myself grow not only as a student, but also as a person. The close relationships in the Academy helped me get rid of fear and anxiety caused by public speaking,” she said.

Breaking the walls of her comfort zone as well, sophomore Riley Shew credits the Academy of Global Studies for developing her into who her is today.

“I used to be quiet and shy, but as I became more comfortable with the Academy setting, it helped me to be more outgoing and expressive,” she said. “I honestly feel like that is all thanks to the Academy, because it really pushed me out of my comfort zone, and it really changed me as a person and a student,” she said.

Focusing on the AP European History course that was included in level two, Jiricka acknowledged that the classes have really caused me to push herself.

“Because there are classes in the Academy that I probably wouldn’t have taken, it led to going out of my comfort zone,” she said. “Everyone encourages one another to take those hard classes, and that is what has helped me to be a better student.”

The Academy for Global Studies has affected not only those involved, but those outside the program as well. Andrew Britton has stated, from an A.P. US History teacher perspective, the difference of students within this program being integrated into his class.

“Last year was a big adjustment for me because my students were coming from completely different experiences from World Cultures, AP World, or AP Euro,” he said. “Nonetheless, in the long run, it’s a great thing.”

From Britton’s prior experience teaching the AP U.S. course, having Academy students who have completed AP Euro and are taking American Literature within the junior curriculum increases the level of discussion and perspective in class.

“The juniors are studying American History in their English classes so it syncs together well with AP U.S. History, and certainly helps enhance my class and helps the junior students better grasp the curriculum,” Britton said.

Not only does this structure benefit the students, but there are also profits for the teachers as well.

“A second benefit is that I, Mr. Lawton, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Stellpflug can all collaborate on best practices for AP History given that the exams are now uniform,” Britton said.

Looking into the future of the Academy, Heinen finds collaboration with her coworkers as the key to success, a trait they look to model for their students as well.

“Every summer Academy staff spend several days together looking at how the year went and revising the curriculum,” she said of the team. “They believe that it is “a ‘work in progress’ and that every year the Academy staff  will be improving opportunities for students.”

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