Alternative Education Offers Higher Learning Opportunities

West, being a large public school, holds many opportunities that many students fail to learn about throughout their years. These opportunities range from being a teaching assistant in a science class, to taking an extra advanced study in the social studies department. These opportunities hold potential for many career paths, and teach students necessary skills for their future, along with being an extra opportunity to pursue a class in a subject that interests the student.

Sara Dobish, one of the CAPP Biology teachers, values her teaching assistants, as she holds a hectic schedule with two lab based classes, and explains the job of her teaching assistants.

“Our TA’s mostly set up labs and make chemicals, agar, and other things needed for our classes to run smoothly,” Dobish said. “They also assist in grading lab books from the CAPP Biology classes.”

With experience like making chemicals, one most science students miss the chance to do as there is simply not enough time in a day, students create knowledge and opportunities for themselves that others are not able to get until after high school. Kal Horejs, Senior teaching assistant for Vicki Ramus, appreciates these experiences.

“Being a TA gives you a lot of real world experiences that prepare you for life after high school and for the real world, especially if you want to go into the field you are assisting in,” Horejs said.

With unique experiences, students are able to learn concepts that can put them ahead in the internship realm later in life, such as knowing how to mix chemicals. Claire Miller, an assistant for Dobish, reflects on what her experiences have taught her.

“I’ve learned an array of techniques in making chemicals and agar,” Miller said. “It helps me learn to be precise because a lot of the labs call for exact measurements, along with learning to be independent and make my own judgement when I am grading lab books.”

Along with unique lab opportunities, being a teaching assistant gives students a unique look into the life of a teacher and the responsibilities that come with real life careers. Vicki Ramus, Dobish’s sidekick CAPP Biology teacher, emphasizes the way teaching assistants are required to think differently than in other classes.

“I think the best thing they gain is a different perspective,” Ramus said. “They are forced to think more from a logistical standpoint and in a way that makes them think about what makes sense for others not for themselves.”

Along with the teaching assistant program, West offers independent study programs as well. Paul Stellflug, the AP Government and Politics and AP European History teacher, offers one of these independent study classes for seniors.

“The class is called Advanced Study Constitutional Convention,” Stellpflug said. “I started it four years ago and before that I had been doing it with just a few kids, and then I opened it up to a larger number of students and it’s taken off from there.”

With twenty-five students enrolled in the class, students seem to find Stellflug’s program both interesting, and beneficial. Senior Natalie Tyriver, who is involved in the advanced study program, explains the specific aspects of their learning.

“Over the course of the school year we read the book “The Great Rehearsal” by Van Doren,” Tyriver said. “The book discusses all aspects of the Philadelphia Convention, including who was there, what was discussed, and the outcome of the convention.”

With these advanced learning opportunities, students are able to catch a glimpse of what college life will be like with varying types of class setups.

“It mimics a college seminar class in which students are responsible for learning on their own and then coming together for discussion for a more analytical approach to a topic,” Stellpflug said. “So you learn the content and I’m just here to pose questions and follow up questions.”

By having to read the book outside of school, and coming in on their own time for group discussions, the students get a genuine view of a different type of class, but also go in greater depth in a single subject than most classes allow.

“Rather than regular content, there’s a greater depth of knowledge and understanding on the topic,” Stellpflug said.

Along with these unique aspects of the class, it is set up in a way that tailors to the busy life of a high school senior.

“It differs from other classes because it a less stressful way of reading,” Tyriver said. “The meetings are spread over a couples weeks, which is adequate time for reading and preparing for the meetings. The class also has the option to either being in a physical class or completing it online.”

With many options involved in an advanced learning class, students are able to truly enjoy their learning, without the regular hustle and bustle of advanced placement and CAPP classes.

“These opportunities are important to students because it provides a way of learning that is different from the typical classroom setting,” Tyriver said. “It also prepares students for reading that they will be required to do in college. Overall, the class is a fun and laid back way of learning, which most students don’t get during their time in high school.”

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