For the past few years, Leyden has believed that if it can incorporate passion, kindness, and innovation into its curriculum, then we can have a successful school with students ready to take on the world. An Illinois top education official recently visited Leyden to test our district’s hypothesis that Leyden represents the best of public schools in Illinois
And based on the reaction of Illinois State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tony Smith, #leydenpride is well-deserved.
Following his tour of the culinary room, TSI, and our metals shop, Dr. Smith remarked on our student body in the following way: “You are able to go about your learning and are able to share how you are recruiting and and connecting with other kids. Schools for me are a place of inclusion and belonging…and I feel like that gets stripped out of schools a lot of time and to hear it so clearly is powerful. I actually haven’t heard it in awhile.”
Dr. Smith’s visit began with an invitation from Director of Careers Dr. Fran Brady and was guided by Leyden Superintendent Dr. Nick Polyak and Board President Mr. Gregory T. Ignoffo.
During each segment of the tour, students described for Dr. Smith the different certification and career pathways that are available at our school. After the tour, he was served lunch by our catering class and students involved in FACS, TSI, PLTW, AP Seminar, and E-learning presented the different details that makes these classes stand out from other schools.
During the visit to TSI, for example, Director of Technology Brian Weinert explained how the class has earned a reputation with the Dell corporation. Weinert explained that “the third highest guy in Dell that reports directly to Michael Dell came through here twice, not just once, because he wanted to come back.” Dr. Smith was just as impressed when he walked through and noted how student-run customer support is not only cheaper, but it prepares them for future careers.
“These aren’t students. They’re your level 1 tech support. I have two hundred extra sets of hands,” Weinert explained. TSI teacher Ms. Lauren Martire explained that a lot of TSI is based off partnership and apprenticeship where students either work together to learn something new or a more experienced TSI student teaches the younger students.
Dr. Smith was again impressed with Leyden when he walked through our metals shops. While giving him the tour, students noted how they appreciated that teachers were able to get them jobs in the field and get a head start on their careers. Students were more than happy to answer Dr. Smith’s questions as they explained every machine, and Dr. Smith was surprised to hear the Leyden has machinery that even metal shops in the city don’t have.
Many students offered praise for their teachers and their classes as they spoke with Dr. Smith. After students gave presentations on the different courses available at Leyden, Dr. Smith was amazed. “The fact that you make this learning yours and you talk about teaching, meeting teachers, and [how] teachers who graduated from here are your favorite teachers. It’s amazing,” he said in the beginning of a group conversation. He went on to ask how we as students are “helping other kids find their passions and find connections.”
Azu Whigham, who represented Leyden’s new E-Learning Days at the presentation, said that it helps that we’re not like every high school. “We’re all on Twitter, and we all follow eachother. We’re just a big loving school, and I just think that students here are more of a community.
Representing PLTW, Adrian Ziemkiewicz said that “It’s not exactly a family because it’s too big but more like a close, tight knit community. You may not know somebody on a personal level, but since you’re at Leyden, you don’t really fear walking up to them and talking to them.”
At the end of the tour, Dr. Smith was officially welcomed to the community with his own #leydenpride shirt and even some Javacinno puppy chow.