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Opinion

Jonak: Westmont Junior High educates 'the whole child'

Community Voice

John K. Jonak is principal of Westmont Junior High School.
John K. Jonak is principal of Westmont Junior High School.

Educators and the entire community continue to educate the whole child at Westmont Junior High School.

For the last three years, the school has been in the top 15 to 17 percent of 1,304 middle schools in the state of Illinois, according to PARCC scores. Eighth-grade students have scored an average of 20 percent higher than the state average on the Illinois Science Assessment, and across all grade levels, more students are meeting and exceeding their growth targets on the Reading and Math NWEA MAP assessment.

Technology is an important tool in our learning. In our third year with a school-wide 1-to-1 program, technology is integrated across all disciplines. Embracing this tech allows our students to attain a solid foundation and express themselves through a tool they will likely use for the rest of their lives, learning and growing in ways we may not fully grasp. Students are also free to bring their own devices to school to supplement their Chromebooks.

Obviously, academics are a large part of the puzzle, but the learning experience transcends academics at Westmont Junior High School. Our creative educators and strong community partners allow us to create student-centered, mini-enrichment classes such as: Frozen Film Festival, Community Talks – Westmont, Sprouting Seeds Cafe, Mock Trials, Future City Project, Event Planning, Sign Language, Rube Goldberg Project and much more. Through these classes, students develop a wider perspective of the world and how to be successful in it.

Panthers also want to bring out the good in the world in which they live, so three years ago, we created the Student Service Learning Commitment, in which students complete service for nonprofit organizations. The Community Unit School District 201 Board of Education believes so much in the commitment, it passed a policy that in order to walk the stage at graduation, eighth-grade students must complete a minimum of 36 hours of service over their three years. Many students go well beyond these 36 hours! We believe our partnerships positively impact these nonprofit organizations, and we know our community and students understand the benefits of volunteering.

As we build upon our programming and refine our learning experiences, it is clear the only limits we have are those we place upon ourselves.

John K. Jonak is principal of Westmont Junior High School.

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