WESTMONT – At Westmont High School, Principal Jack Baldermann and his colleagues have worked to cultivate a positive learning experience for their students. They want their teens to feel supported, encouraged and motivated both inside and outside of the classroom. These teens, Baldermann said, are young adults who need to know that though life can bring on waves of challenges, obstacles can be overcome.
And the only way those values can be instilled is through practice, he added. Academic achievements and graduation rates aside, Baldermann and other staff and faculty have made a commitment to not only serve their students but also to come together as a family. Westmont High School is a place “where this respect and culture of really deep love for each other” exists, Baldermann said.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. “The main thing that we’re teaching our students is to be compassionate human beings who give back to this world.”
With that, Baldermann spoke of his school’s recent effort to become a professional learning community, a collaborative model designed for teachers to share their methods.
Marie Charlton, Westmont board of education president, said that creating space and time for their teachers to learn, whether from one another or through professional development opportunities, has been beneficial.
Earlier this month, Westmont High School received the DuFour Award, which honors the top-performing PLC. The application process, to say the least, was rigorous, Charlton said.
In order to qualify, Baldermann and his team were required to submit 27 500-word essays, 10 different student achievement measures and a five-minute video presentation that unveiled Westmont High School’s culture.
Though nearly a week has passed since the official announcement, Charlton said that winning the award still felt “surreal.”
Charlton and Baldermann believe that education equals opportunity. It’s all about giving every student the chance to succeed.
“This award is about these kids,” Charlton said. “It’s about seeing somebody who maybe thought they couldn’t do it because of whatever – their economic [background], their skin color, their language [barrier], anything – but you can succeed. And by succeeding, you can try the next thing and you can become a better person.”
Receiving the DuFour Award, she noted, also unveiled the true meaning behind community. Charlton and Baldermann credited teachers, parents, students and community members, who have helped shape their school into what it is today.
“At the heart of it, the teachers care deeply about the students, and because that happens, then the students care deeply about our school and with each other,” Baldermann said.