Arvada/Clearmont: Students Thriving in Technology-Driven Environment

A/C 7th Grader Tommy Nimick examines a plant cell shown on the overhead projection through his class' video microscope. (Brad Estes)
A/C 7th Grader Tommy Nimick examines a plant cell shown on the overhead projection through his class' video microscope. (Brad Estes)

Sheridan County School District No. 3 may be proving that learning is made easier with advantageous student teacher ratios, and using a myriad of tools like Smartboards, iPads, and even webcam technology that allowed students to take an interactive field trip last year to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Small class sizes allow for a student-to-teacher ratio that has some even choosing the school over others in the area. A few students have an hour or more ride to school each day, with kids from southern Montana, Campbell County and Sheridan County.

With 92 students enrolled K-12 this year, slightly down from average, principal Charles Auzqui is excited about the things happening at Panther schools

Re-evaluation and new techniques to improve reading scores began just after Auzqui took over as principal about five years ago. Since then, they have put even more literacy programs into place and seen even more positive results in PAWS and MAP scores.

Auzqui says that perhaps the biggest thing that allows for improvement is that staff and District No. 3 administration have been accommodating to change.

Auzqui touched on the expectations of No Child Left Behind, which will require all schools to test 100 percent proficient or advanced in state assessments (PAWS) by 2014. This may sound difficult with class sizes of six or seven kids, but Arvada-Clearmont consistently graduates 100 percent of students, Auzqui says, a product of a school environment that includes staff, students and parents putting school first.

For now, the Panthers have plenty of programs in place to prepare students to meet state and federal expectations.

Technology in the classroom, and lots of it

While small student numbers allowing more time with teachers have always been the case, perhaps the most noticeable thing at the school this year is the way students are using technology in everyday learning.

Just walk through the school on a normal school day, and see students engaged through new, innovative learning tools that almost don't allow them a chance to not to learn something.

Starting in Kindergarten, students are using a touch-activated Smartboard that Mrs. Auzqui says they use for about 80 percent classroom activities in a given day. Students use the "learning tool", as principal Auzqi calls it, to match rhyming words on the touch-activated screen, for math problems and much more.

To Mrs. Graham, the arrival of iPads last week has presented her with the challenge of keeping up with her fifth and sixth graders natural affiliation to technology.

And, in Mrs. Mitzel's Science class a video microscope lets students record video of slides, edit them on new in-class Mac computers and present the make up of a cell through presenting their videos to the class.

A field trip to Canton, Ohio

Last year, students were able to take some field trips that wouldn't have been possible without technology. Students traveled, digitally, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio where a tour guide was able to interact with the school back and forth through a web cam set up on a 42 inch LG television screen.

Auzqui says that the webcams also allow for easier communication at staff meetings with their other district member at Arvada school.

Some standouts in electives

Students Sara Ellingrod, Levi Bircher and KayLee Stidham have all been selected to participate in all state marching band. Students attend a summer camp in June 2012 in Powell. They will perform in parades around the state that summer then travel to perform in the Thanksgiving Macy's Day Parade.

The Arvada Clearmont Yearbook scored highest in the state for points out of 1,000 competing against 1A-4A schools. The Panther yearbook took home first place in the 1A category scoring 990 out of 1,000 points, and that was better score than Cheyenne Central, Kelly Walsh, and Campbell County.

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