A program to benefit all students

By Todd Fuqua

For years, schools in Ruidoso and throughout the state have offered special opportunities to students who are identified as “gifted,” “special.”

These kids aren’t that different from the rest, they just learn in a different way. They’re accelerated in some subject areas far beyond their fellow classmates, and are brought into a situation where they must work together and create their own learning opportunities.

Jennifer Carey, coordinator of the new Student Improvement Grant program at White Mountain Elementary and Sierra Vista Primary. (Courtesy photo)

That’s certainly the case with Destination Imagination at White Mountain Elementary, but now students at that school and at Sierra Vista Primary will all have a chance at extended learning thanks to a new grant.

It’s called the Student Improvement Grant (SIG) and Jennifer Carey is the coordinator.

“This is all about getting the kids involved in extracurricular activities and social building,” Carey said. “We didn’t want to limit it.”

The SIG program – according to the registration form parents filled out – is “geared towards improving student academic achievement, building leadership, emphasizing social and emotional learning and offering enrichment classes to students in grades 1-5.”

In short, it gives a much wider range of students at the schools a wider range of academic challenges.

This includes Destination Imagination, the Battle of the Books team,  and special classes for Lego robotics, American Sign Language, multicultural dance, drawing and painting, a reader’s theater and a special class based entirely on reading and interpreting the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

There was limited space for these classes, with the Lego robotics class by far being the most popular, according to Carey.

“It’s almost like taking a college course,” Carey said. “Some kids do tutoring on some days, Battle of the Books on other days. Everyone gets something different that they want to do.

The first session gets underway Jan. 9 and lasts until Feb. 17. There are two more sessions scheduled for the rest of the school year, through May 14.

Carey said the grant pays for the program for the next two full years as well.

The SIG program came out of the need for the district to address a large number of students in remedial reading and math, so many of the teachers are tutoring students in need of a little extra care.

“I was amazed how many kids were in need of intervention,” Carey said. “That’s why we targeted tutoring first, but we’re trying to make it fun and interesting. Things like fraction camps or making snack mixes to apply those fractions and math to real life.”

Because the teachers are the ones facilitating these extra courses, and because there’s more teachers willing to do the extra work at WME, the first- and second-grade students at SVP don’t have as many options, for now.

Carey said that for the next sessions, she’ll be reaching out to community members that might like to teach a class using their real-life expertise.

Of course, teaching applicants will have to pass a background test and provide fingerprints before they can come in and help shape these students’ minds.

“This grant is good for three years, there’s a good budget for it, and the sky’s really the limit.” Carey said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for these kids to do something after school. We’re hoping this could be something powerful for students and parents.

“My vision is that the first few sessions will be a little heavy on tutoring,” she added. “We’ll be growing the enrichment classes in the future.”

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