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Augustinian Academy uses new teaching style to benefit students


CARTHAGE — In an effort to come in line with the state’s Common Core initiative, upper grades at Augustinian Academy have departmentalized.

Principal Sister Annunciata Collins said the standards “seek to engage students in the same expectations for learning and to involve students in setting learning goals.”

In grades five through eight, students change classes for English language arts, math, science and social studies. Giving teachers topic-specific assignments allows them to focus in depth on particular areas and incorporate the Common Core standards. In the past, the seventh- and eighth-graders changed classes only for math and science. Prekindergarten to fourth-grade pupils are still in self-contained classrooms.

Two years into Common Core, vice principal and eighth-grade teacher Mary Ann Margrey said she has embraced the education initiative and finds teaching math as opposed to all subjects helps her be a better teacher.

“By not splitting time, I can concentrate more on math,” Mrs. Margrey said. “Teaching math in grades five, six, seven and eight as well as an algebra class has been a wonderful opportunity to experience the new Common Core standards as they span the grade levels. By departmentalizing, I am able to see how the standards actually build on previous skills.”

Last year, when the new teaching system was introduced, Mrs. Margrey said, the school did not have much material to work with, only worksheets or modules that outlined the curriculum and few textbooks to consult. Building on those resources, she has been better able to create a learning course for her students.

“You look at what’s there and pick out what works,” she said. “We look at real world situations and determine how our math skills can be applied.”

The teachers now teach basically in their field of choice, with Mrs. Margrey teaching math; Linda Carney, science; Shannon Margrey, English language arts; and Kimberly A. Schexnayder, social studies.

Mrs. Carney said the new system allows the students “to develop good science practices,” with “regularly scheduled lab activities that engage them in their study, allowing them to explore concepts in a hands-on manner.”

The new teaching system lends itself to more of a team-teaching approach and allows teachers to integrate materials across different subject areas, Mrs. Schexnayder said.

An added bonus to the new system is the integration or renewal of extracurricular activities, including student council, intramural sports club, math club, science club, Science Olympiad and Battle of the Books.

Although some students miss the comfort of self-contained classrooms, they have accepted the new teaching style, which they acknowledge will prepare them better for high school or other schools.

Representatives of the four grades said they could see where it was better for the teachers to be able teach in their specialty.

Jaden C. Thesier, a fifth-grader who has attended the academy since kindergarten, said it was evident that the teachers liked to teach certain subjects over others. He said it was easier for the teachers to stay on one subject and he felt it made them better teachers.

Sixth-grader Hunter I. Clarke said, “It’s better for the teachers, but I personally do not like it.”

He said it was hard to focus after changing classes and it was easy to forget learning materials in the homeroom. This is Hunter’s second year at the Carthage parochial school.

“It’s a pretty good idea and will better prepare us for high school,” eighth-grader Seth D.K. Landers said.

He has attended the school since kindergarten and said if he had it to do over again, he would rather have the old system of staying in one classroom for all subjects.

“I like having my own space. It makes me better organized,” he said.

Seventh-grader Jordan T. Daugherty came to the school last year. She likes the departmentalization.

“The day seems shorter. It helps with time management and you learn different teaching styles,” she said, although she said she doesn’t like having to carry her books and papers from room to room.

Another plus to the new system is the coordination of the teachers.

“The teachers know each other and coordinate homework so we’re not overloaded,” Jordan said.

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