February 9, 2014

Knowing our history

Last fall I listened to a conversation of White Bear Lake Area High School graduates from the 1960s through the 1990s. The occasion was a dinner hosted by the White Bear Lake Educational Foundation, which has worked since 1993 to provide excellence in education for our students.

What did the graduates remember of high school? Friends and "life lessons," of course. But the memories turn invariably to teachers. Teachers who inspired career choices. Teachers who understood awkward adolescents. Teachers and coaches who taught and modeled scholarship, discipline, service, and determination.

"We have been given so much by this community," one reflected. "I would really like to support today's high school students." Other alumnus agreed.

Recently members of the current school administration met with a roomful of alumni who want to make a difference by doing what they can to encourage our newest generation.

This experience reminded me of an article our son sent our family shortly after we gathered for the holidays. The article, published in the New York Times, was an excerpt from a book entitled "The Stories that Bind Us," by Bruce Feiler.

Mr. Feiler writes that "...the single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative." He goes on to quote one psychologist who observed that "children who know a lot about their family tend to do better when they face challenges."

During my time in White Bear Lake Area Schools I have listened to inspiring stories from graduates from our high school from the 1930s through the present. These have included an internationally famous science professor from the University of Minnesota; an influential doctor who practices and teaches in Boston; and an injured war veteran who has served in the Legislature. Each of these graduates - and hundreds more - tell today's students what it was like in our community when they were in school. They tell about the challenges they have faced in their careers and life - and how the lessons they learned in our schools, churches, and community have inspired and sustained them.

Many of us have family members who taught us important lessons when we were young or encouraged us when we needed encouragement. We also learned from them that life can be difficult. We know about their defeats, as well as their victories. Knowing that a parent or grandparent faced fear or want - and persevered - can help us find determination in facing our own challenges.

We are fortunate to be part of a community that, in this regard, has characteristics of a family. Since the 1890s, graduates have been returning to continue the legacy of supporting the next generation.

Dr. Michael Lovett

This article was originally published in the White Bear Press.

Student News - Serving success

Two fun activities were hosted at the White Bear Lake Donatelli's over the past few weeks. First, on Jan. 30, the Area Learning Center honored mid-year graduates with a graduation dinner at the local Italian restaurant.

In addition to this delicious treat, ALC winter graduates will also have the opportunity to attend the formal graduation ceremony June 5, at WBLAHS South Campus. 

Willow Lane Elementary fifth-grade students also had the chance to explore Donatelli's. In fact, they took over the restaurant! That's right, the annual Willow Lane Donatelli's Takeover began on Feb. 4 with students learning hands-on what it takes to work at a restaurant.

After applying and interviewing for positions at the Italian food restaurant, 16 students from Willow Lane Elementary had the opportunity to "take over" Donatelli's and practice working as hosts, servers, and cooks. Donatelli's managers were stunned by how well students had performed during the application process as well as working in multiple areas of the restaurant.

This valuable learning experience will continue February 11, 18, 25 and March 4, each day with a new round of students working from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. We hope you join us one - or all - of the days!

Keeping in touch

Two White Bear Lake elementary classrooms have used the power of technology to keep in touch with volunteers and teachers abroad. At Otter Lake Elementary School, John Barnes' second-grade class helped decorate a quilt for a soldier in Afghanistan through the Soldiers' Angel program. 

Barnes' stepmother, Penny Barnes, has participated in the program in the past and often writes letters and sends care packages to soldiers overseas. In December, Penny, who owns a quilting company, and Don Barnes, John's father, traveled from Iowa to visit John's classroom and help the students decorate American flag-themed fabric squares. 

Penny used the fabric squares to design and create a quilt to send overseas. After finishing the quilt, Penny video called John's class so they could see the finished product before she shipped it out on Jan. 23.

In Kathleen Elletson's kindergarten class at Birch Lake Elementary, Miss Silvia, a student teacher from Barcelona, has been teaching kids about technology and Spanish culture. 

On Friday, the class connected with a "sister school" in Barcelona using Google Chat and interactive white board program called Scriblink. Silvia, who will be with Elletson's class until the end of March, has opened the kindergartners eyes to a culture across the globe through new and exciting technology tools.

Health rewards

Optimal health and athleticism is rewarding throughout the many stages of life. On Feb. 5, eleven seniors at South Campus were rewarded for their athletic achievements by participating in National Signing Day and signing letters of intent to attend college as student athletes next fall.

That morning, family members, friends, and coaches gathered at South Campus to celebrate these students' accomplishments and congratulate them on continuing to pursue athletic excellence in college. To see a full list of the students, scroll down to the Activities Updates section. Find an image gallery from the morning here.

Our elementary students at White Bear Lake Area Schools look up to these promising individuals and strive to lead healthy and active lives as well. The YumPower Challenge currently underway is a true testament to how students enjoy eating healthy.

Reactions from parents and staff members have been overwhelmingly positive. One parent, Diane Smith, said her first-grade son George worked on the entire YumPower Power Pack book as soon as he got home from the first day of the challenge. He also asked his mother if she would help him make a chef's hat.

Both Leah Sitka, first grade teacher at Hugo Elementary, and Amy Corner, second grade teacher at Oneka Elementary, have been very impressed with the snacks their students have brought to class over the past few weeks. 

"I have been so impressed with the snacks I see the kids trying in class. They bring multiple types of fruits and veggies to eat!" stated Sitka.

For 12 days of BearPower winter activities click here and here

Above and beyond

Staff and students at both middle schools have gone above and beyond in the past few weeks. First, Huy Nguyen, social studies teacher at Sunrise Park Middle School was recently named 2014 Minnesota Council for Social Studies (MCSS) Middle School Teacher of the Year. 

He will be honored at the annual MCSS gala on March 2 at the Bloomington Sheraton. Click here for more event details. On the MCSS website, they describe the winners as exemplifying "the best of social studies teaching in Minnesota." Those who have taken Nguyen's class or worked with him can definitely attest to that.

At Central Middle School, three eighth-graders have been selected to participate in the Minnesota Band Directors Association (MBDA) All-State Honor Band. Katie Miller (percussion), Tejas Nivarty (trombone), and Ray White (percussion) were chosen for their exemplary musical abilities. Judges listened to 313 recorded auditions and selected the best 85.

Selected students will receive their music in the next week and have the opportunity to practice with the full group on April 26 with conductor Dr. Wendy Barden. The following day, they will perform a concert together. 

Outside the classroom

Two groups at White Bear Lake Area High School - South Campus have proven to be great examples of extending life lessons outside of the classroom. In late December, school councilor Brian Merhar and students involved in his Adventure Club returned from a Florida Sea Base on Munson Island, 24 miles north of Key West.

The students, who have struggled academically and wanted alternatives to in-class education, had the chance to live in tents, eat fish caught from the ocean, snorkel, and kayak on the trip. A few important lessons included: campfire building, snorkeling instruction, Florida tree and plant identification, deep-sea and ocean fishing skills, and an environmental service project.

Also at the high school level, the American Sign Language Club partook in lessons outside of the classroom by volunteering at Feed My Starving Children on Jan. 10. 

The reaction from students was overwhelmingly positive, with many asking to participate in the program next year. The result of their hard work: 20,000 meals, which could feed 60 children for an entire year.

And last but not least, a group of WBLAHS students were out on the lake this weekend. Science teacher Mr. Montgomery invited students to join him for an ice fishing adventure. The experience was made possible with the support of IMnFishing.com and Eco-Jig Fishing Lures.

Activities Updates

The following students signed letters of intent on Feb. 5, National Signing Day: Noah Lee (football at the U of M Crookston), Jake Newman (football at the U of M Crookston), Shayla Munson (track at MSU - Moorhead), Bethany Kozak (cross country at the University of South Dakota), Allison Ternes (nordic ski at St. Scholastica),Elizabeth Lastovich (soccer at the U of M Crookston), Jamie Rademacher (soccer at Central Michigan University), Anna Morrison (soccer at the U of M Duluth), Madison Scheer (soccer at Winona State University), Jordyn Foley(soccer at Bemidji State University), Rebekah Thom (soccer at St. Cloud State University). Find an image gallery from the morning here.

White Bear Lake Area High School Athletics schedules can be found here.

Please contact the Communications Department (651-407-7695) to submit Student News for inclusion in future publications.

School Board News Meetings

School Board meeting agendas and minutes can be found here.

Upcoming meetings 

Date Type Time Location
February 10 Regular 7 p.m. District Center
February 24 Work-Study 5:30 p.m. District Center
March 3 Regular 7 p.m. District Center