NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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This is the fifth year that NRHEG has used a 1:1 initiative with electronic devices for student learning. From iPads to Chromebooks, this initiative has evolved greatly since that first year. We began simply, with all our 8th-graders that year receiving iPads. It was a unique group of students, and the middle school staff felt that if we were going to experiment with iPads, this would be the group to try them out on.

 They were the smallest grade in the school district at the time and made up of an eclectic group of personalities, always willing to open their minds and try something new. Sure, they could be a handful, just like any group of teenagers, but we knew that if we were going to show the benefits of devices, these students would be the best ones to help us with that.

That first year had its trials and tribulations, but we found great value in the iPads, in no small part due to the eagerness and quick learners in that first group. Today, every student in K-12 has a device available to him or her, and that first group of 8th-graders can be viewed as pioneers.

Those 8th-graders are now seniors. They have one quarter of high school left. But they’ve already put down a legacy that will stand for a long time, and it involves so many areas of the school system. The iPad experiment was just the first example of what this group would be capable of, and it’s easy now to look back and see all the signs of a special group. For one thing, they probably taught the teachers as much about how to best utilize the iPads as we taught them! More than once, I remember encountering a problem, and one of the kids would find a solution in no time.

Leadership is always the most difficult quality to pin down in young people. Sometimes you see kids who you think could step into a position of leadership, but you can never force someone down that path. Part of becoming a leader is innate, and the best leaders often naturally evolve down that road. When you start to look at the overall picture of the class of 2017, you see leadership in so many shapes and forms.

Sports are an easy place to start. Even back during football season, you could watch a team start slowly and then light a fire, reeling off six straight wins to become a good squad. That takes leadership, and the seniors provided a good part of that. Basketball has been the same, both for boys and girls, though in different ways.

I’ve seen the boys work very overtly as leaders. When you have seven seniors on the varsity, they can take charge easily. More than once, I’ve observed a senior take an underclassman aside during a huddle and give some quick instructions, especially during the playoffs. There was no hesitation by those underclassmen; they knew the senior players were as knowledgeable and talented a group as we’ve seen in a long time. Even among the seniors, there were many pick-me-ups and directions, and they blended so well as a team that they nearly used that comradery to knock off the #2 seed at state and finished with the consolation championship.

The senior girls who played basketball used a different style of leadership. I got to watch this group up close all season long, and they led by example, even if that example was a calmness on the court. To be a leader does not always mean you have to yell and give orders. Sometimes it’s just saying, “Stay calm. We’ve got this.” Sure, that might drive coaches nuts, but the six seniors on the girls’ team never got down, even when they were behind, and the last two wins at the state tournament exemplified that spirit.

But we also have senior leadership in other areas. There are so many awesome kids involved in band and choir, and I’m sure Mr. Bender and Mrs. Fredrickson would tell you that performances and competitions only go as well as the seniors take them. You don’t have to be the best soprano or the greatest percussionist to be a leader in the musical world. This senior group of musicians has been so fun to watch grow over the years, and I know Jayna has told me that the band sounds so good because of the leaders they have in that group.

Our drama performers, be it one-act play, readers’ theater, or the upcoming musical, follow that same pattern. There are many kids involved in these productions, but the seniors provide the experience to show the younger kids how things work and how to get the most out of the experience. And that’s a huge part of being a leader: helping others achieve. I got the chance to watch the one-act group practice one night, and the seniors really rubbed off on the underclassmen with their great attitudes and encouraging comments. Great leaders breed new leaders to take their place, especially in schools.

I can only imagine that Mrs. Kormann and Mrs. Rudau would have difficulty with the student council and student ambassadors if they didn’t have tremendous seniors to assist. Again, the chance to make the school a place to be proud to attend is a big focus of those two organizations, and the seniors seem to get more excited than anyone else at activities that are planned. Hopefully, that becomes contagious!

It’s been a fun journey to watch the  lass of 2017 progress toward graduation. Every senior class is very special, but this group has really made a name for themselves. We’ll miss their smiling faces in the halls next year, but I have confidence that the leadership qualities they’ve shown will be passed on, and the grades to come will want to try to match the high standards set by this fine group.

 

Word of the Week: This week’s word is bromidic, which means commonplace, as in, “There was nothing at all bromidic about the Class of 2017 at NRHEG.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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