“It’s a Great Day to be a Musky Because...”
(comments from the 2016/2017 Staff Retreat)
*AV-W values music
*We are family
*We are crew
*We make a difference
*Every crew member matters
*Teamwork makes the dreamwork
*Our crew just keeps swimming
*AV-W is awesome
*Of our growth mindset
*It’s not the suburbs
*We are all now fishing out of the same boat
*We are adventurous
On a Recent Afternoon...
...after school let out and the weather prevented the track team from practicing outside, it was hard not to notice the unique atmosphere about the halls of the Arbor Vitae - Woodruff school. Above the cafeteria, where students first enter the school, six words are printed in large letters — compassion, integrity, courage, grit, craftsmanship and curiosity. On the wall to the right is a board labeled “Nightly Reading Wall of Fame” and to the left is a three-piece display filled with notices about school expectations.
The school is bright and cheery with light-colored walls and floors. Hall after hall is decorated with inspirational quotes, student artwork and class projects. A common theme is apparent in the students’ work as those six words painted above the cafeteria are repeated over and over.
More signs about the school expectations hang in the halls. Each one uses a combination of the six terms.
As the track team took laps around the school, a passersby moved out of the way and ducked into a doorway to avoid the herd. Several students pause to wait for struggling teammates, calling out encouragement as they wait. One of the signs mentioning compassion hangs on the wall nearby.
The EL structure isn’t new to AV-W, but the school’s state test results are on the rise and it’s not a far leap to assume the school’s change in culture is related.
Possibly the most important action for an EL school is to define what core values and habits of a scholar are for their students. The faculty chooses terms for each concept and collectively teaches them in every class. “There’s something about selecting words as a staff that’s powerful and unifying,” Rein said. “We felt at that point — when we first chose our words — we needed to help our kids find integrity and find more compassion for each other and as we started to see the culture changing amongst our students and staff, it just fueled itself.”
The two different concepts — core values and habits of a scholar — are designed to blend the culture of the school with academic learning. The EL structure emphasizes the idea that a strong culture will help academically. “We spend a lot of time on the culture of the school,” Smith said. “We really try to build the culture and ingrain those cores values and habits of scholarship so that by the time the kids are in higher grades, these ideas are habit and they’ll be more successful.”
“High expectations are a very important part of EL,” Smith said. “We establish high expectations about students' behavior in the halls, how they treat each other, the process they go through to finish projects.” Expectations for the students are clearly defined throughout the school. A display board with expectations for various scenarios is placed at the entrance of the school and different posters are hung in halls and classrooms. “Clearly defining our expectations is a big part of having high expectations,” Smith said. “We make sure the expectations are clearly written out and include the wording of our core values. It’s not just telling the students how to act. It’s another way to encourage compassion, integrity and courage.”
Leighty, Jessica. "EL + AVW = SUCCESS." The Lakeland Times[Minocqua] 19 Apr. 2016, 124th ed., sec. 1: 1+. Print.
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AV-W is a Wisconsin public school district serving children in grades 4K through grade 8 living in the towns of Arbor Vitae and Woodruff, Wisconsin.
The 2015 - 2016 school year enrollment was 374 resident students with an additional 132 open enrollment students, for a total of 506 students.
AV-W has one of the highest ratios of open enrolled students in the state of Wisconsin and the numbers continue to increase.
Demographics at AV-W 2015/2016
268 boys & 238 girls
4 Asian/Pacific Islander students
14 Black/African American students
2 Hispanic students
72 Native American/Alaskan Native students
69 Special Education students
43% of students eat free or reduced lunch
AV-W is committed to empowering each student to make a positive difference and to achieve personal greatness.