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MCW offers new courses for students

SHERBURN — One of the issues faced by educators is relevance. The basics — reading, writing and arithmetic — have always stayed the same. But exactly how a student will be able to apply those skills in the real world has always changed over time.

To that end, educators at Martin County West High School are pleased to be offering innovative courses that will allow their students to enter directly into the workforce or a certificate program, and also offer College in the Schools courses totaling 51 college credits.

Several teachers involved in the new classes, along with Principal David Traetow, recently discussed what these courses will look like.

“Not only do we want to promote the college piece of it, but it’s also the career and technical education,” Traetow said. “We don’t believe that all of our students are going to go to a four-year university. Some of them are going to go to a two-year, some are going to get a certificate and some are going to enter into the workforce.

“We really think we do a good job of preparing kids for all aspects of post-secondary education. It’s something that we think is our responsibility. When you look at our course offerings, we just don’t take our curriculum and leave it sit, we constantly try to re-evaluate it.”

Ag teachers Stephanie Wohlhuter and Jessica Daberkow shared details about the courses in their department.

“In the ag department, we have 10 college credits that we offer through three different classes, but the new class is college food science through Riverland College,” Wohlhuter said. “So that’s four credits and students will be able to get credit in food science, horticulture and animal science at the college level.

“Another new class is a career and technical education food chemistry class. All of our students are required to take chemistry now, and this is a more hands-on experiment based chemistry class.

“Another new class that we’re going to put in is called emerging agricultural technologies,” Daberkow said. “We’re going to focus on drones, solar power and wind power.”

Moving on to language arts, teacher Allison Roberts noted that her English 11 class is expanding from a one-semester course to an all-year course.

“We’re doing that so students can expand on reading and writing skills,” she said. “Then there’s the benefit of having the English course in the spring with the important testing they’ll be doing, like the ACE.”

In that same vein, English teacher Amanda Larson notes that the cultural literature class has changed to a cultural diversity class.

“We’re not just focusing on the literature, we’re going to focus on really teaching about different cultures,” Larson said. “We’re hoping to go on a field trip to Minnesota State University for their Diversity Day and some of the celebrations of different cultures. We plan on doing things that are interactive so the kids get the reading but they also understand that we need to celebrate literature from all over, not just American literature.”

Math teacher Amanda Weihe said two college math courses are currently offered, for a total of 10 credits.

“What we’ve noticed with that is we’ve been missing a component of statistics,” she said. “That is starting to become a required course for a majority of majors. So we will be offering that for three college credits.

“Then we are also offering a different course called financial literacy, which is where we’ll hit a lot of the real-world skills, from banking to purchasing a home, dealing with loan applications, W-2s and W-4s, income and taxes, and car loans.”

Weihe also noted that two education courses will be offered for students who wish to become teachers.

Science teacher Autumn Welcome shined a spotlight on a College in the Schools chemistry course.

“Kids are able to take a course where they get college credit for chemistry, and the great thing for me is being able to give these students a taste of the academic level they’re going to have to understand,” she said. “The best part is being able to do it at a pace they can actually learn. One of the things I try and stress to my students is what we learn in this year, you would learn in a semester in college, and that really builds a base for them to go into higher level courses.”

Rounding out the new course offerings, Spanish teacher Leah Rode-Mulder said college credit language courses will give students a leg up in communication skills.

“This year, for the first time, we offered Spanish 3 for four college credits through MSU,” she said. “We are continuing to offer more Spanish courses for college credit beyond just Spanish 3. Our level 4 next year will potentially be for college credit as well, so students will have the opportunity to graduate with eight credits in a foreign language once they’re done here at MCW.

“So far it’s been received pretty well,” she continued. “I was impressed with the number of students that decided to continue on.

“With Spanish being the second-most spoken language in the world, it opens up so many more opportunities. In various fields, you never know when you’ll run into a circumstance where talking to someone in a different language will be beneficial. I also think that having that eight-credit base makes it much more realistic to attempt a Spanish minor.”

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