I received a warm welcome from Principal Sharon Kennedy and her team at Incline Middle School during a recent school visit. When I drove into the parking lot, I saw two North Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue vehicles. But there was no need for alarm. The fire and rescue staff were there to teach a CPR course to the Incline MS students. This partnership has been in place for nearly twenty years. What a great learning opportunity for the students.
I started my visit with a lunch where I hosted fourteen eighth grade students. They were a diverse group of students representing the wonderful culture at their school. We talked about the road to graduation for each of them. We talked about having perseverance and transitioning to high school in a few months. I encouraged them to get back up when they fall and to keep making progress. They expressed both excitement and nervousness to move to high school. This group of students asked me a lot of really important questions. I loved how prepared they were and it gave us a great chance to have some meaningful conversations. The topics we discussed included banned books in school libraries, dress code, challenges of being a superintendent, sanctioned sports at middle schools, school and district budgets, school safety, zoning, and school lunches. They asked fantastic questions and had a lot of follow up questions showing me how passionate and informed they were on these important topics.
Principal Kennedy and Mary Blount, school counselor, shared some detailed information about the students, families, and staff in their school community. We talked about demographics, supports, special education, and family engagement. Sharon Kennedy highlighted the strong vertical matriculation in Incline and how well the elementary, middle, and high school administrators work together for the benefit of all students. As Mary Blount detailed, this encompasses social activities since Incline is such a close-knit community. I could see this as Sharon and Mary talked about the students, their siblings, and their families. They really do know all of their students in an authentic way.
I had a great time walking through the school and visiting with students and teachers in their classrooms. In John Mueller’s sixth grade band class, the students were playing a brand new song. They plan to perform this song in a month and were just getting started learning it. I was impressed by how well they did since it was so new to them.
In Julie Holcombe’s art and drawing class, I saw students working on a variety of art projects. I enjoyed talking to the student who told me about their project and talked to me about the class. The classroom was beautifully decorated with the artwork of students. There was amazing artwork everywhere!
Natalie Wierzbicki’s sixth grade science students were becoming familiar with microscopes and how to use them. Each group of four students had a microscope and took turns identifying the parts and using them. All of the students in this class were engaged in this hands-on lesson.
Seventh grade students in Sabrina Gentner’s English class were doing a project on the book they were reading, Wonder. Students throughout the class were working on their reading logs, completing worksheets, and working on their student essays. Other students were preparing to take the Accelerated Reader (AR) test on the book. There was a lot of excitement and activity in the room and all the students were focused on their assignments.
In Randall Berenson’s seventh grade history class, the students were learning about the Emancipation Proclamation. They were doing a lesson highlighting the main points of this document and having a class discussion about it in great detail.
Nicole Harssema’s seventh grade math students were doing a warm up exercise. They had a problem to solve individually. They turned the problem in and had a class discussion about how they solved it. They were talking about the different shortcuts that they used. All of the students were contributing to the discussion and it was a great demonstration of how students can use different methods to get the same answer.
I had a nice visit at Incline Middle School and especially enjoyed the time I was able to talk to students. It was great to have them share their thoughts and ideas with me. The students at Incline MS are friendly and intelligent. It was also wonderful to spend time with Principal Kennedy and experience the amazing and challenging work happening at this school. Thanks to all the Incline Middle School Mountain Lions for a fantastic visit!