Excellence in Education and North Tahoe High School | SierraSun.com

Excellence in Education and North Tahoe High School

Katja Dahl
Special to the Sun

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — North Tahoe High School is a California Gold Ribbon Award winner, has been included in the Washington Post's list of "America's Most Challenging High Schools for 2015" based on excellence and equity and was ranked in the top 30 high schools in Northern California and top 10 percent of high schools in the nation by US News & World Report.

In addition, North Tahoe High School was recognized by the California Department of Education as a Title I High Academic Achieving School for the second year in a row.

This type of success is a direct result of excellent leadership, committed, resourceful teachers and school staff that create a caring, challenging and safe learning environment.

Successful schools also benefit from strong partnerships like the one North Tahoe High School has with organizations like the Excellence in Education Foundation.

Over the past five years the Foundation has donated nearly $68,000 to North Tahoe High School through a variety of grants including; engineering equipment, Spanish curriculum, The Book Club, state of the art science lab equipment, AP U.S. History test prep books, writing practice books, digital cameras, the grammar program and the Sugar Pine restoration project.

Just a few years ago, North Tahoe High School only had one AP science offering. Today, the school offers a total of 13 AP courses, including: chemistry, biology, physics, environmental science, computer science, Spanish, English language, English literature, calculus, US history, government, microeconomics, and psychology.

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Classroom learning, enhanced by grants through the Excellence in Education Foundation, has allowed the popular Engineering Pathway to continue to grow. One such grant has bolstered the school's physics courses, and supports AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science.

"The math involved in many high-level science courses can intimidate students," explained Todd Hennings, a teacher at North Tahoe High School. "As instructors, we'd hate for students to think the bulk of science class is memorizing equations. The electronic and computer based measurement systems that Excellence in Education allowed us to buy, lets students make measurements for themselves quickly and accurately."

The idea is that through their own investigations the students will discover new concepts rather than simply memorize an equation from a teacher or book.

"Allowing the students to experiment, make measurements, and investigate the relationships between them allows them to practice what scientists actually do, rather than simply learn what scientists already know," explains Hennings.

Additional grants funded relate to mechanical, electrical, and software engineering, as well as robotics and carpentry. These grants have helped refine students' 3-D printing and AutoCAD skills and have helped promote critical thinking, problem solving, team building, constructive criticism, and project management skills.

In 2012, Excellence in Education funded a grant to introduce the program Naviance to North Tahoe High School students. This compelling web-based counseling program has been giving students access to a comprehensive education and college-planning tool specially designed to harness technology and a nationwide database of educational information in a greatly more productive way than ever before.

It begins with a personality assessment test/questionnaire. From there the system produces a list of relevant career paths or jobs that suit the student's likes, strengths and ideas.

Utilizing the information from the career search, the program then gives students an area where they can search school courses and create a multi-year class schedule that meets the graduation and college application requirements for their intended course of study.

Finally, it aids in the management of the college selection and application process, following the student through graduation and onto the school of their choice.

North Tahoe High School also has a highly acclaimed band program including the popular jazz band. The CA Music Educators Association recently recognized Dean Nordby and the North Tahoe High School band for excellence, and Nordby has also been recognized twice by the Excellence in Education Foundation for excellence in teaching through their Linda Brown Fellows Awards.

The success of the band is due to a highly committed music department, determined students and the assistance of the community by way of financial donations and attendance at their performances. In 2007, The Excellence in Education Foundation funded a $25,000 grant for new band instruments.

The school received new high-end instruments through Measure A; however this grant funded a full selection of entry level instruments that can be rented to beginners that are interested in trying out music. Through this program, all students, no matter what their financial situation, can get a chance to see if music is in their future.

"What I think is so great about organizations like Excellence in Education, is that they give the seed money to start something rolling," explained Joanna Mitchell, Principal at North Tahoe High School. "For example, the Classroom of the Future grant that the Foundation funded provided a wealth of interesting information about all the new and exciting ways to transform the classroom to promote learning. The research was so appealing that our parent group (Very Interested Parents) offered to fund teacher requests up to $2,000 each for furniture modeled after the Classroom of the Future elements."

Katja Dahl is an Excellence in Education board member. Visit ExInEd.org to learn more.