I read with interest Patti Bippus's My Turn column concerning Thunder Mountain High School.
Juneau is fortunate to have an educational leader with her experience to guide planning for the new high school programs. These plans sound very exciting and in line with current educational understanding.
As a former college instructor, I can attest to the high interest at the college level in creating learning environments that establish student connectedness. On some campuses this effort takes the form of freshman seminars that are required of all students. Other campuses have established learning communities, sometimes in conjunction with freshman seminars.
The goal is to retain students by helping them to understand the nature of true education, the role it will play in their own lives, and the application of critical thinking skills to not only their own educational path but also to the world at large.
When high school students attend theme-based academies, they will benefit in several similar ways: They will be part of a small group that can focus on important issues more fully than in the traditional compartmented approach to education and thereby bring their critical thinking skills to bear; they can apply the universal skills we expect of high school graduates to issues that are more immediately relevant to them given the option of choosing to be in a given academy; and they will be part of a smaller group that allows for more teacher-student contact and better person-to-person communication.
Bravo to the students, faculty and staff who have chosen TMHS and this new and exciting approach to education. And bravo to those faculty and staff who plan to remain at Juneau-Douglas High School and their continuing efforts to engage and serve all students.