Woodland Public Schools’ alternative TEAM High School holds special commencement ceremony for eight graduates

TEAM High School offers Woodland’s students a path to earning a high school diploma that accommodates individual life circumstances

WOODLAND — TEAM High School, Woodland Public Schools’ alternative high school, held a special early commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 17, 2021 to recognize eight students who had finished their graduation requirements and earned their high school diplomas.

Woodland High School's Assistant Principal Dan Uhlenkott stepped in to deliver the commencement address and introduce the graduates. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Woodland High School’s Assistant Principal Dan Uhlenkott stepped in to deliver the commencement address and introduce the graduates. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

The commencement ceremony for TEAM High School tends to be a very intimate affair with staff members giving speeches about what makes each individual graduate special and unique to the program. For the Class of 2020, the commencement ceremony lasted an entire day with staff members bringing in each graduate one-by-one with family members due to Covid restrictions. However, for eight early Class of 2021 grads, the commencement ceremony looked a little more normal as reduced virus transmission rates permitted a small, in-person but socially-distant event where all participants and audience members were required to wear masks and fill out health attestations.

TEAM’s staff decided to hold two ceremonies this year to accommodate not only a large number of students who will graduate in June, but also to recognize those who could graduate early. “We had so many graduates finishing early this year that we decided to hold a commencement ceremony for those graduates who are done with requirements,” said Jillian Domingo, the school’s English Language Arts, social studies, art, and computer sciences teacher. “Additionally, by holding two ceremonies – an early one in April and a later one at its normal date in June – we are able to recognize our graduates in a fashion more similar to how we would traditionally, while still following all health guidelines.”

Woodland High School’s Assistant Principal Dan Uhlenkott introduced the graduates and read a speech prepared by TEAM High School’s Principal Jake Hall who was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances. “I couldn’t be more proud of the alternative learning staff who, in the foreboding darkness of the pandemic, offered a ray of hope,” read Uhlenkott. “You are our heroes and we are more grateful for your care of us than can be put into words.”

Uhlenkott then turned to the graduates, “Graduates, we wouldn’t be here now having this ceremony if it weren’t for your incredible efforts to finish your studies during a pandemic – you should all be so very proud of your accomplishments.”

Superintendent Michael Green handed each graduate their diploma and gave them an elbow bump in lieu of a handshake. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Superintendent Michael Green handed each graduate their diploma and gave them an elbow bump in lieu of a handshake. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

Commencement ceremonies for the alternative high school look different than traditional high school ceremonies, and this early event was no different with members of the staff writing messages and selecting quotes to recognize each graduate as they accepted their diplomas, and an elbow bump in lieu of a handshake, by Superintendent Michael Green. Family members and guests sat at desks in the commons area used for classes during the regular school day rather than using the normal theater seating in order to ensure social distancing guidelines were closely followed. 

Learning about TEAM High School

TEAM High School offers Woodland’s students a path to earning a high school diploma that accommodates individual life circumstances such as full-time work, challenges with traditional school schedules, or family responsibilities.

The staff of TEAM try to help people think of alternative high schools differently. “Many people hear ‘alternative school’ and think it’s a place for ‘troubled’ kids” said Elizabeth Vallaire, TEAM’s math and science teacher. “We want to change that perception: we don’t have ‘typical’ students – we have high-achieving students; students with life responsibilities; and students whose life circumstances make TEAM’s approach to learning a better fit.”

Over recent years, the graduation rate at TEAM has more than tripled, a significant accomplishment for any high school, particularly an alternative school. 

“Some of our students develop ‘learned helplessness’ from years of not being successful in school, however, our staff at TEAM works with students to show them that success can build upon success,” said Jake Hall, executive director of Learning Supports and Alternatives and the school’s principal. “Students at TEAM develop self-confidence by having teachers who want them to be successful, especially some of our most discouraged students.”

Interested in teaming up with TEAM?

To learn more about TEAM High School, how to enroll, or how your organization can partner with Woodland Public Schools, visit the TEAM website at www.woodlandschools.org/team.

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, by visiting this dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

Information provided by Woodland School District.

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