Woodland Public Schools students from TEAM High School team up with Lewis River Academy

Partnership provides enriching educational experiences for LRA’s younger students

WOODLAND — Students from TEAM High School team up with the teachers of Woodland’s Lewis River Academy (LRA) to provide enriching educational experiences for LRA’s younger students while also earning service hours toward their senior culminating projects.

TEAM students work one-on-one with LRA's students, sometimes as class helpers but also as group instructors. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
TEAM students work one-on-one with LRA’s students, sometimes as class helpers but also as group instructors. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

Both programs of Woodland Public Schools, TEAM and LRA provide alternative learning opportunities for children from different walks of life. TEAM offers Woodland’s students a path to earning a high school diploma which accommodates individual life circumstances such as full-time work, challenges with traditional school schedules, or family responsibilities. LRA offers an alternative learning environment for K-12 students who want to participate in a different approach to learning

Since LRA regularly partners with the businesses and professionals from the Woodland community to provide enriching learning experiences for their students, Teri Retter, LRA’s K-5 teacher, came up with the idea to partner with TEAM High School. 

“I really wanted to help build TEAM’s positive reputation and offer opportunities to all the great students we have there,” she explained. “While brainstorming partnership opportunities in the area, I thought, ‘How great would it be if TEAM’s students could help us out while also earning service hours for their senior projects?’”

TEAM students, nicknamed. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
TEAM students, nicknamed. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

Students from TEAM visit LRA on a weekly basis, providing teaching support for a variety of projects. In January, TEAM students worked as instructors, helping LRA students learn how to program computers and work with robotics.  Last week, TEAM students served as hosts, waitstaff, and restaurant help during LRA’s Fine Dining Experience where LRA students learned proper table manners and ate a specially prepared three-course meal.

The teachers from both TEAM and LRA intend to continue working together. “One of the top priorities is building the relationship between TEAM and LRA,” said Retter. “The older kids from TEAM really enjoy working with our younger students, and our younger students see these older, cooler kids as their own future – going to high school, earning diplomas, and graduating.”

For TEAM students, having an opportunity to earn the required service hours so close to their campus helps close the gap to graduation. “The biggest hurdle for students looking for service hours is often just making the first call to sign up,” said Mary Burnett, TEAM’s Program Specialist. “Being able to simply walk across the parking lot and help out at LRA is a huge benefit for students.”

LRA’s students have even given their high-school counterparts an affectionate nickname. “The younger students call them our ‘TEAMmates’,” said Annika Dukes, who teaches grades 6-8 at LRA. “Our students love engaging with their older TEAMmates.”

LRA's younger students look up to TEAM's students, helping them plan for when they will attend high school. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
LRA’s younger students look up to TEAM’s students, helping them plan for when they will attend high school. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

TEAM’s teaching staff has also observed noticeable changes in behavior with their older students. 

“We have one student who can sometimes be challenging in TEAM, both talking a lot and not focusing,” said Burnett. “However, during one of his visits at LRA, he was able to connect with a young LRA student who was very shy and help her come out of her shell; by the end of the event, she was chatting up a storm!”

When Burnett pointed out what the TEAM student had done for his young counterpart, he didn’t even realize it was a significant breakthrough. 

“He just connected with her and let her be comfortable with the situation,” said Burnett. “He didn’t even think it was a big deal, but it really was a big deal.”

When TEAM’s students work one-on-one or in small groups with LRA elementary students, they help kids learn more effectively. 

“The TEAM kids are fantastic and are encouraging,” said Retter. “By building these relationships, one of my goals is to have our students families not only see but share these positive experiences with their TEAMmates while also providing our TEAM students with a meaningful way to earn their service credits.”

TEAM High School students recently helped with Lewis River Academy's Fine Dining Experience by serving as hosts, waitstaff, and restaurant helpers. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools
TEAM High School students recently helped with Lewis River Academy’s Fine Dining Experience by serving as hosts, waitstaff, and restaurant helpers. Photo courtesy of Woodland Public Schools

For Retter, the TEAMmates partnership also provides an opportunity to promote TEAM High School and the great work both the staff and students accomplish there. 

“Unfortunately, there are often negative misconceptions about ‘alternative’ high schools, however, I will defend the TEAM program, its teachers, and its students day-and night,” she said. “I want everyone to see TEAM’s students the way I see them: bright, kind, funny, thoughtful, and all-around great kids dedicated to their futures.”

For more information about TEAM and Lewis River Academy

Woodland’s local levy dollars help fund both TEAM High School and Lewis River Academy. These two alternative-learning programs help ensure that Woodland Public Schools provides quality educational opportunities for children from all walks of life. These programs would not be possible without the Woodland community’s continuing support of their public schools.

Community members and parents interested in volunteering at Lewis River Academy can contact Principal Jake Hall at hallj@woodlandschools.org or Sherri Franke, the school secretary, at frankes@woodlandschools.org. For more information about Lewis River Academy, visit the Lewis River Academy website at www.woodlandschools.org/lra

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

Information provided by Woodland Public Schools.

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