Westfield High School shares today’s education mission

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From left, WHS principal Stacy McGuire, innovations teacher Joel Bruns and dean of career and community engagement Matt Putman. (Photo by Mark Ambrogi)

Westfield High School Principal Stacy McGuire encourages businesses to give her students opportunities to learn.

“Partner with us, help us make education relevant,” McGuire said. “Support us, encourage us and trust us and think bigger. Don’t have low expectations, have grandiose expectations. You raise it and I promise they will hit it. We see it every day. That’s why we get out of bed in the morning.”

A three-person panel from Noblesville and Westfield high schools answered questions about innovation and internship programs at the Westfield Chamber of Commerce luncheon Nov. 16 at the IMMI Conference Center.

“We became very focused on understanding that learning in content is not best preparing our kids for the future,” McGuire said. “Everything we are trying to do at Westfield is preparing kids for the day after graduation. We really made a shift into thinking that it’s not just delivering content but what we need to do is build skills through content. Skills that are transferrable and skills that the kids will take with them for their entire life. We made that shift academically.”

McGuire said one important skill to concentrate on is innovation.

“We need kids to be literate, we need kids to be critical thinkers, we need them to problem solve,” McGuire said. “Problem solving goes a little bit deeper. These kids are going to be having jobs that have not yet been invented, using technology that’s not been invented. We need them to solve problems that we can’t even understand problems yet in 2017. In order to do that, they are going to have to be innovative and creative.”

McGuire said often in public education, with all the pressure to get through content, the fact is lost that students are creative individuals.

“Instead of stamping out that creativity, we have got to develop platforms that nurture and explode that creativity,” McGuire said.

WHS Innovations Specialist Joel Bruns said he wasn’t a great student in high school because he was disengaged.

“Most of what I was getting was read this and fill out this paper where I felt a need to think with my hands, which I love to do,” Bruns said. “A skill a lot of people have lost is thinking with your hands and realizing there is a connection between this thing and that thing. You can learn a lot about yourself in the process of cutting a piece of wood or connecting this board to that board.”

McGuire said the staff works to get students a fitting internship or work experience.

“There are always road blocks and barriers, but we’re blowing past them because it’s too important,” McGuire said. “When it comes down to providing kids relevant experiences, this is rooted in helping kids find their passion and purpose.”

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