Lincoln High School mathematics teacher Jennifer Ball shared her experience at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center with members of the Kiwanis Club at their meeting on Tuesday at Citizen’s Baptist Hospital.
Ball was among several teachers that got a chance to visit Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. in September of 2010.
Talladega County Schools Superintendent Suzanne Lacey introduced Ball saying, “She is a jewel. She is one of those teachers that’s something special and that something special is motivating students.”
Ball shared with the audience a few of her experiences working with students at EHS, which is a “value-driven school” for children ages 15-17 who have had challenges with traditional academic programs and a low chance of graduating from high school.
“It reaffirmed for me what we’re doing in Talledega County is working,” Ball said. “For a county that has quite a bit of at-risk kids, it’s working.”
With about 96 students enrolled in EHS, and about eight students in each classroom, the school provides students with a very close-knit residential campus right in the middle of a mountain town with no cell phone reception.
“Students are there from a variety of backgrounds and some from unimaginable situations,” Ball said in the February 2011 edition of Honda’s “Associate News Magazine.”
“Even with kids here at home in our own schools, teachers don’t always know what a child is facing when they go home everyday. At Eagle Rock, the key is building relationships and establishing a connection.”
An internal study conducted in 2002 concluded that 88 percent of all entering students earned a diploma from ERS, a diploma from another school, or a G.E.D.
It was also reported that over 60 percent of ERS graduates attend college, and 20 percent of them have graduated.
Over 150 students representing over 30 states have earned diplomas as of 2010.
The school is fully funded by American Honda Motor Company and equally divided with boys and girls, with 50 percent being from Colorado and 50 percent from out-of-state.
Ball shared with the audience the different style of curriculum EHS offers its students, with classes such as “intellectual discipline” that address disciplinary and behavioral problems and their “pass or no pass” grading system.
“Is this something we can take back to Talladega County? No. But is this something we can take pieces of? Yes,” Ball said.
Those pieces included the 21st century learning curriculum that has taken hold of Talladega County school classrooms.
Ball found that EHS had already incorporated project-based learning into their curriculum, and found it beneficial to the students.
“Their art classes were mixed with writing and that’s where Talladega County is headed,” Ball said.
“Project-based learning is doing what Eagle Rock is doing and that is to keep these kids interested. It turns into real life across the board.”
Ball also touched on how important counseling was both at EHS and in Talladega County schools. She said that far too often, athletes and straight-A students, as well as the class clowns, get the teacher’s attention.
Ball said that not enough attention is devoted to the students who sit in the back of the classroom and may not be involved in clubs and activities but still do their work and make good grades.
Ball said that all students need someone to talk to and make them feel cared about.
She said that LHS has developed a mentoring program called Link Up where a student is linked up with a specific group of peers and a teacher mentor when they enter the 9th grade.
Groups meet regularly to share questions and fears from the time they enter high school up until the time they graduate.
“In Talladega County we’re really trying to push these kids to go above what society expects from them,” Ball said.
Ball said that the Talladega County School System does have at-risk students just as EHS does, and that bringing pieces of her experience back home could help both students and teachers in the long run
“It’s really reprogramming, that you don’t need your gang members, that with the right training you can get through this,” Ball said.
“It teaches them how to be a responsible citizen.”