Superintendent's Corner

Avoca School District 37 - August 31, 2022

Inspire Curiosity, Cultivate Academic Growth, Nurture Diversity

In this important issue...

  • Portrait of a Graduate - Confident Advocates
  • Sex & Health Education Updates in Avoca District 37 - Parent/Guardian Opt Out
  • A Safe Space in Our Classrooms - How We Nurture Diversity
  • Calendar Highlights - Wilmette Block Party Sept. 10 & 8th Grade Car Wash Sept 17

Portrait of a Graduate - Confident Advocates

Each post I will highlight one of our Portrait of a Graduate characteristics or some aspect of our mission to "Inspire curiosity, cultivate academic growth, nurture diversity."

This post will focus on our goal for our graduates to be "Confident Advocates." Specifically, our strategic plan committee developed this to describe such graduates, that they are "Asking questions, taking risks, seeking new experiences, and speaking up for themselves and others."

That carefully crafted statement is meant to convey different aspects of being a "Confident Advocate," namely the importance of:

  • being curious about why things are the way they are
  • asking how any state of affairs might be made better
  • being confident enough to take a risk, even if one might fail
  • standing up for one's self or others when it is right to do so

Ultimately, this most important characteristic for our graduates touches upon much more than simply speaking up. Students who graduate from our schools as "Confident Advocates" will be ready to continue learning and doing so to make the world a better place.

Sex & Health Ed Update in Avoca District 37 Schools

In my August 18 post and in my August 11 Board of Education memo, I outlined how our District will not be adopting all fo the National Sex Education Standards outlined in a recently passed Illinois law regarding Comprehensive Sex and Health Education.

In my memo and post, I did outline how I anticipate we will cover any number of the following topics, many of which are consistent with what we have done in the past or with the new Illinois law. These could be done in a regular classroom situation or with an external partner, like Lurie's Children's Hospital. In developmentally and age appropriate ways, those topics include:

  • Anatomy

  • Physiology

  • Puberty

  • Reproduction

  • Gender identity & Expression

  • Combating Gender & Orientation Stereotypes

  • State mandated topics (preventing abuse or dating violence)

In each case, and as it was in the past, parents/guardians will be able to opt their students out of these sessions, which altogether will only amount to a few hours in the whole year.

OPT OUT Forms will be sent out by the principals and based on lesson in grade bands. (Since some lessons are not appropriate for some grades.)

However, it should be noted, that in the course of more typical instruction, some topics can arise through student questions or indirect content that intersect with topics of gender identity, sexual orientation, stereotypes, reproduction, etc. In such cases, there is no requirement or expectation of prior notification, since that cannot be adequately forecast by a classroom teacher.

Furthermore, because connecting students’ learning is a hallmark of critical thinking, it could arise that a later lesson not directly connected to a previous lesson on one of the aforementioned topics (anatomy, physiology, puberty reproduction, gender identity, combating gender and sexual stereotypes, inclusive family structures) causes one of these aforementioned topics to be raised again in a new context. This happens in all types of learning contexts and is what supports critical thinking, and it often happens organically, arising from direct student questions. In such instances, teachers will not quash student discussion.

Safe Spaces - How We Nurture Diversity

Nurturing Diversity is central to our mission and it does not happen passively. Nurturing our community's diversity means we make spaces accepting of diversity, including those whose voices or perspectives have historically been excluded. Our Avoca community is shared among students and adults and families of different racial, ethnic, religious, linguistic, learner, and gender identities and different sexual orientations.

Our classrooms and schools must be safe for each person to be themselves in a way that includes others constructively. Drawing on a definition used on campus at The University of North Florida, a safe space can be defined as one that is:

  • Free of bullying and intimidation
  • Inclusive of different experiences, backgrounds, and identities
  • Where different points on a journey of learning are recognized
  • Where thoughtful listening and questioning take place
  • Where every one is expected to make their best effort
  • Where people will make mistakes
  • Where people will seek greater understanding

"Safe spaces" historically grew out of a need for students from diverse gender identities and sexual orientation to be able to thrive, free of bullying. That need remains today, and over many years, the concept has grown to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ and other diverse experiences.

A teacher's classroom rules and norms should touch upon much of what makes up a safe space. Our own Portrait of a Graduate touches upon themes important to a safe space (see "Civic Engagement" and "Culturally Competent.") Finally, our Board of Education's Legacy statement includes that it " valued children foremost and supported the practices and services to further their academic, social, emotional and physical well-being, including our community's racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, and learner diversity."

Calendar Highlight - 8th Grade Car Wash

Saturday, Sep. 17th, 9pm

2921 Illinois Road

Wilmette, IL

Our 8th grade students chip in every year to run a very effective car wash and raise money for the graduation committee.

Making the graduation experience memorable for our 8th graders takes a lot of work by the graduation committee and resources. That is where the car wash comes in.

Between now and then, let your car get dirty and get it clean for good cause.

Calendar Highlight - Wilmette's Block Party

Saturday, Sep. 10th, 1pm

1200 Wilmette Avenue

Wilmette, IL

Come to Wilmette's Sesquicentennial Celebration on September 10th and hear our amazing singers and musicians from Avoca West and Marie Murphy.

115 - 145: Avoca West Choir

330 - 350: Avoca West Elementary Strings

415 - 445: Marie Murphy Orchestra

The block party will be just that - a party. So come hear our amazing performers and stay for hours on having fun!