Baesler: Grand Forks West Elementary Named ND Distinguished Title I School

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Dale Wetzel, Public Information Specialist
Office 701-328-2247
Cell: 701-400-8557
Email: dewetzel@nd.gov

Baesler: Grand Forks West Elementary Named ND Distinguished Title I School

BISMARCK, N.D., Dec. 13, 2017 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said West Elementary School in Grand Forks has been named as North Dakota’s Title I Distinguished School for the 2017-18 school year.

Title I provides financial aid to schools that have a high percentage of students from low-income families. North Dakota has 265 schools that receive Title I aid. The Department of Public Instruction names a distinguished Title I school each year.

“West Elementary has done phenomenal things for their students,” Baesler said. “They have really done a fine job of making sure that their students are feeling safe and secure and emotionally ready to learn.”

West Principal Angela Jonasson credited the award to “the dedication of our staff, and our dedication to teaching the whole child. The well-being of the children themselves, as well as academics, has been a huge push for us.”

“At West Elementary we understand the complex needs for each child. Teachers provide learning experiences that include a wide range of skills, but not limited to academics alone. Teachers and staff teach skills to help build the social and emotional capacity of each student, in addition to their academic goals,” Jonasson said.

Jonasson said West’s teachers and staff help prepare students to learn by building relationships with them. Some students have social and/or emotional barriers that must be addressed before they are able to focus on learning, she said.

Relationships with students are based on understanding, connecting and skill building, and once that groundwork has been established, West’s students “find great success in their learning,” she said.

“What teaches a child is us being empathetic, is us having a one-to-one conversation with them, to work with them and cooperate with them and help them realize skills that they need to work on, and thus help to teach them,” she said. “It has been so beneficial to our students, and that is when learning comes.”

Jody Thompson, the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Grand Forks’ public schools, said West has “a comprehensive approach to addressing students’ needs. It certainly is an academic focus. But I also think that West, like many of our elementary schools, look at the question of, `What are some of the barriers to student success?’”

“This is my 30th year in the Grand Forks public schools, and there is no question that students arrive on our doorsteps with more and more social and emotional needs than they ever have,” Thompson said. “We have to try to address those barriers in order to get to the learning part that we’re responsible for.”

West Elementary has about 160 students in grades kindergarten through five. It is located in north Grand Forks, just east of the University of North Dakota campus.
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