Gov. Doug Burgum and State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler praised the Bismarck public schools’ Career Academy as an example of what education innovation and career and technical centers can do for North Dakota students.
Burgum and Baesler are members of the state’s K-12 Education Coordination Council, a group of educators, state officials, legislators, and education stakeholders that promotes collaboration among North Dakota’s education interests.
The council on Wednesday held a panel discussion at Bismarck State College to highlight the work of Empower[Ed], which offers personalized learning options for Career Academy high school juniors and seniors who are enrolled in career and technical education classes.
Burgum and Baesler said a landmark education innovation bill, approved by the 2017 Legislature, had helped to foster personalized learning initiatives across North Dakota.
“An education approach that makes it easier for our students to tap into their interests and passions, while benefiting their families, their communities, and themselves, is an excellent way to prepare our young people for their futures,” Baesler said.
Burgum said it was “inspiring to see how state-supported, locally driven innovation is shaping education delivery and helping students on a personal level to become choice-ready for college, careers, or the military.”
“The innovation waiver legislation put control of education back where it belongs – in the hands of teachers, students and parents,” the governor said. “We’re grateful to those taking advantage of this flexibility for the benefit of current and future generations of North Dakotans.”
Representatives of several Bismarck groups applauded the work that Career Academy students had done for them as part of their studies, including designing logos, making a customer registration system easier to use, recommending improvements to a Frisbee golf course, and drafting plans for constructing a sprung dance floor, which absorbs energy and lessens the stress on a dancer’s body and joints.
Hollis Mackintosh Heid, director of Northern Plains Dance in Bismarck, said a student who helped with the studio’s floor project provided a sophisticated materials list and construction plan. He even consulted a construction company foreman who had supervised the building of a sprung dance floor, and called the dance studio for which the floor was built to seek advice on improvements.
“The (materials) list I got back from him was just incredible. It was so much more detailed than I initially thought it would be,” Mackintosh Heid said. “I was able to say, ‘Great. Now, go do that.’” The student’s work has been used in a new art center in Rugby, N.D., and a college in Salt Lake City, Utah, she said.
Jason Tomanek, assistant Bismarck city administrator, called on student graphic design expertise when the city’s Human Relations Committee needed a new logo. Taylor Cook, a Bismarck Century High School senior, produced a design Tomanek called “outstanding.”
“We’re finding new ways to share that logo, on T-shirts, on stickers … they’ve got a banner where this logo will be on display,” Tomanek said. “And for the student, when she graduates high school, she’s already got something for her portfolio … I think that’s just spectacular.”
David St. Peter, an English teacher and personalized learning facilitator for the Empower[Ed] program, called it a great community resource. If a business or nonprofit organization wants to ask about whether the program can help them, “don’t even hesitate,” St. Peter said. “Just do it.”
“These kids are so capable, and they will not only meet your expectations, they will exceed them,” St. Peter said. “They will show you things that you had no idea could be done.”