Thursday, January 13, 2011

STEM Program at Shenandoah Valley Governor's School = (Math x Science + Computers) + (Fun x Hard Work)

Wilson Memorial High School Junior Grace Day describes Shenandoah Valley Governor's School as "not a cakewalk, but if you can do the work, it's the greatest place to be."

She's not the only one that feels this way. "I would be a fool not to teach at this place," says Mr. Irons, who teaches Technology and Dual-Enrollment Calculus (through Blue Ridge Community College). "I've taught here for 13 years, and I've loved every minute."

According to the Virginia Department of Education, there are currently 19 year-long governor's schools across the state. At the Shenandoah Valley Governor's School, located in Fishersville, students come from all local high schools in Augusta County and the city schools of Staunton and Waynesboro. 200 students attend SVGS and are part of one of two programs- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM, for short) or Arts and Humanities (with a focus on Visual Arts or Theater). Students normally apply during their sophomore year in high school, and are encouraged to visit the school during a Spend-a-Day. The prospective student is partnered with a junior that is currently taking classes at the Governor's School, and they spend their time in that student's classes- meeting faculty and students and getting an atmosphere for the school.

Students have opportunities at the Governor's School that go beyond those offered anywhere else. “The technology allows explorations not easily done elsewhere,” says Mr. Klein, environmental chemistry teacher. Opportunities include the electric vehicle team, the FIRST Robotics team, research projects that are submitted to the Virginia Junior Academy of Science (if a student chooses to take the research class), taking college level classes including Dual-Enrollment Physics through James Madison University, hosting students from Romania and South Korea (with also the opportunity to visit schools in these countries), and many more.

But what sets Governor's School apart from local high schools? Ms. Jensen, a graduate from Stuarts Draft High School and SVGS and now current AP Calculus and Pre-Calculus teacher, explained her views.

"From an administrative standpoint, it doesn't seem different, but when you put the students together, it makes something special happen. They flourish in a way they can't otherwise. (...) Students go way beyond what they learn at their other high schools, and [when I was a student] I liked being around people who cared about school. (...) [Students here] are like flowers under a big forest (normal school conditions). When you take away the trees, they can bloom."

What do current students say?
“I like how I can go to track meets and I know kids from other schools there, not just the kids from Gap. (…) We’re independent, but they [the teachers] will help a lot.” –Lauren Sheriden, Buffalo Gap High School
“Enjoyable…The place for future presidents and the people who will find the cure for cancer.” –Ashley Gartin, Riverheads High School
“People told me it was hard and I didn’t believe them. Be prepared. Soldier on.” –Kathleen Veer, Stuarts Draft High School

What do the teachers want you to know about SVGS?
“Put bright people under pressure, and creative things happen. (…) Creative things happen all the time. That’s what this place is all about- bright, passionate people coming together.” -Mr. O’Neill, Physics teacher
“It’s an awesome opportunity, even for me as a teacher. The students that come are focused and interested.” -Mr. Mustachio, Engineering, AP Computer Science teacher and Network administrator

For more information about Shenandoah Valley Governor's School, visit their website.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh I love this place so much- I don't know what I'd do without gov school. I probably would have gone mentally insane. It's my little nerdy escape. :)


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