Olympia employees were welcomed back to the new school year on Monday with a breakfast sponsored by Morton Community Bank. Following breakfast, Board President Kevin Frazier welcomed everyone to the 2016-17 school year and wished them well. After Olympia Superintendent, Dr. Andrew Wise, addressed employees and acknowledged the hard work put in over the summer by the technology, transportation, maintenance, custodial, and office departments. Dr. Wise also encouraged employees to continue to support and pray for those members of the Olympia family who are battling illness, and although they couldn't physically be in attendance today, to keep them in their hearts and minds. Dr. Wise shared the theme for the school year which was "Learning to Learn", an effort to help students understand and extend their learning process, so content and skills become easier to master. The theme "Learning to Learn" is also represents an effort to focus on student ownership of learning and the skills most important for college, career, and life. Dr. Wise emphasized that learning content alone will not help students succeed in life, that they needed to use the content to develop skills that are relevant and promotes progress. Furthermore, he encouraged schools to continue their transformational efforts equip students with the skills the universities and businesses want students to display. Dr. Wise's comments paved the way for the keynote speaker, author and motivational speaker, Mr. Bruce Tulgan.
Bruce is the author of more than 20 Business and Leadership books, but most notably, "Bridging the Soft Skills Gap". Bruce's research with thousands of companies over the United States matches what Olympia Administrators have been hearing from the Business Community, that students are missing the "soft skills" that are needed for success in life outside of high school. Bruce provided teachers and administrators specific ways to teach students the missing skills and then use them to enhance "the hard skills" ie…the academic skills. Some of the soft skills covered on Monday were Self Evaluation, Personal Responsibility, Positive Attitude, Good Work Habits, People Skills, Professionalism, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Proactivity, Respect for Context, Good Citizenship, Service, Teamwork, etc… When Olympia students thrive in both the "hard and soft" skill sets, they will be more marketable to Universities and Employers, as well as more successful in those communities.
On Tuesday, teachers continued learning during Building Institutes. Teachers reviewed handbooks, schedules, and new curricular initiatives.Teachers also had an opportunity to experiment with new software systems, both curricular and operational. Teachers worked collaboratively on their reporting systems for students and parents, as well as curriculum that would help students learn the academic and essential learning skills (Olympia's term for soft skills). Since there is only so much time in the day, the essential learning skills that Olympia will primarily focus on this year are Collaboration, Perseverance, Responsibility, Self-Advocacy, and Respect. The day ended with students and parents meeting their teachers during Open Houses.
Teachers, students, and parents all appear to be ready for another terrific school year!