SHERIDAN — The passion for education and investment in the future of Sheridan County through the advancement of area children could be felt at every table Tuesday night at the Whitney Benefits Education Summit at Sheridan College.
“Promises, Pathways, Perspectives: College Readiness Options for Our High School Students” was the theme of the event that was attended by area superintendents, school and foundation board members, elected officials and other key education stakeholders.
Panels of school faculty and local students spoke about college opportunities at the high school level including Advanced Placement, concurrent enrollment and dual enrollment courses, tackling the benefits and challenges of their options.
Before that, Mick Wiest, the 2014 Wyoming Teacher of the Year and Professional Learning Community Coordinator for Sheridan County School District 2, delivered a keynote address titled, “The Missing “C” in College and Career Readiness Standards.”
Wiest said that the missing C is “Citizenship” and urged those in attendance not to forget the important lesson of believing in things when preparing their students for the future.
“I’m going to suggest to you that kids who graduate from our junior high schools, from our high schools, from our community colleges and from our university need to know what they believe, they need to know why they believe it, they need to understand that the constitution is still relevant in our lives today and they have to come out believing that they can make a difference in civic affairs,” Wiest said.
“We’ve been bombarding our students with information that tells them how much more money they are going to make in a lifetime if they will just get credentials, an A.A. or a B.A. or a master’s degree and beyond — and all of that is true, the statistics are there — but I think if we are successful, what we will end up doing is producing kids with improved earnings potentials, and yet those individuals will be making a good living but not living a good life,” Wiest added.
He suggested that being ready for college and a career is very important, but being ready for citizenship is crucial if our democracy is going to endure. He quoted Robert Hutchins as having said, “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment.”
“People sometimes have asked me, ‘If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about students, what would it be?’ and I would say to them that the one thing I would do is make kids curious again,” Wiest said. “I would instill in them a desire to learn for its own sake rather than to meet some far off financial goal.
“When an apathetic student asks, ‘Why should I care about a timeline of World War I when all I want to do is be a mechanic or a cosmetologist?’ we can’t really answer by saying, ‘So you can graduate from high school, go on to college and get a good career,’ but I think we can begin by saying, ‘Because I care too much about our country, and you, and your place in it, to let you leave this school unprepared to be a productive, satisfied member of this democracy.’”
Wiest asked the audience how, as educators, they are going to produce educated and also involved citizens when so many of their students are disengaged with their education. He suggested that the answer is two-fold.
“From kindergarten through and beyond graduation, please, we must show and teach our children, youth and young adults how to practice the habit of seeing issues from multiple perspectives, to engage in respectful and open-minded listening and to exchange informed opinions, clearly and courteously,” he said.
He added that he believed a strong relationship between student and teacher is the key component to producing virtuous young participants in our democracy. “All of us, in the education profession, need to learn to understand, and respect, and care for the well-being of every single one of our students, because they are not someone else’s kids, they are our kids,” he said.