A 1992 graduate of South River High, Kevin Collison sat in the bustling media center of his alma mater Wednesday morning helping reshape the future curriculum of local high school students.
Collison, a financial planner with Merrill Lynch, collaborated along with more than 30 business partners and South River teachers to change how kids learn in classrooms. As part of South River’s Global Communications and Public Affairs (GCPA) signature program, coordinator Linda Lamon hosted Collision and others to answer the “why?” of high school education.
“The goal is to implement real-world experience and apply it in the classroom as a way to answer the great ‘Why?’ ‘Why are we learning this?’” Lamon said.
The workshop, known as the South River Signature Overlay Training and Writing Retreat, was the first step of several to accomplish the signature program’s goal.
A wide variety of professionals attended the gathering, including state Sen. John Astle (D-Annapolis).
Former English teacher Rich Burger explained the need for innovative thinking when it comes to engaging students.
“I was the obnoxious kid in the back of the classroom asking ‘Why are we learning this stuff?’” Burger said. “If the teacher could make the connection, I was good. I had one teacher who couldn’t and I never learned.”
The strategy is about “making connections” to students so that they know the things they learn today will be implemented tomorrow, Burger said.
He added that it’s not about adding more work to the teachers, but about increasing relevance for the kids.
At tables in the media center, one South River educator and two to five professionals discussed innovative strategies in topic areas such as math, social studies, world languages, foundations of technology and more. In many cases, the business partners were eager to hear how they could help the teachers inject real-life examples, specifically when it came to topics in Anne Arundel County.
At the foundations of technology table, Collison spoke with South River teachers Ryan Sackett and Sean Gold, discussing the need for student flexibility due to the ever-changing landscape of business communication.
"I do business drastically different than I did even five years ago," Collison said.
Jennifer Carr, volunteer coordinator for the South River Federation, said the workshop was a great way to connect with teachers and increase children’s exposure to real-world opportunity. Peggy Galloway, an art teacher at South River, said she felt the program will help kids understand the importance and value of hard work.
“Kids get really excited when they are working with real people,” Galloway said. “Students these days can be somewhat short on social skills—plugged into their cell phones all the time—the reality is you have to work well with people.”
The next step for the signature program is gathering the overlays written by South River teachers and sharing them with other educators throughout various departments, Lamon said.
“Every student in the school will be affected by these overlays,” Lamon said. “It helps all kids with real-life examples and problems and issues.”
The signature coordinator also said the GCPA program is set to host several hands-on projects and trips for students during the spring of 2013.