Episcopal students have varying academic interests and long-term goals. The same student who sings the lead in the school musical may also be a member of the football team. A student with a passion for research may also have a heart for poetry and writing. These are one of the many benefits of being part of a small school that delivers big success!
To highlight student success and provide a clear snapshot of the range interests, Episcopal created the Upper School Academic Distinctions program last year. “Students are more than just their grades and we want to highlight that,” says Dean of Academics Dr. Sara Fenske. Dr. Fenske says the Distinctions program is designed to provide a more complete story regarding an individual student’s secondary school career.
Upper School students can earn a Level I or Level II Distinction. To complete the Distinction, the student must perform well in applicable courses and demonstrate commitment, leadership and a positive contribution beyond classroom work in the area of interest. Just a few examples include participating in Mu Alpha Theta for a Math Distinction, serving as a member of the Student Vestry for a Religious Studies Distinction or participating in a community theater production for an Arts Distinction.
A new element of the Distinction experience this year is the introduction of faculty mentors. Dr. Fenske says students are partnered with a mentor to help guide them through the process and keep them focused on the requirements. The student will meet with their mentor throughout the year as they work toward their goal. Mentor and Math Department Chair Stephen Anderson says while the process has only just begun, the interaction is meaningful.
“The mentoring process presents opportunities to have specific, individualized discussions with students regarding the importance and value of being more than just an “A” student. Being able to help students discover opportunities that allow them to pursue their passions/talents/interests in a more focused way is rewarding for both the teacher and the student,” he says.
Dr. Fenske. She says the program will help students explore their own interests much more in depth, which could ultimately have tremendous implications for their long-term aspirations. In an Academic Points piece last year, Head of School Hugh McIntosh predicted that Distinctions will do just that. “Student choice, ownership, and mentoring are elements of Distinctions which are known, thru educational research, to result in commitments to being a lifelong learner. In other situations, Episcopal students have blossomed when they are partners of a kind in their academic adventures.”
No doubt as the Episcopal Distinction program evolves, students will continue to explore their interests and discover creative and meaningful ways to achieve their goals.