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Great Lakes Elementary honored with International Baccalaureate authorization | People

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Great Lakes Elementary honored with International Baccalaureate authorization
People, Schools
Great Lakes Elementary honored with International Baccalaureate authorization

News Release:

Great Lakes Elementary celebrated a first for the West Ottawa School District, becoming the first elementary school authorized to teach the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday.

With Principal David Stefanich and staff and students looking on, students cut the ribbon to signify Great Lakes receiving the honor in remarkable fashion.

Following a February two-day visit by a two-person evaluating team, the school was notified it had been authorized effective immediately without any recommendations for change, a rarity for an IB school.

“When I went through training, we were told the authorization visit was pretty grueling and they were pretty blunt about what your shortcomings were,” Principal David Stefanich said. “So I was thinking there were probably going to be some things we needed to work on.

“They told us we’d probably get word late in the school year or early summer but when we were notified in early Spring I was surprised. And from my understanding, there were no recommendations for improvements.”

During the two-day visit, a former principal and former elementary teacher, both who had been at IB schools, met with every teacher at every grade level, interviewed about 15-20 fourth- and fifth-grade students, talked to PTO parents, and popped into classrooms to witness the quality of teaching. They also met with Stefanich, former principal Jerry McDowell, Superintendent Patricia Koeze and Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Suzanne Richards.

They wanted to make sure Great Lakes was teaching the IB model of students working together in an inquiry-based manner, and that it taught students how to be caring, take risks and be open-minded while possessing global understanding.

“What I was most proud of was the way the fourth- and fifth-graders handled the interview,” said Stefanich, who added that he picked the students randomly while trying to get a good representation of the student body. “They went in there really poised.”

Authorization was a three-year process, dating back to when McDowell was the principal and the staff unanimously voted to become an IB school, whose goals are to develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to work in a rapidly globalizing world. Its programs aim to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

“When we looked at it,” recalled Stefanich, “we though it offered the best strategy for teaching kids.”

Its first consulting visit resulted in the school being told what it needed to work on. The visiting team making the February visit had 30 days to write up a report to the IB director general, who makes the final decision and provides recommendations, if any, for the school.

West Ottawa High School has been authorized at an IB Diploma Program and Harbor Lights Middle School also recently had its authorization visit. Lakewood and Sheldon Woods elementary schools have also had their first visit.

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