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Every morning in the Kathryn Winn Primary School gymnsasium, Principal Gerda Wise leads students in a college chant before they leave for their classrooms.
“Hey, first grade. When are you going to college?” Wise asks.
“We are going to college to get some knowledge in 2024,” students reply.
Wise repeats the college chant for remaining grades, and each answers with the year of their high school graduating class.
“I was the first person in my family to go to college,” said Wise, who has been Winn Elementary’s principal for three years and is Kentucky Teacher’s October Leader of the Month. “My parents told me from the time I was little on that I could go to college. It was that belief in me that made me who I am.”
Wise, who is a product of Carroll County schools and has more than 30 years of experience, understands the importance of a community and a school believing in their students, too.
“They need staff members who tell them they can go to college,” Wise said. “Many of our students come from a background where we are the only ones who are telling them that they can go.”
Jeff Fremin, district public information officer, said it helps that Wise can identify with those students who question whether or not they can one day be effectively prepared for college or a career.
“Every day, she plants the same seeds in her students’ minds that her parents planted in hers,” he said.
To reinforce the importance of college, Wise has named school hallways after state colleges and universities. Among them are Murray Eagle Avenue, (University of Louisville) Cardinal Drive and Bellarmine Knight Way. As students walk through these hallways, banners hang in each one to reinforce the option of college.
Fremin said that Wise shows her commitment to preparing all students for college and career readiness by making sure they have access to a variety of offerings.
“She also is committed to assuring that interventions in mathematics and reading are driven by data, which range from MAP to Developmental Reading Assessment, as well as teacher observations,” Fremin said.
“She has increased exposure to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) through a core curriculum of Everyday Mathematics and Literacy by Design, as well as a variety of supporting programs.”
Among those are Engineering is Elementary, robotics, choir and Destination Imagination.
This article was reprinted with permission from Kentucky Teacher.