The 2018-19 school year is coming to a close, and it’s been a milestone year at Bear Lake High School. We’ve made some valuable shifts within our school to better serve our students and prepare them for the future. At the same time, we’ve remained true to our mission to educate, prepare, and inspire all students to achieve their full potential as lifelong learners.

This year, Bear Lake took the first steps on a journey to give our students a first-class education through a personalized approach to learning. We began this journey with the help of the Summit Learning Program, an educational approach designed to support great teaching and learning that provided us with the tools, training, and framework to make that shift. With Summit Learning, students set personal goals, get one-on-one support from a dedicated mentor, and develop and apply important life skills—like critical thinking and collaboration—through real-world projects. They build self-direction skills, which prepare them for college and careers, when they’ll need to be independent and self-reliant.

Just as our teachers have embraced our Bear Lake High School mission, they’ve also embraced the Summit Learning approach. They’ve engaged students with projects that develop their life skills. They’ve taken advantage of the flexibility of Summit Learning by adapting the curriculum to meet our local standards and our students’ interests. They’ve given students individualized support based on their specific, unique needs. In short, they’ve done what they’ve always done, but this year, Summit Learning has enabled them to do it better and more easily.

Our teachers are still our teachers, and now they know our Bear Lake students more deeply than ever. Through mentoring, adults throughout the school have built strong relationships with individual students, getting to know their goals, strengths, and challenges, and coaching them over the course of the year. I’ve mentored several students this year, and it’s been amazing to see how positively students have responded to having someone to talk to about their struggles and successes. In fact, in a survey conducted this year, more than three-quarters of our students said that they had positive relationships with their teachers—that their teachers wanted them to do their best or that they could go to their teachers about anything. It’s clear to me that the mentoring aspect of Summit Learning has built this trust among teachers and students.

The shift to personalized learning has also given us an opportunity to hear from parents and the community about how we can strengthen our approach and make it work for our students. For example, at the beginning of third trimester, we adjusted the structure of students’ self-directed learning time to allow them to more easily focus on their work and make good use of that time. When we’ve heard feedback from parents and students, we’ve listened and made these types of adjustments. We’ve shown that we’re still the same school—just stronger and better.

As principal, I’m committed to continuing to listen to our school community and ensure that Bear Lake High School gives students a high-quality education that prepares them for the future. I’m excited to build on our progress with personalized learning in the next school year, and I’m excited to see our students graduate and continue to do amazing things in the future—because I know that now, more than ever, they’re set up for success.