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Weeklong Seminar Highlights Value of Potomac’s Small Schools

Story by Tiffany Doss/Potomac Conference
Published 6/19/12

Star Schwinn, the new K-2 teacher at R.A. Lewis Christian School, listens intently to a presentation.
“If we are asking parents to entrust their children in the care and education of our church schools, then we better secure our promises and live up to them,” stated Nancy Melashenko, associate superintendent of schools for the Potomac Conference at the opening of a weeklong course for teachers in small schools.

The June 4-8 academic course, which offered three graduate credits from Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md., was held for teachers of one- and two-classroom schools. Designed to equip these educators with the planning tools necessary to optimally manage their curriculum and to develop an interactive professional learning community, the course worked to re-introduce and enforce the goals and standards for private education.

“This course has been fantastic,” said Star Schwinn, newly hired K-2 teacher for R.A. Lewis Christian School in Petersburg, Va. “Because there’s often only one or two teachers in small schools, it can feel isolating. Coming together for this course has allowed teachers in similar situations to get to know one another, plan curriculum ideas and field trips together and share experiences. It’s been a great networking and learning experience.”
Hailing from Arizona, Schwinn has seven years of teaching experience and says she has never come across an opportunity so focused on excelling teacher’s resources and abilities through a supportive network. “The Potomac Conference clearly is demanding teacher excellence to ensure student excellence [and] … are very active in giving us what we need to achieve this. Also, being able to communicate with teachers in similar situations gives us confidence and affirmation that we are already doing things right.”

Along with discussing the dynamics required for a student-focused classroom environment, these teachers began the task of planning a fine arts clinic for their students. Melashenko and Schwinn expressed how this clinic will give students the opportunity to work with various media that they usually wouldn’t have the chance to interact with, like oil paints, charcoals and photography.

Melashenko and other Potomac educators want to create opportunities for small schools to enjoy enriching benefits just like large schools. “We want to see an effort for our small schools and maintain an identity that embraces the idea that they are designed to be small and the benefits that can come out of that,” explained Melashenko. “We want to strengthen the small school model, make sure all of our teachers are benefitting together and create a strong, unified hub that support and ideas can flow from.”

With the success of this initiative and the process of rebranding the identity of one to two classroom schools, Melashenko hopes parents will understand the integrity and benefits of a small school program.

Nancy Melashenko, associate superintendent of schools for the Potomac Conference

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