Student engagement at iTech Prep earns state award

Pictured above: Vancouver iTech Preparatory students study the current state of reclamation efforts at Mount St. Helens in fall 2014. The field activity was one of several activities that led to the school receiving a statewide Student Engagement Award.

Vancouver iTech Preparatory has received the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Student Engagement Award for 2015. The Student Engagement Award is intended to recognize educators who contribute to providing a school where students are actively engaged in learning and are connected to the school and broader community.

Vancouver iTech Preparatory, led by Principal Christina Iremonger, is committed to student engagement through its problem-, project- and practiced-based approach to science, technology, engineering and math (also known as STEM). On a typical day, students will be engaged in research, design and deep discussion. Teachers guide and provide critical feedback to students while infusing standards-based concepts into real-world STEM projects.

Students work alongside STEM professionals to engage in scientific and societal problems. For their forensic science projects, iTech students partnered with the Washington State Patrol, Clark County Sheriff’s Department and Vancouver Police Department to learn about vehicular collision reconstruction, forensic chemistry applications and technology for disarming bombs. Students used this information in an arts-and-design course to complete forensic portraits and anatomical facial reconstruction. They also infused the information into their physics and chemistry classes.

Other community partners include LSW Architects, Smith-Root Engineering, Washington State University Vancouver, Clark College, Share House, Kiwanis Club and the Mount St. Helens Institute. In a current agreement with Washington State University, undergraduate WSUV students volunteer in iTech science and math classrooms while earning university credit.

With a one-to-one laptop program, students also have access to dynamic content outside of the traditional textbook and can collaborate with peers and teachers at any time and any place. Vancouver iTech Preparatory also offers access to courses at Clark College and Washington State University Vancouver, a unique model for partnership with two post-secondary programs that is getting nationwide attention. Finally, student engagement in 21st-century skills is enhanced by their semiannual Demonstrations of Learning to local audiences. These events allow students to showcase and communicate their learning to a broader audience.

The school also is home to several clubs and culture groups, including Yearbook, Raven (an art publication), Adobe Tricks, ASB, National Honor Society, Book Club, Math Club, Key Club, Healthy Options, Journalism, Astronomy and We Day. Many teachers also provide time before school, after school and on Saturdays for students who are interested in learning how to do soldering and circuit board construction, sustainability projects, 3D printing, robotics and content-based tutoring.

This is one of several statewide awards for the school. In January, iTech became the district’s first STEM Lighthouse School and earned a $20,000 grant. It also is a Washington Innovative School.