John C. Fremont Elementary School was named for an early explorer in Nevada, John C. Fremont. Fremont is quoted as saying, “My purpose is to get leave to bring my party into the settlements in order to outfit and obtain supplies that have become necessary.” Today, our mission at Fremont Elementary mirrors the spirit and knowledge of our namesake. To explore new territory or succeed in our unknown future, we need to “outfit and supply” our students with the skills they will need to achieve career or college readiness.
To this end, the staff of Fremont Elementary is committed to making the changes in our curriculum and teaching strategies to ensure our students preparation for their future. In addition to memorized facts and algorithms, we require our students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, to demonstrate conceptual knowledge and the ability to analyze information, make predications and prove them, communicate both orally and in writing, and work with peers to problem solve and explain answers.
Students have learned (just like in real life) easy, simple solutions rarely give a complete answer to complex problems. Life is complicated, and answers don’t often come quickly. This is what our students are learning; they know there may be more than one solution and more than one way to find that solution. They are learning to express their opinions and ideas and explain their strategies. They don’t give up when the problem is “tough;” they are learning to persevere until they have answers that make sense. They have the skills to defend their ideas and listen to others to come to a decision.
Parents, understandably, are perplexed by math problems that “aren’t what we used to do” and are “not like I was taught.” That is why we have initiated family math nights that bring our families together to see demonstrations of the new teaching and to work with their children to learn “games” that teach skills while being enjoyable for the entire family. This year we added representatives from the Carson City Library and Northern Nevada Children’s Museum to introduce our families to helpful community resources.
Finally, we realized early on our staff, though dedicated to the mission, needed professional development to learn the new technology and techniques. In addition to district-sponsored training, our dedicated staff (both administrators and teachers) has attended many weekend trainings on its own time and cost. The dedication of our staff, parents and students was evident in our increases in the number of students proficient in math on last spring’s state testing. Every group of students met proficiency goals and made impressive growth.
Like John Fremont, we are excited to scout new frontiers, and we are convinced we have the “supplies” to ensure the success of our most precious resource — our children.
Casey Gilles is principal of John C. Fremont Elementary School. She can be reached at 775-283-1205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.