This week Waxahachie Global High is in the news once again. The school has three teams competing in this year’s National Academic Challenge going up against more than 5,000 teams around the nation. Going into Saturday’s final challenge, all three of Global’s teams were in the top 25, with one team in second place.
Earlier this year, the school received recognition as being one of the top high schools in the nation for academics.
While I’m extremely proud of this school, its students and faculty, the fact is, most members of our community know very little — if anything at all — about this amazing, nationally-recognized school located at 600 W. Second St., in the heart of Waxahachie.
I have heard some refer to as a school for all the brainiacs.
In that context, nothing could be farther from the truth. That’s not meant to say Global students aren’t smart — they most certainly are.
To borrow a quote from Global Principal Don Snook: “The kids at Global are just ordinary kids who have been given the opportunity to become extra-ordinary students and they take advantage of that opportunity every day.”
Back in 2006, I was given a front row seat on a special committee to create a new high school in Waxahachie. The result of that committee’s work was Waxahachie Global High.
By design, it was created as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) academy, with class size limited to 100 students per grade and all curriculum utilizing project-based learning methods.
The school opened in August 2007 with its first freshman class. Two years later, in 2009, it received its charter as an Early College High School (ECHS) — meaning students, including freshmen, can take college level courses and receive credits that count for both their high school diploma and college degree.
When the school received its ECHS charter in 2009, there were a lot of naysayers who said high school freshmen shouldn’t be taking college courses. That’s not the way our education system works, they said. They’ll fail, they said.
I stood with Mr. Snook as he made the argument why it would work, and given the chance, the students will show they are a lot smarter than the naysayers give them credit for.
They not only have succeeded, they now have a grade point average for their college courses that’s above the national average for college freshmen.
It’s not just the college courses that made this school special. It’s truly unlike any school I’ve seen.
Since the doors first opened in the fall of 2007, it has been a place where students want to be. That’s not an exaggeration or an overstatement. They start arriving before 7 a.m. and every night the teachers literally have to make the kids go home.
To my knowledge, the most severe discipline problem the school has ever encountered was a dress code violation. There’s no cliques, no bullying — in fact, I’ve never seen a school where there is so much positive peer pressure to help their fellow classmates succeed.
That was evident on Nov. 13 when the school was host to the district’s Long Range Planning Committee. More than two dozen students lined up on the stairs in front of the school holding posters expressing how much they loved their school. As committee members walked in, the students made a point to thank them for visiting their school, offering to provide a tour and an opportunity to show why their school was special. They were courteous, respectful and followed every sentence with “thank you, sir; thank you ma’am.”
Think about it. No one made them be there. How many of us would have stood in front of our high school on a cold November evening just because we wanted to tell a few visitors how much we loved our school?
Now, let me tell you a little bit about what makes Global different (other than its focus on STEM and being an Early College High School). Next to having an outstanding faculty, project-based learning is the key — at least from my observations.
In every class, curriculum is taught in a manner that makes it relevant to how it is applied in the real world. Just like in the business world, students are assigned projects and work in teams to solve problems and find solutions. Additionally, the faculty works together to foster lessons in one class, making it applicable to the next.
Let me give an example. Students in April Moon’s aeronautical engineering class not only design a part for an airplane and produce that prototype on a 3-D printer; they must also present a proposal on why this part is the right part.
Students in Evelyn Restivo’s physics class work, in conjunction with other universities, to gather atmospheric data that will be used as part of an international research project and how that data will be used to determine future conditions that could impact future trends for government and commerce.
Most importantly, from day one they are taught to THINK FOR THEMSELVES. They are challenged to research every side of an issue and form their own conclusions and opinions based on the data and research — not because they were spoon-fed the final answer for a standardized test.
That’s why we need more schools like Global High. A few years from now, as we watch the first few years of Global grads begin to take center stage in the world, we’re all going to look back and say, “wow, we were innovators.” We’re also going to see other districts attempt to copy our ingenuity.