Personalized Learning: Think Kaladi Brothers, soup and salad bar, treadmill

Ms. Sienna Griggs, Mountain View Elementary, 4th grade teacher explains,

I define personalized learning as the ability of a student to have self-directed choice in what and how he or she is going to learn; a sense of ownership over their education. While I am still learning about personalizing, I experimented with several elements of personalization in my classroom this past year.


Flexible Seating

Think Kaladi Brothers

I might always choose to sit in the comfy couch chairs because that’s where I usually prefer to drink my tea. However, a friend may enjoy sitting in the chairs next to the wall, as she likes an outlet for working on her computer while she sips her coffee. When my students were responsible for choosing their seating, it fostered a deeper sense of community in our classroom through sharing, taking care of supplies, and compromising. It also developed students’ skills in taking an active role in their learning on where they work best in the room, and when they need to make an informed change.

Station Rotations

Think soup and salad bar

The salad side is for choosing which toppings you want to go over your lettuce. The soup side is for ladling out the best soup choice according to what you prefer most. Both sides are for lunch, both sides are complimentary to one another, both feed you, and most likely you’ll visit both sides. We had four stations where students rotated through structured learning activities in small groups for both math and reading. Students were responsible for choosing which books they read, which activity would be best to support their level of understanding, and completing collaboration activities were provided to enhance learning and understanding. Their station information was up on a PowerPoint that ran on its own timing between slides, informing the students when it was time to switch stations. With different activities at each station, learning occurred alongside with exploration.

Adaptable Curriculum Pacing

Think treadmill

If a gym member steps on a treadmill in the middle of training for a marathon, their pace is most likely going to be quicker and they will probably run for many miles. Another gym member heads toward the treadmill for the first time in a few years. Both members’ experiences will be vastly different, but with the treadmill having adjustable speeds and incline both of these individuals have the ability to work hard and leave the gym feeling successful with their efforts.

QR Code Sienna Griggs Mt View 4th

Personalized Learning
Most of us, if not all, already differentiate beautifully in our classrooms. Differentiation, a teacher modifying material that is being taught and how students will learn it based on the unique needs of his or her class, has been extremely successful in meeting the needs of small groups of students. Before I learned about personalized learning, our classroom differentiated groups were centered around myself as the teacher; even though there was choice involved, I was still the only one responsible for what we were learning, and when, and how. In reaction to hearing about personalization, I wondered how this would work in the classroom and how I could personalize my students’ learning with myself in more of a guide position to support my students. With much help from others, I was able to use an online platform to build part of my math materials for this year. The learning curve was steep, and sometimes frustrating, but my students were helpful by providing feedback and catching mistakes I made.

I had a specific group of students working in a personalized learning method. Eighty percent of the students who were using the online platform met or exceeded yearly growth for math. Student reflections and feedback included statements such as, “I like working online because it lets me go at my own pace,” and “The program helps me be less distracted by other people and I can focus on my own work,” also “I don’t have to be worried about where other people are at.” I observed different students working at various parts of the math unit and utilizing tools and manipulatives that made sense to them as they worked through the lessons. My students also questioned the lessons, helped each other, and challenged one another’s thinking. Watching personalized learning unfold was really neat to experience.

Through personalized learning, I was able to integrate other programs and platforms to further exploration, learning, and real world connections. It wasn’t all smooth and perfect, but that’s where my learning as an educator comes in. This is only the beginning of my attempt to personalize my classroom, and I am already seeing the benefits through the students’ experiences and collaboration, assessment results, and direction that personalizing learning is taking both my students and myself.

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David Kalugin | Voznesenka School #Classof2017

David Kalugin
Voznesenka School
Class of 2017

Voznesenka School David Kalugin Class of 2017

“Voznesenka School is proud to recognize David Kalugin as an accomplished member of our 2017 graduating class who created a reputation of being witty and laid back,” said Principal Wojciak.

Starting his school career at McNeil Canyon School, which he attended from kindergarten through sixth grade, David completed seventh through twelfth grade years at Voznesenka. As a student, David had a plethora of experiences. He was on the football team for two years, attended three construction classes in Homer, and was involved with Project Grad. Most memorable for David were his years in football and the end of the year activities such as beach day. His efforts steered him towards earning both the Project Grad and Alaska Performance Scholarships.

School was an important part of his life, but so was his family, and commercial fishing. For the last two summers David was a captain on his family’s fishing vessel, and prior to that he spent several years as a deckhand. However, David does not have an interest in making fishing his livelihood, rather, his dream is to become an industrial electrician. He is currently working towards an apprenticeship in this field. He’s liked electronics since he was a little boy, and has earned respect by repairing inoperative cell phones.

As a school and community we wish David all the best in accomplishing his dreams and goals. His ever present smile will be missed, yet remembered as we resume school in the fall.

Voznesenka School website

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

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Gavin Elvsaas | Susan B. English School #Classof2017

Gavin Elvsaas
Susan B. English School
Class of 2017

Susan B English Gavin Elvsaas

Gavin Elvsaas grew up in Seldovia and is part of the graduating class of 2017 at Susan B. English School, the same school from which her mother, aunts and uncles, cousins, and other relatives graduated. She is a self-possessed, kind-hearted, and passionate girl who has made her family and community proud.

During her sophomore year, she made some choices that left her unable to earn the credits she needed for that year. Instead of being discouraged, she came back to school the next year with a plan and the determination to work hard and catch up so that she could graduate with her class. Her grades her last two years have been excellent and prove that she allows her past mistakes to inform her future choices so she can be successful. Gavin is responsible and curious by nature, and enjoys reading the news and following politics. Because she seeks to live by her convictions and do what she thinks is best not just for herself, but the world around her, Gavin has chosen to eat a vegan diet for the past few years, not an easy choice for a teenager growing up in a semi-remote town with limited grocery options. She is brave, sensitive, thoughtful, and strong, and she understands who she is and constantly looks out for others.

As a K-12 school, Susan B. English provides opportunities for students to become leaders and role models for much younger students, and Gavin is both. She worked as a classroom aide in the K-6 class this year, helping kids with their reading and math. She has earned her Emergency Trauma Technician certificate and aced her anatomy class, and she plans to pursue a career in the medical field.

Susan B. English School website

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Jackson Blackwell | Soldotna High School #Classof2017

Jackson Blackwell
Soldotna High School
Class of 2017

Soldotna High School Jackson Blackwell

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and Soldotna High School have provided me and many other students with countless opportunities. Over my thirteen years in the district I have been challenged to excel and make a difference within the school and greater community. I credit my many teachers and the KPBSD staff for allowing many students, like myself, to find opportunities and challenges that engage and make us all better global citizens.

Over my years at Soldotna High School I was heavily involved both in-and-out of school. I served in Student Council as Class President and the National Honor Society as President. I was involved in band, as well as having participated in a few years of sports. I was involved with Kenai Peninsula Youth Court and Teens Against Tobacco Use. Because of the opportunities I have received, I have excelled and will be able to attend college. I will be starting my studies at Boise State University this fall where I will be enrolled in the Honors College and plan to receive a double major in Political Science and Economics. Following undergraduate studies, I hope to attend Law School and focus in Constitutional and Resource Law. Following Law School, I hope to move back to Alaska to practice Resource Law and ultimately be involved in State politics.

Thank you to KPBSD for providing a world-class education and allowing students to reach their fullest potential.

Soldotna High School website

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Soldotna High School Jackson Blackwell with Gov Walker and Sen Miccichi

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Logan Smith | Seward High School #Classof2017

Logan Smith
Seward High School
Class of 2017

Seward High Logan Smith

Logan Smith is a tinkerer. This curiosity led him to all things tinkering that Seward High had to offer—shop, metals, woodworking, and so forth. Logan also has a natural aptitude for mathematics. This made him a logical candidate for Seward High’s engineering course called Project Lead the Way. “It was here that his talents combined to truly find his niche—and make Seward High better in the process,” said Principal Trevan Walker. “We’ve been slowly putting together our own Maker Space, but the process has been slow as these efforts have been largely extra-curricular. It was Logan who self-taught himself how to leverage the equipment he had, and advocate for additional equipment that we didn’t, to turn our Maker Space into something that is used every day and by a variety of students and teachers.”

Logan carries a 3.24 grade point average even as he has taken Seward High’s most rigorous course load. His work ethic, commitment to studies, and contribution to Seward High was also recognized by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF), who accepted him into their early admission engineering program where he will begin his post-secondary education in the fall. I’m am confident that UAF will be as proud to claim him, as one of their best and brightest, as we are.

Seward High School website

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

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Izabeau Stalkfleet Pearston | River City Academy #Classof2017

Izabeau Stalkfleet Pearston
River City Academy
Class of 2017

River City Academy Izabeau Stalkfleet Pearston

Class of 2017 Valedictorian Izabeau Stalkfleet Pearston has been a cornerstone of River City Academy since seventh grade. Izabeau graduates with a 3.98 GPA and a total of 16 college credits through JumpStart at Kenai Peninsula College (KPC). Her completed college courses include college algebra, trigonometry and communications. Izabeau has earned the University of Alaska Scholars Scholarship, the Alaska Performance Scholarship and a partial tuition waiver from Kenai Peninsula College for next year.

In addition to her excellent academics, Izabeau has worked since she was in tenth grade both at Jumpin’ Junction and the Orca Theater. Izabeau met her required service projects through consistently volunteering in the community at the Sterling Community Center, Community Dinner Theater, and a variety of other events. At RCA she is well known for her amazing skills at batik and for helping teach batik to new students. She has been a mentor, role model and all around excellent student since middle school. Izabeau will stay in the local community and attend KPC next year studying a health-related field.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

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Rick Jager | Port Graham School #Classof2017

Rick Jager
Port Graham School
Class of 2017

Rick Jager s

During the Port Graham School 2017 graduation ceremony, natural storyteller, University of Alaska scholar, and graduate Rick Jager told the story of what helped him reach the finish line. Hard work and perseverance were part of it, but having a teacher who took the time to reach out to Rick during challenging times was the key to his success during his final year. Rick was speaking of his teacher, Mr. Colby Way, one of the 2017 BP Teachers of Excellence finalists. Rick’s story underlines that without supportive relationships, none of us can be as strong.

Port Graham is proud of Rick for finishing strong and graduating high school. Rick has the distinction of being Port Graham School’s 2017 UA Scholar. After working at the Port Graham Council for the summer, he will put his scholarship to good use with further education and training at Job Corp. He hopes to gain the skills he needs to find work and live in Anchorage.

Rick is an example of a student who values people. Whether it be a community member or the regional administrator coming to visit the school, Rick welcomes them pleasantly and with warmth, genuinely wanting a report on how they are. His respect for people does not discriminate by age: Rick is fantastic with younger students as well, and he encourages them to keep their heads up in difficult times.

That Rick’s commencement speech focused on how much his teacher helped him during his last years in school is not a surprise. Rick Jager is a young man who has his priorities straight, realizing that his own merits are worth so much more because of the care and support he received when he needed it. Rick will, in turn, give back to others.

Connect with Port Graham School on Facebook

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

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Mikayla Clark | Ninilchik School #Classof2017

Mikayla Clark
Ninilchik School
Class of 2017

Ninilchik School Mikayla s

Mikayla Clark has been an outstanding student at Ninilchik for the past 10 years. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her for the past six years, and during these years I’ve seen her grow into a mature, confident young woman,” said Principal Jeff Ambrosier. “Through the I-team process she started taking both math and language arts classes for high school credit and she didn’t stop there. She sits on the State Future Farmers of America (FFA) team and this has allowed her to travel on a national level to talk to kids about not only FFA but also growing as a young adult. In addition to her academic success, Mikayla has also been a member of three varsity sports and has been part of state track and basketball.”

Mikayla’s love of Alaska and all that it offers has helped shape her plans after high school. Her post high school goals include attending University of Alaska, Southeast, for her bachelor’s degree in environmental science and then onto the University of Idaho for a masters in biological engineering.

She will be missed at Ninilchik school and we not only wish her the best of luck in her future plans but also thank her for helping make Ninilchik a better school.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

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Michale Meyers | Nikiski Middle-High School #Classof2017

Michale Meyers
Nikiski Middle-High School
Class of 2017

Nikiski Middle High School Michale Meyers

Michale Meyers is the first high school graduate in his family, and has taken advantage of every opportunity throughout high school to prepare himself for the world of work. With a diploma in hand, eight semesters of welding courses under his belt, and a job already in place with MagTec, Michale knows his future is bright.

Michale attributes his success in school to the love and support of his parents who encouraged him to keep his eyes on the prize and to Mr. Bostic and Mr. Rizzo, two educators he said always pushed him to do the right thing and stay on the right track.

After graduation, Michale will continue to work in his position as a roustabout while pursuing his dream of a career in welding. For Michale, having a high school diploma means having options, like the opportunity to take a project management course at Kenai Peninsula College to move up the ranks. He is a great example of a student who has positioned himself for success. With a background working for L&G Enterprises and MagTec, this brand new high school graduate already has real world experience.

We at Nikiski High know Michale will have far-reaching impacts on his community as he brings his joy for life, sense of humor and hard work and determination to bear. Michale is going to make great things happen for himself and others.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

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Vera Fefelov | Nikolaevsk School #Classof2017

Vera Fefelov
Nikolaevsk School
Class of 2017

Vera Fefelov Nikolaevsk

Vera Fefelov, is the Nikolaevsk Class of 2017 Valedictorian, graduating summa cum laude with a GPA of 4.105, with an incredible work ethic academically and athletically. Through hard and focused work she is graduating one year early. She has earned many academic and athletic awards during her tenure at Nikolaevsk and has maintained a sense of humor and humility the entire time.

Vera will attend Georgetown University in the fall where she will major in International Business Regional Studies at the McDonough School of Business, with a minor in Russian. Vera hopes to “get other languages under her belt” in future. When asked if she had any advice for the schoolmates she is leaving behind she stated,

“Never doubt yourself in anything you put your mind to. Just because you may experience failure in some way, it’s what you do with that failure that defines you. Don’t be afraid to push your limits–that’s where you find yourself and learn what you are capable of. The struggle is definitely worth it. It isn’t easy–but it’s worth it, trust me!”

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Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Vera Fefelov Nikolaevsk 3