Kenmore West High School
Kenmore West High School is a neighborhood school serving students in grades 9-12 in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. The school caters to a highly diverse population of students, which scored above the state average on the 2009 state assessments. The school has many notable alumni, including CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Skylab astronaut Edward Gibson and federal court of appeals Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook. Kenmore West has a substantial Advanced Placement program and an engineering and science program called Project Lead the Way, and is currently establishing an International Baccalaureate Diploma program. Last year, the school began a partnership with General Motors so that students could participate in internships to learn vocational skills for the automotive industry.
Kenmore West has a large number of student organizations, including the competitive Model UN club, advocacy organizations such as the Gay-Straight Alliance, a writing/poetry club, and service groups such as Both Your Hands/Interact Club, which has adopted a small school in Kenya. This club builds relationships with the Kenyan school’s teachers and students, and helps them get the resources they need so the school ultimately can become self-sufficient.
Peter Stuhlmiller, a social studies teacher who has taught at Kenmore West for 18 years, says a number of his colleagues work with students in the Community Club, which organizes and hosts an all-day holiday party for 150 low-income families. Students work from October through December planning games and crafts for children, and collecting canned goods that families can take home with them. Stuhlmiller says that teachers at Kenmore West are committed to helping students “feel like they’re part of something bigger.”
Stuhlmiller attributes Kenmore West’s success to the cooperation of teachers, administrators and support staff in working to improve the school. Kenmore has implemented a district-required instructional improvement plan, and staff members have volunteered to serve on committees and teams as part of that plan. “We literally have half of our teaching faculty involved in the plan directly in some fashion,” he says. “Our teachers are very focused on wanting to see students do well.”
Kenmore West teachers are also focused on wanting to see each other do well. For 20 years, the district has run a successful teacher evaluation system, in which teachers trained as mentors serve as full-time coaches and evaluators of new teachers. Mentors consult with new teachers on ways to improve instruction, model lessons, and demonstrate effective ways to increase student participation and maintain classroom discipline, among other best practices. Stuhlmiller is a product of this program and still remembers how his mentor helped him improve a lesson on the stock market crash of 1929. “I became a much better teacher faster having a trained mentor work with me closely,” he says.
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