Teaching through REACH

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Teaching through REACH

REACH has created an environment that pursues these goals in their first year at OHS

REACH has created an environment that pursues these goals in their first year at OHS

Marcus Andrist

REACH has created an environment that pursues these goals in their first year at OHS

Marcus Andrist

Marcus Andrist

REACH has created an environment that pursues these goals in their first year at OHS

Marcus Andrist, Writer

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School can be stressful for many, and for some students, this stress is an overwhelming combination of economic, social and emotional issues. The Owatonna High School is debuting a new program this year to help students needing help and support in the areas of: relationships, education, accountability, character and hardwork (REACH). This program has been previously implemented at the Owatonna Middle School with much success. REACH is an elective class offered for students grades 9-12; students can get accessible assistance with a very broad spectrum of issues. The program is exemplary of a unique connection between students and teachers, allowing the students to find the support they need no matter what is going on outside of school.

Relationships, Education, Accountability, Character, and Hardwork are the key features that lay the foundation for the program. There are currently about 70 students enrolled in the elective course; however, the class sizes are much smaller, allowing for one-on-one communication. Owatonna is currently one of 31 school districts in Minnesota that provides the REACH program. The emphasis is giving the students the tools they need to succeed, and small classrooms with a teacher and counselor to talk with allowing for daily check-ins and meetings. Assistant principal Ms. Hollie Jeska said, “REACH is program throughout the state of Minnesota that is really identifying some other needs that kids have beyond academics, and how we can help them meet those needs so they can be successful in school and life after.”

REACH is program throughout the state of Minnesota that is really identifying some other needs that kids have beyond academics, and how we can help them meet those needs so they can be successful in school and life after.”

— Ms. Jeska

The REACH classroom is either a block class or a year-long skinny class. Juniors and Seniors will have a semester block class, while Freshman and Sophomores have a year-long skinny. Students can expect to be able to talk to not only their teacher, Mr. Matt Skala, but also a designated counselor, Ms. Katie Wanous. The students involved can still get help year-round from these two, even if they are not in the class at the moment. This is one unique feature among many that set REACH apart as a special class that values the bond between teacher and student. 

One of the goals of REACH is to improve communication and access with a guidance counselor. OHS has four counselors but REACH has one dedicated to the program. Ms. Wanous joined OHS this year for the program. Doing this increases the student’s capacity for progress, for they had not received the follow-ups and reflections that are key to continued success. Now that the students have continuous support, they can spread out the development of many different skills that are required to adequately progress through school and in their personal life. Ms. Wanous’ enjoyment comes from being able to now help these students even more. Ms. Wanous said, “Creating a REACH family where we get to see these kids every day, getting to build and nurture a deeper relationship.”

Along the way, teachers and counselors alike can form a bond that will give them a person to listen and help, and even the teachers can admire and respect the progress that is taking place. Mr. Skala said, “They inspire me. Seeing their progress is very hopeful, and then just seeing them learn skills, navigate and understand that this is a good place, a safe place and they can do it.” The teachers contribute a large role of support and inspiration in these students’ lives, and their advice impacts them beyond the classroom. The group has recently done a fundraiser for Feed My Starving Children and raised money for the organization.

They inspire me. Seeing their progress is very hopeful, and then just seeing them learn skills, navigate, and understand that this is a good place, a safe place, and they can do it.”

— Mr. Skala

As schools and students evolve, it is important that the classroom setting evolves as well. This program reflects that change and shows the adaptation of schools to serve their students. It is something brilliant that not only improves students’ school life but also gives them the characteristical attributes required to succeed in life outside of school. Once the understanding and willingness have developed into a connection harbored between the teacher and student, success can come more fluidly. The overall ideals of the program services to the student as a whole, something that has not been done in a way so focused and determined before. The all-embracing focus of the entire program is to help the student with whatever it is that they need, often in any aspect of their life.

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