Great things are happening in Ohio schools. Our teachers care deeply about their students, our pupils truly want to succeed, and our district and school staffs are setting examples of resourceful, visionary leadership for all of us. The State Board of Education’s Education Spotlight program challenges board members to identify outstanding districts, schools, teachers and students in their state board districts and showcase them at monthly board meetings. We think you, too, will be inspired!

September 2017

Northwestern Local School District

092017.jpgNorthwestern Local School District in rural Wayne County is a low-wealth rural school district of only 1,406 students. But if you think the relatively small-budget district only sticks to curriculum basics, you’d be wrong.

Northwestern has, in its own words, reinvented itself over the past 13 years from “a very good…very traditional school district” to the first Ohio district to have designated STEM schools serving grades K-12. To be designated STEM by the Ohio STEM Learning Network, schools must meet strict standards. Now Northwestern also has developed its first STEM preschool, and it is integrating arts into the curriculum to make it a STEAM district.

Members of the State Board of Education think that’s quite an accomplishment, but it’s not Northwestern’s only one. As in a growing number of districts, students in every grade and nearly every subject engage in problem-based and project-based learning that develops the critical thinking, leadership and communications skills they’ll need entering the workforce.

While the district 13 years ago, offered two traditional career technical education pathways – Agricultural Business and Family & Consumer Science, it now offers eight, including Entrepreneurship. Students also must complete career-based capstone projects in grades 5, 8, 12, which keeps them vocationally focused throughout their school years.

Because it’s STEM-focused instruction has students using design software programs and “maker” spaces to design and produce objects, the district’s biggest challenge, says Superintendent Jeff Layton, is financing enough laboratory spaces to support that. He says the district is looking at raising matching funds to combine with a state grant for those facilities. Clearly, Northwestern’s leaders are initiative takers and problem solvers.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Layton says. “We’re doing right by our kids.”

State Board members think Wayne County’s Northwestern Local Schools are going far beyond that – they’re doing right by Ohio. 

Liberty Menke

092017-1.jpgLiberty Menke is aptly named. This summer, the New Knoxville High School freshman and self-proclaimed patriot brought home first place in the 12- to 13-year old category of the Fraternal Order of Eagles national God, Flag and Country speech competition. This month, she delivered her winning speech to – and received a standing ovation from – the State Board of Education.

She began flexing her muscles as a patriot and a public speaker in the fourth grade, when participating in the God, Flag, and Country competition was a class requirement. She continued every year, even though participation was no longer required. Public speaking, next to love of country, had become her passion.

Liberty started her ascent to the 2017 national championship last February, as an eighth grader, winning the regional contest, the larger district competition, the state contest and, finally, the national competition last July in Grand Rapids, Michigan, addressing an audience of more than 2,000.

Along the way, she won a $2,000 scholarship and nearly $2,000 in prize money and had some great travel experiences. She says she also values the lessons and skills she learned along the way: public speaking, discipline, love for country, graciousness, humility and great communication skills.  

Liberty is proud of her accomplishments and her country. “Some people say America once was a great nation,” she tells her audiences. “I say America is a great nation.”

Last Modified: 10/12/2017 12:53:15 PM