Children who bring home excellent report cards have every right to be proud of their hard work, dedication and achievement. And yet, for some students, high grades are indicative of so much more than test results.
Such is the case with Antoine Cochran, 14, who enrolled at the Maryville Jen School late in 2015. He had left his home school district in Waukegan, where large class sizes and limited support services made learning difficult for him. In Waukegan, Antoine disliked school. While in junior high, he began to exhibit behavior problems. Eventually, he got into trouble and was expelled.
Flash forward to January 2016: Antoine is seated with his classmates in the audience at the Jen School’s quarterly Awards Ceremony. His name is called. Antoine grins and walks to the podium to receive a certificate. On this day, in front of his cheering teachers and friends, Antoine is being recognized for achieving A-Honor-Roll status. For Antoine, his straight A’s represent more than a great report card or a round of applause: they symbolize a completely new chapter in his academic life.
Antoine achieved this success by way of the Jen School’s Relational Teaching Model, which is built on mutual respect between student and teacher. This model emphasizes the student’s strengths, creates a sense of accomplishment and fuels the student’s desire to learn more.
“The classroom setting in a mainstream environment was too large for Antoine,” said Ann Craig, the Jen School Principal. “At Jen, he is receiving individualized instruction at his level.”
The change of scenery has fostered Antoine’s tremendous progress. “I think what has helped me the most is the support I get from my teachers and the staff,” Antoine said. “The support helps me concentrate and focus on positive things. It feels a bit more comforting somehow.”
Computer technology has also played a major role in turning Antoine’s educational experience around. In Waukegan, he only had access to computers in a lab setting; at Jen, he can check one out for individual use during school hours. “We currently have 45 Chromebooks and 50 students,” Craig said. “So, there is rarely a time when all the laptops are checked out at once.”
In 2015, The Maryville Jen School received a $9,900 grant award from Altria Companies Employee Community Fund, which was used to purchase 30 Chromebooks, 30 licenses, and a charging station. The Jen School also received a $5,000 grant award from the Dr. Scholl Foundation, which was used to purchase 15 Chromebooks, 15 licenses, and a charging station.
Altria Companies Employee Community Fund and the Dr. Scholl Foundation are longtime supporters of the educational and vocational programming at the Maryville Jen School. The positive impact of their generosity will be felt for generations to come. Antoine is just one of the students who have reaped the benefits of these awards.
Research suggests that Web-based resources increase student engagement and can introduce them to collaborative activities that trigger critical thinking and creativity. For Antoine, this has certainly been the case. He has used a Chromebook to explore tutorial websites such as CoolMath.com and SumDog.com. “Math is my favorite subject,” he said. “I know all of my multiplication tables.” He also credits the online resource FreeTypingGame.net with helping him improve his keyboarding skills.
Jen School Special Education Teacher Kristina Walz has witnessed Antoine’s growth firsthand. “We are so proud of Antoine and his A-Honor-Roll achievement. He is an incredibly bright student,” Walz said. “The Chromebook donation has been great for Antoine to broaden his learning experiences. He’s also a very independent learner, so the Chromebooks are a wonderful option for him to complete research, practice skills and challenge himself academically.”
If Antoine continues to succeed at the Jen School, he will eventually transition into an alternative or self-contained program in his home district in Waukegan. “Districts look for overall improvement in three areas: behavior, attendance and grades,” said Craig. “Antoine has made progress in all three, but he still has some work ahead of him.”
Antoine, who speaks both English and Spanish at home, is currently learning German, Italian and Russian. While math might be his favorite subject right now, he is adding for foreign languages to his skill set for a practical reason. He wants to become a zoologist and believes that profession might include international travel. “I think someday I will work overseas. I will probably have a job that lets me go out and help other people.”
To learn more about the Maryville Jen School and its programs for male students, ages 10 – 21, please call 847-390-3020 or visit www.maryvilleacademy.org.