By Murray Siegel
2017 was a great year for the city of Maricopa. Building began on new stores and restaurants, ground broke for the long-awaited railroad overpass and the mayor set challenging goals for the city and its citizens. You might not have noticed that Maricopa Unified School District’s K-8 blended learning program was awarded the Golden Bell Award by the Arizona School Board Association. What is blended learning and why should Maricopans care?
To answer those questions an interview was conducted with Jackie Hahn, a sixth-grade teacher in the blended learning program at Maricopa Wells Middle School (MWMS). Hahn brings a unique perspective. This is her first year teaching in the program. She taught sixth-grade math and science at Maricopa Elementary School the previous four years, so she can see the program from a teacher’s point of view. She is the mother of a seventh-grade student in the program at MWMS, so she can address the value of the program as a parent.
Hahn has an industrial engineering degree from Rutgers University and spent years working as a problem solver for Johnson & Johnson, a large multinational manufacturing company, allowing her to see the future benefit students receive from blended learning.
Hahn says teaching in the MWMS blended learning program is her dream job, one that allows for flexibility and provides her with opportunities to uniquely address student interests and needs.
Students in the program, which blends in-class and online teaching, master self-regulated learning, become independent and inter-dependent learners, develop creativity and learn time-management skills. She says students are being prepared for work in the high-tech world of the 21st century, including critical thinking and collaboration to solve problems. Most students who start in the program remain in blended learning. Some folks raise concerns that students in this program will have difficulty adjusting to the more traditional style at the high school. Hahn said her students understand how to learn and can do so in any environment.
The school days are filled with passion for learning for both students and teachers. Teachers in the program meet regularly to make adjustments as they fine-tune lessons and projects to best meet their students’ needs. Perhaps parents who are sending their middle school students out of town will reconsider the value of Maricopa schools’ blended learning and allow their children to get an award-winning education in this program.
Murray Siegel has a PhD in MathEd and 42 years of teaching experience and is a volunteer teacher of advanced math classes at Butterfield Elementary School.
This column appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.