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Timberlane program helps 9th graders transition

By Adam Swift
Union Leader Correspondent

June 05. 2014 10:33PM

PLAISTOW — The transition between middle school and high school can be a difficult one for students.

To help ease that transition at Timberlane Regional High School, teachers and students are in the second year of a new program that helps increase personalization, collaboration and communication.

With the Freshman Academy, teachers operate as teams to help students feel more at ease as they make the transition to high school and to ensure that teachers are working together effectively.

“The transition from middle school to high school is significant,” said Timberlane High teacher Ben Morse. “The middle school has a different model with different goals, while one goal at the high school is to turn out students who will be independent. A number of things change in the first year (of high school), from the expectations to the culture.”

The academy is designed to address the non-academic stresses freshmen face so they can be in a safe, protected place where they feel they have some control and can focus on academics, according to Morse.

“We’re trying to make contact with every student,” he said.

While the personalization focuses most intensely on making sure the students feel comfortable with the teachers in the school, the collaboration focuses more on a team approach among teachers themselves.

Timberlane High teacher Jennifer Clark said the team philosophy focuses on teachers getting together for co-curricular activities and common planning time. In addition to the academic planning, Clark said the twice-weekly meetings give teachers an opportunity to talk about students who may be struggling or those who might need additional enrichment opportunities.

“The teachers get together for the love of the kids we’re all teaching,” said Clark.

In addition to communicating with the students, Timberlane High teacher Rebecca Carlson said the Freshman Academy approach also includes greater outreach to the students’ parents.

Timberlane High Assistant Principal Mary Widman said there are a number of key things that indicate the Freshman Academy model is meeting its goals.

She said there has been a significant drop in behavioral incidents involving freshmen as well as surveys showing that more students feel connected to an adult other than their guidance counselor in the school.

“This is really about transition,” said Superintendent Earl Metzler. “This group takes middle school students and makes them feel like they are part of the family and this is home. It’s a real personalized experience.”

Education General News Plaistow