Westlake teachers strive for innovation, creativity in the classroom

Westlake Elementary School students challenge themselves while designing and building with KEVA blocks.

How do you engage students who have missed out on a year of “normal” academic learning? How do you foster a mindset of perseverance amid challenges? In this current Covid-impacted environment, these are the questions facing teachers everywhere. And for a group of Westlake Elementary School teachers, bringing creative and innovative learning techniques into the classroom is their answer to these questions.

As students returned to in-person learning last year, Westlake Elementary School teachers noticed differences in how students dealt with being in a classroom with their peers and tackling daily educational assignments. When three of the teachers – Brandi Mattingly, Becky Kowalski, and Erin Vanek – heard about the opportunity to apply for a grant from the Westlake Educational Foundation, they applied and were ultimately awarded a grant to purchase KEVA Blocks.

The Westlake Educational Foundation awards grants to Westlake City School teachers and staff for projects that enhance the educational opportunities and learning experiences of students over and above the required curriculum, giving special consideration to proposals that demonstrate creativity and innovation in student learning. Grants will not be made for those expenses normally covered within the school district’s budget.

Upon receiving the KEVA Blocks, the teachers immediately began using them in their classrooms. Some of the KEVA Block challenges include: build the tallest tower with only one plank as the base and build the longest structure hanging off the edge of the table. Brandi Mattingly reports that students initially felt tasks were hard or impossible or even unfair when other students were successful, and they were not. 

Working to change a student’s mindset to one of growth, where they believe in their ability to grow and strengthen their intelligence and talent with hard work and practice, is the goal. As students continue to work with the KEVA Blocks, Mattingly has heard them say, “this was hard, but I am glad I tried more strategies,” and “I am going to take a huge risk by trying this.”  Mattingly reports, “Overall, students are enjoying the process, resulting in greater risk-taking while designing and building.”

Enhancing educational opportunities and experiences of Westlake City Schools’ students by offering grant opportunities is at the core of the Westlake Educational Foundation’s mission.  However, without adequate funding the Foundation cannot achieve its mission. While supporters may contribute directly to the Foundation on its website at www.wlake.org/about-us/westlake-educational-foundation, they also have the opportunity to support the Foundation through its annual car raffle.

In partnership with Serpentini Chevrolet of Westlake, the Foundation is currently holding its second annual car raffle. A 2022 Chevy Trax is the grand prize. Westlake Demons Athletic Boosters, Westlake Music Boosters, Westlake PTAs, and Westlake Alumni Association are also partnering with the Foundation and have donated prizes for the raffle. The drawing will be on Feb. 4 during the Westlake High School boys’ varsity basketball game. Tickets are $25 each and available online at wlake.org/about-us/westlake-educational-foundation until Jan. 31 or can be purchased in-person at the Westlake Board of Education, formerly Hilliard Elementary School, at 24365 Hilliard Blvd. and at Westlake High School athletic events until Feb. 4. Each ticket includes Serpentini Chevrolet oil change coupon valued at $20.

Mary Essig

President, Westlake Educational Foundation

Read More on Schools
Volume 14, Issue 3, Posted 11:25 AM, 01.18.2022