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Top of the class: Mountaineer Middle named an ‘Exemplary Practice’ school by the state Department of Education

Say you’re a student at Mountaineer Middle School, and you happen to notice Principal Mike Rogers in your classroom one morning.

Or Jennifer Potts, the vice principal.

Not to worry — that’s just what they do.

And it’s not like you’re in trouble, as far as that goes.

In fact, you’re doing a lot of things right.

That’s why the school perched on Price Street also found itself sitting near the top of the agenda during Wednesday’s meeting of the state Board of Education in Charleston.

The Morgantown school was being recognized as an inaugural winner that morning by the state board and state Department of Education.

Mountaineer Middle was named an Exemplary Practice School by the state for its test scores — those results are in the top 5% of achieving schools in West Virginia — plus, its programming tailored to the individual needs and concerns of its students.

The program was launched this spring by the Department of Education.

Sherman Elementary School in Boone County and Clarksburg’s United Technical Center were also recognized with the designation.

“These schools represent the type of research-based and innovative approaches needed to address complex issues facing our students and the broader education community,” said Michelle Blatt, state schools superintendent.

“We celebrate their dedication to these processes, which are critical to the success of our children and schools,” she continued. “It’s a privilege to recognize them.”

A big part of Mountaineer Middle’s success, Rogers said, is because he knows the school recognizes that every student in the building is different — with different styles of learning and different circumstances at home.

That comes from the school’s Real-Time model, which is a Mountaineer Middle exclusive, Vice Principal Potts said.

“There’s a lot of buy-in, because we’re really engaging our kids,” she said.

The “R” in Real stands for “relating,” the pair said, as in relating to what is happening all around those students, across the street and across the globe.

“E” stands for “empowerment,” which prompts students to take charge of their own learning.

“A” is for active: Students are directed and inspired to actively engage with the lesson plan.

“L” means learning, which is exactly what it says, Rogers and Potts emphasized.

“What it all really means is that we’re playing to kids’ strengths,” the principal said. That’s the first order of business in the first period, he said.

Or, as he puts it, “Academics — and social learning.”

Students who are struggling in reading or math, or who have netted a D or F in any course get tailored help, he said.

The principal and vice principal popping in to class is part of Mountain Middle’s Learning Walks component, which also includes teachers observing their colleagues at work.

“We’re in every classroom, every day,” Rogers said.

“Now, kids don’t even look up,” Potts said. “There are no disruptions in learning.”

Meanwhile, dollars also come with the exemplary school designation.

The three schools received grants of $5,000 each to apply to their overall mission in their respective buildings.

In the case of Mountaineer Middle, that means renovating and re-tooling, Rogers said.

The school will use its outlay to revamp its robotics program, which Rogers, echoing Blatt, said is part of his school’s broader mission in career technical education.

He also wants to bring back a 20th-century staple in school, only with the latest technology and geared to a 21st-century middle-schoolers’ mind set.

Shop class, he said.

“It won’t be like your grandpa’s shop class,” he said.

Rogers said he’s heartened his school has been able to construct a successful learning model that has garnered attention from the state.

“We’re pretty excited,” he said. “And we aren’t done up here.”

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