Kenai Central High School junior Cody Booth goes over paperwork regarding classes for next year during an advisory period Tuesday.
Photo by Will Morrow
In an effort to get every student more engaged in the things going on at Soldotna High School, Principal Todd Syverson has been going by the book actually, he’s using a stack of books, thick, green three-ring binders loaded with exercises for use during the school’s advisory periods.
“It really depends on the time of year and the activities going on, but it serves as a resource for our advisory teachers,” Syvserson said of the tomes, which have been organized into class-appropriate volumes.
This is the third year that time has been put aside each day for students to meet in small groups with teachers at Soldotna High School. Each session lasts 14 minutes, and activities vary each day. Mondays generally are spent going over announcements and events for the week; Tuesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to reading; Wednesday is an activity and Friday is reserved for something fun, like a trivia contest or a challenge with another advisory class.
Activities vary by class, with freshmen focusing on their transition into high school, and seniors making sure they are on track to graduate and looking at college and career plans, Syverson said.
The main benefit, Syverson said, is that students are able to get accurate information, as well as have an opportunity to provide input, on things happening around the school.
“It’s been a very good communication tool. The morning announcements sometimes run on and on, but we can give information in the classroom that’s specific to each grade level,” Syverson said.
Syverson said students are more likely to participate in activities when they are more aware of the opportunities.
“They know what’s going on, so that opens that door,” Syverson said.
Meeting with teachers in small groups also provides the opportunity to give students a meaningful pat on the back, or some counseling if needed.
“It gives us an opportunity, with a relaxed atmosphere, to discuss likes, dislikes, what’s happening in their lives,” said Lana Syverson, a teacher at Soldotna High School. “I really like it. I enjoy it a lot. There’s some days, of course, you think, ‘Oh, here they come’ I’m sure there’s days where my students think, ‘Oh, we have to go to advisory now’ but it’s a chance to talk. Sometimes the whole group will have a really good discussion’ other times, maybe I’ll spend the whole time with one or two students.”
School counselor Jon Lillevik discusses academic requirements with students. Advisory periods at Kenai Central typically are conducted in small groups, but the freshmen, sophomores and juniors met together for Tuesdays session.
Photo by Will Morrow
An advisory period has been instituted at Kenai Central this year, and Principal Alan Fields expects the payoff to come a couple of years down the road.
“We just finished our first semester, and there are a lot of positive changes. Students are starting to buy in, teachers have definitely bought in, and there will be more changes as it goes along,” Fields said.
“Freshmen are going to be with their advisory teacher for four years. I think that’s when we’ll see the real big payoff. Right now, we’re feeling things out, adjusting, making it better. I think we’ll see those big dividends when kids ... have got somebody in school that knows them very well.”
Fields said the Kenai advisory program is “based on the belief that students the opportunity to develop trusting relationships with an adult educator.”
The long-term goal is to improve the school climate, reduce the number of failing grades and improve school safety, Fields said.
Jon Lillevik, a school counselor at Kenai Central, said there are some concerns with the way the program is run, but came away with good feelings after meeting with the six teachers who are planning the advisories during Monday’s inservice.
“We’re creating the system as we go,” Lillevik said, adding that the problems encountered have been minor. “It’s a cool deal.”
Lana Syverson said her advisory class has been a positive experience over the past three years. She said she appreciates the opportunity to interact with students on an individual basis.
“I don’t view it as more work. It’s more a time to interact with students. We started it so no student went through a day without having a connection,” she said.
Skyview High School and Soldotna Middle School also are looking at ways to connect with students, and while each school has a different method, Lana Syverson said the goal is the same.
“We have all taken a different slant, but in the end, it really is a place to connect with kids,” she said. “As classes get bigger and we’re trying to cover more and more curriculum, kids have a home room where they can connect.”
Will Morrow can be reached at email@example.com.
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