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Shaler Area adds music, art, science courses for 2018-19

| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 2:54 p.m.

Shaler Area High School students and their parents may notice changes when viewing the 2018-19 school year course description book online.

The Shaler Area School Board voted to add and eliminate courses, as well as change the academic weighting of some classes.

Students will meet with their guidance counselors the week of March 12 to plan their 2018-19 schedules, said Assistant Principal Thomas Misko.

First, George Tepshich, music department chairman, said the district is adding a semester-long Percussion Ensemble course, focusing on “learning, playing and performing all types of percussion instruments and repertoire in a concert setting.”

The class is open to high schoolers of all experience levels without auditions. Students will learn to play mallets, timpani, auxiliary and battery percussion, hand drums and will showcase their new skills at winter and spring concerts.

“This class will provide an opportunity for individual growth within a group learning setting, building on students' ability to work as a team towards a common goal and fostering a skill set needed in the 21st-century workforce,” said Tepshich.

Art teacher Jeffrey Frank said a new Anime & Illustration course is designed to attract students from all skill levels and “build their technique and their confidence.”

Anime & Illustration students will explore cartoons' cultural impact and contrast past cartoon art with today's graphic novels.

“The course was created to encourage students to expand their creative writing, and explore digital and traditional drawing skills.”

“I am currently a member of our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) committee, and I've seen the benefits of giving students challenges that include multiple disciplines. I'm hopeful that the students will be excited to bring their cartoons to life through stories and animations.”

Frank said that during a department meeting he and his colleagues discovered that cartooning had led all of them to pursing their career paths.

“Sean Aiken, our superintendent, encourages us to remember why we became teachers and to find new ways to inspire our students.”

The final new course is Conceptual Biology, an introductory biology class appropriate for college-bound students, but insufficient for those planning to pursue science-related degrees.

During the board meeting, Misko said Conceptual Biology students will still take the biology Keystone Exam, part of a standardized end-of-year assessment.

The district is eliminating several courses due to low enrollment.

Assistant Superintendent Bryan O'Black said one such course, Media Literacy, was geared toward students interested in journalism.

“A lot of the students have been funneled into or have elected to go into the newspaper section of it or in the media section of it in the Shaler Area TV route of it. They've been more practical, hands-on, versus in a class that talks about doing it,” he said.

Similarly, students won't find Public Speaking and Advanced Public Speaking available.

Misko said that Chris Gaul, English Language Arts department chairman, told him that opportunities for students to give presentations during their other curriculum will remain.

Other eliminated courses include Music Appreciation and Word Power, the latter of which taught vocabulary-building techniques.

Finally, the board members voted to weight Jazz Ensemble I, Women's Chorus, Chamber Choir and Wind Ensemble as honors courses.

Misko said the school's administration started working with its department chairpersons in November to determine which courses would prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce.

He said Shaler Area officials realigned the high school's coursework for the 2017-18 school year “to focus on college and career preparation,” and create “an exceptional learning environment for all learners, no matter their post-secondary plans.”

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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