A warm and bright self-described tomboy who loves to laugh, Shelby gets excited about shoes. “I think I have 20 pairs,” the 16-year-old said. “Mostly runners and hightops. I don’t wear flip flops or girly shoes.”
Today, Shelby is a student at Applewood Academy for Progressive Learning in Belleville. Three years ago, she’d been handed multiple fighting-related suspensions at another school. It was that need for change that brought her to Applewood.
“I love Applewood because it’s not as serious as other schools. It’s more laid back,” she says. “I can act foolish sometimes and not worry about other people judging because they’re all like that.”
Applewood Academy is designed to be flexible. While staff aim to meet the same deadlines set by mainstream schools, they recognize that the more rigid approach of public schools may be part of the reason why students attend Applewood instead.
Instead, students have the same class schedule every day; the routine and predictability promote comfort and stability. Students set small goals as part of an individual learning plan that brings them closer to their overall educational objectives.
Applewood in the Morning
Shelby, who’s in grade 11, starts her day at 9 a.m. with media studies. “We discuss what we did or watched the night before for 30-40 minutes, unless we get off topic,” she explained with a grin. “Sometimes, that happens.”
After the first period wraps up, each student goes off to focus on their own work for a bit.
Applewood students uses a direct instruction program called Teach Children Well, which moves each student through a series of exercises to help them learn new concepts in core subjects like English and math. Right now, Shelby is working on division and spelling. Once she finishes the lessons on division, for example, the program will introduce percentages, fractions and decimals.
Around 10:40 a.m., the class has their first break: 30 minutes to have a snack and step out of class.
Once the break wraps up, the class comes together to discuss life skills. “We learn about a bunch of stuff: drugs, alcohol, hygiene. Different things we run into in life,” she said.
From the staff point of view, the life skills period is split into two areas:
- subjects students have indicated that they want to learn about, and
- areas that have been identified in individual learning plans.
Applewood in the Afternoon
After an hour-long lunch, students return to their individual studies for 45 minutes.
After a short second break, they wrap up their day with gym class. “Right now we’re doing volleyball, but we also do other sports like hockey and basketball.”
Not every day goes as planned; Applewood offers a therapeutic learning environment, and many of the students have mental health issues like learning disabilities, depression or anxiety.
Staff and families work together to address disruptive behaviour in the classroom. In times of crisis, each child also has an individual crisis management plan and when students need help coping with difficult situations, one-on-one support is also available. These needs take precedent over the regular Applewood schedule.
Focused on Success
Shelby hasn’t decided what she wants to do after she finishes school but she has a few ideas in mind: Criminal lawyer perhaps, child and youth worker, or something culinary.
“I’m a genius in the kitchen!” She exclaimed. Shelby’s also noticed that there’s something about her personality that puts people at ease. “Kids who are uncomfortable with other people feel OK with me. I don’t know why.”
Whatever their previous school experience might be, Applewood Academy’s goal is create a positive and safe environment so students have every opportunity for academic success.
To learn more about Applewood Academy, please contact us or call 613-962-1042.