Keeping an eye on education: a school in Niles is stirring up a lot of buzz with its approach to teaching. Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy is in its second year. Enrollment was Saturday morning and there's been a lot of interest.
Parents and students lined up in the wee hours of the morning for enrollment. "Me and my mom work up pretty early, it really didn't matter cause we were just so excited," said sophomore Christian Pratt. That was a year ago and now Christian is a sophomore at New Tech. "It feels like i'm actually making a change...and it's always different," she said. Different is definitely one way you could describe New Tech. Students sit in circles, not in rows behind desks. "It's collaborative work and that's one of those skills or those soft skills we want them to have by the time they leave, the ability to work with others," said New Tech Director Jerry Holtgren.
Students aren't called students, they're called learners. Teachers are called facilitators. "We call our students, we call them learners because we really try to empower them to use an inquiry to answer their own questions and the facilitators i guess the difference in that name is we see ourselves as guides," said Holtgren.
The end goal is to get "learners" like Christian ready for college or vocational school. Students will spend part of their junior and all of their senior year at a local college. "My dean Mr. Holtgren he stood me by and said 'you're ready for college, what do you wanna be when you grow up?' and I said 'I wanna be a doctor' and he said 'we'll make sure this path will come to you,'" said Christian.
A path that starts in the classroom with teachers willing to try new methods to teach.
Niles New Tech is actually located inside Niles High School. Enrollment began at 7 a.m. Saturday The first 90 students were accepted. The rest were put into a lottery system.