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An investment in classroom stories

Kent City — Superintendent Bill Crane knows from website data reports that students, parents and the community get very excited about reading and watching stories about what happens on the fields and courts in his district. And don’t get him wrong — he is, too. But as superintendent, he gets to peer into the exciting things unfolding in the classroom every day, and he wants to give his community front-row seats to watch the action through a new web and social media series.

“Our ‘Academic Spotlights’ give us the opportunity to share with our community those amazing teaching and learning moments we see every day,” he said. 

Senior Savannah Miller didn’t consider herself to be “techie” before learning to use Adobe Photoshop software to produce Academic Spotlights

In the fall of 2022, Crane asked teachers and students from across the district to collaborate on the new project. Teachers provide a few paragraphs that paint a picture of the exciting things happening in their classroom, and students in computer science teacher Jeremy Smith’s high school multimedia class photograph and design the spotlights to share on social media and the district’s website. 

Smith chose two students — both seniors — from his fourth-hour class to produce the spotlights because both had demonstrated the ability to be highly-motivated, independent workers. Both students, seniors Izabella Arechiga and Savannah Miller, are producing the spotlights on top of the other assignments given to the class. 

“It shows their work ethic. They’re the ones that just take it on and (then) I see how they’re doing — I check in on them,” Smith said. 

Izabella Arechiga learned a lot about adjusting light settings in photos she took for Academic Spotlights

Izabella plans to attend Michigan State University next year to study mechanical engineering, but thinks her new photography skills might turn into a hobby in the future. Her analytical mind has helped her troubleshoot throughout the year as she’s visited classrooms. 

“I’ve learned as we’ve gone through it what works and what doesn’t,” she said, adding that she often has to adjust her camera settings because each classroom has different lighting and she dislikes how the flash makes her subjects look in each picture. 

Savannah, who plans to study biology at Grand Valley State University in the fall, didn’t consider herself much of a computer person when she started the multimedia class in the fall, but appreciates the new skills she has using design software like Adobe Photoshop. She also enjoys creating the spotlights because they provide a portal back to the great memories she has of her time at Kent City Elementary School. 

“I really enjoy seeing what they’re doing, especially in art,” she said. 

Read more than 40 student-produced Academic Spotlights on their website, or by following them on social media

The students who designed the Academic Spotlights have produced more than 40 profiles during the 2022-23 school year

Both student designers liked going back to their old classrooms at Kent City Middle School to see what new things were happening

Academic Spotlights were started to show the exciting things happening in Kent City classrooms

Read more from Kent City: 
Doing what he loves by teaching tech, inspiring students
Threat of school violence gets swift response in Kent City

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Allison Poosawtsee
Allison Poosawtsee
Allison Poosawtsee is a reporter covering Rockford Public Schools and Kent City Community Schools. She has spent 15+ years working and writing in the education context, first for her alma mater, Calvin University, and then for various businesses and nonprofit organizations in the Grand Rapids area. As a student journalist, she served as editor-in-chief of Calvin’s student newspaper where she garnered several Michigan Collegiate Press Association awards for her work. Allison is a proud parent of two Grand Rapids Public Schools scholars and a passionate advocate for the value of public education.


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