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First Baptist Elementary School restructures, deploys new teaching strategies

First Baptist Elementary School

First Baptist Elementary School students enjoy time on a Friday afternoon at chapel. The Marble Falls school recently introduced changes to its strategies, including an emphasis on performing arts. Courtesy photo

First Baptist Elementary School is changing lesson plans and teaching strategies as the Marble Falls school attempts to blend tradition with innovation.

Administrators decided to usher in a new system of teaching after hearing feedback from parents at the end of last academic year, including that the school should adopt newer ways of teaching while staying true to its traditional Christian roots.

“The school looks quite a bit different from last year,” said Principal Wendy Collins, who was hired in July after serving on an interim basis. “We still have First Baptist Christian School (which the school was previously known as). That’s kind of the umbrella company for the child development center downstairs and the First Baptist Elementary School upstairs.”

The school is now operating separately from the child development center.

“With that restructuring, we’ve also added new programs,” Collins continued. “It’s much more innovative.” 

The break from the child development center will give more autonomy to teachers and administrators to draft ideas for new programs and strategies.

One of the biggest changes is the introduction of workshops for third- through fifth-graders, including Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID.

“We’re having these workshops that incorporate lots of project-based learning, technology, and leadership,” Collins said. 

AVID teaches students to “think for themselves, rather than conforming to different ideas” and to develop “a strong self-concept,” she explained.

Another emphasis for the school is differentiation. According to Collins, some area schools have started combining grade levels. While First Baptist Elementary School isn’t doing that, it is focusing on each student’s needs through an enrichment program.

“In this differentiated class, students can receive advanced academic instruction and/or support necessary to maximize learning potential,” she said. “A dedicated teacher will provide a personalized enrichment pathway for each student based on diagnostic and formative data as well as informal observations.”

Rather than using assessments for a grade, students will be graded on participation and rigor, Collins said.

The school also revamped its basic music class into a full-fledged performance arts program. Students are now encouraged to work with various audio and visual equipment and no longer simply sing songs during chapel as administrators push for more complex performances such as plays.

“It has made kids open up in different ways,” Collins said. “They’re not only learning about different concepts and biblical stories through acting them out, they’re also learning the social development that ties into performing arts. We’re keeping them really busy here.”

So far, parents have been impressed by the changes.

“We’ve had phenomenal feedback,” Collins said. “They are very excited to have these programs.”

The changes already have had a major impact on the mood and identity of the school.

“It just feels different,” Collins said. “We literally have kids singing in the hall.”

First Baptist Elementary School is located at First Baptist Church, 901 La Ventana Drive in Marble Falls. Visit the school’s website or call 830-693-3930 for more information.