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Andrew Withers: Authentic student engagement

Andrew Withers

The middle school years are a critical time in the development of our youth. During this time students often experience many physical, mental, emotional and social changes. It is a very special educator who chooses to work with middle school students and we are so proud and appreciative of the great work of our staff and students at Lyman Gilmore Middle School. The engaging and exciting activities that the staff have developed are giving our students real learning opportunities where they thrive and grow.

An example of this is the recent Lyman Gilmore production of “Mary Poppins Junior” took place from Thursday, March 31 to Sunday, April 3, at the Don Baggett Theater on the Nevada Union campus. This production was led by Becky Browning who serves as the Director and Musical Theater teacher at Lyman Gilmore. For the past seven years Lyman Gilmore has supported a Musical Theater course as part of the student’s elective options and during this time student growth has been fantastic.

The Mary Poppins production included over 80 actors, crew members, and production members and was presented to an audience of over 2,000 community members. In addition to the production, Lyman Gilmore’s Musical Theater program participates in other theatrical events and competitions and has been invited to present at the State Capital during the Youth in Theater Day. Recently, Lyman Gilmore students competed at the 21st annual Middle Stage Fest. Students performed monologues, scenes and musical numbers against over 200 other middle school students from 13 middle schools. In the end, Lyman Gilmore students walked away with six gold, three silver and ten bronze medals and their Mary Poppins Musical Duet earned the all festival high point winner.

Our entire school district and community were thrilled and impressed with so many aspects of this theater production. Teacher Becky Browning reported, “We were able to serve so many elementary students, community members and families during this production. Some attendees actually experienced theater for the first time or they attended a field trip for the first time this school year! I am so excited to be in a full theater again, to watch the audience as the lights start to dim, to experience the laughter, joy, and energy flowing through the aisles, and most importantly, to see students on that stage sharing their gifts with others.”

The team at Lyman Gilmore works hard to go above and beyond for our students. Another recent example took place at the April6 Mile Day event. Running “The Mile” is traditionally the conclusion of physical fitness testing for the school year and several years ago the staff secured support from the Synergy Timing Company. Doing this allowed them to bring more energy, focus and excitement to the test along with great accuracy for the student’s running times. The event now feels more like a local 5K or 10K race event with music and people cheering during every race. Over 400 students were able to run in one of the four grade-level races and even a few teachers chose to run with the students! Physical Education teachers Ben Mills and Missy Bill shared, “We always see our best times of the year on Mile Day and this year was no different. The fastest time of that day was one of our 8th graders with a time of 6:04, and there were many students near this mark at every grade level. We are really proud of our Lyman Gilmore students and how hard they pushed themselves to achieve their goals.”

Springtime is proving to be a special time in the Grass Valley School District. We are now able to truly see and experience the growth and progress of our students. As a district team we continue to appreciate our amazing staff, families and students for their hard work and dedication. With Spring Break now behind us, we have just a handful of weeks remaining before it is summertime!

Andrew Withers is superintendent of the Grass Valley School District

The crew of Mary Poppins backstage before one of their performances.
Provided photo
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