RACINE — Students may not feel ready to trade in the dog days of summer for backpacks and desks, but like it or not, the first day of school is right around the corner. For some students at Renaissance School in Racine, that not only means getting a new classroom teacher, but a whole new school building.
When Renaissance School, operated by LUMIN Schools, a network of urban Christian schools in Milwaukee and Racine, kicks off the 2017-2018 school year, it will welcome students to a second location for grades K4 through 8. Renaissance School-Villa is located at 1510 Villa Street in Downtown Racine. This new facility is an expansion of the original Renaissance School that houses grades K4 through 4th grade at 6150 Taylor Ave.
“We’re very excited about the new campus,” said Principal Tiffany Venegas, “and the opportunity for growth in Renaissance School.”
By “growth opportunity,” Venegas doesn’t only mean the opportunity to welcome more students to the LUMIN Renaissance family. While she welcomes increased enrollment, Venegas is most excited about the opportunity to witness and chart students’ academic growth.
“It sounds cliche, but we believe college can begin in kindergarten,” Venegas said. “Meaning we call students ‘scholars’ all the way through and really try to instill that love for learning. We set those end goals right away to make sure we prepare them academically and spiritually for wherever the road takes them.”
To do this, Venegas and her team make it a priority to “dig into the data.”
“When we dig into the classroom data we are looking at what the students’ needs are and how and what do we, as the educators, need to change to meet the needs of the student,” she said.
Multiple forms of assessment are one way Venegas and her team track student progress. But at Renaissance, being what Venegas referred to as “goal and data driven” is more hands on than it is teaching to a test. In addition to her role as principal, Venegas is the primary level instructional coach. Instead of getting a bird’s eye view of the day-to-day interactions in the classroom, Venegas plays an active role in the details.
“I sit down with the classroom teachers and get regular feedback on lessons. We dig into what is working and what is not,” she explained. “I think a lot of schools collect data, but at Renaissance we use that data to influence the instructional piece. Nothing is really left to chance and every student is being taught with intent.”
Teaching students to have a “growth mindset” is another key piece of academic success at Renaissance. Made popular throughout the academic landscape by psychologist Carol Dwek, a growth mindset is one in which people believe abilities are developed through dedication and hard work. The brain and one’s natural talent and abilities are just starting points.
“I preach a growth mindset not only for our students but for our staff because it promotes that lifelong love of learning,” Venegas said.
Cultivating a growth mindset is especially important for students who come to Renaissance after having a negative school experience elsewhere.
“There are a lot of times where students will come to us with low self esteem or not having a great school experience,” Venegas explained. “Then, by the end of the school year, we’re seeing them meet their academic goals.”
Such accomplishments are not without their challenges along the way, but for Venegas, there is nothing more rewarding than having a front row seat to these academic successes.
“I think for me the most rewarding part is seeing students and staff alike understand and feel what it is to be successful,” she said, “ and to realize success is possible regardless of previous experience.”
Renaissance School is a proud participant in the Racine Parental Choice Program. Learn more at www.RLSchools.org, or call Jill at 262-554-6768 for enrollment assistance. School begins August 22.