MAY 2022 — Abigail Stiller, a nursing intern at Summa Health in Akron, is also a high school senior at Bio-Med Science Academy. Like many seniors, Stiller has an internship project that occupies half of her school day. During their junior year, students at Bio-Med are required to pursue either an internship, research project, or independent study by the end of the year. With her desire to work in the field of nursing and women’s health, Stiller secured her internship in January of her junior year. It all began with her connection to a family friend.
When considering internship opportunities, she decided to reach out to her former Sunday school teacher, Connie Becht. Since Becht was an obstetrician, a field Stiller was interested in, she contacted her without hesitation.
Becht didn’t have much hesitation either when accepting her as her intern. ”I was excited,” said Becht, “I love precepting and my masters is in nursing education so I love teaching.”
As her former Sunday school teacher, Becht was also excited to see Stiller grow in a new way. She explained, “I got the privilege to watch her grow as a child and now it’s fun to see her mature into her adulthood and into her profession.”
Stiller is Becht’s first official intern, but as a floor nurse teaching nurse education Becht had many students who were college level in age. Though Stiller was the youngest, Becht recalled how “I often forgot that she was still in high school.”
Obstetricians specialize in caring for women and their babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Stiller sometimes works on the obstetrician floors at her internship.
“I have days where I’m going to be on the floor and days when I’m not,” she explained. Depending on this, her days can vary greatly in activities.
Most days not on the floor for Stiller begin once her classes at Bio-Med end during her open cores. “I get out [of Bio-Med] around 11:30 a.m., so I’m there around 11:45 a.m.”
Stiller explained that her tasks on these days range from data collection and analysis to working on spreadsheets. However, Stiller’s afternoons primarily consist of meetings.
Her days on the floor, on the other hand, can sometimes start as early as 4:30 a.m. In the delivery room, Stiller explained that “I’m what we call a helping hand.”
As a helping hand, she was taught how to take vitals of newborn babies, read contraction and fetal heart rate patterns, start IV bags, and many other procedures.
These days have also proven to be very long for Stiller. She explained that “There are some days I’ve pulled 16-hour days — some I’ve pulled 12 hours.” This is made possible when Bio-Med has “orange days,” which is when Stiller has no classes.
On these days, Stiller acknowledged that “I have worked a night shift.” Since she is 17, this shift could possibly conflict with child labor laws in any other context. These shifts are not typical for most Bio-Med internships. However, the longer shifts were made possible by the volunteer service program she got her internship through.
The program leaves how many hours a student works up to them and requires them to sign a form removing their liability. “I do this to myself partly,” said Stiller.
She recalled one day when she worked a night shift that made for an almost 48-hour long day. “Unlike the other nurses who can sleep beforehand, I had school the entire day beforehand,” Stiller said.
She also had to do a house cleaning side job. She recalled how she slept in the back of her car before driving home that day.
Despite the long shifts and intensities that come with the position, Stiller enjoys it nonetheless. “It’s a magical sight when a baby is born,” she explained.
Becht noted that Stiller “does anything that is asked and never complains. Always has a smile on her face.”
She also loves the staff and community at her internship, solidifying her desire to pursue nursing as a career. “My plan is to do an undergrad in nursing, [and] get my bachelors in [registered nursing]. Then, I can go into medical school if I desire to become an [obstetrician],” she explained.
Working in this field has already left her with a multitude of stories, some of which she cannot share due to HIPAA laws.
“We had a case a couple months ago with a patient who had third-degree burns all over her body,” she began. The mother was 23 weeks pregnant, and without a burn unit, Stiller and others had to coordinate with a hospital that had one.
After having to go back and forth talking to doctors one-on-one, Stiller realized that “there’s a lot of problem solving I did not think would come with this job.”
A more peculiar thing Stiller learned at her internship was that there are robot babies that cost $50,000, and her internship has one.
“We just got a new baby that’s a robot that is programmable,” said Stiller. At her internship, simulations are run with the baby to further nurse education on skills days.
Other simulations run on skills days include fire in the OR, where nurses run through a simulation of what it’s like if a fire were to break out in the operating room. These simulations help better prepare nurses for the real thing.
Aside from the educational lessons Stiller has learned in her field of study, she gathered that “you learn how to interpret people on a different level,” teaching her lessons in perception as well.
After Stiller’s time at her internship, she also gathered that she has thoroughly enjoyed her time there, as Becht expressed that “she is a joy to have.”
MAY 2022 —Mckenna Tubbs has gone through a long journey to get where she is now, starting from her career playing lacrosse, to her career teaching math, and picking up various lessons and hobbies along the way. She is currently the eighth-grade math teacher at Bio-Med Science Academy. She has a lot of hobbies and is very active outside of school, but still manages to create fun, interactive projects for her students. Tubbs is in her third year of teaching, having started her teaching career at Bio-Med in 2019 as the seventh-grade math teacher.
Tubbs first discovered that she wanted to be a teacher in her middle school years. She started her journey to become a teacher at the University of Mount Union (M.U.) in 2016. Tubbs decided to attend M.U. because she wanted to build a relationship with her professors, and she thought that would be harder in a larger setting compared to a smaller scale university. She also found Mount Union appealing because of its programs for teaching, and she could also play lacrosse.
Tubbs has played lacrosse since she was in the seventh grade and quickly discovered that it was something that she enjoyed doing, saying that she “instantly loved the sport.” Tubbs played the sport throughout high school, but as her senior year started coming to an end, she decided that she wanted to keep playing. That is when she found out that Mount Union was the best fit for her.
She looks back fondly on her college years, saying, “College was truly the best four years of my life, and I made some lifelong friendships while I was there.”
As she loved her college years, she also is appreciating her more recent years teaching within Bio-Med, saying that the non-traditional environment allowed her to have more creative control of her teaching.
“My favorite thing is the freedom to do what I want with my curriculum, and the support I get from admin,” she explained.
Tubbs enjoys doing fun projects that help her students grasp new ideas they are learning in class. In addition, she does projects that are meant to challenge students in ways that they aren’t usually challenged, like using math as a way to create art.
She said, “My favorite project that we have done is the Tessellation Installation that is now hanging up outside the bathrooms in the seventh and eighth grade wing.” This project was an integration with Miss Putman and combined geometry and art.”
Outside of school and teaching, Tubbs enjoys working out, hiking, running, and coaching the lacrosse team at Stow-Munroe Falls High School. She enjoys hiking around the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Tubbs does a lot inside and outside of the school, but ultimately in the future she wants to continue teaching middle school math. Sometime within the next two years, she plans to pursue her master’s degree.
She is excited for her teaching future, saying, “I look forward to growing as a teacher and finding new ways that teach students problem-solving and mathematical mindset in the classroom.”
MAY 2022 — Although Bio-Med Science Academy students have the opportunity to earn an Academic Honors Diploma or a STEM Honors Diploma, many students are not sure if doing so is worth the effort.
Benjamin Morgan, a Bio-Med alumnus from the class of 2020 who earned an Academic Honors Diploma, is fully in support of students working toward the diplomas.
“I would recommend that students [pursue an honors diploma], if for no reason other than that by fulfilling the requirements for an honors diploma, it gives you a breadth of education that, even if you’re not going to continue your education after high school, is important to have that broad basic knowledge provided by these courses,” he said.
Currently, Morgan is a history major attending Vassar College, a private liberal arts school located in Poughkeepsie, New York. He explained how he views academics, both in high school, and in college, saying, “I really try to do what I can do to be both an involved student and be engaged in scholastic endeavors, and also to be a member of the broader community.”
Morgan decided to pursue an Academic Honors Diploma because of this drive. “In terms of the honors diploma, I feel like for me, though it didn’t go into my college application, I was really happy to have received it,” he elaborated.
Irene Scherer is a sophomore who is currently working towards earning an Academic Honors Diploma as well. They were inspired to pursue an honors diploma after hearing about it from a friend.
“[My friend] was like, ‘these are all the requirements,’ and I was like, ‘I have most of those. I could do that, totally,’” they said. “I have to take a language class, still, and I think that’s going to be the hardest part, but overall it’s been pretty easy. It’s been just about what I’ve already been doing and CCP classes that I’ve already done.”
Scherer concluded, “If you’re just doing the basic classes you have to do, then I feel like doing an honors diploma is a lot of extra work. But if you’re already doing CCP classes and have the time to pursue it, then I think it’s a good idea.”
Cons of the Honors Diploma
The only complaint Morgan had about the honors diploma requirements was which courses were offered in-house. He specifically believed there should be more history courses. “Of course I’m biased, but there were only two in-person history classes, and a third that was all online. I understand that there were staffing shortages and a lack of space in which to teach it, but I believe that history is one of the most important subjects that a student can learn as it is crucial for a person living within a society to have a good sense of history,” he said. “It is one of the most fundamental subjects and it is the one that is so often cut because it forces people to look at their own past, which may make them critical of the way things are. But that’s just me coming at it as a historian.”
As of this year, a third history course was added in-person, integrated with Ms. Whitney Mihalik’s College, Career, and Finance course.
Skyler Earl is a junior who initially wanted to earn an Academic Honors Diploma, but ultimately decided against it. “I was told they don’t help you get into college, and the requirements for them just seemed like a lot of work for a high school student, on top of their regular high school stuff,” she said. “Because doing college out of school is tough sometimes, I feel like the emotional sacrifice wouldn’t make up for the extra ribbon.”
Miss Stephanie Hammond, the guidance counselor for grades 10 through 12, addressed this concern, saying, “I don’t want to take away from the students who do earn it, because it is additional work. But as far as the college process, it has absolutely no bearing on the college process. You’ve already applied, and quite honestly, you’ve already paid your deposit. May 1 is a lot of school’s deadline to accept your seat to wherever you want to go, so you have to commit by May, and you don’t graduate until later.”
Though Earl is enrolled in CCP courses, she is not doing so for the honors diploma.
“I took Spanish I, and I’m taking Spanish II. I’m probably looking at [attending Kent State], so I know the credits will transfer, and I might need a foreign language [credit in the future],” she explained.
Scherer thought finding which CCP classes were needed for the honors diploma was unclear. “I don’t like how vague it is. Because there’s not anywhere that’s outlining exactly what you need and how to get it,” she elaborated. “It’s just very hard to find [information].”
How to Earn an Honors Diploma
Any credits required for a diploma that Bio-Med does not offer must be taken through College Credit Plus (CCP). Bio-Med offers all classes except for foreign language (minus Spanish III, which is taught by Christina Barnard), and a fourth social studies course. Electives in STEM and the fifth laboratory science credit can be earned through the senior elective courses. The Class of 2024 and onward have the option to take a second math course during their junior year. This is to allow students to be able to take the calculus course their senior year, though it also grants them a fifth math credit.
The Ohio Department of Education lists the six types of honors diplomas: the Academic Honors Diploma, the International Baccalaureate Honors Diploma, the Career Tech Honors Diploma, the STEM Honors Diploma, the Arts Honors Diploma, and the Social Science and Civic Engagement Honors Diploma. The latter five were introduced in 2017.
Hammond described the reasoning behind why Bio-Med only allows students to earn two of the six honors diplomas. “It is not possible to earn [all of the diplomas at Bio-Med]. We had an Academic Honors Diploma, then [Ohio] added all of these extras, and STEM was one of them,” she explained. “That’s why we now have those two that we focus on, because our students can earn a STEM Honors Diploma and Academic Honors. [For] the others, there’s just so many things… like CCP, credits, classes [offered]. It’s just not feasible.”
Hammond concluded, saying, “I think [honors diplomas are] great. I do think they’re beneficial, but I would hate for students to put themselves in a situation where they’ve taken on more than they can handle, so I think it’s really about ‘what can that student do?’ But [students should] also know that earning their degree [is] no small feat, especially as a Bio-Med student.”
MAY 2022 — Bio-Med Science Academy’s newspaper, The Hive, won eight awards at the Ohio Scholastic Media Association (OSMA) 2022 state conference. The conference was held April 22 at the Kent State main campus, where The Hive members each attended four informational sessions, followed by a banquet and awards ceremony. The Hive submitted 11 articles in six categories.
Each category of awards had three tiers: Superior Rating, Excellent Rating, and Honorable Mention. All articles submitted received a feedback page from OSMA.
Mitchell recalled his experience winning the award.
“I see my name, and I’m like, ‘Is that real?’ I forgot how to walk…. It was a very happy and exciting moment,” Mitchell said. “Going into it, I didn’t realize there’d be that many categories, so I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to win.[It’s my] first year [in newspaper].’ But then they announced it was like, 60 categories, so I thought, ‘There’s gotta be a way I won something.’”
Mitchell struggled with writing the article. “It was the fourth article I ever did. This topic was about a bigger issue…. This was like my first big break, and it was kind of overwhelming…. There were a lot of different personalities and perspectives going on.”
He also mentioned, “I didn’t think I’d done anything quality, or had stood out to me, so I guess I didn’t expect to see it, but when I did, I felt proud of it.”
“I didn’t know how big OSMA was going to me. I was thinking it was going to be smaller, so I thought, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll probably win. [It’s] basically a participation kind of thing.’ But then when some of the bigger schools came in, I was like ‘Oh, I’d be happy with a checkmark,’” she said. Articles that did not win anything, but were still reviewed by OSMA, received a certificate with a check mark.
Butcher felt similarly about winning, saying, “I felt good about it. I felt like, as much effort that went into the article — it wasn’t just me, it was all the editors who had touched the [article] — I feel like we earned [the award].”
Despite this, Butcher felt as if she shouldn’t have been the only one to win something, saying, “It feels like a bit of imposter syndrome in a way, like, ‘I wrote that,’ but at the same time, [it wasn’t all me].”
Cadence Gutman, a freshman staff writer, appreciated the constructive criticism that came with her excellent rating on her general feature, “Gender Neutral Bathrooms.”
“It was really helpful. I mean, one of the things with the transitions, I’d already [fixed],” she said. “I don’t want to keep doing the wrong thing, because that’d be so, so sad. It was nice to see people giving me this honest feedback, like they actually cared about what I was writing and helping me improve as a writer.”
Gutman was also surprised by seeing the variety of personalities in other schools’ journalism groups.
“I don’t want to say it’s a culture shock, because it’s not a culture necessarily, but it was a social shock,” she said. “I kind of forget sometimes that a lot of schools have journalism groups…. I’m so used to being in my own little newspaper bubble.”
Mitchell was particularly proud of his fellow writers, saying, “I think the real joy for me was when they moved on to the Excellent category and Cadence [Gutman] had won, so I went back and hugged her.” He continued, “It was less, ‘I did something great,’ but ‘We did something great.’ This is what The Hive’s best can look like.”
MAY 2022 – The Trumbull New Theater in Niles, Ohio, performed a production of “Our Town” by playwright Thornton Wilder March 11-27. The play featured a wide variety of cast, including five of Bio-Med Science Academy’s students and a staff member. One of those cast members was sophomore, Kadence Papantonakis, who had rehearsed for two months to play one of the lead roles, the character Emily.
Papantonakis has always been involved in the theatrical arts, and especially enjoys acting.
“The basics of theater is you just act, you sing, and dance,” Papantonakis said.
Ever since Papantonakis was a little kid, she was drawn to the world of theater. She first got a taste of it when she did a skit challenge through the organization Destination Imagination.
According to its Facebook page, Destination Imagination is “an educational nonprofit that has been a leader in project-based learning for more than 20 years.” The organization creates STEM-based challenges open to interpretation for students to help them foster creativity and gain real-world skills.
For Papantonakis, she started by doing an eight-minute skit for a Destination Imagination Challenge, where she created, set up, and performed in her own work. Papantonakis did this challenge with fellow Bio-Med student Logan Cook, who was also her co-star in “Our Town.”
Papantonakis has been involved in other productions, such as “Something Rotten!” by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick, where she played as part of the ensemble; “Office Hour,” by Julia Cho, where she worked backstage for the play.
Having been so involved in different plays, she has worked with many different people and directors, which has been challenging for her.
“You have to be able to really adapt,” said Papantonakis. Some directors she’s worked with were great, while others she described as “not so put together.”
Papantonakis needed to grow as a person and as a performer to always bring her best to whatever production she is doing. “You have many directors, and they might tell you to do something, and change how you act. But when you act, it’s you. Yeah it’s a character, but it’s your own way of acting,” Papantonakis said. She always wanted to stay true to herself and use her skills as a performer to carry out her role.
Papantonakis received help developing her skills and understanding how to be the best actress she can be from a program called Destination Broadway, which is a week-long program that provides students with the opportunity to work with Broadway professionals in acting, singing, and dancing classes. Stemming from that, she was able to make connections with many of the people she has worked with, saying, “even now, I would be able to email them or text them if I have any questions about anything.”
Papantonakis has little formal training although she has taken some set design, directing, and acting classes to help her grow as a performer. To her, acting is her strong suit but she highlighted she had a strong ability to pick up choreography fast.
The skills she has picked up through her work in the theatrical arts have not only helped her in life, but also in her academics.
“Using theatrical things has definitely helped me with ‘choose your own projects’ and those kinds of things,” said Papotanakis.
She highlighted a current English Language Arts Project she is working on where she built a set and was able to pull from her set design knowledge and experience. Overall, Papantonakis has felt that having experience with this field has “really helped me on my projects at school,” she said.
Being at Bio-Med has also helped her to grow her skills in theater. Papantonakis has been at Bio-Med for five years, starting as a sixth-grader. For her, Bio-Med and its collaborative learning has “definitely taught me how to work with other people more than just being there and thinking I’m working. I actually take the effort to get to know people,” she said. She described this as being a crucial part of the acting field as without connections, “you really won’t go anywhere.”
Papantonakis has found it challenging at times to make those connections, saying, “the struggle is being nice to everyone.” She continued, “When you have somebody that, say, you audition for the same role, and somebody gets the role, it’s really hard to be nice to them, when you worked hard to get something and you didn’t end up getting it.”
Additionally, she found it difficult to work with such a large variety of people. For the musical “Something Rotten!,” she worked with more than 40 people, ranging from those “ as little as three years old, and to adults that were as old as I think 70,” she said.
Despite these challenges, Papantonakis has never gotten discouraged by those struggles and was excited to recently play Emily in ”Our Town,” which was the first lead role she ever had.
Before her last performance of the play, she felt scared.
“Just knowing I will never play Emily again is scary because it was my first, lead role,” said Papantonakis. Looking back, she remembered the opening performance of “Our Town,” when she and Cook, “just gave each other a hug and it was probably one of the best moments because we realized that we actually did it, like made it through the first night.”
Although Papantonakis was sad to move on, she was happily looking forward to her role in her next play. She is playing the character Robin, an errand boy, in William Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” This premiered May 6 at Trumbull New Theater.
Papantonakis never expected to get her big break into acting through her various plays and productions.
Acting is something Papantonakis has considered turning into a career. “I never really took in the fact that theatrical arts would be a leeway into going professional with acting and stuff,” she said.
“Acting was one of the big things I was looking at. It’s really hard to look into theater and acting and that kind of stuff as a long term, even though it’s something that I really, really enjoy,” she said. Right now, Papantonakis plans to continue doing plays and living out her dream, with the possibility she might minor in acting in college since she could make money in directing or acting.
Papantonakis has been thankful for the roles and productions she has been a part of, and is thankful most for her family and friends within the acting community, as they have always supported her, sent her auditions, and believed in her. She appreciates how supportive everyone has been and is excited for every opportunity she can get to perform.
Trumbull New Theater’s production of “Merry Wives of Windsor,” will be performed May 6-22. Visit the company’s website for more information.
MAY 2022 — Despite student preference, Bio-Med Science Academy has no plans to offer Advanced Placement (AP) classes for the 2022-2023 school year.
AP classes are a national program for high school students governed by the College Board. The classes serve as an introduction to college-level material for high school students and allow students to earn college credits before graduating if they score high enough on the AP exam.
Mrs. Whitney Mihalik, the junior history and college career and civics teacher at Bio-Med, taught AP U.S. History as well as AP European History at Benedictine High School in Cleveland for three years. Mihalik additionally took AP classes herself while in high school.
“An AP class is a deep-dive into content and critical analysis. It is not a class for students who do not know the background. It is collegiate level content, and it is attentive. It is for students who want to excel in that subject matter,” said Mihalik.
The classes prepare students for the AP tests. The student’s score on the test determines whether they have displayed an understanding of the college-level content and if the student will receive college credit for the course, depending on the college’s requirements.
“AP classes do offer more flexibility for educators. I personally am trained as a historian as opposed to an educator, so that flexibility allowed me to utilize my skills in teaching AP students,” explained Mihalik. “The teaching style for AP is often a lecture, and doesn’t help you learn history. There is also a lot of memorization, but I feel like now, a lot of people underestimate the importance of memorization in education, but it can make a huge difference.”
Bio-Med currently does not offer AP classes to students but reminds them that the option to take the test without the preparation of the class is available. Students can register for the tests on the official College Board website. When signing up for the test, the website will additionally direct students to the nearest test center.
Chief administrative officer Mrs. Stephanie Lammlein commented, “Since the beginning of developing the academy, we have not and have no plans to adopt AP courses. AP courses have a strict curriculum that doesn’t align with the pillars, mission, and vision of the academy.”
However, many students would appreciate the opportunity to take an advanced-level class and earn college credit within school.
Sophomore Irenne Scherer feels as though AP classes might take them to a greater level of education.
“I personally feel like I would pay more attention if the classes were more challenging, and I had to pay attention. I think it would benefit other students in similar ways, and some people might even be more motivated in those higher-pressure situations,” said Scherer.
Mihalik agreed that many students could benefit from both the curriculum of an AP class and the learning style that students need for the test. A study from the College Board showed that, on average, AP students had a 78.4 percent chance of attending a four-year college program after high school, while non-AP students had an average 63.4 percent chance of attending a four-year college program.
“I think students that put in the work benefit from AP classes. In my experience, students who did all of their reading and completed all their work, left the class with a better education of history and left as better students. You have to go in-depth in order to prepare for the test. I didn’t have all the information when I took the test in high school, but it still prepared me for learning history. I would even go as far as to encourage the class for students not interested in college. It’s how the teaching method prepares you for learning, not the actual material,” affirmed Mihalik.
Scherer claimed that they are interested in the aforementioned learning style of AP classes and would take an AP class if it was offered at Bio-Med.
“I would take it, because I think that it is better for me to take college courses in school instead of just taking easy high school classes or college classes online,” said Scherer. “I still take college classes online, but for me, I succeed more from learning in-person, so I would want to prepare for the test in a class instead of on my own online.”
Mihalik suggested how Bio-Med could integrate AP classes into the existing curriculum: “I think Bio-Med would benefit from AP classes, especially in humanities. We offer very different types of STEM classes, but I think that in terms of humanities, AP classes would prepare students for college in a way their current classes aren’t.”
Senior Kelsea Cooper disagreed and expressed she felt that the addition of an AP class into Bio-Med is unnecessary because Bio-Med offers different opportunities.
“I think some of the courses offered at Bio-Med are already challenging in their own ways but, I think it could have been nice to be offered some more challenging AP courses,” said Cooper. “However, Bio-Med’s model of learning and schedule doesn’t necessarily fit with a ton of AP classes.”
Ms. Jenna Bates, the eleventh grade English teacher at Bio-Med, taught AP Literature and Composition at Coventry High School in Akron for 13 years and agreed with Mihalik that AP classes might benefit Bio-Med students.
“I think Bio-Med students could benefit from AP and that is the one continuous complaint that I have heard throughout my career here, but I understand what that would entail for Bio-Med and the strain that it puts on a lot of the in-place systems. There are benefits and drawbacks,” said Bates.
Additionally, Bates explained that AP classes have a greater amount of work than some Bio-Med classes because they are just different learning environments.
“AP classes usually were smaller classes, so I got to know the students a lot better [than some of my non-AP students] and we were able to do a deeper-dive into subject matter. We created a collaborative environment,” observed Bates. “Students did two to three times the amount of work in AP when compared to Bio-Med students. [The students] probably read 15 to 20 books a year as opposed to four to five books a year at Bio-Med.”
Bates also explained that both AP classes and a normal Bio-Med class each have strengths and weaknesses.
“There are things I do at Bio-Med that I wouldn’t do in an AP class. Here I can step away from the focus on standardized testing and focus on interesting projects,” she said. “That being said, one of the reasons I’m an English teacher today is because I took two years of AP English in high school myself.”
Sophomore Chemistry teacher Ms. Catherine Panchyshyn took multiple AP classes throughout her high school career, including AP Government, AP European History, AP Literature, AP Language, AP American Studies, AP Calculus, and AP Art History. She weighed in on how she feels AP classes could impact Bio-Med students.
“It gives a differentiated, secondary level for students looking for a challenge,” added Panchyshyn. “I don’t know if my experience in AP classes helped me to be a better teacher, but it did help me be a better student when I got to college.”
Jimmy Schindewolf is a student at Kent State University who took AP Literature and Composition with Bates while he was attending Coventry High School. Schindewolf feels as though the class was not only good for college credit, but also helped him to become a better student and writer because of the deep-dive into content.
“I think they are incredibly beneficial, in more ways than one. On top of having the potential to earn college credit through AP exams, students get to dive deeper into the subjects they are learning about and get to develop and hone their skills and understandings surrounding the topic of a given course,” he said.
Schindewolf also credited his AP class to his current education.
“If I hadn’t taken AP Literature and Composition, I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful in writing papers for my college classes. And now with the skills I learned back in that class, I am working on my master’s degree at Kent State in Literature and Writing!” exclaimed Schindewolf.
Justin Taylor is a graduate of political science from Kent State University and a graduate of Coventry High School who also took AP Literature and Composition with Bates as well as AP Government and AP Calculus. Like Schindewolf, Taylor credited the decision of his college major to his high school AP classes.
“My experience with these courses was almost exclusively positive. I especially enjoyed AP English as the course led me through more than a dozen of some of the greatest works in modern literature. AP Government ended up inspiring me to pursue the subject in college,” said Taylor.
Taylor expressed how taking an AP class helped him feel not only motivated, but also prepared for learning.
“I think students benefit greatly from taking AP courses,” he said. “I felt more motivated to learn in AP classes because there’s a built-in expectation that these courses build that students are at the top of their game. If a student plans to go to college, AP classes are hugely beneficial not just because of the potential to earn college credits with the exams at the end of the year, but I felt that these courses were also the only ones that adequately prepared me in terms of knowledge and writing strategies.”
Taylor recommended AP classes for any student who is prepared to make the commitment to the learning experience of the class, even if that student doesn’t wish to pursue higher education.
“Even if a student decides not to go to college, skills learned in AP courses help with critical thinking, managing multiple tasks at once, and finding a love for learning that will go with the student regardless of their career path,” commented Taylor. “Regardless of career path or college, or no college at all, these classes expose you to information that would not be experienced in standard high school classes and learning is always good, even if it doesn’t apply to your future plans.”
Mary Claire Shaffer is a graduate of Kent State University who majored in Political Science and minored in Women’s Studies and took AP English with Bates and AP Government. She credits her time in AP Government for helping her decide her college major.
“There was a big difference between an AP class and a regular class. The AP classes were more collaborative and went into greater detail. Ms. Bates always valued our opinions and helped us to make our own educated opinions,” said Shaffer. “AP classes prepared me for college more than any of my other classes. As a student I learned what it means to write a good paper and how to make a good analysis. It also motivated me to learn more and form more well-rounded opinions.”
Shaffer also expressed how AP classes gave her an outlet to her identity as a politically-active feminist in society.
“I never had a word to identify myself; Ms. Bates and my AP classes helped me to form my identity as a person and as a feminist,” said Shaffer. “AP classes helped me to lay the foundation of my identity and the reasons behind my beliefs. So much of the information from feminism and feminist critque that really changed my world and my identity and how I see myself and I absorb content today.”
Shaffer elaborated that AP classes helped her to develop into the adult she is today.
“Ms. Bates used to tell us to ‘always be informed, no matter what setting you are in,’” said Shaffer, “AP classes helped me and my classmates academically and we took education seriously. But learning how to be informed in different environments was the jumpstart of making students into well-rounded young adults in the world.”
Mrs. Jill Balderson is an AP Studio Art, AP 2D Art, and AP 3D Art teacher at Glenoak High School, who also believes that AP classes prepare students for their futures after high school graduation.
“My district supports AP and encourages students to follow accelerated pathways,” said Balderson. “If schools offer honors, CCP (College Credit Plus) or IB (International Baccalaureate) courses, there should also be AP offered, too. I’m sure staffing can be difficult depending on the size of the district.”
Balderson additionally explained that AP classes do require a more academically rigorous learning process, but that the effects that the classes have on students benefit them in the future.
“The pacing is faster and includes work completed during the summer and the expectations are higher as well,” commented Balderson. “I believe AP courses prepare students for college classes, the classes also can grant high school students a chance to earn college credit.”
Mihalik concluded, “It’s not up to me, because I can’t determine the curriculum. Technically, students can take the test without taking the class, but AP is a nationally and internationally recognized program. The benefits of a widely known program could help Bio-Med students in their transition into their future education and position in the workforce. If students are interested in AP in Bio-Med, they should do their own research and lobby it with the administration to show that there is a student interest in taking those classes.”
MARCH 2022 — After Bio-Med Science Academy began using Otus — a new learning management system (LMS) — this school year, many students have expressed confusion about how their grades are calculated. Otus uses a standard-based grading system, where projects are broken down into several learning objectives (LOs), to assess students. These LOs are then graded individually based on a decaying average system, where more emphasis is placed on a student’s more recent attempts compared to the previous ones.
“I don’t know how [the grading calculation] works, so I just know when my grade goes down that it goes down, and I’m like, ‘what’s going on?’” admitted Erika Bentley, a junior at Bio-Med.
A student’s total grade in a class is calculated by averaging out all of the grades for each learning outcome. For Bio-Med, these grades will be one of the following, from highest to lowest: exceeds mastery, mastery, developing mastery, not yet mastered, or no evidence of mastery.
“The total grade is calculated using average regardless of which mastery setting is being used in the gradebook,” explained Brooke Fodor, an Otus administrator, on the Otus control center.
As for the learning outcomes themselves, this is calculated by a decaying average system. In an LO, the grade of the most recent assignment accounts for 65 percent of the entire grade. All of the previous attempts combined only account for 35 percent of the grade.
For example, if a student completes three projects that each include the LO of “professionalism,” and the student receives an exceeds mastery on the first two attempts and a mastery on the most recent attempt, the final grade for “professionalism” would be a mastery, as the most recent grade would account for 65 percent of the overall one.
The “professionalism” learning outcome, which was calculated as a mastery overall, would then be averaged out with the overall grade for all the other LOs. Decaying average would only be used for the individual LOs and not for the final grade calculation for that course.
The “most recent grade” is determined by the grade with the most recent due date; the order in which the assignments are graded does not impact this. The only time where the date submitted and date graded make a difference is if the grade does not have a due date. In that case, the assignment that is graded the most recently accounts for the 65 percent.
Bio-Med first began to use the decaying average system during the 2016-17 school year with the use of Canvas, the school’s previous learning management system (LMS). This year, when switching to Otus, the same grading system was kept.
Christopher Hull, the co-founder and chief product officer of Otus, and Monica Burke, the senior client success specialist at Otus, elaborated on how the decaying average system worked.
“Decaying average is a type of mastery level calculation for standard-based grading that puts more weight on the most recent score. The decaying average formula recognizes that the most recent score is more representative of the student’s current mastery level and thus puts more weight on that score (as opposed to a straight average that counts the student’s first work and most recent work as equally important). On the other hand, it also recognizes that past work might be relevant; it is still part of the whole picture (as opposed to the Most Recent formula which only counts the most recent score),” they wrote in a statement to the Hive.
When adding decaying average as an option, the Otus team worked together with several standard-based grading thought leaders and school districts to seek out the most commonly desired filters.
Hull and Burke noted, “Otus did not, nor did I, create the Decaying Average method. Decaying Average is a common method for educators to calculate a student’s performance on a specific skill over time.”
As defined by MasteryConnect, the decay rate for the formula for decaying average must fall between 50 to 100 percent. This way, the most recent grade accounts for at least over 50 percent of the entire grade. In most instances, the default number mastery settings offer is 65 percent.
Hull and Burke explained that for Otus, they used the most common formula numbers, which were 65 and 35 percent. However, they noted that on their roadmap, which is “full of possible ideas we consider building,” is an item that allows for custom values to be entered for this calculation.
For Bio-Med’s purposes, the decaying average was selected due to its compatibility with the mastery system, which emphasizes the application of content and student’s growth as opposed to memorization. Mrs. Stephanie Lammlein, the Chief Administrative Officer at Bio-Med, discussed the reasoning behind using this mastery setting to calculate students’ grades.
“What I really like is the [grading calculation] that looks at the last thing — the very last thing you ever do, and that is that solid point — but that doesn’t show the whole story of your mastery grade progression. Years ago, when we were having this conversation as a staff, decaying average shows us the picture of your learning journey, but it allows you room for failure,” she said.
Lammlein noted that if Bio-Med used a more traditional grading system, mistakes that students made at the beginning of the year would hold the same weight as their recent assignments where those mistakes were corrected.
“That really holds down any hard work you do in the forward, and that’s not what mastery is about,” she explained. “Mastery is about allowing kids room for failure at the front so that they learn and grow. Decaying average makes those ‘areas’ that you might have struggled less heavy. It still shows that you were on this journey, so it still captures some of that, but it doesn’t hold it so tightly that you will never ever be able to show and demonstrate what you really know in that whole picture.”
Burke and Hull further elaborated on this: “Think of it this way; when trying out for a sports team, — for example, the basketball team — you practice for months before the tryouts to make sure you are at your best. Come tryout day, your coach considers your skill level from months ago to be just as important as your skill level during tryouts. That does not seem the most fair, right?”
They continued, “Would it not make more sense for the coach to value your current skill level more than your skill level from a few months ago? That is an example of how decaying average works. This method of calculation truly benefits the student, in that the current level of performance is more important than what was done in the past.”
Bio-Med students, however, had varying opinions on whether they found this way of grading beneficial.
Keira Vasbinder, a junior at Bio-Med, added, “The whole general idea before was ‘oh, if you set your grades up so that they’re good at the beginning of the year, you don’t have to worry as much towards the end of the year, because it’s not going to go down that much,’ but I feel like this just completely disregards that, and it’s just throwing it out the window, and you have to worry about your grade consistently all year.”
Many of these opinions have sparked since the switch to Otus. Though Canvas and Otus both used this system of grading, the way of displaying those calculations differed. As a result, some Bio-Med students did not know that decaying average was even used by the school until this year.
Freshman Caroline Brunn argued, “It seems to be more of a difference. I never even noticed it on Canvas.”
Some students attribute this “difference” to the lack of percentages on the new LMS. When switching to Otus, Bio-Med opted to remove percentages from students’ grades. Instead, students are assigned a mastery level with no percentages attached.
“Using percentages is certainly beneficial,” Brunn believed. “Say you have a developing mastery. I don’t know exactly what grade that is, but you would want to know if you are at like a 70 or a 60 [percent]. That could be a big difference. It just makes more sense for a lot of people to actually know what percentage you’re at. A lot of people thought developing [mastery] was failing, which I’m pretty sure it’s not. I think that if there were percentages, it would just be more clear.”
Brunn also noticed that the decaying average has both helped and harmed his grade this year. However, he believed that, overall, focusing too much on the most recent grade did not encompass the whole picture of his learning process.
“If we didn’t have decaying average, mistakes at the beginning of the year, before you know as much, could affect you, but I think that it wouldn’t be that much of a problem because, at the beginning of the year, [the content that is taught] is made for people who don’t know a lot yet. It’s aimed for people who are not as knowledgeable on the topic. Honestly, I don’t think that the disadvantages would really be that much,” he said.
Bentley elaborated on this. Though she preferred percentages, she explained that the decision to get rid of them had beneficial effects. “I would say that we’re not as separated. If you had a 90 percent of exceeds [mastery] versus a 99 percent of exceeds [mastery], people definitely judged each other based on their percentage rather than their ranking,” she said.
This emphasis on percentages rather than the learning journey was something that Bently, along with other students, cited as a positive to the grading system.
However, she also mentioned that percentages personally helped her stay motivated in school: “I definitely prefer the percentages. I think it definitely helps you keep a target goal. I definitely push myself harder with percentages. I need 100 percent, whereas this is a general area of a grade, so it’s like ‘get into that target zone.’”
With the decaying average system, many students were also concerned that this way of grading could provide little incentive to do well at the beginning of the year, considering that those grades would account for a small percent of a student’s final grade.
“Could [decaying average] be helpful for some students? Yes,” Vasbinder said, “but also, I feel like it’s a little unfair for people that are consistently trying all year and then all of a sudden, these other people are just at the same level as them,” they said, citing that some students would be able to “slack-off” at the beginning of the year and get higher grades during the second half of the year.
Lammlein noted that decaying average “causes a lot of conversations about what assessing a student should look like, and there’s a lot of philosophical things connected to that. As we continue to dig into that, the goal is to find the right way to show that, and that’s where we are right now.”
On top of this, confusion has also surfaced around GPA calculations. When students received their first Otus report cards, grades were displayed in a unique way. Instead of converting grades to a traditional letter system, mastery grades were displayed with each LO.
“I have no idea what my GPA is,” Vasbinder explained. “Last year, I could tell what my GPA is, and I used it to my advantage to figure out what colleges I could apply to or what private colleges [I could apply to]. This year, I have no idea. I’ve had to guesstimate, and I’m pretty sure my estimation is wrong. I just think it would be easier if we had normal report cards.”
For Bio-Med’s GPA calculation, the grades are eventually converted to traditional letter grades, which are only given to a student at the end of the year.
Mrs. Maggie Huffman, the administrative assistant at the counselor’s office, stated that “When students, parents or athletic directors are asking for the current GPA for someone, a report is run from OTUS requesting grades from the start of the school year to the current date.”
This Otus report then converts the mastery grades to a traditional letter grade to calculate the GPA. To find a GPA, a student can also look at their transcripts.
“Since Bio-Med does not do traditional grading periods, the district will only award final grades and final GPAs at the end of the school year,” Huffman concluded.
Though Bio-Med has switched how grades are calculated on multiple occasions, Lammlein noted that as Bio-Med continues to grow, many factors of how the school operates could be subject to change.
“[Grading calculations] could change too in the future as we continue our mastery journey, and how do we do that as a school? How do we help others know what that means? It might change, but that’s where we are right now,” she concluded.
Hull and Burke gave their advice for students struggling to adapt to the system of grading, stating, “Learning is an action requiring effort, and progress on learning is something that requires continued effort and persistence. If a learner is punished too heavily when they start out, they may be discouraged to continue to try their best.”
They also noted that the standard-based grading could be more applicable to a student’s future post-high school. When applying for a job, people are usually asked to give a resume, which shares skills instead of numbers associated with those skills.
“In the future, resumes will mirror your performance on standards more so than traditional grades. If you were to ask those with job experience about their resume and job interview, you are not able to say I got a ‘B’ at my last company,” they wrote. “Instead, you share what skills you are proficient or excel at. This is similar to how standard based grading works. You are identifying the skills you are focusing on and measuring your progress to a large goal.”
MARCH 2022 — Bio-Med Science Academy’s unique designation leads to many questions and varying perceptions from the community. Bio-Med’s mission statement, according to its website, is to create “a national model that leads the educational system to evolve, enabling schools to embrace innovative practices.” Bio-Med has a formal STEM designation from the state of Ohio, and is one of 76 schools to be part of the Ohio Stem Learning Network. Additionally, it is only one of eight to be considered an independent STEM school by the Ohio Department of Education, of the 3,009 public schools recognized in Ohio as of 2022.
Many students and members of the community feel Bio-Med prepares people for their future well. Senior Alex Hale-Hartman stated, “I feel that they give students a lot of great resources to follow their career dreams, especially in the STEM field.”
Eric Kline, parent of sophomore Maya Kline, said, “The tech and engineering skills are above what they would learn at most schools. I work in engineering management and have hired and developed many new engineers, and I believe Bio-Med is an example of what many more school systems should be doing to prepare students for the technical workforce.”
Sarah Schofield, parent of sophomores Abigail and Lillian Schofield, agreed with Kline’s positive perception of Bio-Med, adding, “[Bio-Med] is harder than a traditional public school – it expects more of its students… We have been impressed repeatedly at the way our kids learn/are taught. [My children] have learned to advocate for themselves and are held accountable by both the school and by us at home. We feel that our kids will be better prepared as they enter adulthood [by attending Bio-Med].”
Sophomore Zach Totaro agreed with the perceptions of Kline and Schofield but added, “Other things like communication [between the administration and students] aren’t the best.”
Lily Smith, a seventh grader, elaborated on this, saying, “[Some of our privileges], specifically dress down days, have been taken away because of a miscommunication between the students and school staff members.” Hale-Hartman agreed with Smith, stating, “I feel that Bio-Med sufficiently lacks communication skills, which caused increased stress for me.”
Abigail Schofield believes the lack of certain classes, namely foreign languages, to be a negative aspect of Bio-Med. “It can be very difficult to take CCP classes [with our normal school work],” said Schofield. In addition, Schofield noted there seems to be a lack of janitorial staff as well, saying, “the school [seems] to be dirty looking, like the bathrooms are very unclean.”
Despite the negative aspects students described, many said Bio-Med was still a great fit for them.
“Bio-Med has still been the best learning place for a good education,” said freshman Kiara Krunich.
Smith agreed with this, saying, “Bio-Med is a great school. It allows students to be taught with interactive and group assignments that help students better understand and grasp what is being taught. I think it is definitely worth putting up [with the negative aspects].”
Students complimented the community of Bio-Med, saying it was stronger than the schools they had been at before. “I can always find something to get enjoyment out of without the fear of anyone making fun of me, as we truly are all weird here. The friends I’ve made here have been those I can always turn to, and so have the teachers,” said sophomore John Garden.
Bio-Med teachers felt the same about the community. Eighth grade Language Arts teacher Mr. Aaron Ettinger said, “I would like to say that our Bio-Med community is ‘buzzin.’”
Many teachers agreed with Ettinger. Tenth grade Social Studies teacher Miss Kaitlyn Long said, “Of course, there are cliques like in every school, but that doesn’t stop students from talking to someone. I really wasn’t expecting an environment where students are able to be true to themselves and their peers welcomed it.”
Seventh grade Social Studies teacher Mr. James Pennell emphasized that the strong community aspects extend beyond the students into the teacher relationships as well. “Once I got the job offer to work here, I was immediately happy. I was very quickly brought into a group of people that I enjoyed working with,” said Pennell.
Ettinger believed that the community could be further improved, since students miss out on certain events from a public school. “Pep-rallies, the fight song, Friday night football games, or living in the same neighborhood as [your peers], all contribute to the culture of a student-body,” said Ettinger. “I think that providing students more opportunities to come together at school in larger groups to celebrate students’ efforts and achievements could be a really cool way to bring everyone together.”
Garden added to this, saying, “We haven’t been in a public school for so long, five, six years, it’s hard for us to compare it to Bio-Med. We haven’t gone through public high school, we don’t know what it’s like.”
People outside of Bio-Med often aren’t fully educated about the school. Pennell noted, “When I started subbing, I had no clue that [Bio-Med] even existed. I grew up in Portage County and I had never heard of [Bio-Med].”
Ninth grade Social Studies teacher Mr. William Ullinger and Eighth grade Social Studies teacher Mrs. Morgan Brunner agreed. Ullinger said, “I think there is a lot of ignorance of Bio-Med. When I am asked where I teach and I say ‘Bio-Med,’ I often have to explain what and where it is. Then I get asked if it is a school ‘just for smart kids?’ Public perception is that [Bio-Med] is for the highest achievers rather than it allows for hands-on and student-centered teaching that is offered to everybody and anybody.”
In-line with this perception, 10th grade Rootstown High School student Trent Gauer asked, “Isn’t Bio-Med just a school for smart kids?”
Ninth grade Language Arts Teacher Mr. Brian McDonald said that he expects the perception of Bio-Med to change as time goes on. He said, “[the perception is going to change] a bit over time. Instead of students choosing to go here, as the grades that feed into Bio-Med go lower and lower, it’s the parents that are making the choice to have their students attend instead of the students making this decision for themselves. This is not fundamentally better or worse. It’s just different.”
MARCH 2022 — Ms. Catherine Panchyshyn (panch-sure-shin) is the newest Chemistry teacher at Bio-Med Science Academy. Panchyshyn is one of the many new tenth grade teachers, having joined during the 2021-2022 school year.
When Panchyshyn was deciding what to major in at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, education was on her mind, but she fell in love with biology. As a result, she became a nutrition sciences major. According to Panchyshyn, “The major itself is mostly preparation for graduate school, but I enjoyed it because it encompassed all of the natural sciences.”
“As I got further into biology, I really liked the connection between chemistry and biology. So, my favorite [class] was organic chemistry.” Panchyshyn enjoyed that class because she always found it interesting to “learn things down to the electrons.”
Panchyshyn moved back home to Ohio to finish earning her undergraduate degree and enrolled in The Ohio State University to be closer to her family and friends. During her sophomore year of earning her undergraduate degree, Panchyshyn began doing academic research at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in nutrition, cognitive science, and bioinformatics. During her academic research in a nutrition lab, Panchyshyn said, “I studied nutrition in relation to children with ADHD. I would look at biomarkers for patterns and see if nutrition had any relation to [the children’s] symptoms.” Finding patterns between symptoms and biomarkers would allow doctors to diagnose ADHD and autism from someone’s biomarkers instead of waiting for symptoms to become more apparent. Panchyshyn continued this research for the next three years.
After her research in the nutrition lab, she worked in a cognitive science lab where she studied a new way to understand and diagnose ADHD and autism using data modeling. Panchyshyn modeled the reaction time and accuracy of new information of children with ADHD and autism. This research was done in order to better understand these neurological disorders and find a better way to treat them. Using reaction times, those in the lab were able to diagnose the children and better understand the way their brains work.
In the same lab, Panchyshyn also researched new ways to classify those diagnosed since there is overlap among neurological disorders, mental health issues, and learning disabilities. After working in the cognitive science lab, Panchyshyn put an end to her research, realizing that she would rather be teaching.
Panchyshyn has always been teaching one way or another. “My first teaching experience was in high school. There were a lot of Syrian refugees in Columbus and I tutored a lot of them in French. Since my family is French Canadian, I speak a little bit of French, and I tutored at the Columbus libraries for three years,” she said. Then, she worked at a psychology lab where she taught Introduction to Psychology students. She also worked at a summer camp with teenagers at Ohio State for two years, and was a clinical aid nurse and nanny for special needs children, specializing in autism.
Teaching was always a side job for her, but she noticed that she never felt as tired coming home from those jobs. “I feel like [the students] energize me. [They] keep me coming to work every day. It’s nice.”
Panchyshin was certain that teaching was the path for her after she worked as a student teacher during her senior year of undergraduate work. “I wanted to see if I would like it, and I did. So, a year later, I applied for M.A.T.(Master of Arts in Teaching) and that’s why I’m here.”
The M.A.T. program is a partially online program that has an accelerated eleven-month track and a two year track. This program is offered to those who recently acquired a bachelor’s or graduate degree and wish to become a certified teacher in Ohio.
Panchyshyn will be graduating from Kent State with her Masters of Arts in Teaching this May. Since Panchychyn is still in the M.A.T. program, she can’t apply to work at most schools. However, Bio-Med works with Kent State and the M.A.T. program, so her adviser informed her of the position, and she is happy she applied.
She thinks that working at Bio-Med has many up-sides. “I do, in general, love [Bio-Med]. I like that I’m able to make my own curriculum and do those things with [the students]. I also love how integrated the grade teachers are, that we get to do things as a grade. If I have a crazy idea about something I want [the students] to learn, [the other teachers] are always like ‘sweet, how can I help you do that.’ It’s really fun to work here for that reason.”
Though Panchyshyn enjoys the opportunities she has because of Bio-Med’s flexible schedule, there are some downsides to it. It can be an inconvenience to “reorganize, replan, and reschedule” her previously decided lessons for the students’ schedule change.
Panchyshyn also enjoys how she can use her past experiences in the classroom. “It’s cool teaching at Bio-Med with a research background. I can be realistic and tell [students] when [they] would need to use that information in a chemistry lab, since I have first hand experience.”
Panchyshyn specifically enjoys teaching teenagers because, “[The students] are still impressional. [Teachers] can still teach [students] positive ways to look at the world, but at the same time, [students] also old enough to make these decisions for [themselves] and start using evidence and justifying [their] reasoning for whatever it is, whether its a math question or a personal belief.”
Panchyshyn also said, “I think it’s a really cool age. You’re starting to make your own decisions, and your personalities come out.”
Panchyshyn has two goals when teaching her students: to help teach the nature of scientific thought so that her students can make educated choices throughout their lives, and to build kids’ confidence. “[The students] are all so intelligent and so smart and have so much potential. I want [them] to be able to use it and know how to use evidence to feel confident in what they have to say,” she said.
Even after Panchyshyn graduates from the M. A. T. program this coming May and she’ll be able to apply somewhere else, she enjoys Bio-Med and has no plans to leave any time soon.
MARCH 2022 — Sex ed, short for sexual education, is receiving a change in the way it runs at Bio-Med Science Academy by introducinga cohesive year-by-year program.
Ms. Tasha Jackson, the school case manager, described how Bio-Med currently chooses programs. “They’re going based off of what they see in here. So if, say for example, you get multiple kids who come into the principal’s office talking about the same thing. So maybe sex, maybe they have questions, breakup questions, say something comes up in the student body, say a student says they have had sex. They just track those numbers, and if the numbers are high enough, they will deem that as a need,” she explained. “We go off the pace of the students and what they are disclosing at the time.”
During March 2020, all programming for sex ed was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that all Bio-Med students have returned to school in-person, sex ed programming has resumed, and Lindsey McLaughlin and Charmayne Polen, chief operating officers and principals, are planning future programming for Bio-Med.
“This summer, our goal is to sit down and map out the programming for grades seven through 11 for the entire year and get it on the books, and hopefully that creates a framework for every single year,” McLaughlin explained.
Most of the planning of specific programs is done by Jackson. She is currently in the process of discussing how to create a yearly program with Planned Parenthood Director Mackenzie Burchett.
“In the past, Planned Parenthood has come to Bio-Med to do presentations before, so this is just kind of restarting that old contract,” Jackson described. “We’re in conversation. Right now, we’re just trying to get dates that the principals want the presentations to take place. I believe these are most likely going to take place at the beginning of next year.”
Planned Parenthood tries to limit each instructor to 40 attendees each, so knowing the roster of students is an important factor in planning these programs. Since each class at Bio-Med has around 100 students, multiple instructors will be coming to Bio-Med, and students will be broken into smaller groups.
“Planned Parenthood will give us an outline of their curriculum. I will forward it to the principals, and the principals will look at the school’s policies. Every school has a policy on what can be covered in sex ed,” Jackson said. “Then of course, parents have to sign off on those permission slips to make sure those topics are okay for discussion. It’s a lengthy process, but that’s how we decide what topics are most appropriate.”
The topics covered in Bio-Med’s Sex Ed program are decided by the Governing Authority and described in Policy No. 3842 of the Policy Manual. As described by the manual, “The Academy’s sexuality education program has been established to provide information and skill development for students in K through 12th grade so that they may reach their highest potential for physical, emotional, mental, and social health.” It further reads, “Instruction may include but is not limited to: anatomy, hygiene, puberty, healthy relationships, peer pressure, consent, relationships, abstinence, sexuality, STD prevention, life planning and skills, and family planning.”
McLaughlin explained how others influenced policy as well. “I think it was Emily Baldwin, [a Bio-Med alumnae.] She did her internship with [Stephanie Lammlein, the chief administrative officer]. It was developing the sex ed program that’s based in the requirements of the law. Student Council also, five to six years ago, I remember them coming to board meetings and talking about what they wanted to see,” she said. “So it was law, student input, what we have access to — all those sorts of things were taken into account.”
The Governing Authority adopted much of its policy on sex ed from the Ohio Revised Code, Title 33 Education-Liberties. Section 3313.6011 instructs that schools must emphasize that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy and STIs. It also must “stress that students should abstain from sexual activity until after marriage; teach the potential physical, psychological, emotional, and social side effects of participating in sexual activity outside of marriage; teach that conceiving children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society; stress that sexually transmitted diseases are serious possible hazards of sexual activity; advise students of the laws pertaining to financial responsibility of parents to children born in and out of wedlock; advise students of the circumstances under which it is criminal to have sexual contact with a person under the age of sixteen pursuant to section 2907.04 of the Revised Code; and emphasize adoption as an option for unintended pregnancies.”
If a school plans on instructing any topic that is not specified by the Ohio Revised Code, parents and guardians of students under the age of 18 must give written permission for their child to learn about those topics. School districts also must provide lesson materials upon request.
Parents may also opt their child out of sex ed instruction at any time. “When a student opts out, they are given advisory time and it’s up to the parent’s prerogative to determine how [the student] is given their sex education,” McLaughlin explained.
The classes of 2023 and 2024 have received instruction about consent and healthy relationships with Townhall II, as well as anatomy and safe-sex lessons from Planned Parenthood.
Sophomore John Garden recalled his experience with these lessons. “From what I remember, it was okay. At times it felt too serious,” he said, citing an activity where students moved to different sides of a room to indicate what they would do in various situations. “I think it more became trying to go off what they thought the best answer was, rather than actually doing what we thought the best answer was.”
Junior Lucas Hagen believed that Sex Ed was important for students, beyond teaching abstinence. “Most people are going to do it anyway. I feel like if they’re going to, you might as well educate them a little bit to make sure they’re being safe, so they don’t affect themselves and their life later,” Hagen commented. “I feel like introducing it earlier is a better idea. Maybe do a little intro in early middle school, like sixth grade, and then really get into it freshman year of high school.”
McLaughlin agreed, saying, “I think it’s exceptionally important for it to be done early, especially when it comes to consent, because we want to try to help empower our students to know what is wrong and where they can go if they need help.”
Garden believed that inclusion of LGBT+ people would be beneficial to students, as most Sex Ed only encompasses heterosexuality. “It should be taught as well. It also is a whole thing of like, not keeping it as something that’s taboo, and normalizing it to a point.”
Jackson is unsure if Planned Parenthood’s program will include information for LGBTQ+ students. “They didn’t go into that much detail if that would be covered, but if the principals feel it should be included, then we will vouch for that,” she said. “I want it to be fair across the spectrum. Sex for everyone is not the same thing.”
McLaughlin does believe that sex ed for LGBTQ+ students is needed, saying “It’s super important for all students, whether they are heterosexual or part of the LGBT community, to have accurate informationabout being safe, about protection, about consent, and all that stuff. All students need it, and heterosexual sex is not the only sex that is had.”
Jackson concluded, “I’m hoping that parents and students can see that sex ed is definitely a need in the school. I feel like it would definitely be beneficial, and I’m just hoping they’re open to learning these things, even though some of it may sound repetitive. I’m hoping that they open up their hearts to receive the information presented.”