By Abigail Solano
Batavia High School was recognized as a 2017 Illinois Democracy School in early August after displaying the practice of democracy within the school over the years. This award is given to a school that exemplifies six key areas according to Illinois Civic Mission Coalition: instruction, discussion of current issues, service-learning, activities, student voice, and simulations within the learning environment.
Tom Shields, a social studies teacher at Batavia High School, was a part of the initial application process committee.
“There were certain criteria we had to meet,” Shields said. “It took us a year to meet them and we did it. It was a lot of hard work that paid off, which was nice.”
The award is given by the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition which is connected with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Since 2006, 67 other schools have been presented with this in Illinois, an average of six annually.
To earn this award, a school must have a diverse demographic of students, which is believed to stimulate civic learning and engagement. Joe Cranston, who is part of the social studies department at Batavia High School, was also part of the committee that started the application process.
“(Batavia High School has been) promoting civic education (and) engaging our learners in the classroom with a lot of different activities,” Cranston said. “(The Democracy Schools) looked at the clubs, extracurriculars in the building, all of which did a good job promoting civic education.”
Students attending Batavia High School have been encouraged to use their voice to discuss current events in the world that are important to them, according to Cranston and Shields. They are able to voice their opinions openly with members of the community and actively take part in the democratic system of government used. Students and teachers have set up learning environments that encourage peer connections.
Batavia is now recognized for all of the democratic skills that are implemented in the school system.
“(This recognition) validates a lot of the really good things that we’ve been doing for years and a lot of things that we hope to continue to do and look forward to doing while we work with the Democracy School network,” Cranston said.