IOW schools featured in VSBA directory

Published 9:18 am Friday, April 21, 2017

by Lynn Briggs

The Virginia School Boards Association has released its 21st annual VSBA Showcases for Success directory, highlighting successful K-12 programs in Virginia’s public schools. Isle of Wight County Schools is one of 56 school divisions from across the Commonwealth that has programs featured in the directory. IWCS submitted three programs for consideration and all were selected for inclusion in the directory. The programs from IWCS are:

Business Roundtable

Isle of Wight County Schools hosted a Business Roundtable with the goal of initiating discussions between business leaders and teachers about the highly skilled jobs that exist within the community. During the program, groups of teachers, counselors, administrators held table-top discussions with business leaders. The business representatives elaborated on specific skills needed for positions within their companies. They also shared the necessary academics and credentials required by applicants to obtain a job at their businesses, as well as the importance of soft skills. Discussion from educators focused on ways they can better prepare students for employment in the areas highlighted by the business. Through the roundtable, the division developed and strengthened the partnership between schools and the business community. Liebherr has pledged equipment to start the welding program and Smithfield Foods committed $3,000,000 to facilities to better prepare students to be college, career and life ready.

Career, Technical Education Program Redesign

Isle of Wight County Schools conducted a review of the division’s Career and Technical Education program and determined a need for a significant redesign to better prepare students for college, careers life after high school. Emphasis was placed on courses that satisfied career pathways and provided opportunities for industry certifications in demand by employers. Feedback from the business community indicated a shortage of high school graduates who were capable of collaborating on a team with little supervision, skilled at brainstorming for conflict resolution, adept at communicating effectively, and able to display a strong work ethic. The program incorporates these skills into hands-on, real-world experiences, both in and out of the classroom. As part of the restructuring, new courses were implemented in the fall of 2016 in the career cluster areas of agriculture, culinary arts, manufacturing, nursing and engineering. Additional courses will be phased in during the 2017-18 school year.

Elementary Coding Classes

The Isle of Wight County Schools’ Elementary Coding program introduces K-6 students to a wide variety of coding languages and applications. Students participate in weekly coding classes as part of the elementary resource schedule. Coding experiences in the primary grades include the use of “unplugged” activities such as songs and games to give younger students concrete experiences to help explain abstract coding concepts. All elementary students use online tutorials to solve coding “puzzles” and develop a problem-solving mindset for creating and debugging their programs. The coding and programming courses challenge students think critically as they problem solve, analyze data and apply logic. These skills are also critical for successfully solving complex math problems. Students also apply their coding knowledge in language arts projects that include storytelling and animations. Other project-based learning topics in coding include game design and robotics.

The full VSBA Showcases for Success directory is available at It includes division-wide programs, as well as those at elementary, middle, and high school levels. Featured programs highlight successful programs related to Innovative Programs, School Initiatives, and Partnerships.

“These three programs are all part of our commitment to prepare our students to be college, career and life ready,” said Dr. Jim Thornton, superintendent of Isle of Wight County Schools. “We realize the benefit each program has to our vision and are pleased the VSBA recognized the importance of our work.”

LYNN BRIGGS is the director of Gifted Services, Community and Media Relations. Contact her at 365-1611 or