Dressed in business attire, eighth grade students at Arroyo Seco Junior High School shared their prized work from seventh and eighth grade with community panelists in personal, one-on-one interviews Thursday.
The school’s annual Showcase Presentations aim to link the students with Santa Clarita’s professional community while teaching them soft skills like communication and collaboration.
“Our purpose is to give students an opportunity to reflect, assess and present evidence of their seventh and eighth grade achievements while they gain interview and presentation skills,” Principal Rhondi Durand said.
For nearly two decades the school invites 80 or more members of the community—including teachers, administrators, business professionals and parents—to listen to students’ presentations, provide feedback and complete a student evaluation form.
“It [the showcase] is everything a state test is not,” said Mark Dannerth, a seventh grade science teacher and organizer of the Showcase Presentations. “Unfortunately no one is pushing this. Doing this in the class pays off so much more.”
The all-day event also included a continental breakfast and lunch prepared and presented by the junior high school’s culinary arts students.
This year, 595 eighth grade students shared the best of their academic work and the evidence of their learning with community members during the all-day showcase.
“Every year it seems to be better and better, the kids continue to grow,” said Sue Dielentheis, a school counselor and organizer of the event. “Our panel members give us feedback every year that they’re amazed at what these kids can accomplish and how well they present themselves.”
During their presentations, students are assessed based on their appearance, portfolio and professionalism with emphasis on their dress, hand shake, eye contact, enthusiasm, motivation and portfolio completeness.
“We do really emphasize the soft skills with the interviewing, the eye contact, the hand shaking, the ability to speak and present themselves,” Dielentheis said. “The fact that they’re ‘interviewing’ really is a phenomenal experience for them.”
Elements of their portfolios include a cover page, dedication, table of contents, career exploration, resume, school-wide accomplishment, project of choice, seventh grade pieces and three assignments from English, history, math, science and elective classes.
This year, more students started incorporating computers into their presentations. Some had their presentations completely digital while others used a mix of papers and online assignments and others created binders of their work.
“There’s more electronics this year,” Dannerth said. “The use of the computers is starting to become big and the teachers are learning how to do it and incorporating that.”
Students began preparing for the showcase in the beginning of their seventh grade year as they compiled work, learned how to dress professionally and presented to their parents.
“During all of eighth grade they do reflection sheets on their assignments and then hit it full-force (in) the fourth quarter,” Dielentheis said.
Dannerth said the early preparation allows the students to get more comfortable with public speaking and professional conduct.
“In the seventh grade they get over the nerves of talking to someone and are then able to get moving,” he said.
As students prepare throughout the year, they continue to grow as communicators and work harder in the classroom as they develop high-quality work for the final showcase project.
“The next time they get a big project they say ‘this is going in my portfolio, this is coming back to me,’” Dannerth said. “The teachers put in their time, but it pays off.”
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