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Lifelong Learning

Red River ALC Teacher of the Year emphasizes hands-on learning to engage students

May 3, 2018

Students in Wylie Wisnewski’s classroom learn science through Lego slot cars on racetracks, hydro plants, fish tanks, compost and more. Wisnewski emphasizes project-based learning to increase engagement of at-risk learners in his science classes at Red River Area Learning Center.

“I strive to engage students in the learning process,” said Wisnewski, who was named this year’s Red River Area Learning Center Teacher of the Year. “It is important to make classroom lessons come to life by connecting them to real-life situations and examples.”

Wisnewski is a proponent of project-based learning and incorporating hands-on activities in his classroom.

“These activities help motivate students and make learning fun,” he said. “Project-based learning also allows students to be creative and problem solve.”

Wisnewski has applied for and received a $5,000 STEM grant from American Crystal Sugar Company and one of eight $500 Moorhead Schools Legacy Foundation grants to support project-based learning.

“Wylie builds bridges for our students as he engages them in project-based learning,” said Deb Pender, director of alternative education for Moorhead Area Public Schools.

Wisnewski earned his bachelor’s degree in health science and biology education from Valley City State University, and he recently earned his master’s degree in technology education: STEM option. He taught high school science and coached in Langdon, N.D., for two years before moving to Moorhead. Wisnewski is in his sixth year teaching science at Red River Area Learning Center. Additionally he helps coach the robotics team, coordinates a school band that performs at the Family Nights, and partners with Adult Basic Education on a community garden.

Wisnewski became a teacher because he enjoys working with kids and helping them succeed.

“I believe everyone has the ability to learn,” he said. “It is important for teachers to create the right environment for each student and provide them with an opportunity to excel.”

Understanding the outside conditions affecting students’ attendance, motivation and work production helps Wisnewski to be supportive of his students. He strives to provide an environment at school that provides a sense of safety and consistency for his students.

“The relationships between the student and teacher can impact the educational outcome and success of a student,” he said. “Developing a positive relationship and really getting to know a student is one of the best things teachers can do to influence classroom behavior and motivation of students.”

To accommodate students, Wisnewski strives to differentiate instruction and provide materials each student needs to be successful.

“I identify each student’s learning style and strengths to differentiate my instruction,” Wisnewski said. “Understanding how students learn and their motivations allows me to supply them with the materials and tools they need to be successful. It is equally important to supply each student with meaningful feedback that identifies their strengths and encourages them in areas of weakness. Students should be provided with multiple opportunities and different pathways for learning to increase their chances of being successful.”

According to Pender, Wisnewski embodies the mission of alternative education as he leads, promotes and supports innovative learning experiences for students at Red River ALC.

“I have been inspired as I have watched him grow as a young teacher leader,” Pender said. “I appreciate Wylie’s teamwork in building our student chapter of the Minnesota Association of Alternative Programs, which links our students with other chapters in regional and state-sponsored events. And Wylie has even facilitated a student rock band. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Photo:  Science teacher Wylie Wisnewski, named this year’s Red River Area Learning Center Teacher of the Year, discusses refinements to the design of a Lego slot car with a Red River ALC student.

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