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Sisseton Tries Alternative Classroom

December 12, 2012, 5:13 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Sisseton Tries Alternative Classroom

Not every student is successful in a mainstream classroom. That's why Sisseton is trying something new.

The school is in its first year with an alternative classroom. It's a new concept for the district, with the goal of making sure every student succeeds. And it uses various methods to do so.

"The name of our classroom is TIWAHE and that means family," instructor Korbyn Bertsch said.

The school day starts with Bertsch picking up students in the alternative classroom in a school van. That gives them the chance to talk about any issues before classes even start. When they do start, the sessions are shorter.

Cecil Renville and Jake Steffens are both sophomores in the program and enjoy it.

"I don't know, just come here and get away," Renville said.

"I just like that it's nice, relaxing, you can still get your work done," Steffens said.

And it gets the students outside the classroom and serving in the community during the afternoon.

"We are optimistic and one of our first benchmarks is going to happen at semester break to see what kind of grades they get," Special Education director Michelle Greseth said.

With other districts housing alternative classrooms, the concept itself isn't new but Sisseton added local components to make it work there. It adds components of Native American culture and connects students with veterans like Michael Schreiner and Cecil Stagman.

"Yes, I enjoy it very much," Schreiner said.

"I try to stay away from the very bad stuff that I went through," Stagman said.

Good or bad, those stories are all part of the learning experience in the classroom or family.

"I look at them as an extension of my family. I've got teenage kids; they're just like my sons," Bertsch said.

The classroom has five students. Even without grades printed, Bertsch says he's sure the students are responding to the format just by observing improvements from the beginning of the year until now.

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