Teachable Moments; Academy Infuses 21st-Century Skills into Traditional School at Sandalwood, Students Get Both Career and Technology Background

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Byline: Justin Chandler Porter

Michael Khalil can quickly determine which students in his classroom are struggling and which students are proficient. The Sandalwood High School teacher uses a combination of high-end technologies and traditional teaching methods, blending time-tested and new techniques to identify individual student needs.

Khalil teaches 11th-grade web design and digital media at the Sandalwood Academy of Information Technology, a program designed to give students career and technology experience. Khalil, who earned a bachelor's degree in computer information systems from Jacksonville University and a master's in business administration from Florida State, has been teaching at Sandalwood for four years. He also helps coordinate the school's chapter of Business Professionals of America, an after-school career technology and education program in 11 high schools throughout Duval County.

And he teaches Algebra 2 standard and honors for grades 9 through 12, and said his teaching methods are unique from other classrooms. Teaching math in a computer lab makes sense, he explained.

Assistant Principal Yvonne Spinner said Khalil, the lead teacher for the IT program, is an excellent teacher with a great student rapport.

"I'm able to do things better and faster," Khalil said, "but still do the things that work."

Traditional methods, like chalkboard walkthroughs of certain problems, will always be efficient, he said. Tracking student progress online, however, provides immediate feedback so that students can track their own progress and better understand how well they're doing.

He said a new generation of technology also makes it easier to communicate for students who might otherwise be introverted. Most important, Khalil said, it allows for mentoring, and real-time interaction with students who need help.

Career Academy Director Aaron Lakatos said the idea behind the academy was to infuse 21st century skills into regular schools and give students a more personalized experience.

"Students work for industry certifications," Lakatos said, "to make sure they have credentials other than just class credits."

Lakatos said students can apply for programs within the academy when they enroll. If accepted, the student is registered in a four-year track where they will earn important career opportunities, such as internships and job-shadowing programs. …