TRAVERSE CITY — Elk Rapids Lakeland Elementary School was recognized as an International Baccalaureate World School after three years of aligning teacher training and standards to a new educational model.

“I think it’s just a huge accolade for my staff and the greater Elk Rapids community,” said Lakeland Principal Bryan McKenna. “To have a vision not only to improve instruction and our building and our district, but also to have a vision for the future — it just has me thrilled.”

Lakeland Elementary is the first school north of Saginaw to implement the IB Primary Years Programme, a curricular framework designed for students under 12 to develop them as inquirers and global citizens.

The project over the last three years was supported by the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District through a $3.3 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Mill Creek Elementary, Interlochen Community School, East and West middle schools, and Kalkaska and Leland elementary and middle schools also participate in the grant.

Kalkaska and Leland are slated for verification visits to determine their candidacy this fall. Elk Rapids Cherryland Middle School independently achieved World School status in 2013.

“Elk Rapids really got a jump-start on the other districts,” TBAISD Regional Coordinator of IB Candidate Schools Terri Sheldon said. “They were ahead of the rest.”

Sheldon said the IB program stresses 10 attributes that all people should personify, including being caring and thinking before acting. She also said the program focuses on turning education into action, and allowing students to develop an international mindset.

“It’s about being aware of the world beyond your local community,” she said, noting how the ISD received the Kellogg grant after the region's students were identified as "vulnerable" for their geographic isolation and other socioeconomic factors.

McKenna said it’s difficult to assess the immediate impact of the IB program compared to a standard curriculum, but said over the last three years he has noticed significant improvements within his building.

“We’ve seen consistent growth, understanding and acceptance,” he said. “I can say we’re a stronger united building than we were before.”

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