School director shares vision of Milan schools with town leaders
By Victor Parkins
Milan Director of Schools Jonathon Criswell is less than one year into his new job but he’s looking far into the future.
Criswell hosted a luncheon last Tuesday at the central office to share his vision for educating students with community and business leaders.
“We’re living in a different world and connecting with today’s students is different,” Criswell said. “Kids are not learning to solve problems like we used to. They’re sitting in front of screens too much and they communicate with characters rather than words.”
Criswell said his goal is to create educated leaders of character to fill jobs of all skill levels.
Connecting with students at an early age is key, Criswell noted, adding that many kids learn differently based on disabilities, home life and personal interests.
“In the past we’ve had kids with disabilities like Dyslexia and we thought they were just lazy or didn’t like school. Now we know that’s not the case. We had very smart kids that didn’t work too hard because they were good enough problem solvers to get a C. It’s our responsibility to change the way we educate our students to meet the needs of a changing workforce,” he said.
By the year 2020, 58% of all jobs in Tennessee will require some type of post secondary education. There will be many more opportunities for high skill level, automated jobs as well as service industry jobs.
Mr. Criswell said teaching kids to think outside the box is necessary to stay in tune with major companies like Uber and Airbnb.
“Ten years ago if I would have told you the world’s largest taxi service didn’t own a single taxi you would think I was crazy. But that’s Uber. Airbnb is now the world’s largest rental company but doesn’t own any real estate.”
Although teaching students higher skill set levels is high on the priority list, Criswell said developing students of high character and leadership qualities was also vital.
Milan schools will offer new programs this year to help reach those goals.
At the elementary school, a class for Dyslexic students will be offered and one teacher will be assigned to go into homes and teach parents how to better educate their kids. An honors program will be added to the middle school curriculum. Plans are in the works for Milan to become a 1 to 1 school system by the fall of 2018, meaning every middle and high school student will be equipped with a personal computer. Plans are also in the works to partner with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to beef up the technology program.
“We want to do more than send our kids out of here with the basics,” added Criswell. “We’re going to push every student to the next level and prepare them their future, not our past.”