There have been a few new additions in the educational world at Canby Elementary School this year, including Principal Ryan Arndt, who took over the position, which was previously held for 12 years by his sister, Sandi Arndt, at the start of the 2012-13 school year.
"It's been going good," Ryan Arndt said. "The days go by quickly, and the weeks go by quickly. As elementary principal, there is a lot of stuff that keeps you busy, but that's good."
Arndt said he's learned a great deal already, but that having a resource like his sister readily available for assistance is priceless.
"It's nice," he said. "She's a good resource for me. If I need to find something, I know how to get ahold of her."
Since the siblings grew up in the Ortonville area, Arndt said, people have commented about how unusual it is to find a brother and sister combination who have both had the same position in Canby.
"It's somewhat unique," he said. "The secretary here said she has never seen that before."
As Sandi Arndt settles into her new position as principal at Cokato Elementary School, she does so with a sense of satisfaction, having been part of the process that led to Canby Elementary School being named a 2012 Reward School, one of the top 15 percent of schools ranked by the Minnesota Department of Education using the new Multiple Measurement Ratings (MMR).
"Sandi was really excited about being a Reward School," Ryan Arndt said. "The teachers were really excited about that, too."
Having served as a high school biology teacher at Canby High School for the past 13 years, Arndt is set to continue marking his mark on the Canby educational system. Despite the fact that the students are much shorter now, he said he's getting comfortable with the transition for his new position.
"I love the community and staff here," he said. "With the kids at the elementary, I get lots of hugs. I get out to the high school once in awhile and get a lot of hellos, too."
Arndt will likely continue his head baseball coaching position this spring, he said. In the past 13 years, Arndt has also coached football and basketball, at various levels. The extra time he'll gain from not coaching as much, he said, will allow him to meet more challenges with his new principal position.
"The biggest challenge is to get up to speed," he said. "There's different curriculum to gain knowledge on. It's a different setting, so I have to learn about those things and how to handle those things. We've had to rework some things, like the lunch menu, because of the new regulations."
One of the areas Arndt is getting a handle on is the reading intervention program called Read Naturally, which the school switched over to this year.
"Lakeview uses it," Arndt said. "We used to use Fluent Reader from Renaissance Learning, but they didn't support it this year so we switched over to Read Naturally. It's for students who are struggling a little bit."
The Read Naturally reading program boosts the development and support of the five essential components of reading identified by the National Reading Panel, which are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The structured intervention programs combine the three strategies of teacher modeling, repeated reading and progress monitoring, which program experts say has shown to be effective in improving students' reading proficiency.
"We used Read Naturally probably 10 to 12 years ago, but it wasn't on the computer. We had books. It's a really good program and it has benchmarks to go from."
The first year trials have gone a little more smoothly, Arndt said, with the help of an intern who has sought program assistance from Lakeview personnel. Right now, the reading intervention program is set up to have the paraprofessionals pull students out for a few minutes a day, Arndt said, usually when the rest of the class is reading independently.
"It depends on how many kids we're trying to target," he said. "We use the AIMSweb program to identify needs. We also do teacher referrals. We keep monitoring the student, and if they start exceeding and don't need help anymore, they leave the program."
So far, Read Naturally has been implemented in the second-, third- and fourth-grade classes at Canby this year. Arndt pointed out that the district also uses the Response to Intervention (RtI) system.
"We have RtI reading up through sixth grade," he said. "With RtI math, we're up to third grade. We phase it in so it's not all at once."
With both RtI programs use a variety of teaching tools, including iPads. The biggest challenge, Arndt said, is keeping students from getting frustrated, but still trying to nudge them forward in the learning process.
"With the math program, we use apps and enrichment things, like flashcards, to get them a little extra help," Arndt said. "With reading, we do some different things, like bring books in that are more at their level. It's about getting the students what they need. If they're doing good, we keep them going. But we don't want them to get frustrated."