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Senior citizens get peek into McKinney ISD's multicultural, career-prep landscape
Chris Beattie/Staff photo - Caldwell Elementary students show off their computer programs to MISD Senior Tour participants, who shared with the students about how education has changed since they were in school.
It was fitting the third annual MISD Senior Tour was held at Caldwell Elementary School, perhaps McKinney's most evolved campus.
Just like for tour participants - those in their 50s and older - a lot has changed.
"It's been a long time since they were in a classroom," McKinney ISD Superintendent J.D. Kennedy said. "It's a great opportunity for them to see what's happening in our schools, at every level."
This year, the tour began at Caldwell, previously a MISD high school and middle school. Now, it's the school district's dual-language school, vibrant in cross-cultural curriculum.
About 70 tour guests - the max allowed at the yearly event - filed first into Caldwell's library, and were greeted by a Spanish-heavy choir performance. Second-graders serenaded a surprised crowd with song and poetry, switching between languages.
Their older schoolmates then led a stationed tour around campus, showing off their English-Spanish dichotomy, cultural understanding and the technology that helps them learn it all. Participants' smiles shined brighter than the smart boards and iPads they glanced upon, young children their sudden teachers.
"For me, it's seeing the changes that have taken place in the way education is today as opposed to just a few years ago," said George Bradford, a McKinney resident on his second straight Senior Tour. "One of the biggest things I've seen is the different cultures, the blending. When I was in school, there wasn't any."
McKinney ISD Partners in Education helped organize the tour three years ago after Kennedy brought the idea from another school district for which he previously worked. Kennedy, MISD board members and central office staff joined their fellow citizens in touring the campuses they serve.
"It's all been positive," Kennedy said of Senior Tour feedback. "Not only from the senior citizens but also from the students who get a chance to talk to them about what they do. They're just as excited."
The tour stopped next at McKinney North High School, where guides gave senior participants the rundown of classes available to help students get certified in technical trades by graduation. At Scott Johnson Middle School, the final stop, they learned about Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and other programs that spur students toward college from an early age.
New technology and a greatly expanded educational landscape were obvious to tour participants, some of whom remembered one-room schoolhouses. For others, classroom changes were simpler than that.
"We weren't allowed to talk, at all," said Nannetta Ellis, on her first Senior Tour. "And if we did, Mom would know about it by the time we got home."
Participants, who receive Senior Tour t-shirts and goodie bags before their first stop, reside all over Collin County, said Nancy Cowlishaw, Partners in Education director. Other local school districts don't offer such a tour tailored to showing off the latest at each level, so they come each February to McKinney's.
For all of them, no matter where they live, MISD represents a newness similar to that around Texas and the country. Education is constantly changing.
And going back to school for a day seems worth it.
"Some people are already trying to sign up for next year, so we had to start a waiting list," Cowlishaw said. "The interest and buzz of how much fun it is, is definitely out in the community."
For more MISD Senior Tour information, contact the Partners in Education office at 469-302-4108.