Film Academy program to be offered this fall at Tahoma High

Aili Carmichael works on a film in Rick Haag’s video production class. The film academy will integrate it with English, history and art classes.  - TJ Martinell, The Reporter
Aili Carmichael works on a film in Rick Haag’s video production class. The film academy will integrate it with English, history and art classes.
— image credit: TJ Martinell, The Reporter

The Tahoma School Board recently approved a new academic program at Tahoma High teachers hope will allow them to give a more specialized focus to their classroom instruction.

Although it is called the Film Academy of Tahoma, the two-year program is an integration of language arts, social studies, career and technical education and the arts.

According to Tahoma video production teacher Rick Haag, the academy will start in the fall.

“It’s ready to run,” he said.

The film academy is an idea Haag said he has been promoting for roughly eight years and is pleased to see that it has finally been approved.

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great staff.”

The film academy is designed for 60 students in their junior or senior year. Junior year, the academy will run from 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily. The students take a video production class taught by Haag, a performance arts class taught by Melissa Corby, American Expression taught by Allison Agnew and American Studies taught by Mike Seger.

Seniors will have the academy throughout the entire school day every other day of the week. Their curriculum will consist of advanced video production with Haag, APGI (senior history) taught by Mike Seger, Story Development and Screenwriting by Jamie Vollrath.

The intent of the Academy is to allow the teachers to focus on their one subject and skill, such as writing in English class, but enabling students to incorporate the knowledge in their video production class or history class. For example, a student learning how to conduct research in history class will be able to use it when writing an English essay or use their literary talent when writing a script for film class.

“The idea of the film academy is that kids are going to be researching and studying content in history,” Haag said. “And then that will flow into their English side on what they’re reading and writing and how they’re writing about it. Then those things will be made to the production side with Film is Literature. They’ll be studying about it in history, writing about it in English, and then filming it in film class, which will be the hands-on part.”

By isolating the curriculum for each teacher, Haag believes this will help address various problems teachers have been dealing with.

“For years it’s bothered me that they’ve asked teachers to do things outside of their realm,” he explained. “We’re asking them to do everything, help kids learn how to read, do math, learn science, and those are not our specialty. What makes the most sense is when teachers can be specialized in their subject area, so the history teacher can take on the history and how to do research on it. And the English teacher can focus on how to teach students to read and write and format and how to apply that knowledge. I get to focus on my specialty in the technology area and how to use technology as a tool, to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in social studies and English.”

Haag first thought of the idea when he took a class to the Sundance Festival.

“As I was seeing the process I stopped and thought how can I bring things to the next level?” he recalled. “I’m not a writer. I haven’t been trained on how to help kids on storyline. So the first idea was to get connected with an English teacher.”

Haag approached Vollrath, who taught a class called Film is Literature, who he felt shared his views.

“We started talking about combination type things,” Haag said.

The eight year timeline between the idea and the academy’s approval by the school board, Haag explained, involves a lot of consideration and solving various problems within the school’s class scheduling.

“Part of it is to do it and to do it right,” he said. “There has to be a lot of thought in the process, a lot of planning. The environment has to be right. If you try to force something and push it through quickly there’s a good chance that you’re not going to be prepared. So we want to make sure what we’re doing is right. And anytime you do something new there are questions, there are problems. It creates scheduling issues, it also creates issues with classes offered in other departments. We tried to make out any possible issues. Teachers understand the power of this type of power.”

After they had the technical dilemmas solved, they also planned to introduce the Academy when a new building was constructed for the school, something which never materialized, and in 2009 they finally decided to move ahead without it.

“When we finally went to the administration we said we wanted to go forward whether or not there was a new building,” Haag said.

The Tahoma Joint Leadership Council eventually approved the academy in December, and the school board gave its approval earlier this month.

“The school board and the administration have been very supportive of the program,” Haag said. “They understand the value that we offer students.

For the academy to succeed, however, it will need 60 students to register for it in February, when they are signing up for their 2012-2013 classes.

“It’s important that there’s a good match between the students and the programs because it is a two year program,” Haag said. “It’s important for the kids to really think about their future and what they want to do post-secondary.”





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