Educational Diversity Helps Us Thrive

By Keely Camden
Weelunk Contributor

It can be argued that our differences make us stronger.  Diversity of thought, of background, of belief can add to the rich tapestry of a community, thus allowing our differences to compliment one another.  In doing so, we must not make it a goal to be in competition with our differences; rather, we must work to be the strongest and highest quality organization, school, or team that we can be for the benefit of those we serve, not because we need to be better than someone or something else.
The motives behind we what do define our lives and our successes.  If we are simply trying to beat someone or be better than something else, the sense of competition creates hostility and hubris, and the sense of community slowly, yet significantly, erodes.

While many different diverse organizations in Wheeling could be highlighted, our region is uniquely positioned with a myriad of formal and informal educational opportunities.  The choices individuals have relative to their educational needs provide extensive and highly personalized options. Our city of Wheeling, and the surrounding region, has reason to celebrate the exceptional nature of the many types of schools and traditional educational offerings.

The local public schools have been frequently commended for their exceptional performance.  Most recently, Woodsdale Elementary School was honored as a 2014 National Blue Ribbon recipient, and several other area public schools were designated this past year as WV Blue Ribbon Schools: John Marshall High School, Liberty Elementary School, and Triadelphia Middle School.

In addition, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and area Catholic Schools provide numerous parochial school options from PreK-High School. In the entire state of West Virginia, the only two independent schools nationally accredited through ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States) are in Wheeling:  Wheeling Country Day School (PreK-through grade 5) and The Linsly School serving students grades 5-12.

Wheeling is also home to the Augusta Levy Learning Center serving young children with autism.  The Center uses the Lovaas Institution For Early Intervention (LIFE) in a one-on-one setting with children.  Easter Seals plays a major role in the intervention and education of young children, as do many different child-care centers including a Montessori-based program, Sikora Montessori, in Wheeling.

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The options extend to the realm of higher education as well.  Usually, only in large, major metropolitan cities would such variety of higher educational options be available in a community.  Within a sixty-mile radius of Wheeling, there are two large community colleges (one in WV and one in OH) and six four-year institutions, including two in Ohio County.

An often-undervalued aspect to any community is the opportunity for children and adults to have access to high-quality non-formal or informal education.  While this type of education is not packaged in the formal, prescriptive style of traditional preschool-12th grade “school,” it is learning provided to children, adolescents, and adults in different, less formal educational environments.  These environments offer opportunities for exploration and the development of creativity in our children and youth. Creativity is essential ingredient when considering the need for the development of leaders who are critical thinkers and problem-solvers.  Acclaimed educator and author, Sir Ken Robinson described creativity in this way, “You can’t just give someone a creativity injection.  You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them.”

As a city, we are replete with incredible classes, workshops, unstructured play opportunities, and amazing learning experiences in Wheeling:

Want to visit a beautiful butterfly garden and explore stream health?
Spend the afternoon at the Schrader Environmental Center

Desire to learn ballet or ballroom dancing?
Take a class at the Stifel Fine Arts Center

Interested in a woodwork class or creating unique designs in a MakerSpace?
Visit the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley

Fascinated by history and design of trains?
Tour Independence Hall and then visit the Toy and Train Museum

This list is far from inclusive.  But, if variety is the spice of life, then the educational opportunities in Wheeling provide the perfect blend for all tastes and needs.  Let us celebrate our educational differences!