Posted at: 02/21/2013 6:49 PM
Updated at: 02/21/2013 6:55 PM
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Now in its eighth year, the Austin school district’s Woodson Kindergarten center is still a novel approach to education.
On Thursday, the kids and staff at Woodson welcomed a guest who wanted to see first-hand what makes the school special.
"We've heard about the great stuff going on in Austin here with the kindergarten center, and I wanted to come and see it," Brenda Cassellius told us.
So on Thursday afternoon, she went back to school.
"I'm just amazed and thrilled by the academic focus here," she said. And that’s high praise, coming from Minnesota’s Education Commissioner.
“They have their academic skills and they know how to read and write and be able to enumerate," Commissioner Cassellius said as she sat in front of a white board as a group of kindergartners worked through their math problems.
"The outcomes and the skills they're learning here and translating into first grade have more than prepared them to take that next step," Woodson principal Jessica Cabeen told us.
But there’s more to kindergarten than reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
"It's very important that you look at a holistic approach in kindergarten," commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. "The amount of play and gross motor activities, learning social skills, the leadership here, social skills”.
And Minnesota’s education leader left Woodson with a new appreciation for having a school district’s entire all-day, every-day kindergarten program under one roof.
"I haven't seen a kindergarten center yet, this is the first one that I've seen and I'm very impressed," Cassellius said.
Cassellius also toured Sumner Elementary school during her visit to Austin. Sumner is the Austin school district’s first year-round school, and recently was named a “Celebration School” from the Minnesota Department of Education because of students’ improved performance under the new format.