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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 25, 2011

Bates kids like hands-on learning

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — The Bates family is sending one child to college this week while their second child follows his sister’s path through Tech Valley High.

The structure of the regionally drawing school is “more 21st Century,” said their mother Betsy Bates.

Her daughter, Colleen Bates, started her freshman year at Tech Valley in 2007 and graduated this spring.  While nearly a third of her classmates peeled off, Bates stayed in the program because she didn’t want to leave the people with whom she worked so closely.

“We all have to work together if we’re going to survive,” she said of the strong camaraderie among students in the challenging program.

Much of the school’s curriculum is taught through a collaborative, group approach, with students working together to solve problems presented by their teachers, Bates said.  In her junior year, she and her group put together a play featuring Albert Einstein and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as they explored the science, ethics, and history of the atomic bomb.

“It’s easier to retain knowledge when you’ve acted on it,” she said of Tech Valley’s approach to teaching.

Students are more responsible for their own learning at Tech Valley than they are at traditional high schools, she said.  A project for her economics and government class where students simulated the management of a company piqued her interest, so she did further research about production and capacity.

Her favorite class, Bates said, was pre calculus.  Until she took it, she hadn’t much liked math, but, with a great teacher, Bates said, she “discovered math is pretty straightforward.”

The Voorheesville native also played volleyball on Voorheesville’s junior-varsity team for three years, but, Bates said, she didn’t play varsity in her senior year because she had to be consistently late for practice due to her commute from East Greenbush, where Tech Valley High is located.

For her senior project, Bates did a comparison between animal behavior and veterinary medicine.  She plans to pursue her interest in animals and psychology at Canisius College in Buffalo this fall.

Her brother, Kevin Bates, will be starting his second year at Tech Valley.  The high school junior “suffered through” freshman year at Voorheesville’s high school, his sister said, then got a scholarship to Tech Valley for his sophomore year, and his parents will pay his tuition so that he will be able to attend the school this year.

The Voorheesville school district took the tuition for sending a student to Tech Valley out of its budget in the face of dwindling state aid, but, Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said this week, since Kevin Bates had already begun school there and was doing well, the district accepted a donation from his parents for $12,000 to cover the cost of tuition.

Asked if the district would entertain that option for other families, Snyder said that she wouldn’t bar anything, but added, “I can’t conceive of that.  It’s not our intention.”

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