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West Jordan Journal

New International Baccalaureate program comes to Jordan District

Feb 18, 2021 02:12PM ● By Jet Burnham

Students from anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley are invited to West Jordan High School to receive a new kind of education. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

A new kind of diploma program will be available in Jordan School District next year. Any sophomore or junior interested in an academically rigorous, internationally faceted, well-rounded education is invited to apply now for the International Baccalaureate program at West Jordan High School for the 2021–2022 school year.

“It will draw students that want a more well-rounded approach with service, extracurricular activity and creativity,” said WJHS assistant principal Jenicee Jacobsen, the administrator in charge of the IB program.

The IB diploma is earned in addition to a high school diploma. To complete the program, students take classes from six groups of courses over two years. Classes are academically rigorous and earn college credit, similar to advanced placement and concurrent enrollment college courses.

“Most of the IB courses are two years,” Jacobsen said. “But what they do in two years is not to double the amount of content. It's actually to give more space and time to go into more depth and to explore that conceptual level and be able to really apply it.” 

IB requirements don’t all take place in the classroom. Students also complete an extensive essay, service projects and extracurricular activity requirements.

“It makes kids think more about their learning as something that's not just books and grades and tests,” Jacobsen said. “It also rewards students and acknowledges what a lot of our students are already doing.” 

Some of the requirements can be fulfilled by the teams, clubs, community service and school activities students are already participating in.

“Maybe they're on a team, maybe they're in a dance group, so why not acknowledge that that is scholarly and that it's worthwhile and that it's about their whole overall development toward adulthood?” Jacobsen said.

Chandler Bishop, IB coordinator at WJHS, said the program opens minds and opportunities for students. 

“Because there is a focus on international mindedness, they have a better understanding and a better respect for cultures around the world,” Bishop said.

Jacobsen said WJHS is a great home for the program in Jordan School District because students already benefit from the global diversity represented at the school.

“There's always something that having diversity can provide for richer and more meaningful learning experiences for students,” Jacobsen said. “Those are the underpinnings of the IB program—to foster that cultural competency and understanding and to create a better citizenry. We're just going to add that to what is already existing.” 

All types of students can be successful in the IB program, not just those who are academically focused. IB teacher Natalie Nielsen said it is a program in which second language learners can do well. The program emphasizes diversity and encourages students to take risks.

IB lead counselor Helen Brown said the program will be a great resource to connect students of diverse backgrounds with opportunities to be more successful in their lives.

“We know that all kids have skills,” Brown said. “This gives us a chance to tap into those kids who maybe don't know they have this skill set and give them a chance to explore that and develop it. It's really powerful.”

Bishop said 80% of students who earn an IB diploma complete four years of college, compared to 40% of those who just earn a high school diploma.

“What the statistics show is how incredibly prepared kids who come into the IB program are for college,” he said. 

He also believes the program prepares students to have an impact on their neighborhoods and on the world. 

“Aside from academics, it makes them better people,” he said.

While the IB classes are for juniors and seniors, every student at WJHS will still benefit from the curriculum.

“We don't want it to just be a program at WJHS school,” Jacobsen said. “We believe in the guiding philosophies of it, we believe in their approach to education, so we want to try and apply those broader ideas in every classroom.”

All teachers at WJHS will be trained in the program’s Theory of Knowledge principles, learner profiles and characteristics of learning methods.

“We have a great culture of teachers that love to collaborate together,” Jacobsen said. “They're focused on kids; they're focused on how they can help their students and this is just adding to that.”

A Theory of Knowledge class will be taught to all sophomores in which they will learn about different learning approaches and discover which works best for them.

“It will elevate every student to be a better learner,” Jacobsen said.

See for more information.