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Weems Showcases TAG Program for U.S. Department of Education

Throughout February, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, representatives from the U.S. Department of Education are visiting schools that promote career readiness and provide technical training. On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Aimee Viana toured Weems Elementary School, where students displayed their enthusiasm for CTE programs. Viana was joined by Manassas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Newman, members of his administration, and several Manassas City school board and council members.

In 2013, Weems became a Talents and Gifts (TAG) theme school, which provides students talent development and engagement opportunities through enrichment clusters. First through fourth graders share what they are interested in through a survey at the beginning of the school year then are grouped across grade levels by interests once a week for 13 weeks. At the end of the cycle, students share what they’ve learned at a TAG Share Fair.

During Tuesday’s visit, Weems principal Dr. Zella Jones and TAG coordinator Mary Jo Williams provided guests with an overview of the school’s program before guiding them through nearly a dozen classrooms where students were engaged in their enrichment clusters, where even the youngest learners are invited to explore their interests and utilize their talents.

The variety of enrichment clusters at Weems continues to grow, with options like “Calling All Coders,” “Let’s Build,” and “Kitchen Magicians” for first and second graders. Meanwhile, third and fourth grade students can explore interests in fashion, photography/video, high tech sports and exercise, and weather.

TAG classes follow the Schoolwide Enrichment Model that believes that each child is unique, has a talent and can learn more effectively when the lesson is enjoyed and meaningful.

“The best way to learn it is to live it like these students are right now,” Williams said. “The authenticity, the enrichment is wonderful.”

During the tour, visitors observed first graders computing algorithms and third graders constructing egg drop contraptions out of straws and marshmallows. In other classrooms students worked together to make boats filled with marbles float, create clouds with water and ice and draw up fashion designs. Viana and other guests enjoyed speaking with the children who were eager to share what they were learning.

Viana is a former principal, Spanish teacher and served as the U.S. Department of Education’s executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. She currently serves as the chief advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education for the U.S. Department of Education.  

Dr. Trey Davis, the division's K-12 CTE supervisor, was grateful for the opportunity to showcase one way Manassas City is incorporating career and technical training in its schools.

“We are very proud of the work that Weems Elementary is doing to engage students in their personal interests," he stated. "As students continue to be exposed to various careers at the younger ages this will help guide them toward a more focused direction as they get into middle and high school. The program is amazing and truly engages students in various activities."

 Viana visits Weems Pictured, left to right, are: Dr. Trey Davis, MCPS Supervisor of K-12 Career and Technical Education; Aimee Viana, DOE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Dr. Zella Jones, principal of Weems. 

View more photos here