From TLC! Montessori Preschool, to his K-8 years at The Learning Center! Charter School, to the major impact of time spent with Steve and Debby Kurti in the opportunities of Innovation Academy, to innovative learning experiences and then graduation from Tri-County Early College, we have watched this young man grow and become. Wesley had all the early-learning indicators for giftedness. Even preschool nap time was not wasted on this young mind. On a daily basis, he woke up from nap time eager to tell his teachers about what he had dreamed and often what he planned to do with his sleep-inspired, lofty ideas.
PS-8th Grade Staff recall the sheer joy of learning that filled Wesley during his time on The Learning Center campus. 2nd grade teacher used the words "infectious learner" since his enthusiasm poured over to the other students. Gifted across the full subject range, Ms. Stephanie described him as the perfect example of a "naturally grown learner." Ms. Cheryl recalls the day Wesley was bored in math. Rather than turn this young math mind off for even a day, she threw out the opportunity for Wesley to teach the class. He connected. He engaged with his classmates.
The history of the Learning Center's Odyssey of the Mind experience provided a perfect outlet for this creative, brilliant, out-of-the- box thinker. The flounder costume shared below captures one of many Wesley creations, this one made with sprinkler tubing, fabric, soda pull tabs and a lot of hot glue. The hours spent, the focus given to bringing his problem-solving project to perfection, without a hot-glue string in sight, remains a powerful memory in the teacher facilitators that nurtured this opportunity for a young maker.
As a Duke Tip participant who daily nurtured any seeds of knowledge put in front of him, Wesley held, until recently, the highest math score in the school's history of students tested through the MAP Math Assessment Tool. His score of 270 ranks above the 95% of nationally normed math scores. I remain amazed at this young man's balanced ability to embrace the core subjects with gifted mastery and yet step out of his comfort zone onto the stage of the performing arts opportunities offered through The Learning Center's Grow Zone Players' dramatic arts program.
Judy Coleman, a support teacher in Dramatic Arts, remembers when she first pulled Wesley onto the stage as a minor filler. Ryan Bender, then Director of Dramatic Arts, now Head-of-School, recalls when Wesley chose to audition a year later, his 8th grade year, for the school's annual spring musical, "The Adventures of the Fearsome Pirate Frank." In Bender's words, "Wesley owned that role." I would like to add that this young man had to sing in a musical to capture the lead role. Now that is a diverse range of talent. Of course, it only stood to reason, that he would also hold the honor of being a member of The Learning Center's inaugural Quidditch Team.
Steve Kurti, who first brought Innovation Academy to The Learning Center campus through summer camp offerings, has had the opportunity to facilitate further learning opportunities for Wesley's high school years. Kurti, PhD physicist with a passion for high-quality education and hands-on learning shared an inspiring Wesley moment at a Washington DC event. After a series of reflection exercises Wesley delivered a succinct, powerful insight based on the lessons he had learned about collaboration." Kurti reminded us that "sometimes learning isn't apparent. If flies in stealth-mode under the radar, and then in what may seem like a blinding quick flash, all the lessons coalesce in a moment. Many students are like Wesley, and it's important for us to trust the process...it IS working."
Wesley you have now moved the tassel over from the high school experience to embrace your future. Fly high, young man, fly high!