Senior Liam Panther has been in the connections class since he was a freshman back in 2013. “Connections has really changed me as a person through high school. From my freshmen year to my senior year I have really grown up from my immaturity”.
This class is specifically geared for meeting new friends and learning life lessons. Every single person in that classroom shares the same desire to learn from one another and grow personally. Because students get to work with each other closely, individuals get to connect with one another differently based on their likes and dislikes.
Susan Fisher and Leanne Rue are the teachers of the connections class. “Mrs. Rue and Mrs. Fisher have put a great impact on my life by teaching me good social skills with friends and peers and I will miss them the most next year”. Fisher and Rue want to bring out the best in each student and are dedicated to navigating their path through high school and into adulthood.
As Panther finishes his last few months at bvhs, he will want to live up every possible moment he can with all his friends in the connections class: “What I will miss most about connections is meeting new friends and seeing everyone’s smiling faces everyday- I will also miss my friends who are present at the school after I graduate because I won’t get to see them as much as I would in high school”.
After starting the Connections program in 1995 at Shawnee Mission South High School, Laurie Rue came to Blue Valley to start a social skills class here with colleague Susan Fisher.
Fisher said the class teaches students important life skills.
“There really aren’t guidelines out there that students learn on how to navigate the social world,” Fisher said. “We saw the need for a class to help teach kids how to read nonverbal communication and what social guidelines people don’t tell you. Basically you’re telling them the answer to the social test.”
In the class, various units translate to real word social skills.
“[We cover] topics such as what makes up a healthy and unhealthy friendship, how to navigate social media, respect connected to dating and community service,” Fisher said.
Every year, the class changes to adapt to what the students would benefit most from.
“We started with just 6 kids, and now we have two classes of 25 or more,” Rue said. “We’ve become more flexible with what we teach because the needs change. We have to look at the individual students and adjust to make sure [the class] works for them.”
Fisher and Rue both said the main theme of the class is “Eyes off ourselves, eyes onto others,” so that students can become servant leaders — people who lead by example and walk alongside their peers.
“We have great examples of that through our administration,” Fisher said. “Scott Bacon and the other associate principals are perfect examples of servant leaders.”
Rue said she sees the impact Connections has on the students every day.
“Our focus isn’t really for the kids to make friends, but sometimes that happens,” Rue said. “We see [the change] in confidence and know when they walk down the hall, they feel like they belong.”
Fisher said although she’s happy for what’s to come, she misses the students once they graduate.
“After kids graduate, I just miss their relationships,” Fisher said. “After having them for four years, you see them on a regular basis and then they graduate and move on. The relationships are still there, but you just don’t see them. We do get emails and visitors so that’s rewarding, but every year around this time I start grieving the seniors knowing that they’re graduating.”
Rue said their influence makes teaching Connections worth it.
“My favorite part of the class, and the reason why we keep doing this, is that I definitely see a positive impact on each student,” Rue said. “As they grow as a person, they can apply the skills that they learned here well into adulthood. [It] is very satisfactory for me when kids come back to visit and talk about their successes.”