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Normal Community West High School Celebrates 25 Years

Normal West signage
Normal West is celebrating it's 25th anniversary with an open house Friday afternoon.

Normal Community West High School is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its creation.

Dave Johnson has been there from the beginning, first as a chemistry and physics teacher, then as an administrator, and now he serves as principal of the school.

Johnson said that “opening a school without any traditions” allowed for creative teachers to help foster the environment and identity of the school. The first principal of the school, Dr. Jerry Crabtree also “had a sense of the discipline needed as the school opened…we were very strict on our rules, especially at the beginning, because of not having a history, not having the traditions of what the expectations were.”

Dr. Crabtree set the tone for the school being what Johnson called a “caring school.”

“Coming up with things over the years such as our freshman mentoring program and some of the ideas of how we support students that are struggling are all rooted back in the philosophy of Dr. Crabtree.” Johnson said.

Johnson said that across the 25-year history of the school, some things stay the same among the different four-year cohorts of kids but there have been some big differences in learning, especially because of technology.

“I think some traditional teaching toward teaching facts—that students need to know certain things because you had to have that knowledge to move forward—has changed with the internet. Now you can Google things. So, memorization of facts has dramatically changed over the years to how you solve a problem and how you use the resources appropriately...versus memorizing things in class.”

Johnson said this forces teachers to constantly update their lesson plans to accommodate the new tech and changing learning processes.

But what will the next 25 years bring for the Wildcats?

“As we try to evolve right now,” Johnson said, “one of our key goals as a school is continuing to clarify that we are preparing students for college, a career, or whatever they’re going to do beyond high school, we’re going to prepare them for that.”

Normal West is inviting people back to mark the anniversary. The two hour open house will be 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday afternoon before the homecoming game. The cafeteria will be full of memorabilia, 25 years of senior videos will play, former Wildcat artists will bring their adult work for a gallery, and will open a 25 year old time capsule.

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Sean Newgent is a senior journalism major at Illinois State University. He's an intern for the GLT newsroom.
WGLT News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio.