PAA Introduces New Classes, Dual-Credit Courses

November 04, 2015 | Liesl Vistaunet

At Portland Adventist Academy, new classes like 2-D animation, American Sign Language (ASL) and music appreciation are broadening students’ minds. In addition, new dual-credit classes offer opportunity to earn college credit while completing high school requirements.

This year PAA expanded the dual-credit course list to include Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. history, English literature and composition, and calculus, plus honors anatomy and physiology. Students in these classes are on track to develop better study and learning habits as well as completing future prerequisites earlier than their college peers.

In music appreciation class, teacher Emmett McCutchenne emphasizes the evolution of Western music over the centuries. “Students will come away from my class understanding how and why music developed over time and how it affects our music today,” he says. “For instance, during the Renaissance era, music was made and performed by the church only. But when Martin Luther challenged the idea that God is accessible to all people, music then became accessible as well.”

ASL teacher Herbert Terreri says that many students take ASL because they think it will be fun and easy. “But they’re often surprised,” he says. “We build on the foundations of English, so if a student struggles over the simple differences between ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there,’ it becomes a barrier to communication in ASL. It’s important that understanding and usage is already strong.”

Other students expect to use ASL in daily life. One student has a young sibling who struggles with speech. This student is learning ASL to support the family as they make efforts to adapt to a new way of communicating.

With a large deaf community in the Portland area, ASL is a compelling elective. The class may spark a student’s interest in translating, speech therapy, social work or other service careers that benefit the deaf community and are prevalent in Portland.

In PAA’s new 2-D animation class, Frank Jin teaches students to master programs like Adobe Flash, which gives them the fundamental skills in technical creativity — a useful skill if students pursue careers in Web development, advertising, film, animation or even teaching.

“The students draw their characters; borrow clip art; add photos, videos, sound effects and text; [and] move them around on the screen,” says Jin. “Then they can morph one figure into another, from one background to another, and end up telling a story in a creative and entertaining way.”

New classes along with new options for dual-credit courses mean the future is bright for PAA students. "We are constantly exploring ways to broaden and enrich our students' academic experiences,” says Dan Nicola, PAA principal. “Our goal is to expose them to a broad realm of knowledge so that they can begin to formulate an idea of how their academic interests align with God's plan for their lives.”