How to Make High School Meaningful? Give Students Voice and Choice

On the Summit Sparks Podcast: Anne Krolicki and Emily Green

This week on the Summit Sparks podcast, Princeville High School Teacher Anne Krolicki and student Emily Green join us to share why boosting student voice and choice in middle and high school is central to making school more meaningful. Emily then tells us how a recent internship gave her a vision for life after graduation. 

The transcript below has been edited for clarity and is a condensed version of Korlicki’s and Green’s full interview. Find this and all episodes at

In your words (Anne), what does it mean to have a Sense of Purpose?

Anne Krolicki: To have a sense of purpose, I think means that a person has a why. So a reason to grow and improve… and in turn, learn not to necessarily shy away from a problem, but instead find potential problems and then tackle them when that’s necessary. And I think more importantly than anything else, purpose is about finding your place in the world and living your passion.

Why do you think it’s important for students to explore Sense of Purpose, starting as early as middle school?

AK: I think if you’re not exploring that sense of purpose early in life, it can be really difficult to find it later. Sometimes, students see education as something that they kind of have to get through so that they can get on with or to their lives. What we need to do in education is show them that their lives and their education are closer to synonyms than antonyms. A person’s purpose should drive their education and vice versa, and they should be mutual endeavors. 

“Students see education as something that
they kind of have to get through.
What we need to do in education is show them
that their lives and their education are closer to
synonyms than antonyms.”
– Anne Krolicki, teacher

You’ve offered a Mass Communications course built on real-world projects. Can you talk a little bit about what opportunities this course provided to your high school students?

AK: At the most basic educational level, they were learning their standards… then they were applying those to a real-world context… they were thinking about the end goal in the real world and how their writing or what they were saying was going to matter for other people, not just for them. And I think that when we teach skills that way and kids have the opportunity to put their talents out into the world, not only do they do better, but they see why developing those skills are so important.

[Emily] have you found that any of the skills or lessons that you have learned in that class have helped in other classes or have helped you just in school in general this year?

Emily Green: I think that my time management improved a lot last year. Just having to balance all these different things along with my other classes… I’m a lot better at time management than I used to be.

Can you talk to us a little bit about how [your current internship with the Princeville school district] came about and your responsibilities?

EG: Last year, Mrs. Krolicki and myself and a few other students… went down to Springfield [for the Illinois Education & Technology Conference] … and Mrs. Krolicki shared with us that an internship was going to be available in the coming year for the Princeville school district. At the end of year, [Kelly Jenkins, technology integration specialist for the Princeville school district], approached me and asked if I was interested, and I decided that I was; I started the internship this year. 

I do a lot of school culture things; at [Princeville High School], we do a Tweet of the Week board where we pull posts off Twitter that are the most shared or the most liked from our school. Every week, there’s a different teacher that’s a winner and they get their tweet up on the board and then they get a plaque that gets passed around. I’m also in charge of updating bulletin boards and writing news articles for the school website. There’s also a lot of other different activities… like helping out students at younger grade levels with the Chromebooks.

And what have you learned about yourself through this opportunity? Do you really like this field?

EG: I definitely love to write a lot, so I’ve always considered journalism as a career. But I also have a lot of other interests; I really like math and chemistry too. There’s so many different paths that I could take and I think I’d be happy in any of them. But I definitely do think that through mass communications and the internship, that I have given a lot of consideration to some form of career in media, whether that be journalism or another career.

Can you tell us a little bit about the project [you just completed] in your interdisciplinary course [that you’re taking this year with Mrs. Krolicki]?

EG: I created a video and my topic was that I wanted more personalized learning, similar to what we were doing in that class at the moment, but more freedom to choose what kind of classes you’re taking and how you can alter them to fit your personality and your interests.

So, let’s say if you wanted to learn math but you wanted to study business or economics in college, you could alter your math course towards basing it on that. 

AK: Emily… interviewed a lot of different students and it was interesting. We talk all the time about getting students’ opinions, getting their voices, and they all kind of said the same thing — that they wanted school to be more relevant to them, to their interests, and that they wanted to do more projects and have it be more real world. And all the things that Emily was hoping to accomplish, her peers were agreeing with her, without even realizing that’s what she was trying to do… So it was this really powerful moment, not just for her, but for all the students in the room, to see themselves represented.

Emily Green

Emily Green is a junior at Princeville High School, currently working as a mass communications intern in her school’s tech department. During her sophomore year, Emily was a mass communications student in a class that gave her real-world experience in writing and marketing. She is currently a member of the new combined English and History class at Princeville High School, a project-based learning environment that uses a personalized learning approach.

Anne Krolicki

Anne Krolicki teaches English and mass communications classes and co-teaches an interdisciplinary English III/US history course at Princeville Junior/Senior High School in Illinois. She holds a master’s degree from Texas State University in curriculum and instruction with a focus in reading and writing.

Listen to the full audio interview to hear Anne and Emily talk about how their class served as the Communications team for Troutman’s Trek in 2017. 

About the author

Lauren Faggella
A storyteller and former educator, Lauren Faggella is dedicated to turning the Summit Learning community's stories and ideas into great content that informs and inspires a range of audiences. Prior to joining Summit Public Schools, Lauren was a professional freelance writer and third-grade teacher in Rhode Island. She earned her MEd from the University of Rhode Island and BA in English from Elon University.