New program, new people, new challenges


Rachel Gortney

The Junior IB core class attempts to choose their extended essay topics

The International Baccalaureate program is a small program at GlenOak; characterized by its small classes, lack of tests, and most importantly, its Socratic Seminars. 

The IB program is entering its fifth year at GlenOak High School, the program offers aspiring students a special diploma program, or a chance to pick out certain classes that fit their interests. 

The diploma program attracts around 15 full DP students each year, and around another 120 students opt to choose a variety of both IB classes and other courses offered at GlenOak.

The IB program has world schools across 97 countries, and its international focus, heavy workload, and communication-based learning have amassed it a reputation for being one of the most rigorous secondary education programs in the world. 


New Challenges

The IB organization sets strict standards for schools to follow if they want to retain their status as a member school. Every five years, each world school must go through an evaluation that assesses the development and implementation of the program. 

This is the GlenOak IB program’s first evaluation. The evaluation has three main components which include a preliminary evaluation, a self-study and then an in-person evaluation with a member of the IB organization. At this moment, GlenOak is currently in the preliminary stages of its evaluation. 

“It is meant to be a reflective learning process that will help us refine and further develop the IB Diploma Programme at our school” GlenOak IB Coordinator Dr. Jennifer Austin said. 

The evaluation process will take place throughout the majority of the school year.


New People

After the previous coordinator left and a few teachers moved on from the program, the school found new faces to spearhead the program forward.


Dr. Jennifer Austin

Austin was previously an English teacher at GlenOak for 19 years, for some of those years, she was involved in the IB program.

Last year, Dr. Austin took a year off from teaching to finish off her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at Kent State.

Being back as an employee is like coming home again,” Austin said. 

Leaving a position as a teacher and coming back as the head coordinator seems like a daunting task, and Austin knows that too.

“I know I have big shoes to fill because Mrs. Palmer knew everything about IB because she worked diligently to build, launch and expand the IB DP [diploma program] at the high school. She left me detailed notes and resources, so I am very grateful to her for making the transition smooth for me as I became the new coordinator,” Austin said. 

As the program continues to grow in popularity, it will continue to face new obstacles.

“The students and teachers are the best and most important parts of the program. I appreciate all of their hard work, kindness and dedication. I am definitely a proponent of all the International Baccalaureate has to offer. I believe in the IB philosophy and mission statement and appreciate the rigorous curriculum it offers to students,” Austin said. 


Meredith Ersing 

Ersing is a French teacher at GlenOak High School, she has been in Plain Local for five years and has been teaching for 15. She was involved in teaching IB French previously but was recently moved to teaching the Theory of Knowledge and the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) classes for the junior class. 

Teaching a new class will be challenging and Ersing acknowledges this obstacle, 

“IB Core has a steep learning curve.  Already, I’m thinking about how I would do things differently than how I started at the beginning of the year. I know I won’t get it all right the first time, but I’m looking forward to trying and improving.”

— Meredith Ersing

“IB Core has a steep learning curve.  Already, I’m thinking about how I would do things differently than how I started at the beginning of the year. I know I won’t get it all right the first time, but I’m looking forward to trying and improving,” Ersing said. 

The IB program offers a rigorous curriculum but offers many ways to teach its subjects. Many teachers opt for discussion-based learning while others may go for lecture-based learning.

“I’m so excited to explore along with IB Core students how we ‘know’ what we think we know, and how different perspectives might approach problems differently,” Ersing said. 

Outside of her career, Ersing likes to Contra dance. It’s an English folk dance that involves large groups of people dancing in long lines. 


Madeleine Wheeler

Wheeler has been a teacher for five years. She previously taught biology and chemistry at Buchtel CLC in Akron, Ohio. This is her first year teaching at GlenOak where she will be teaching IB Physics.

“This school year I am excited to get to know the students and staff at GlenOak High School. It’s always nerve-wracking starting at a new place, so I am looking forward to creating positive relationships with my new students and colleagues,” Wheeler said. 

Along with teaching IB physics, Wheeler is also teaching Regular Physics, Honors Physics, and AP Physics 1.

“My favorite thing about the IB program so far is the great discussions I get to have in class with my students. We get to dig deeper into a wider breadth of physics content than I will be able to in my other physics classes,” Wheeler said. 

Outside of school, Wheeler enjoys going to concerts.

“The past two years I’ve seen Simple Plan, Sum 41, Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Free Throw, Super American, New Found Glory, Less Than Jake, Alanis Morissette, Four Year Strong and State Champs,” Wheeler said.