School uses innovative methods to make students feel at home

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MINOT, N.D. (KFYR) -- Second-graders playing the violin: That's not something you see every day.

But, it's business as usual at Sunnyside Elementary in Minot, North Dakota. It's one of the many ways the school is bringing innovation to teaching students from many different backgrounds.

For the students at Sunnyside Elementary, it's another day of class, but for the staff, some of their methods are anything but usual.

“We've decided that relationships matter more than the academics. If kids don't feel connected and respected and loved, then they aren't going to learn,” said Principal Cindy Cook.

Families that move to North Dakota often enroll their youngsters in this K-through 5 school, meaning the staff must find ways to make students from other parts of the country feel at home.

"Every day, I love to start the day with a hug, a high-five or a handshake so that they know as soon as they come in that they are welcome,” said Anna Kalliokoski, a fifth grade teacher.

“She does new things that other teachers won't normally do, like she'll play different games to help study with our vocab,” said Gavin Mathews, a student of Kalliokoski’s.

Just down the hall, a group of second-graders are learning how to play the violin.

“There's so much research that shows that the discipline of learning an instrument develops your brain, makes you more focused,” said Cook.

It's a big part of the day for Elli Garcia, whose family moved to North Dakota from Kansas.

“I like reading at at CLC. I like playing the violin. We performed Twinkle, Mississippi Stop-Stop,” said second-grader Elli Garcia.

Catering different lessons for different students.

“We believe that every child is different and every child can succeed, and our job is to put those kids together, put the pieces, the puzzle pieces together,” said Casie Onken, the school's counselor.

Bringing 21st-Century methods to molding young minds.

Principal Cook was recently told she would be representing North Dakota at an annual conference of school administrators in Washington, D.C. later this year.

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