Succeeding in Bethel’s Cambridge Assessment International Education Program is no easy feat. The unique program, which is part of the prestigious University of Cambridge in England, is one of the most demanding and rigorous college preparatory programs in the world.
Those who successfully navigate Cambridge will earn an Advanced International Certificate of Education Diploma. Those rare individuals who go above and beyond the program’s already lofty academic standards can earn honors from Cambridge University itself.
This year four members of Bethel’s Cambridge Program — three current students and one graduate — were recognized with Cambridge honors. Josie Boyles earned an Award of Merit, while William Pickernell, Elizabeth Perry and current Seattle University student Angelo Alfonso earned Awards of Scholar.
Nancy Potter, the Cambridge School Development Manager for West North America, said she was particularly impressed that Bethel students found so much success during a global pandemic that took them out of the classroom.
“Undaunted by the confounding crisis, Bethel’s students continued learning, motivated by caring teachers who adapted lessons, without sacrificing content or skill development,” Potter said.
To put this honor into perspective, Bethel students were awarded more than 17 percent of the total A* grades for one class — Global Perspectives and Research — in the entire United States, according to Potter.
Chris Reykdal, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, took notice of the achievement and congratulated the students on their hard work.
“Congratulations to each of our students whose high academic achievement earned them recognition from Cambridge International,” Reykdal said. “Despite challenges presented by the pandemic and the transition to remote learning last spring, you persisted and still outperformed your peers across the nation, especially in science and math. Good luck on your next step; we are proud of you.”
Jim Sawatzki, who teaches Global Perspectives and Research, said working with the Cambridge program has been a highlight of his 37-year career in Bethel.
“The course realizes a perfect balance of international standards and assessment, academic freedom for the instructor and student choice of areas of investigation,” he said. “The district’s continued support of this innovative educational pathway, reveals its continuing commitment to establish and deliver a world-class education to all students willing to achieve one.”
Sawatzki is retiring at the end of the school year, and his students and coworkers were quick to sing his praises.
Josie Boyles said Sawatski’s course was the most fun she’s had in the program.
“He has a lot of energy, and it really helps because a lot of that class is self-study oriented,” she said. “It can be really easy to lose energy throughout the class, but Sawatski is very good at refocusing energy and he gives really good advice about what to research. He just makes the class so much better.”
Katie Schultz-Wetherington, Bethel’s Cambridge Coordinator, said Sawatzki’s hard work has ensured that the program will be on good footing for years to come.
“Jim Sawatzki’s work as one of the core team of teachers to establish the program has been invaluable,” she said. “To have a group of experienced teachers create the academic expectations and support systems has made all the difference.”