By Deniece Moss, Principal of West Bay Elementary School
“Every student by name and need.” This phrase has been the daily mantra here at West Bay Elementary School since reviving our school in 2015. These are words the teachers, administrators, and staff at our “Small School, with a BIG Heart” do not take lightly. Every single scholar who walks on our campus is seen as more than a student in a classroom; they are our number one priority. At West Bay Elementary you will see rigorous and engaging learning experiences across all grade levels and content areas. However, the most important lessons our teachers provide our students with are those that go beyond the four walls of a classroom.
Mrs. Ezell, our amazing speech pathologist, had these words to say about West Bay Elementary. “West Bay Elementary is an elementary school that functions as one cohesive unit. We may all have different job duties (teacher, para, administration, office staff, custodial, food service, SLP, OT, PT, Guidance, Psychologist, RT, nurse, SRO) but we all work together to meet the needs of each student. Our scholars are not just students, they are “our kids.” We are “the small school with a BIG heart” and everyone sees and feels that when they visit West Bay Elementary. It is a feeling that consumes you when you enter the school. Our climate is welcoming and loving. It is intrinsic and something very special. Our students do not just acquire academics at West Bay Elementary. They acquire academics, love and character trait guidance from those that love them and want the best for them. Our students know that they are loved.”
At West Bay we truly believe in “relationships first, then everything else.” These are words spoken frequently by the teachers and staff here at West Bay Elementary School. Educators must provide students with love, acceptance, and respect before they can teach them any standard or skill. On our campus the number one priority is to make sure students have connections school wide with adults and other students. When students feel valued by their teachers, they are willing to put in the work needed to be successful in the classroom. Our school wide house system, lunch bunches, morning meetings, and teacher led mentoring are just a few ways teachers work to connect with students campus-wide. The focus on relationships extends to faculty as well. There is little faculty turnover each year. This stable school environment can be attributed to positive relationships between administration and faculty. A supportive environment is felt by all at West Bay Elementary.
In 2018 West Bay implemented a school wide HOUSE system to help teach our scholars the importance of good character. Scholars are sorted into one of the four houses: Harmony, Empathy, Courage, and Kindness. When creating our House System, we ensured that our “why” stayed at the forefront of our minds by structuring our Houses based on what was best for scholars. The goals of the House System are to ensure that our school has a small feel, to promote positive relationships and mentoring for students, to promote positive relationships between faculty and students, to give every scholar another caring adult, to instill a sense of pride in being a West Bay scholar and member of a House, and to boost character education.
At West Bay we offer many after school programs/activities for our scholars. Currently we offer the opportunities for our scholars to participate in Chess Club, Chess Club Jr., Lego League, Lego League Jr., FCA Kids Club, FCA Kids Club Jr., Chorus, and Girls on the Run. (Note: some clubs are currently held virtually.)
For more information about West Bay Elementary, located at 14813 School Drive in Panama City Beach, please contact the school at 850.767.1850. We would love the opportunity to meet you and your family and give you a tour of our “Small School with a BIG Heart.”