Zion-Benton Township High School has long been the only high school within District 126. As of 2008, the population of the township, and also the district, had been growing at a rate that the district found difficult to keep up with at the existing campus. Since the district still owned property over at the Pearce Campus, discussions ensued to reopen Pearce West again to accomodate the growing number of students. The question still remained, however, on how to best utilize the space.
After doing research into best practices of education, it was determined that a small independent school within the district could best serve the students of the township. After researching best implementation methods, the Board of Education, administrators, and staff made a decision to work with the New Tech Network to design a project-based school, one that would bring 21st century skills to Zion students as well as the academics required for students to move on to be college and career ready.
The old Pearce West building was gutted and rebuilt with 21st century learning at the core. Classrooms would not be isolated from each other; they would have windows into the hallways and movable walls so that they could open up and classes could join together. There would not be rows of desks with the teacher standing behind a podium, but tables and chairs that could move as the projects required. This campus would not be just a mirror of the old campus that had stood here before, but incorporated with new computers and technology so that students could incorporate the latest computer learning tools into their everyday instruction. In the fall of 2008, New Tech High @ Zion-Benton East opened for the first time to 104 students.
Ms. Anne Buck, the NT@ZB Principal from 2008-2015, opened the building as the principal of NT@ZB with high expectations for students. Their graduation requirements were high, their options were many, and the building was new. Many questions were answered, and even more were asked about where this school would be heading over the next four years.
Each school year, a new class was added, and over time a guidance counselor, an assistant principal, and new teachers were added to fill the school's complement of faculty and staff. The 2011-2012 school year saw, for the first time, a full building of students at all four grade levels. The Class of 2012 graduated 64 students that had come in together, worked on projects together, developed new rubrics together, and relied on each other to help complete their path towards graduation.
The history of NT@ZB is still being written. While we graduated our first class in the spring of 2012, we look forward to graduating many more. Some students and teachers have moved on as their lives changed, and new ones come in to fill their shoes. However, as we develop and grow, New Tech High continues to develop its identity within the larger structure of District 126, the Zion-Benton community, and the New Tech Network.