A Note from the Director
I want to start by saying that I am so excited for The ChangeMaker Academy. I have been in education for 15 years, most of which has been spent in the high school English classroom. I feel at home surrounded by Shakespeare posters and small groups of teenagers reading The Catcher in the Rye. I became an English teacher because I knew that I could use literature to empower students, to help them see the complexities of human nature and their own role within their community and beyond. I think most teachers begin with these kinds of lofty goals: “my content area will make their lives better.” Truly, teachers become teachers because the work of the classroom can make change in the world, but the reality of schedules and testing and competing needs can overshadow our true goals. Enter The ChangeMaker Academy! This program takes all the best things the high school offers and capitalizes on them all, so that students are in the driver’s seat of the best educational opportunities. Students in The ChangeMaker Academy get everything any student in our high school can get, just better. Let me explain:
Interdisciplinary Work Layers Knowledge
All high school students do cool projects throughout their four years. There are awesome teachers in every content area that want students to have fun with the subject area, whether it be by writing a story, creating a video, or recording a podcast. But there’s power in combining these endeavors. Imagine the lesson a history teacher and a chemistry teacher would create together on the Manhattan Project. Or the campaign on local energy efficiencies that an English and math teacher could build.
Content Knowledge + Soft Skills = Power
We have bundled the core classes, so that we maximize learning and have the opportunities for relevant, hands-on projects. Therefore, the development of soft-skills, such as leadership, collaboration, and problem-solving, becomes just as important as the content knowledge. This is a huge shift from the traditional high school experience, where the content comes first. In a typical group project, the teacher cares mostly about how well the group learns the content, and if the group dynamic is good, then that’s a bonus. But in this new design of the day, where teachers have up to four hours to work with the group, we can design for content and interpersonal skills. We have all been in a group where one student will do all the work, while the others sit back. We will teach students to manage this situation.
The Whole Person
When teachers have the luxury of planning for content and personal development, we create a culture that considers the whole student. We can guide a student to becomes a leader, for instance, whether that means public leadership opportunities (president of student government or captain of their team) or more private leadership decisions (by simply making the right choices).
I’m thrilled to be taking this journey with a great group of students (and some really awesome teachers)! I hope that you will encourage your rising freshman to join us. -- Ms. McHugh