Growing up, I loved school. I was a social kid who loved interacting with my friends in class, at lunch, and at recess. School itself I could take or leave. When most of your days consist of direct instruction, worksheet, rinse and repeat, you tend to learn to just turn in your work and hope for the best. Even in elementary school.
That all changed when I took a leap of faith to go to the Downtown Law, Public & Social Service Magnet High School. Downtown was a magnet high school for juniors and seniors located in Wichita’s City Hall. Our school was a project based high school where we were asked to dig in and learn by doing. We were also provided mentors in our areas of interest to help us learn about the real world while interning at their place of business.
To say the transition between my traditional high school and Downtown was life changing would not be an exaggeration.
When you go from the traditional classroom to one where you are solving real world problems, there is a major shift from being spoon-fed knowledge to having to work for every morsel of information. I was no longer just going through the motions of school. I was fully immersed and an active participant in my learning for the first time in my life.
As an educator, I know there is power in direct instruction. I know that sometimes a worksheet is appropriate. But, I also know that there is nothing more powerful than letting kids dig in and discover. I know that giving them ownership of their education gives them so much more buy-in to what you are asking them to learn.
I lead because I hope to influence teachers to think outside the box. I hope that we can give students opportunities to take their learning to the next level. I want to make it the norm that we give students real world problems that they have to solve in creative ways by researching and creating. I want my students to have the same excitement I did when I went to the magnet school.
Finally, I lead because I want my own children to have the opportunity to learn the way I did. Problem and project based learning isn’t just a concept for me; it’s a mission.
Principal of PreK-6th Grade