High-quality charter schools can be exceptional places — not just for students, but also for teachers.
In charter public schools, school teachers, administrators, and board members shape important decisions about working conditions, including the mission, curriculum and instruction, programs and services, schedules, budgeting, and staffing – with the goal of improving educational outcomes for students.
Many of Idaho’s charter schools have been started by teachers, including:
One of the most recent charter schools to open in Idaho is Alturas International Academy. It was created by Michelle Ball, a teacher with more than thirty years of classroom experience. In Alturas’ multi-age classrooms, you will not see students sitting in rows listening to hours of teacher instruction. You will not see worksheets which are meant solely to test students on a teacher’s lecture. You will see engaged students who learn to love knowledge and discovery.
North Idaho STEM Charter Academy in Rathdrum was founded by two teachers. “We started being approached by parents, parents interested in choice for their students,” Colleen Thomson, a teacher and founder of the school said. “The school that we envisioned gives students a different way to learn than what we’ve been doing.” The school is project and inquiry based. “Our mission is to prepare these kids to be successful citizens in a technological age,” Colleen said.
What is it like to teach at a charter school?
Jon Stadtlander, a teacher at Compass Public Charter School in Meridian, ID, talks with Northwest Professional Educators about the value of school choice for education professionals.
What sets your school apart?
I think the culture of our school sets us apart from other schools. It is a joy to work at a school where the teachers and the administration are on the same page. How pleasant it is to come to school each day knowing that we are all on the same team. We will all support each other and motivate each other to keep doing our best for our students and school. Also, the expectations for our students that are set at the beginning of our school year keep the students and the teachers working toward the same goal. The teachers and the students are held to a high standard where the culture of our school is not compromised. Without a great school culture, a school can never be great!
What motivates you as an educator?
The joy on my students’ faces when they understand something so motivates me! I love to give them a task that will stretch them and see them dive into the task and accomplish the task. I also love to see my students grow in their maturity as a person. I love to challenge them to do something great for their community and see them band together and accomplish a project. I believe that those types of projects will stick with them for their rest of their lives. As you can tell, I love to be with my students watching them grow into well-rounded, productive citizens.
What are the misconceptions you face as a charter school educator?
That charter schools get all the “good” kids. At our school, we have a lottery which provides an equal opportunity for any student to be able to come to our school.
How is your school different from other schools you’ve taught in?
Compass has a mission and we all follow that mission. We are all on the same page, the same team. We all are holding our students to a high standard of academics. We are constantly motivating our students to dive into any project or paper that they are working on. Another thing that is different is the culture of our school. I know I mentioned this before, but this can’t be overstated! All teachers at our school must maintain the culture of our school. We must all be holding our students to the expectations that promote our culture. We ask our students to be kind, to show a willingness to include others, to be people of integrity, to be honest, to show respect to fellow students and staff, and to maintain a good attitude. We then honor the choices of our students. If they follow these expectations then they are praised for upholding the culture of our school. If they do not follow these expectations, then their choices are honored and we teachers will go out of our way to help the students address their choices and, hopefully, the students will in the future make better choices that enhance the culture of our great school.
What would you like to tell teachers in other environments about teaching in a charter school?
I believe that teaching in a charter school like Compass Public Charter School is challenging and rewarding! I love the fact that I as a teacher am treated as a professional and held to a high standard. It is excellent to have your administration come to your classroom four to five times a month just to check on how the class is going and to see where she can assist in my growth as a teacher.
It is very rewarding to work here because of the freedom the administration gives me to develop my own curriculum. I appreciate that the standards are given to me and then I can use the curriculum to make sure the standards are met. Another thing that I enjoy is how supportive my fellow teachers and administration are to me. For example, my 8th graders are working on a fundraiser dinner for the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. We are trying to raise $5,000 for the children. All the teachers and administration are on board and support this cause either by donating funds, buying tickets, or donating paper plates so that the success of this dinner is guaranteed!! I work with the best people!
To work at Compass Public Charter School has been a rewarding experience for me. I would not want to work anywhere else!