By Courtney Dickinson

We are pilot-testing a 9th & 10th high school classroom next school year! We have hired a phenomenal teacher and have a growing group of 9th and 10th grade students who have enrolled as our founding class! 

The goal is to extend Acera’s emphasis on high-engagement learning and individualized learning pathways into the high school age range. Why? Acera students consistently transition into a wide array of high schools and succeed, but often they really miss the voice they have in their learning pathway at Acera, and the chance to truly initiate projects and initiatives without bounds and with support. They also miss the creative, divergent thinking and systems thinking approach steeped into the way students learn, create, and initiate at our school. Our approach results in a deep sense of purpose which taps intrinsic drive.  

Acera’s high school program is part of an Upper School which includes middle school and high school students.   Because this small class group is tethered to the rest of our program, 9th and 10th graders will have a depth of specialist teachers, rich electives, and a continued sense of belonging and connectedness within the Acera community.  

Program Components:  

  • Core Classroom teacher designs and facilitates the learning goals, experiences, and discussions for each student and the larger high school community, assuring students have voice in their individual and collective learning paths. 
  • Extend Acera’s Passion Projects program into high school, a time when students are even more capable to grow their agency and impact in real and authentic ways.
  • Set the stage for college with low stress, long term planning to support each student’s future focus.
  • Participate in ability-based math program, in which a student’s math placement is based on readiness rather than age. Acera Upper School Program already offers high school level math classes, and – as always – we can grow class offerings to fit our students’ needs.   
  • Access to organization and writing coaching and counseling staff.
  • Leadership opportunities as the “elders” of Acera School, empowered to initiate and lead new student clubs, teams, and social service projects. 

Leading our pilot year of Acera High School is Jamie Schefen, MAT. Jamie is amazing! In addition to her teaching masters degree from Columbia University and a BA from Northeastern, Jamie has experience as a high school teacher (A.P. LIterature and Composition, History, Sociology, Filmmaking, and Psychology), a department leader, a college counselor, and a student clubs moderator.    

She also has extensive experience leading – and inventing! – simulation-based learning, which is one of the most powerful ways to enable perspective taking, systems awareness, and deep understanding. Jamie’s philosophy is a perfect fit with Acera, extending our mission in high school.  Here is a peek… 

I share Acera’s passion for creating inquiry-based learning opportunities and safeguarding the deep intellectual curiosity that becomes vulnerable as children enter middle and high school. 

Part of what has drawn me to teach such a wide range of subjects, besides my own intellectual curiosity, is that I believe too often educators create imaginary lines around the disciplines that can become restrictive to students. Real and authentic learning happens across disciplines. This is why I’ve always brought design into my history courses, film into my English courses, or literature into sociology. I absolutely love the projected schedule for Acera’s high school, as it creates opportunities for students to deepen their own intellect at the intersections of their interest, rather than being forced into a box.

Honoring intellectual curiosity is exactly what some Acera Alumni miss when they go to other high schools. We are thrilled Jamie is joining Acera full time next year!  

 

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