A Journey to a Teacher-Powered School

As Joe Nathan writes in his April 14, 2014 blogpost in Education Week, “Opportunities to create new, innovative public schools should be available to district educators” (and not just charter school educators, I would add). That’s what legislation pending before the Minnesota legislature would encourage.

To illustrate why, Nathan shares this story of Dawn Clawson, formerly a St. Paul district school teacher, who embarked on a journey that has likely been replicated by others. She came to teaching as a second career after working for 22 years in hospital and research laboratories. Here are her words:

“I moved from a small parochial school to a large urban public high school and tried to make some changes in my classrooms while still working within a very traditional framework. It was not easy to introduce changes that were substantial enough to make any real difference. When a colleague told me of his dreams of a program that would take the students out of the building to do some of their learning in the natural world, I eagerly embraced the vision and worked to make it a reality.  . . .

“Initially we hoped that the program could be established within the district, but after two years of working with the administrators, we realized that if our vision had any chance of success we would have to take it outside of the district and establish our program as a public charter school. Only by doing that could we ensure school-wide implementation of our approach, be in our own specially-designed space, and be able to depend on our specially-trained staff remaining with us and not getting re-allocated elsewhere within the district. So that is what we did and River’s Edge Academy  has now been in operation for five years.

“By starting this charter school we have attained our goal and have seen how changing the approach to teaching and learning has made a great difference in the lives of many students and their families.”

My comment: Let’s not forget the great difference it made in the lives of teachers!