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That idea of creating a school that truly serves the needs of its students is a major reason why charter schools are such attractive places for great teachers.
“I feel like I am on a mission with 40 or 50 other people to provide a solid education to kids who might not have it otherwise,” says Paul Lewis, a teacher at St. Louis College Prep. “That idea of community, that we are all doing it together has been a really cool experience for me.”
Lewis is not alone in his appreciation for how teaching in a charter school has changed his life.
As we celebrate both National Charter Schools Week and Teacher Appreciation Week CEAM is sharing the voices of teachers from across Missouri who have found freedom, professional satisfaction, and appreciation in a charter school environment.
“Your voice carries more weight in a charter school than in a bigger district school,” says teacher Rebekah Lischwe, who notes that her schools’ longer day allows her to almost double the instructional time she has for math which makes a real impact on her students’ learning.
“Everybody who wants to contribute to something can contribute,” agrees Scott Clithero, one of 32 Missouri 2017-18 Regional Teachers of the Year. “One strength of a charter is they have more flexibility than public school.”
Teachers at Academy Lafayette in Kansas City said they experienced much more student and parent involvement teaching at a charter school than in traditional district schools.
“When I taught in public schools we had problems with behavior, but here the kids are very respectful,” said teacher Madeline Sifadjam, who noted that she had also noticed how much more parents were involved at the charter school. “In the district, I could have a child for three years and never meet a parent. When I come here the parents are very, very involved and supportive so it helps a lot.”
Shelia Rowan, another teacher at Academie Lafayette, said that involvement from both parents and students allowed her to do more creative things in the classroom which leads to more engaged learning.
“There is excitement in the classroom when I tap into their creative juices,” she said.
Teaching at a charter school means the teacher has a real say in how and what they teach, giving them the freedom to craft lessons that inspire learning and motivate students.
“I disliked the bureaucracy in the public school system,” said Mikael Spears, a teacher a Kansas City International Academy who spent 11 years teaching in a traditional district school. “There was a lot of red tape around how to teach and it took the joy and fun out of being an educator.”
“I always had someone over my shoulder saying what I can and cannot do,” agreed Nathan McDowell, a teacher who used to teach in district schools. He said that changed when he moved to Scuola Vita Nuova Charter School this year. “They allow me to be me and have that close connection to the kids.”
“I feel like a first-year teacher again,” Spears agreed. “I feel the joy of educating. This is the first time in my career that I’ve been able to wake up and really feel excited about going to school. If you are with a public school system and you feel like you’re being micromanaged, like you’re being put inside of a box and you feel like you’re not able to express yourself through your technique or through your craft then this is the perfect place to come and be yourself and have fun at your job.”
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