Michelle Edwards is the founder of ARCHES Academy. It’s her vision and hard work that brought our free K-8 public charter school into fruition. Read on to experience, in Michelle’s own words, how she came to see the need for a different type of school -- one that supports every type of learner. Michelle’s educational best practice influences may surprise you. And last but not least, check out her goals for the years ahead.
“I think I have always been an educator. Some of my earliest memories are of playing school with the other kids in the neighborhood. In elementary school I was tagged by teachers to help tutor young non-readers and help them learn to read. I think they invented the program for me and a couple of other girls who were bored in our classrooms. In high school, I had my own tutoring business, even tutoring kids in higher grades than myself.
At first, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but every teacher I told said they thought I'd be a great teacher. So, when I realized how much time away from family many lawyers spend, I took their advice and started working towards a teaching degree.
The degree didn't happen for me right away. I didn't have money to complete my degree on my own. But I did start teaching in preschools and I learned a lot from that about the way children learn. I spent hours and hours in the library reading every book I could find about teaching young people. I worked about every position there was in the preschool/daycare world, including becoming a preschool director/administrator.
From there I moved into teaching at Head Start where they had tuition reimbursement programs and I went back to school. I completed my Associate's degree and started my Bachelor's at the same time through them.
As a mom during this time, I was watching my kids struggle with school even though they were very bright. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to find teachers or administrators that were willing to make even minor adjustments in order to help my struggling kiddos. I knew there had to be a better way and I started researching the best ways to teach and reach kids that didn't do well with "traditional" learning models. Some of this was part of my degree, but I soon realized that teacher degree programs did not always teach about best practices or helping ALL children.
While still finishing my Bachelor's, I started teaching kindergarten at a charter school. It was there I became a "highly qualified" teacher by passing both teacher certification tests for early childhood and elementary ed. Within 3 years, with encouragement from co-workers and friends, I started a Masters program for Leadership in School Administration P-12 and completed that about 3 years later. At this same time, I was also writing the charter for ARCHES Academy!
I always loved being able to help people and make a real difference. I intuitively understood how important education was and I could tell that so many were not getting what they needed. I felt the need to find a way to help.
As a mother and teacher I could see how many students were being left behind by traditional education. There was such a need and no one seemed interested in meeting it. I became very frustrated by systems that kept me trapped in the "old" ways of doing things and not letting me do what I felt was needed to really help the kiddos that were struggling.
During this time, I was also a Boy Scout leader and I always loved how Scouting taught boys using hands-on methods and used encouragement that was meaningful to them. One day I was reading a book about educational systems and the author made reference to Scouting as an educational system and it occurred to me that we could model a school after those methods. That's when ARCHES was born.
ARCHES Academy core values closely mirror my own. Besides the obvious education, my core values include: love, service, individuality, choice, hard work, flexibility, determination, perseverance, and patriotism.
As the team at ARCHES Academy moves into next year and the future, our goals include to continue providing an excellent education and meeting high standards as we grow in number of students and staff, and to provide more of the systems that families need such as transportation, free & reduced price meals, summer school, after school clubs and tutoring, etc.
In our fourth year (2022-2023), we also would like to add high school grades so that our students can transition upward with us throughout their school careers and continue with our innovative educational model preparing them for college and life beyond school.
Thanks Michelle! Only you could tell us the amazing journey that brought our fantastic tuition-free charter school ARCHES Academy into existence. ARCHES Academy supports learners in grades K-8. Enrolling now!
Our commitment is to help each K-8 learner achieve mastery of the standards by use of authentic learning experiences, coaching and mentoring, freedom of choice, and personal responsibility. At ARCHES Academy, our educational approach produces outstanding individuals who not only have acquired exceptional literacy in the arts and sciences, but mastery over self and true leadership ability. ARCHES is growing! Enrolling K-8 tuition-free today!
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