When we talk about our reasons for starting Einstein Academy, we always, inevitably, discuss our own school experiences and how they’ve served as the backdrop for our passion for education and helped us to realize why there is such a need for a school like this.
Sarah attended school in a wealthy public school district in Colorado Springs, CO. With strong standardized test scores, she participated in occasional gifted pull-out programs in elementary school. Otherwise the differentiation she received consisted of extra packets to keep her busy while the other students learned material. Starting in middle school, she was placed in all honors classes and eventually moved into a schedule consisting of all Advanced Placement classes, but she was bored most of the time and had to find her own ways to be engaged. She actively participated in extracurricular activities (tennis, drama, yearbook), in part because that was what was needed in order to achieve the resume that was required for college admissions. Additionally, despite being identified as highly-gifted, her unique social-emotional needs were never addressed, often leaving her feeling alone and misunderstood. At the end of her high school career, Sarah earned distinction as a National Merit Scholar, graduated at the top of her class, and gained admission to some of the most prestigious colleges in the country. By most accounts, she was a success story of the school system, but she went off to college having never been pushed, challenged, or truly engaged in learning and lacking many of the skills that she would need to be successful later (such as knowing how to collaborate).
Mark attended a larger public school some 520 miles away in Topeka, KS. His teachers didn’t make an effort to get to know him and understand how his mind worked, instead writing him off as a kid whose best hope was just to stay out of trouble (which was easier said than done at times). He found himself as the kid in the back of the class who just stayed quiet (sometimes helped by his being asleep due to complete lack of engagement). Now he often jokes that the only thing he learned in his entire k-12 schooling was how to read, but that isn’t far off from the truth as he was allowed to slip through the school system, never being pushed or challenged or encouraged or supported in a way that could have inspired him as a learner. Not finding a place in the academic pieces of school, Mark found a connection through athletics. Through sports, especially football, he felt successful and like he could learn and grow and contribute to a team, but no one ever helped him transfer that process and that thinking to the classroom. At the end of his high school career, Mark hadn’t found success academically, so his options were fairly limited. He did, however, find himself as a learner in college, activating his own intrinsic motivation and desire to succeed.
On the surface, we had very different educational experiences, but taking a deeper look shows that we really suffered from the same problem: a school system that was built to adequately serve the average kid didn’t actually serve either of us because when schools try to meet the needs of kids (as a group), they don’t actually meet the needs of any one child.
When designing Einstein Academy, we understood this. Each child is unique and deserves to be seen and treated that way. Each of our students has a personalized learning profile that looks at strengths and areas of growth, both academically and social-emotionally. It also takes into consideration learning preferences and personal interests, and these learning profiles serve as an important guide for everyone at the school when crafting learning experiences for the students, allowing for personalized attention and differentiated learning. You can get an idea of this on the “sample differentiation for learners” tab when looking at the sample unit on our website.
Ours is a story of two very different students, but no two students are the same because no two children are alike, and that’s what makes them so amazing and that’s what our world needs. By taking this approach, we view each student as an individual without the connotations and pre-conceived notions of labels like "gifted" and "learning resource center," allowing us to see the child behind the labels and meet the needs of that child. We celebrate that uniqueness of the individual by making sure each child is supported and challenged in a way that helps him. We foster that uniqueness of the individual by encouraging individual interests and passions in a way that engages her. We focus on being a school for anyone (each individual child), not everyone (meeting the needs of the predetermined middle).