We are fortunate to live in a town where school choice exists.
The elementary, middle and high schools provide an excellent education for most. They offer a wide array of intramural, enrichment and club opportunities, not to mention our world-class music program.
However, there are always students who benefit from smaller learning environments. I was one of those students.
High school was a tough time for me. I was disinterested, unmotivated, detached from school. By the end of 10th grade, I knew I needed a change.
I’d heard of the Alternative Program (now the Delta Program). It had smaller class sizes and greater flexibility in course selection.
I was interested, and many of my friends were interested, but most of their parents said no.
So, I took a leap of faith and enrolled at Delta.
I was thrust into a new world where the idea of school and my definition of learning would be forever changed.
In all honesty, I would have been happy to continue laying low, sailing through my final years unnoticed. But I was immediately caught up in in the Delta community.
Despite my teenage angst and stubborn protests, I actually began to enjoy some of my classes. Even math, my most dreaded subject, became interesting.
Reflecting on my time at Delta, I feel it was the small environment that really made the difference.
I had great teachers at the high school and at Delta. Many of my friends remained at the high school and had a wonderful experience right through graduation. But I needed a smaller environment, and Delta was the answer.
Another interesting thing happened.
I broadened my network of friends. Kids I wouldn’t normally have hung out with were laughing next to me as we walked downtown.
I don’t think I ever admitted it to my parents or friends, but for the first time since third grade, I liked going to school.
Without Delta’s flexible curriculum and small community, I don’t know that I would have been ready for college. In two years, it reshaped my idea of school and learning. I’ve often thought about how my development might have been affected had I attended Delta from a younger age.
Today I’m a teacher.
I’ve moved around quite a bit in my 16 years, trying to find the flexibility and freedom I crave as an educator.
In January, I learned that Delta would expand to include fifth through eighth grades. I seriously got chills. Why hadn’t this happened sooner? I thought of all the kids I’d taught who would have benefited from a middle-level Delta program.
I am fortunate to have been hired as the first middle-level Delta teacher. I’m looking forward to collaborating with administrators, parents, students and staff to cultivate a community of innovative learners.
Though we have much work ahead, we are not starting from scratch; Delta has a strong, 40-year history of success. I realize the middle-level program will look different, but the principles will remain.
Building community and empowering student voice, parent involvement and hands-on learning will be core components. I can’t wait to get started.