With so much attention these days on charter schools, I wanted to share my story and the story of my school. I wanted to let you know what makes my school special, and why I love teaching there.
I’m a teacher at North Star Montessori Academy, a charter school in Marquette. I graduated from Northern Michigan University, and this is my 15th year in teaching and my ninth year at North Star.
I was one of those kids who always loved school. I loved learning and had some really great teachers throughout my childhood. I liked that teachers could leave a lasting imprint on their students. I always saw teaching as a valuable contribution to the world, so I decided on that as my career.
North Star Montessori Academy has been an ever-evolving place since I started teaching here nine years ago. Back then, we looked at ourselves mainly as project-based and with a strong, safe community but struggled a bit to find our identity.
In the past five years, we’ve evolved into a Montessori-based school, but those core values haven’t changed. We’ve always been a place that allows our students to be who they are. Our students accept one another and there is a feeling of safety, kindness, and community. We meet our students where they are and move them forward academically and socially with respect for the needs of each individual student whether they are in pre-school or high school.
We’re also unique in that we’re the only Montessori school in Upper Michigan. In a place where traditional education has been prevalent, I feel like we are breaking that mold and looking at education in a new light!
I love teaching at North Star Montessori Academy because, for me, the Montessori method takes so much of the stress out of teaching. For one, I get to work with a grade-level team that includes two lead and two assistant teachers. There is always someone to bounce ideas off, someone to step in when you need a break, and someone to laugh with and share all of the funny things that happen when you teach elementary school!
Montessori also takes away the burden of constantly trying to figure out how to differentiate lessons. Because all of my students are working on their own individual plans, they can work at their challenge level all of the time rather than either becoming lost and frustrated or becoming bored because it’s too easy.
Today I had one student learning cursive, one adding single-digit numbers, one building words, one working on isolating middle sounds, and one using the decimal system to show understanding of place value in the thousands. There is a constant flow of different things happening at once, but all under the overarching theme that everyone’s work is important and to be respected. I think there’s a lot of pride in everything they do because we collaborate rather than compete.
I find that in a Montessori classroom, the behavior issues are much fewer. Everyone is busy, included, and appropriately challenged at all times. Kids who need to move, and have ways to do so in a positive way. The classrooms are mellow and quiet most of the time. We work hard to make sure our classrooms are a place of peace.
I love teaching in a charter school because while we still are responsible for following the Common Core standards and preparing our students for state testing, we are free to do this in the ways that we see fit. This changes every year depending on the kids and the dynamics of the group. This makes me think outside of the box at all times and I’m constantly changing and adapting my curriculum. If I was given a reading series or scripted lessons, I would be bored and my job wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable.
What I enjoy most about my job at North Star Montessori Academy is that I love that I get to keep many of my students from age 3 until the end of kindergarten. They come to us as little more than toddlers, and leave as confident, independent, polite, and thriving almost-first graders. I get to know my families inside and out and build relationships that are more connected than many teacher-family relationships.
That’s what makes my charter school special, and that’s why I love teaching there.
Adrian Francisco is a teacher at North Star Montessori Academy in Marquette.