Reflections from an Academy Teacher - Institute for Educational Advancement
academy teacher

Reflections from an Academy Teacher

By Anita Russell, Academy Teacher

There are many things I love about IEA Academy. The most important things to me are the freedoms the program offers its instructors that I did not have at other schools. 

The first freedom I cherish here is the ability to follow up on student interests. This keeps learning relevant and engaging for both the students and the teacher. Where I have taught before there was a curriculum imposed by the administration and the state. The teacher submits syllabi and lesson plans, and observers drop in to make sure they are being followed. Here at IEA, if a student wants to learn about something I hadn’t planned for the day, I can teach it.

For example, while teaching about the Punic Wars, I mentioned that to mark his invasion of Roman territory, Hannibal Barca established the city of Barcelona. A student asked why Barcelona is famous now. There are many possible answers, but I said partly because of the distinctive architecture of Antonio Gaudì. Of course, the class was curious, so I called up some images to project. One was the still unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Famìlia. Another student asked if there was a difference between that cathedral and St. Basil’s in Moscow. The difference is extreme, so I pulled up pictures of the painted onion domes of St. Basil’s and told the story of Czar Ivan the Terrible blinding the architect so that no one else would ever have a cathedral like his. Then we were ready to return to Roman history. A side trip into architecture and Russian history was definitely not in the syllabus, but the class was fascinated.

Another freedom I appreciate is the ability to design different assessments for each class. I don’t have to have a standardized test. I can shape the assessment to the subject and to the students. In “Folklore and Fairy Tales of Many Lands,” students have created a visual or written response or reaction to each story to demonstrate their understanding. In “Create and Rule Your Own Country,” students will display the artifacts (flag, map, currency, etc) they created during the class, then go on a gallery walk to look at other students’ work, writing what they like best about each project.

The trust IEA Academy has in the teachers’ abilities is a breath of fresh air to those of us who have worked with administrations that were more rigid and controlling. And the interest and enthusiasm I see in the students here demonstrate what a wise policy it is!

Does your child want to join a class taught by Anita, or another great Academy teacher? Apply for Spring Academy today!

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