Charter schools are an alternative public education environment that many school districts have taken advantage of. The Weber
State University Charter Academy is the first of its kind, meaning it’s the first charter academy to be authorized by an institute of higher education in Utah. The new academy will open with a kindergarten taught by a master teacher and studied by pre-service teaching students in fall of 2013.
A new classroom for the academy is currently under construction and is scheduled to be finished by April 15, furniture and inspection complete by July 1. The classroom will feature an observation window where teachers and parents can observe and formulate lesson plans that fulfill the goals and mission of the academy.
“We’re very much a ‘learn it, do it’ institution, Weber State in general,” said Stephanie Heath, recruiter for the Moyes College of Education. “And so, for education, it’s going to be a really good lab environment.”
Heath said the mission of the new academy is to provide an educational learning center with an emphasis on student learning and family environment. So the families of the students being taught will have a high level of involvement with the methods used at the academy. According to the mission statement on the academy’s website, pre-service teachers may observe and practice state-of-the art, research-based educational practices. The pre-service teachers, who are WSU students, will utilize the classroom as a lab environment where they can conduct research.
Chloe Merrill, associate dean and professor in the College of Education, said there are three ways a charter school can be authorized: through a school district, through the state charter school board, and through an institute of higher education. Prior to the WSU Charter Academy, all other charter schools in the state were authorized by various school districts or through the school board.
Merrill said the charter academy has three basic goals to meet: student education, pre-service teacher preparation and research.
“The first goal is to really look at the whole child, along with the child’s family, to be able to educate the whole child and bring the family along,” Merrill said. “The second is to service pre-service teachers, which would be our students here at Weber State . . . and the third one is for research.”
Heath expressed the importance of teaching the whole child and taking a look at education through a holistic lens. She explained the difference between a normal public education setting and a charter academy learning environment.
“It’s kind of what we do here. When you look at somebody through a holistic way, you can’t help but transform that person, and you can’t help (but), as a teacher, be transformed yourself when you go through.”
The WSU Charter Academy will provide an applied learning environment for students. Heath said the charter academy will make a positive impression on children by approaching their differences through the idea of flexibility.
“I think it’s a philosophy of education,” said Carol VandeAkker, the acting business administrator for the academy, “because so many teachers, when you ask them, ‘What do you teach?’, they will give you a subject instead of ‘I teach students.’”
The charter academy is an open-enrollment kindergarten program with room for 20 morning students and 20 afternoon students.
“We’ve already received more than enough applications to fill it,” Heath said.
A lottery will be held March 14 at 7 p.m. in the ballrooms of the Shepherd Union Building, due to the excessive amount of applicants. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 28.
“We want to change your life forever,” Merrill said.