On the final day of the Graduate Program Teaching Practicum experience at Journeys School, I took a walk through the various levels to take a final look at the products of graduate student presence and effort to guide meaningful learning experiences. I observed motivated students, some previously reluctant, working side by side incredibly focused on precision of scale within an International Baccalaureate art typography project. The crafted letters were striking, impressive. I then ran down campus to join pre-kindergarten students sorting various metals based on properties such as magnetism, while in another corner others let their imagination soar with audible ribbits and roars of tree frogs and jaguars within a student-constructed jungle, complete with a textured tree trunk and handmade leaves hanging from a painted canopy. Back up to the middle school and high school, I sneaked into the back of a classroom where eighth grade students presented a culminating global needs project. Teachers stepped back, as students asked each other challenging higher-level questions within discussions on the struggle for water resources between farmers and miners in Australia or the impact of controlling oil resources in Sudan.

When I first introduced the four pillars of Journeys School: Academic Excellence, Extraordinary Relationships, Place-Based Education, and Global Citizenship, as well as the purpose of integrating ecology, culture and community to ensure academic excellence and personal success for Pre-K through 12th grade students in a college preparatory, independent school setting, graduate students paused, processing its significance in reflection upon all our discussions about the current status of education in America. Then, a “grad” sincerely asked, “How can such a vision of a school be implemented?” And on that final day, I witnessed graduate students doing just that, directly contributing to the implementation of a very real vision, a vision that sets Journeys School as the standard of innovative schools across the country.

To culminate the Teaching Practicum, graduate students shared their personal “Ideal School” projects over a celebratory meal. The purpose of the project was to synthesize learning within the multi-faceted experience at Journeys School. Over the five weeks, graduate students explored innovative schools around the country, interviewed educational leaders, engaged current literature on educational reform and taught under the mentorship of Journeys School Faculty. Graduate students connected all that they had learned to articulate a comprehensive vision of what their schools would be. Not only did they describe discrete components such as assessment and curriculum, graduate students shared passionately statements of purpose such as my school will “foster awareness and understanding within individuals through connections formed locally and globally in order to contribute to the enrichment of society and the health of the systems that sustain life.” Time and again graduate students expressed the significant impact that the Journeys School faculty, students, culture and environment had on their personal beliefs on education. Graduates quoted statements made just in passing by faculty, described the ideal physical environment modeled from Journeys School, shared philosophies inspired by Reggio Emilia and place-based education, and spoke of developing character of the student body similar to what they observed at Journeys School. The evening was absolutely inspiring. I was not only proud of their engagement and sincerity to envision school on a personal level, but I was also reaffirmed my belief in the value of the efforts that each Journeys School faculty member puts in on a daily basis. The teachers serving Journeys School carry the vision of what education can be. They work to make each learning experience for students meaningful in hope to achieve that vision.

Yesterday, I packed up my temporary office to bring back to the Kelly Campus and walked down the Coyote Canyon proud to be a part of the entire Teton Science Schools community, proud of the vision that we, graduate students, Journeys School faculty, students, and parents strive to realize.