When someone decides to become a teacher, they already know they’re about to embark on a journey of growth and development. When this teacher is tasked with guiding students through a new educational program, this journey transforms into an innovative experience.
In 2020, 28 trailblazers entered the Minerva Baccalaureate program during its debut year. This is a four-year curriculum available to Academy scholars who wish to elevate their high school education and benefit from an online, collaborative learning environment designed to drive real-world application of academics. We wanted to check in with some of the teachers currently leading these pioneers and gain their perspectives on the program.
Cadi Russell has been teaching the English Fundamentals course as part of the Minerva Baccalaureate program since September 2020.
How are the Minerva Baccalaureate classes you teach different from standard high school classes?
Minerva Baccalaureate courses have been an incredible experience that I am thankful as an educator to be a part of. The classes have an elevated engagement factor that I have not seen in standard high school programs. Students collaborate and challenge each other, all while being part of a higher-level program. The software used, Forum, allows each student to be heard and therefore valued in the classroom. This allows students to learn from each other and to continue to push themselves to reach their highest achievements.
What kind of preparation is needed to be able to facilitate Minerva Baccalaureate classes?
As a Minerva Baccalaureate educator, it is important that I am prepared for my students. The content must be known and reviewed. I find it critical that I am ready to prompt, challenge, and engage with my students during each class session to further their active learning and deepen their academic success. Further preparation for Mbacc is learning and maneuvering through the software Forum. There are many different factors that go into this software, so learning to meaningfully use it during each class ensures that students are engaged in the work and collaborating with their peers.
It is different from other courses because students are actively engaged throughout the live class, therefore having follow-up questions ready to prompt students to dig deeper into the material is beneficial to ensure they are making achievements.
What kinds of activities do you find work well or that students thrive on in an active learning environment?
There are many different aspects of Minerva Baccalaureate that allow students to thrive in an active learning environment, some of which include polls and breakout groups. Polls are answered in class and students are able to see their peers’ responses, which can support productive discussions among students with differing opinions and interpretations of the course content and real-world topics. Group and peer work is essential to successful collaboration, and this is something valued and used often in the Minerva Baccalaureate program.
What is a moment in your Minerva Baccalaureate course that stands out as being active, interdisciplinary, and called students to high-level thinking?
After each synchronous class session, I am proud of what students have accomplished. The Minerva Baccalaureate allows students to be engaged throughout the entire class, and therefore the final product is the mastery of rigorous material while enjoying class with their peers. The tiered questioning in place throughout each class allows students to think critically and in ways they have not before. They are not only dissecting and learning complex material, they are also becoming skillful communicators, researchers, writers, speakers, and more.
What is your favorite thing about teaching Minerva Baccalaureate classes?
My favorite aspects of this program are the students I am fortunate to teach and the Forum environment. The students strive for excellence and take on every challenge. Forum, the software used, is an impressive technology that allows each student to be actively engaged and a valued member of the classroom.
How do Minerva Baccalaureate classes encourage inclusion? How do shy students fare?
Our students are spread throughout the country, and while their histories and backgrounds might be different, these teens show support and encouragement to their peers in each class. They offer praise, emojis, and motivating comments so all students know their worth when speaking and sharing their responses to and opinions about the complex material. At times, students may disagree on a topic, but because of the communication skills they have built, they have learned to productively communicate and offer new ways of thinking to their classmates. The rapport built allows students who are gregarious, shy, and anything in between to feel at ease and comfortable in our classroom.
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