Growing up, I was always the kid that everyone knew they could bring their kids to. I always loved kids and when I was a teenager, I was a babysitter. I started working in preschools as I got older and later decided to go to college, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do for my career.
Once I had my baby, I realized that I wanted to be a teacher. I imagined getting out of school around the same time and having summers off where we could spend our breaks together. I had all these dreams and decided to pursue my master’s degree in school counseling.
It was in my counseling field that I noticed I always spoke with special needs students. So, I decided to get certified in special education guidance and counseling from 6-12th grade. Later, I got certified for the same thing for grades K-5, because I love working with kids of all ages.
I loved teaching and counseling in schools, but my son was not doing well in school environments. At the age of two, he was apprehensive when I dropped him off from preschool; I figured he would grow out of it.
However, at the ages of three and four, he hated school. It was serious. He had big emotions surrounding school; he was serious when he said he hated school. For him it felt like he was going to die if he had to go to school every day, it was not just school anxiety.
Since I have an educational background, I decided to homeschool him. Soon after other parents began asking me to educate their children or just have them in a class here or there. I started doing that, and it blossomed into what we have today called Kind Academy!
This journey to create a school really started in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2016 that we officially founded the school. We decided to approach education through engagement in nature and community building.
I have three boys, which anyone knows can create a wild and crazy house. I found that it was better to take my boys outside for most of the day. When kids are outside, they can play and make a mess and I don’t have to stress out about it.
That method worked not only for my boys but for my special ed students as well. When we went outside to learn instead of trapping them in a classroom, they were more engaged. Of course, they were a little distracted by the playground, but they were more creative and even focused than in the classroom.
It just made sense to take teaching outside and we basically became a nature school. We are the first nature school in Broward County, Florida. The kids who go through the program end up loving nature and want to protect it later in their lives as well. We try to integrate sensory experiences, community building, art, and decolonized learning into our curriculum.
Like any other school or business, we have faced challenges. Honestly, I wish I could run our program for free, but the truth is we have to pay for resources and teachers. It is hard to deal with the money aspect of it when all you want to do is be a teacher. I also had to adjust to the energy and time consumption of being an administrator. As an administrator, I must deal with situations that I would never have to as a teacher. I must buy supplies, and buildings, and pay my teachers.
There was a time when I thought an educator shouldn’t make that much money. Now, I wholeheartedly disagree. I think that our teachers need to be valued not just with words, but financially. Despite any hardships, we face I don’t regret any of this. What started as a community I built for my children, has turned into something more. I have families that cry and tell me that they had no idea what they were going to do before they found our school.
My ultimate hope for our students is for them to be happy. I recently taught an entrepreneurship class for the first time; it was exciting but nerve-wracking. The kids came up with so many amazing ideas of things they want to do, and I realized that nobody ever really asked them about their ideas.
Often kids are told what they need to do: “Pass math and if you can’t then you won’t be successful!” I hope that they are able to get through hard times and do their very best as well. However, I really hope when they grow up, they find a way to be happy with themselves no matter what they choose to do.
It’s common knowledge that the traditional public system doesn’t work for all students. I would argue that a minimum of 20% of students are not thriving in these settings. Especially after the pandemic a lot of parents realized watching their kids learn at home what was working and what wasn’t.
This is even more so the case for families of color. When I think of people of color, I think George Floyd changed our mindsets regarding what we wanted our children to learn about. That’s why such a big part of our curriculum focuses on black history and decolonizing education. It is very difficult to decolonize education in a regular public school. Black students deserve a curriculum that says, “This is your greatness too.”
It is also very important to create an environment where our children have teachers that not only look like them but can understand them in ways others cannot. I have often heard from my white students or parents that they have never had a black teacher. It is also important that white students associate black people with important positions.
For people who are thinking about founding their own schools, I say do it! The first step is just getting your idea out there and asking somebody questions. If they need any help I encourage them to book a call with me through our website and I will help them through the steps. It’s difficult to be vulnerable, but don’t be afraid to ask people that are willing to guide you.
Often people attack school choice by saying it’s stealing money from public schools or that it is racist. I wish that the public schools that are serving our kids weren’t racist. If the public schools weren’t racist, then I would not need a choice.
The schools that most of our parents and students want to go to are normally predominantly white schools. The students and parents want to send their kids there because they have high test scores; that’s not a bad thing necessarily. The problem is that the schools that they are zoned to don’t do well enough for the students to want to go there.
Unfortunately, the public schools are not serving all of our students in the way they need to be. So, until that happens, I believe the money for education should follow the child wherever they go. I believe that whatever the best decision is for the child should be in the hands of the parents. Generally speaking, parents normally want what is best for their child; if the best choice is a public school or a private school then that is the right choice for them.