I became an educator after leaving the Air Force. I taught AP classes at a public school before becoming the Academic Dean at Crossings Christian School and then moving to the SNU Lab School in Bethany, where I currently serve as superintendent.
The SNU Lab School is a fully accredited, private Christian school that serves pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. We are unique for several reasons; for 50 years, we have served as a Laboratory school for Southern Nazarene University’s education majors. This time-tested approach equips future teachers with real-world training on how to apply current research and best practices in our classrooms from master-level educators.
We also focus heavily on creating hands-on learning experiences through project-based learning. For example, when we teach thematic units like Ancient Rome, middle schoolers learn to apply a design thinking approach as they learn. One small group project involved selecting an area of the content covered. One group focused on restoring the colosseum ruins; another expressed an interest in the city aqueducts. They began by studying their site, sketching a design, then building a rapid prototype with cardboard and duct tape. The finished design was then transferred into 3D software to print a sophisticated and realistic 3D model.
Additionally, we are a multi-grade school, aligning with language development research produced by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) consortium. Our “team teaching” approach enables first and second graders to learn together in one division; our third through fifth graders are together, and our middle school students are all together. This helps students develop their interpersonal and collaboration skills as they work together and support each other. It’s beautiful to see older kids take responsibility for caring for and sharing what they know with their younger peers. This active learning environment also allows our teacher teams to guide instruction, help students regulate their emotions, and improve their social skills, which are skills best learned through experience, not lectures and worksheets.
SNU Lab School has grown by nearly 50 percent in recent years, and part of that has been our adoption of the state’s Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program. LNH is a state-backed scholarship that helps parents of kids with special needs pay for private school tuition. We have kids in our classrooms who used LNH to leave public school settings that weren’t working for them, and the SNU Lab School has profoundly changed their lives and love of learning.
SNU Lab School is uniquely different from many other schools, which is one of the things I think is most important about school choice. We need diverse school options that meet every student’s wide range of needs. Imagine two rural public schools, where one has a great STEM program, and the other is strong in fine arts. Parents should get to choose which fit is best for their child. It’s also not a bad thing that larger areas have more options. In both cases, a zip code should not determine where and how a child is educated; it should be the parent’s choice.