For Mari Luce Fernández, the decision to send her two daughters—ages 11 and 7—to Monarch Academy was based on several factors.
First, I was drawn to the innovative and refreshing approach to learning that broke away from the one-size-fits-all traditional model, Monarch Academy is more student-centered, offers more project-based learning, and is more adaptable in working with each individual student. The expeditionary learning model was in tune with my philosophy of active, hands-on and in-the-field learning.
Secondly, the school offered a rich learning environment—from well-appointed, clean, safe premises to good material and human resources. This environment promised to maximize the positive experience my daughters would have. I liked that the classrooms didn’t have the traditional school desks; rather the classrooms contained tables that would encourage team work and better social interactions.
I’ve been delighted with the responsiveness of the Monarch staff, especially my daughters’ teachers. They have a willingness to genuinely listen and/or deal with any issues I may have as a parent and do so in a timely and eager fashion. I like that the student is usually included in parent-teacher communication and that classrooms are always open to parents.
I have observed social and skills improvements in both my daughters. The teachers thoughtfully combine the right amount of pushing necessary for growth and progress in the students; they provide good exposure and instruction on new subjects without the rigidity or strictness that may turn students off from such subject. By starting where the child is and working forward from that point, Monarch offers more of an individualized curriculum approach.
As a result of attending Monarch Academy, our youngest daughter has come out of her shell—being less shy and demonstrating improved social participation. We have also seen a healthy self-confidence develop in both girls. One of the reasons for this growth is their involvement in school projects and activities such as performing music in front of an audience; this experience was then topped by great words of encouragement and recognition by their wonderful music teacher. My daughters like their teachers very much, and we believe that’s key in developing a good attitude towards school and learning in general.
What is a Charter School?
Monarch Academy now has two charter schools, one in Anne Arundel County and one in Baltimore City, that are independent, tuition free, and open to all students in the county. Parents can choose to enroll their child in a charter school without paying the cost of a private school or having their child undergo the screening requirements of a magnet school. Like all charter schools, Monarch Academy follows the local school system curriculum requirements, but Monarch operates and treats parents and students with the personalized attention of a private school.
"A charter school is all about democracy, social justice, community, economic development and innovation," said Ross. "The one-size-fits-all philosophy does not apply to education. If you are not satisfied with your local school system or can't afford private school, a charter school provides parents and students with an individualized option within public education."
School Model with a Proven Track Record
Monarch Academy's academic model has a proven track record. Monarch Academy partnered with Expeditionary Learning Schools, a national network serving 150 schools. The Expeditionary Learning Schools (ELS) model supports students' achievement and engagement through active learning, character development and teamwork. At Monarch Academy, students will spend much of their time engaged in comprehensive studies of compelling topics, hands-on learning and unique projects that draw on people in the community to expose students to how what they are learning in school is applied to real life.
"Being able to partner with ELS is an honor," said Ross. "ELS is selective about the organizations with whom it works, seeking organizations or institutions that have the passion and commitment to make the ELS model work. The Guild's Transformation Education philosophy and the ELS model work hand-in-hand, making this partnership a perfect match."
Monarch Makes Learning Special
Ross continues: "Our major objective is to offer a place where all children can be successful in their academic life. We want to make learning something that's challenging and fun for children, while providing them with the basic educational background they will need to be successful in high school."