Barbara Cheney, Lead Teacher at Mount Tom Academy, smiles as she thinks about last June’s graduation ceremonies for Mount Tom students, where seven seniors received certificates from Mount Tom to accompany diplomas from their sending schools. Prior to the ceremony, graduating students presented their capstone projects, and the memory of these presentations sparked conversation about the responsiveness of all her students to the structure and guidelines of Summit Learning, a nationwide program that she has incorporated into her work with Mount Tom students for over three years. Her results have been so successful, that this Spring Cheney was named a Summit Learning Fellow.
Summit Learning is a national network of public schools. The program itself operates 11 public schools (The Summit Schools) in California and Washington. The Summit Learning approach also “forms the foundation” for the learning process at over 300 Summit Learning schools across the United States.
As a Fellow, Cheney will train, support and guide new Summit Learning educators in Massachusetts and beyond. Cheney uses the pillars of Summit Learning in her classroom every day. Incorporating personalized learning with her students, providing ongoing one-on-one mentoring, and using relevant project work provides Cheney with the strong platform to springboard each of her students to success. Cheney’s use of these principles has been so successful with Mount Tom students, that Summit Learning recently made Mount Tom Academy one of only 30 innovation schools out of 300 participating schools in the US. “Summit allows Mount Tom to be part of a much bigger national community, ” says Cheney.
Connecting “instantly” with the theory and practice behind Summit Learning, many principles were instinctive to her. They helped her encourage academic and social success within her student community. Now in 2018, the results of Barbara’s work could be seen in the Capstone projects that were presented at graduation. Two students, Sean and Anthony, stood at the front of the graduation gathering, and spoke together about the t-shirt business that they had started during the year. Very different in speaking styles and approaches, but wonderful as a team, each took turns speaking about starting their business selling used/vintage t-shirts, the good experiences, and the unexpected bumps in the road. They made the audience laugh in an easy manner, and were clearly comfortable working together. They also brought some of their clothing to sell to graduation attendees. Another student, Tattie, at the end of her capstone said, “There is always more out there than what you know, There are always different ways of doing something, What is most important is that you do things that interest you.”
“Summit Learning allows me to meet my students where they are, while engaging them in the creation of a pathway for academic and personal success,” says Cheney. And now, as a Fellow, Cheney mentors other teachers using Summit Learning, acts as a resource, and helps them engage their students as she has successfully for over three years at Mount Tom. She also helps build a stronger educational community in support of students.