A small, public charter high school in Angel Fire, surrounded by the Sangre de Cristos Mountains, is enhancing the educational experience of its students one handcrafted curriculum at a time.
Charter schools, like Moreno Valley High School (MVHS), are gaining in popularity as an increasingly attractive alternative to conventional high schools. Since 2000, the percentage of students who attend publicly funded, tuition-free charter schools has increased significantly, but MVHS has distinguished itself by being one of the only high schools in the nation to be completely based in Paideia methodology.
Let’s learn some Greek
MVHS administrators and teachers are committed to lifelong learning and teaching their students to do the same using the principles of Paideia – a Greek word for the upbringing of children. In addition to embracing the philosophy of being a lifelong learner, Paideia emphasizes the student’s best interests. This holistic style of learning experience assures students are not forced into a limited template, but are encouraged to learn who they are and who they want to become, by exploring their specific strengths, weaknesses and interests.
The 15-year-old school has an enviable student to teacher ratio of less than 10:1. A classroom of 15 students is considered to be large at MVHS. During high school, as students face the tenuous challenges of adolescence, being exposed to a learning environment where teachers know every student’s name and are committed to their success bridges the gap to pending adulthood.
Holistic education in a digital age
MVHS teachers customize each student’s experience based on the student’s individual learning styles, their interests and by urging them to step outside their comfort zones. In fact, flexibility is the rule rather than the exception. The school is committed to delivering handcrafted education in a digital age which is one reason MVHS students, despite the challenges of the pandemic, have continued to thrive.
This holistic style of learning does not allow anyone to be painted into a corner. Students have the coveted opportunity to test their burgeoning confidence by learning through discovery with the support and encouragement of teachers who allow them to try and fail, and explore learning rather than simply requiring them to tick the boxes on someone else’s checklist.
Handcrafted education means students have a voice. When the school expanded its campus three years ago one of the first things administrators did was ask the students for suggestions. Based on student input, the campus consists of small buildings connected by walkways. Instead of long, foreboding hallways filled with dark lockers, students walk outside to get to different classrooms, and there are various places designed for students to mingle – including a refurbished school bus.
The Tuesday through Friday schedule not only meets but exceeds all state requirements. AP courses and electives are available to students, and where the state requires one physical education credit, MVHS requires two. Students participate in outdoor education such as mountain biking and snowshoeing.
Perhaps nowhere does the student-driven educational model shine more brightly than in the Capstone Project required of all seniors. These projects are the result of the student’s ingenuity and may serve the community and/or high school. The refurbished school bus where students congregate is one result of a Capstone Project. Others include an app that helps tourists determine the local ski mountain that best fits their interests and abilities, and a project that helps community members understand what healthy looks like in terms of physical activity, meals and portions sizes.
Although the majority of students who graduate from MVHS move on to higher education, success is individually defined and college isn’t the end goal for every student. One hundred percent of MVHS students, however, graduate with leadership and decision-making skills that aren’t guaranteed at other schools. It is here where students learn that leadership is not a title but an action they will implement throughout the rest of their lives and our collective community wins as a result.
Moreno Valley High School
56 Camino Grande
Angel Fire, NM 87710