Education Empowerment

How Teachers in Utah Are Creating Innovative Microschools

Javonne Tanner, a teacher, started her own school. So did Renae Zentz, Heather Poll, and many other teachers across the state.

And you can too!

Choice Academy

Javonne Tanner and her husband Paul are the founders of Choice Academy in Bountiful, Utah. Their daughter read the book Courage to Grow, a book about Acton Academies, and approached her parents about attending a school like that. There weren’t any in their area, so they built one. 

Acton Academies make students the heroes of their own education. These academies, instead of trying to teach knowledge, focus on teaching children how to learn. Students, in consultation with their parents, choose their own curriculum, set their own learning goals, and report to their parents how they are doing. They don’t have teachers at Acton Academies, but instead they have guides. The guide’s role is to be that mentor a student needs when they get stuck on their journey. 

Family Lyceum

Renae Zentz has a master’s degree in education, and her husband is a teacher at a Utah public school. But that didn’t stop Renae from starting her own school.

Her school, Family Lyceum, began as a homeschool co-op, but grew in popularity. This part-week education program has grown to over one hundred students. And the demand for the program continues to grow. 

Ascend: A Mentored Education

Heather and Val Poll wanted something different for their children. Heather has her degree in elementary education and became interested in the Thomas Jefferson Education model. She wanted her children to take a larger role in their own learning, so she and her husband along with other interested families built Ascend.

The Thomas Jefferson Education model (TJEd) uses mentors and the classics to teach children. The teachers take the role of the mentor. They combine classic works with an exploration of the student’s interests, leading to passionate learners. The students present their learning to their mentors, and discussions lead to learning for both. 

People Want Your Microschool

By far, the largest group of microschool founders are former public school teachers. These teachers wanted a different approach than what they could find in their public school career. They enjoy the benefits of being their own boss. They get to teach in a style and manner of their choosing, and attract families and students who are looking for what they are offering.

And it is clear the demand is out there. 

Just recently, I spoke to Christina McDowell, who started a once-a-week outdoor science course this year. She has had so much demand that she now has three different sections of classes and a large waiting list of parents interested in the program. Here is the kicker, she lives in rural Utah in a town with fewer than 500 people. 

Another education entrepreneur in Utah County started a microschool this year. She expected to only have eight or nine students. Instead she has over twenty. 

So, teachers, you can start your own microschool or education business. If you build it, the students will come.