Education Empowerment

Principal to Education Choice Expert

How does a 14-year public school teacher and principal become a leading voice for the education choice and microschool movement?

I thought you would never ask!

First, let’s rewind to the reason I became a teacher and principal.

Struggles to Innovate in the Education System

I have always loved learning. School was fairly easy for me, but I could not stand classes that wasted my time. One biology class began with us reading the 1st chapter and answering questions in the book. Day 2 and 3 were the same, and by day 4 I dropped the class. I unenrolled in the class and figured out a way to make up for the now missing credit. 

My favorite teacher did things differently, which made school better for all of us. He worked around the strict rules of school. We had many hands-on activities that got us engaged and up and moving around his classroom. He found interesting activities that made biology exciting and fun.

In college I explored many careers, but landed on education wanting to make learning fun for other students.

I excelled in my education classes, and received one of the top scores on the national teacher certification exam. 

After graduation, I was quickly hired as a sixth grade teacher. I wanted to do something different and spent the first few weeks allowing the students to explore their interests. But there was a lot of push back from my colleagues, especially the one who had a son in my class. 

This teacher felt I needed to be to a certain place in my textbook already and felt that I was behind in my teaching. I, unfortunately, succumbed to the pressure and began trying to be like this veteran teacher. 

I made another mistake that first year. I joined the teacher’s union. By the end of my first month I knew that I had made a mistake by joining. My values did not align to the values of the union. I knew that parents should be able to request a favorite teacher, or attend any school that they wanted. I didn’t understand the union’s opposition to open enrollment or charter schools. I supported vouchers once I learned about them. 

I kept trying to innovate as a teacher, but I kept running into barriers. I thought if I became a principal that I would be able to change policies within my school to allow teachers and parents to create an individualized education.

I was wrong.

My Path to Resignation…

Being a principal made me a middle manager. I had very little control over the policies that governed the school I ran. Every district level administrator had some kind of policy that I was expected to implement and enforce. And every year there were new policies and plans that I was expected to implement and enforce. The old policies and plans never went away. They were simply added to the existing responsibilities and rules. 

I felt more micromanaged as a principal than I ever did during my time in the Marine Corps. 

When Covid hit the schools, it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t in the right place to make a difference. The policies limited the best things about my school: unique field trips and parent involvement. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t have parents in the school. But someone above me told us not to. 

In September 2021, I advocated for parental rights with the Utah State Board of Education asking them to vote no on a policy that would put schools and parents on opposite sides. I was investigated by my district for this.

I was on the district’s radar. When I failed to follow Covid guidelines in October 2021, I was investigated again. The district decided to discipline me, reducing me from a principal to a teacher. 

I resigned instead. 

A Smooth Transition and New Beginnings

I knew I would be investigated again, because I planned to testify in favor of the Hope Scholarship (the precursor to the Utah Fits All Scholarship) during the 2022 legislative session. 

Luckily I had met Connor Boyack, the Libertas president during the summer. I checked the Libertas website and found they needed an education policy analyst. I applied and was hired in January of 2022, with only a month between my last day with the district and the beginning of my time with Libertas. It felt like a blessing from heaven. 

The rest as they say is history.

Making a Difference with Libertas

I spent the first few months digging into the research behind education choice policies. I learned about a new type of school called a microschool. And I learned how easy it is for homeschoolers to do anything with their education, many times having an advantage over public school students. 

Now I feel like I am making a difference. Since I joined Libertas, we helped pass the Utah Fits All Scholarship and made it easier to start a microschool. Now, I’m researching alternatives to the college system. 

I don’t blame the people I worked with in the system. Their goals were similar to mine, helping kids reach their potential. But it is the nature of government bureaucracies to be inefficient. The number of rules, regulations, policies, and laws make it near impossible to make a meaningful lasting change. When someone does, they make a movie about it. But those changes don’t last beyond the individual. 

Giving parents options, however, does have a lasting impact on a child’s education.