How to Create a Mission-Aligned Student Culture in a Collaborative Model Upper School

If culture eats strategy for breakfast, then what are some strategic initiatives we can devise for consumption that will replicate within our student bodies (their culture) the altruistic elements and distinctives of our classical, Christian, collaborative (CCC) schools?

At Veritas Academy (Austin TX), we make no apologies for surreptitious efforts to season our student culture with the core values and virtues of the school. In this workshop, we will present ideas and efforts that are intended to promote an atmosphere in our school and mindset in our students that reflect what we desire for them and their student community, highlighting in particular those opportunities that our unique model of CCC schooling better affords us.

We will also share freely of our failures, as well as our designs to end certain popular but non-mission-aligned events and traditions of our students, while encouraging the sharing of similar stories of successes and failures from other schools. This should be an engaging and constructive conversation between colleagues.

Jef Fowler

Jef Fowler is the long-time Head of School at Veritas Academy, a classical, Christian, collaborative school of more than 650 students gathered on its 97-acre campus at the southwestern edge of Austin in the bucolic Texas Hill Country. After unsuccessfully attempting to “kill this deal” 18 years ago when his wife, Starrla, said she was serious about pioneering this unique school model, Jef was soon prayed into the venture and co-founded the academy. He and Starrla continue to serve on the School and Trustee Boards as Jef attempts to put himself out to pasture, literally, on a tractor down in the valley field as the school’s next generation of leaders has emerged and is assuming greater responsibilities. (He has spent years watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette with his daughter (for training purposes), so he knows how to, like, use the word “literally.”) Jef & Starrla’s three children have all graduated from Veritas.

Troy Schuknecht

Troy Schuknecht is the Associate Head of School and long-time School of Rhetoric Head since he first joined Veritas in 2008 and effectively built the high school from scratch. Previous to that, Troy had taught science in public schools for six years and attended The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary before eventually completing his MDiv in 2016. Troy and his wife, Stevi (the school’s Director of College Advising) have four children, all of whom attend Veritas.

The Biggest Challenges With the Collaborative Model: What You Can Do

This workshop aims to tackle the biggest challenges that are particular to classical collaborative schools, then consider some ways that collaborative schools have responded. We’ll look at issues such as part-time faculties, parental under- and over-involvement, classroom teacher/student time limitations, consistency concerns, and more. We’ll touch on workload balance, and you are encouraged to check out a separate presentation on this perennial concern for collaborative educators.

Bret Billman

Bret Billman has been the Head of School since 2011. He and his amazing wife Sarah, have a son, Maddox, and a daughter, Olivia, who both attend Providence Preparatory School. The son of two educators, Bret grew up in Wichita, Kansas and attended Baylor University, where he received a BA and an MA in English Literature. At Providence, he has taught various levels of English and Logic, and continues to enjoy leading the school-wide Morning Chapel. Over the years, he has developed a passion for supporting family discipleship, and he leads a cyclical four-year program for students and parents to grow in their understanding of Scripture. He loves working with Providence teachers, students, and parents, and finds himself overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to serve in this position. Bret enjoys learning new things with his kids, playing board games, rooting on the Baylor Bears, shooting hoops, reading, and multiple other hobbies and interests that seem to change with the seasons. He lives in Temple and worships at Temple Bible Church with his family.

The Art of Teaching in a Collaborative Model Upper School

What is it like to teach Upper School–or Rhetoric School, or High School, or even Logic School–in a collaborative model? Do you have enough time to cover everything? How do you spend the campus days? What sorts of things do the students do at home? Can you get to know your students if you only see them a few days a week? This workshop will address these questions and more by addressing two realities. The first reality is that teaching is teaching, whether at a collaborative school or anywhere else. We’ll remind ourselves of the basics: accountability for students; communication between student and teacher; and classroom expectations. But the second reality is that the collaborative model provides a highly successful way of teaching teenagers. It tests their time management, their ability to get information when they need it, and their ownership of the material–all while allowing them to sleep late a few days out of the week. (Also, in case you’re in suspense, the answer to the question, “Can you get to know the students?” is absolutely yes, and we’ll discuss how why.)

Lindsey Scholl

Lindsey Scholl is in her eleventh year working at Trinity Classical School, a classical collaborative school in Houston. She teaches Medieval Humanities for Rhetoric School and is the chair of the Latin program. She also served for four years as the academic director for Logic School (5th-8th). Over the years, Lindsey has taught a variety of subjects, including Latin, Creative Writing, Formal Logic, Classical Rhetoric, and Historical Theology. She has also taught a range of grades: 1st grade, 7th, and 10th. She has a PhD in Roman History from the University of California-Santa Barbara and an M.A. in Medieval History from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her husband is Dr. John Scholl, the Academic Dean for the school.

Student Workload in Collaborative Schools

One topic unique to the collaborative school model is the issue of student workload on non-campus days. Multiple factors compound the question of what amount of work is appropriate to assign for student learning apart from a traditional classroom setting. This workshop will help us to explore the questions to be asked regarding workload besides the obvious “How much is too much for a home day?”

Aaron Laenger

Aaron Laenger has served as the Head of School at Veritas Classical Academy, a Christian, classical, and collaborative school in Beaumont, Texas for the past seven years. He is a graduate of Denver Seminary and enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and son.

How to Partner with Parents in the Collaborative Model

Tim Woods and Michelle Christopherson will cover some key aspects of successfully partnering with parents including setting up accurate expectations on both sides, best practices to keep communication healthy, as well as conflict management and resolution.

Michelle Christopherson

Michelle Christopherson has been partnering with parents in classical education for over a decade in a variety of settings. She has worked as a classroom teacher as well as a private tutor, and currently serves as the Academic Director for the Grammar School at Trinity Classical School in Houston, TX. She is passionate about supporting parents as they foster in their children a love for learning and an appetite for what is true, good, and beautiful.

Tim Woods

Tim Woods has been a learner and eventual educator in classical education since he was a Logic level student himself. He has eight years experience in the classroom and is currently wrapping up his fifth year as the Academic Director of the Logic School at Trinity Classical School in Houston, TX.

How to Launch a Hybrid School from Scratch

This Workshop presents a step-by-step plan for launching a new school. This covers the progression from your initial idea to the first day of classes to a sustainable, healthy school. Topics covered include all the functional areas that a new school must address: Finance, Facilities/Infrastructure, Marketing/Admissions/Development, Academics/Programs, Governance/Management, and Staffing. In addition to overall concepts and guiding principles, we will explore practical suggestions, possible pitfalls, and solutions to common challenges.

Mark Palmer

Mr. Palmer helps businesses and non-profits optimize operations using lean processes and cloud technology. He is co-founder and past board chair of Trinity Classical School of Houston, where he currently teaches a course on Algorithms to 9th graders and advises start-up schools. He is co-founder of Safford LLC, a process consulting firm, and VizMetrics Inc., which creates dashboard reports for universities. Prior to VizMetrics, he was V.P. of e-Commerce for a Fortune 100 company and developed a performance reporting system for Argentina’s largest company. Mr. Palmer holds a B.A. in Economics from Rice University.