Now that we have entered into the unofficial halfway point of the school year, it is worth it to take a moment and pause on all that has happened, and to plan for all that can happen in the future. First off, a sincere thank you to all of the educators, not just at North Lakes Academy, but to all educators for their tireless efforts and contributions to learning this year. Nobody signed up for what this school year has been, and with the adjustments made, thoughtful questions answered, and careful approach taken, we have been able to put validity and integrity into education this year.

I am very proud, and again, thankful, for the approach our families have taken in allowing NLA to remain in-person learning at the elementary level and in a hybrid model for middle school. We believe this has been vital to the students in maintaining consistency and routine, to grounding social-emotional learning within a classroom setting, and ultimately to what has been gearing up towards a quality year of learning. We remain committed to in-person learning for as many as possible for as long as possible given the data and constraints that present.

As we pause for this winter break, I encourage families to put some efforts towards investing into the social aspect of your children. Of course this may be a given, but something not to be taken lightly. Talk with them, ask them questions, delve into their interests or habits. More than any other year it is important to keep the desire to engage, be active, and to take age-appropriate risks at the forefront of what kids need. The content and skill-building is not going away, but the ability to keep that love of learning, the desire to pursue new tasks and opportunities, and the effort towards taking educational risks are what is needed in an academic year where nothing has been consistent or smooth.

As educators, there is the skewed hope that all that has transpired has caused students to actually miss school for what it was, and to then be open and grateful to what school can be when the pandemic softens and a return to normalcy is upon us. The education system has not had a major shift like this for decades. Complacency undoubtedly creeps in, along with all the norms and routines that simply start to outweigh disruptions to learning that could bring about a better result because of the convenience and familiarity we have with them. Educators have been jolted towards adaptation and a refocus on what is most meaningful. This is a positive that has come out of this, and when a normal schedule returns, it is imperative to pass that onto the students in a way that allows them to see how learning is more than a ranking, grade, or test result.

My hope is that the school becomes a place where education is seen as a personal investment for the student (ownership) that is supported by experts in the field (accountability), enhanced by peers with the same motives (social growth), and developed by a design that is meant to encourage engagement, risk-taking, and purposeful feedback (reflection). I think this really encompasses what we are all seeking: to see a young student take ownership of their learning, to be held accountable by those that support them, to foster relationships that grow alongside them, and to be able to reflect and process on what has worked and what can be done to continually improve. This is what drives the decisions and programming at North Lakes Academy and why families choose to have their students attend NLA. I am excited at the possibilities and opportunities that have already started to take shape within our community, and am grateful for the pause this break has brought us. As we head into 2021, thank you again for all that has been done, and all that we will continue to do together.

Cam Stottler is the Executive Director of North Lakes Academy.

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