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  • Rick Joseph

Grand Traverse Academy Feels Like Family


I had the pleasure of spending a full day with the students and educators at Grand Traverse Academy in Traverse City. GTA is the kind of school where kids are buzzing with excitement. The energy in the air is palpable.

I began my day in the classroom of special education teacher Christine Nowak, a treasured member of the faculty. Christine is a teacher’s teacher – calm, patient, and thoughtful yet steeled in her expectations for excellence. She is imbued with the temperament and disposition that make her ideally suited to work with students with a variety of special needs. Her children feel safe and supported as they take risks and stretch and grow.

I was certainly impressed with opportunities given to kids to design and build their own vehicle using Lego Robotics technology. Students were clearly motivated and fully engaged by this exciting design challenge. Furthermore, teachers at Grand Traverse Academy understand the importance of empowering girls to embrace math and science as a consideration for future problem-solving.

I was able to share the story of the Junkyard Wonders with a number of classes. The students were very receptive to the Patricia Polacco’s key message – all children are born geniuses. From Ms. Nowak’s classroom to the rest of Grand Traverse Academy – it was clear that this ethic has already taken root.

STEM activities connect theory and practice in ways that draw students in and keep them focused

#Girl Power is an example of the importance of empowering young women to embrace STEM activities

STEM challenges stimulate and motivate learners to think, create and problem-solve

The wonder of Patricia Polacco's message resonates well with students at Grand Traverse Academy

Parent involvement and open lines of communication are an important part of the culture at GTA

When ambient noise becomes a distraction, sound-dampening earmuffs can help promote focus

Teachers value the importance of getting to know their students well at GTA

Read-aloud's are a core component of effective literacy instruction at GTA

Kinesthetic brain breaks are embraced by all learners to reset focus and recharge for additional learning

Special education teacher Christine Nowak engages her students with patience, kindness and a relentless work ethic


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