This blog post was generated from the following episode of the LiberatEd Podcast with Kerry McDonald. Find more at: https://www.liberatedpodcast.com/
Education plays a pivotal role in shaping young minds, and passionate educators often go above and beyond to create meaningful learning experiences. Pam McEwen, a seasoned educator and former certified teacher in Wichita, Kansas, took her dedication to education to new heights. In this blog post, we explore Pam's inspiring journey as she transitioned from the classroom to becoming an education entrepreneur, founding the Izora Elaine Dean Education Center. This microschool has gained recognition for its personalized approach, fostering a love for learning and empowering students to thrive. Let's delve into the story of Pam McEwen and her vision for educational transformation.
The Early Inspiration
Pam McEwen's passion for education stems from her personal experiences as a child. She vividly recalls the challenges she faced with reading and spelling, feeling defeated compared to her classmates. However, her grandmother, Izora Elaine Dean, became a guiding light in her life. Izora's determination and love for learning, showcased through her extraordinary efforts to attend school, instilled a belief in Pam that anything was possible. Inspired by her grandmother's resilience, Pam's perspective on education changed forever.
The Birth of a Microschool
Equipped with her grandmother's wisdom and her own commitment to education, Pam embarked on a career in the public school system. Starting as a cafeteria supervisor, she witnessed the potential in every child she encountered. Pam's genuine care for her students led her to become a substitute teacher, allowing her to form valuable relationships and gain diverse teaching experiences. Simultaneously pursuing her Bachelor's degree in business and a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) and teaching, Pam's vision began to take shape.
A Call for Educational Transformation
Pam's journey in the public schools further deepened her understanding of the challenges students faced. As she analyzed data and worked closely with learners, she noticed a significant gap between desired proficiency levels and actual outcomes. Disheartened by the limited progress, Pam yearned for a change that could address these issues on a broader scale. This realization, combined with her parallel experiences as an adjunct instructor in college, reinforced the urgency for educational transformation.
The Inception of the Izora Elaine Dean Education Center
In 2019, Pam made the courageous decision to establish her own tutoring center. She believed that a personalized, nurturing environment could empower students in ways traditional schools often struggled to achieve. Initially providing tutoring and assessment services part-time, Pam's dedication and the quality of her program garnered increased demand. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, parents were even more drawn to her services. In 2020, Pam resigned from the school district, fully committing herself to the Izora Elaine Dean Education Center.
A Flourishing Microschool
Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, parents of Pam's tutoring students experienced remarkable changes in their children's academic progress and overall well-being. The personalized, home-like tutoring environment proved to be a catalyst for their success. Pam's dedication and the positive outcomes led parents to consider withdrawing their children from public schools, enrolling them in the microschool full-time. The Izora Elaine Dean Education Center became a sought-after option for families across the Wichita area.
Recognizing the growing demand for their services, the founder made the pivotal decision to resign from their teaching position in the public schools. The encouragement and support from their own family further motivated this bold step. By dedicating their time entirely to the Izora Elaine Dean Educational Center, they could meet the increasing needs of students and families.
Adapting to Changing Needs: The Birth of a New Program
With the remote learning grant coming to an end, the Kansas state government decided to discontinue remote learning as well. However, the families who had relied on the center's full-time remote education didn't want to return their children to traditional schools. They approached the center, seeking an alternative solution. This request prompted the founder to explore new possibilities.
Determined to meet the evolving needs of their students, the center developed a new program. This program, which remains in place today, allows for greater flexibility. Some students attend classes at the center, while others predominantly learn from home. The center assumes responsibility for managing the students' educational records, ensuring they meet state standards, and providing ongoing support. By operating as a non-accredited private school, the center enjoys the flexibility and adaptability to personalize education for each learner's unique circumstances. Additionally, the center's program covers various grade levels, ranging from kindergarten to 11th grade, accommodating learners with diverse requirements, including those with health conditions.
A Flexible Learning Environment and Community Partnerships
One of the standout features of the Izora Elaine Dean Educational Center is the flexibility it offers within its learning environment. Unlike traditional schools confined to a single classroom, the center has multiple rooms that cater to different subjects and learning experiences. Students can move freely between these spaces, adapting to their preferences and needs. Whether they require a quiet corner for focused work or prefer to engage with the community, the center's environment facilitates an immersive and dynamic learning experience.
Embracing community partnerships is another key aspect of the center's approach. Through their unique Smart Street Suite program, the center collaborates with local entrepreneurs and businesses to enhance learning opportunities. Students delve into real-world experiences, such as exploring entrepreneurship by interacting directly with local entrepreneurs and visiting their establishments. This exposure provides valuable insights and inspiration for the learners, empowering them to apply their knowledge in practical settings. By integrating these partnerships and community engagement, the center equips its students with skills and perspectives that extend beyond traditional classroom boundaries.
The Power of Parent and Family Connections
At the Izora Elaine Dean Educational Center, the parent and family community plays an invaluable role. The center cherishes the strong bonds forged among parents, guardians, and staff, creating a supportive and nurturing environment. Families support one another through various life challenges, forming a genuine sense of community and togetherness. It is not uncommon for parents to spend additional time at the center, engaging in conversations long after the day's activities conclude. The center becomes a place where laughter and connection thrive, and everyone feels welcome.
This emphasis on family partnerships extends to the center's commitment to providing a nurturing environment. Parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their children's education, and their input and involvement are highly valued. By fostering open communication and collaboration, the center ensures that each student receives the personalized attention and support they need to thrive.
Parent Empowerment and the Search for Alternatives
The conversation then shifts to the growing movement of parents embracing non-traditional education models and seeking alternatives to the existing system. Pam explains that parents, for the first time, had a close look at their child's education during the pandemic, which made them realize the deficiencies of the previous system. This newfound awareness empowered parents to explore other options and sparked a surge in the microscope movement. Pam acknowledges her role as an educational entrepreneur and expresses her hope to expand the Izora Elaine Dean Educational Center beyond its current microschool status.
Future Plans and Scaling
Pam shares her vision for the future of the Izora Elaine Dean Educational Center. She mentions the increasing demand from parents and the community for the center to expand to other locations. While they plan to continue growing the microschool part of their program, they also aim to provide academic assessments and support for homeschooling families. Additionally, they are working on assisting other educators in setting up their microschools and developing educational products and services that cater to learners' needs.
Affordability and Accessibility
Pam emphasizes the center's commitment to making their services affordable and accessible to families. They work closely with each family to find a financial arrangement that suits their circumstances. Grants, donations, and community partnerships play a crucial role in supporting learners who might not otherwise afford such services. Pam draws from her own educational experiences to ensure that finances do not hinder any child from accessing quality education.
The Future of Education: Individualized Focus and Learner-Centric Approach
Pam and the host, Kerry, discuss the future of education over the next five to ten years. They both believe that microschools, learning pods, and homeschooling will continue to grow at an exponential rate. The driving force behind this growth is the shared goal of putting learners first and designing programs that meet their individual needs. Pam predicts a shift towards prioritizing the learner's holistic development and valuing their uniqueness.
Pam McEwen's perspective challenges the prevailing notion of learning loss during the pandemic. Instead, she highlights the pre-existing issues in the educational system and the need for personalized, learner-centric approaches. The conversation underscores the growing popularity of microschools and the importance of empowering parents to actively shape their children's education. As the Izora Elaine Dean Educational Center expands its reach, it strives to provide accessible and affordable education while supporting other educators in adopting innovative models. The future of education appears to be one that prioritizes the learner and embraces personalized learning for holistic growth.