Local resident Jennifer Kroeger wanted a school where her kids can feel more comfortable and have a more positive learning environment, so she’s starting one of her own.
Kroeger has roughly 10 years of teaching experience, from spending time in a unique one room school in Las Vegas, to travelling and teaching in Kenya. Six years ago, she moved here to Canada, had two beautiful children, and continues to pursue her career.
She began noticing some flaws in the local school system that she believes were impacting her children’s learning abilities and decided to finally make one of her biggest dreams come true.
Opening up her own school.
“I’ve been seeing, especially lately, is that schools can be really chaotic. I don’t blame the teacher’s; they’re doing the best they can. Sometimes you get these bigger class sizes and I would like my children to be in an environment where every minute counts and we’re not wasting time,” said Kroeger. “The vision is to have the school somewhere between permissive, and punitive on the other side. There’s high expectations for the students and then also for the parents.”
Kroeger continues to work out the kinks and structure of the school, such as reasonable tuition.
“If multiple kids are in private school, it’s only affordable to a small percentage of people. I don’t think that’s fair and I think parents really are hurting for other options for their kids,” she said.
In exchange for a lower tuition, the school will look for parents to donate their time instead. In replacement of multiple teachers, parents will make up for assistance and help within the classrooms and, perhaps, even with teaching.
“Many parents are capable and very smart people. A parent could work with a group of one or two students and be very effective,” she explained. “The idea is to get parents into the classroom and take some of the burden off the teacher, but more importantly, to give students individual instruction, because that’s really what students need.”
She is planning on implementing smaller class sizes for more one-on-one time with students, knowing such a small size will ensure that no child is being overlooked. 15 students will be the maximum number of students in a class, and as well as possibly introducing multi-age classes. Kroeger believes that students can benefit from being in a class with older students.
“Another hallmark of the school would be making room in the day to teach practical life skills. I know as an adult, I feel like I should know how to sew, maybe use a saw or something, but I have none of those skills,” said Kroeger. “I can’t teach my own kids all of these skills, so we need to draw on the parents’ strengths.”
With the help of parents, guardians or even grandparents, students will have the opportunity to learn real life skills that will benefit their future when the time comes to use those skills. Community members will also be able to participate and teach the next generation different kinds of skills, practical and realistic skills.
“There’s two kind of components of practical life skills. Hands on skills, like sewing or starting a fire, then there’s also social skills and mindfulness and all those soft skills that I think need to be embedded in the day,” she said. “I don’t feel wise enough to be the only source of teaching to these children. Parent involvement is key.”
The school is expected to open in September of 2021, and the only challenge Kroeger has been having is finding the perfect location in Caledon. Fortunately, the pandemic hasn’t put a dampener on many plan,s as once a location is found, the next step will be organizing and building the school structure.
Kroeger has already put her ideas and plans out into the community online, where several parents have already hopped on board and are completely supporting the opening of her school.
“It’s been great that I haven’t had to do it fully alone. They’re cheering me on and giving their ideas and they’re just as enthusiastic as I am. It’s a great group of parents,” she said.
Nervous, but excited, Kroeger continues to work tirelessly to find a location for her school, to continue building plans and ideas with the help of parents in the community, and to make her dream come true.
“I don’t have the capacity to change the system, but I do have the capacity to make a small little environment that I feel is healthy for a handful of kids,” she remarked. “That’s my goal. To make a positive learning environment for a small group of children.”
Alyssa Parkhill, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Caledon Citizen