Method Test Prep Spotlight seeks to highlight MTP clients, friends, and acquaintances who are doing amazing things in education. For each installment of the Spotlight, we will select a dedicated individual or organization to profile, and will then interview the awardee to share their story. Through the Spotlight, we hope to develop a bank of successful experiences and practices for other schools and educators to learn from.
When I consider what defines the word educator, I think to myself, “someone who shows up.” As the son of two teachers, I know firsthand that when the going gets tough, the best educators are the ones who shine. Educators have a different sense of purpose and style—some might even say a higher calling—than do most other professionals. While their rewards are often not monetary, the results of dedication in education can hold much higher value. If you've ever been to an education conference like NACAC or ASCA, you’ll have seen that the culture has a very different dynamic than the one you might see at, say, an insurance or financial conference. That difference is passion. Education could not exist without the commitment of its humble servants. The life of an educator is not easy, and it seems that whenever there is a major milestone or accomplishment, it's counterbalanced with the harsh realities of the world around us. True educators, though, keep going when most people would decide to call it quits. Teachers, counselors, and administrators know that their students need someone who "shows up,” and take their responsibility to do so extremely seriously. It’s with this in mind that I ask our community to read this month’s MTP Spotlight, whose awardee demonstrates a truly remarkable spirit that has shone through both her work in education and her recent personal challenges.
This month's Method Test Prep Spotlight Award goes to Sapulpa, Oklahoma educator Jennifer Lake, the new Principal of Epic Charter Schools, a free, pre-K through 12th grade online public charter school that provides a blended learning model customized for each student. After 7 years as a teacher with Epic, Ms. Lake will now be transitioning into her Principal position for the 2019-2020 school year. This move represents a significant change. In the Epic model, a small student-to-teacher ratio helps ensure that teachers can have close relationships with their students, and that teachers can work with the same group of students and their families from year to year. Now, instead of having 40 familiar students under her watch, Lake will oversee a staff of 28 teachers. She will work to meet the challenges of Epic’s expansion into Texas, California, and beyond, spurred by the success of the school’s model in Oklahoma, where there is a clear need for additional non-traditional education options.
To assess their students, Lake and the other teachers at Epic use the full-length practice ACT exams within Method Test Prep's self-paced program. Once students take their initial practice tests, their teachers use the scores as benchmarks. After working through the 20-week ACT prep checklist, the students take another full-length exam, and their teachers measure their progress by comparing the scores across tests. To date, the Epic team has seen many students increase their scores 3–4 points (initial test scores vs. official ACT scores), an outstanding achievement. An additional benefit is that the data and feedback the program provides help the teachers create individualized learning plans that are key to their students’ growth and success.
Ms. Lake says that Epic does a great job of teaching to the whole student, providing a plan molded to their needs. “I'm able to create customized learning plans, and I've always made myself available to my students any time they are available to crank out their school work. Needless to say, I love what I do so much that it doesn't really seem like work."
Ms. Lake shared the story of a 7th grade student whom she met in her first year with Epic. The student’s family was from her hometown and in serious crisis, their son contemplating suicide. Jen poured everything she had into his schooling, and was able to work with him to get through his mental struggles. The student has since graduated from Epic, gone on to earn an associate’s degree from a local junior college, had great success throughout his first year in a traditional college campus setting, and has lined himself up to graduate with a four-year degree next spring. This is the type of student who very easily could have been lost in the shuffle in a more traditional middle school/high school environment; Lake, however, embraced the opportunity to form a close bond—a connection that many students aren’t fortunate enough to experience.
Sometimes, there is a larger story—one that makes us step back and realize the true value of those in our community who step up to deal with the most trying of circumstances. Earlier this summer, around the time that Ms. Lake was promoted to Principal with Epic, she learned that she had a bone tumor in her hip and would need to seek treatment. She was recently accepted for treatment into one of the best cancer clinics in the country at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. As with all things, Lake is approaching her treatment with high hopes, a strong will, and lots of family and community support. She welcomes all prayers—if any of you would like to follow along with us or offer some words of encouragement on her journey, she has created a Facebook group called “Jen's Roadtrip” where updates will be posted. Click on the picture below or go to https://www.facebook.com/JenLake2.0/.
More About Jennifer Lake
Q: What is your biggest challenge at work?
A: Knowing when to turn off my computer
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I love to spend time in my flower garden and following my great nephew all over while he plays competitive baseball, football and basketball.
Thanks again to Jennifer Lake for being a shining example of great things happening in education! We wish her all the best through the challenges she faces, and we will be pulling for her in every way possible. On a personal note, I want to thank Jen so much for taking the time to share her story: I hope I did justice to the inspirational character that she is. She was so gracious to grant us the time for an interview while in the midst of coordinating treatment plans and lab results—again, a testament to her commitment to her profession.
If you would like to nominate an individual or organization working with MTP to be considered for a Spotlight Award, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Spotlight. Please also share this story with people in education as well as with parents and other interested parties!
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