Monday, June 5, 2023

EF Academy Pasadena, LA County’s Most International Private High School, Speaks on its Student-Centered Learning Style

For more information, contact us or attend our Open house on August 18 at 6:30 pm to learn about our international environment, curriculum & Global Leadership Program, and founding staff & faculty, and receive a campus perimeter tour.

Sally Mingarelli

Dr. Sally Mingarelli, Founding Head of School

All of us at EF Academy Pasadena are thrilled to be in the final phases of preparations for welcoming our inaugural students on August 30 and 31, 2022, and I am delighted to be on board as the founding Head of School. I come to this role with 17 years of experience across four US boarding and day schools in three different states. I am a staunch advocate for student-centered education, and I’ve had the privilege of contributing to and leading school change initiatives over the last two decades that have been focused on bringing research-based best practices into top schools. I believe every student can experience success and be driven and excited to learn deeply, and I believe that schools can do better to ensure this is true. My doctoral research at USC brought further evidence into the field of education about the efficacy of competency-based learning as a student-centered tool for improving learning outcomes and motivation for diverse students. I am excited to bring this background to the leadership of EF Academy Pasadena!

The mission of EF Academy is to open the world through education and the vision of our school is to empower the next generation of global changemakers. As the Head of School for EF Academy Pasadena, my main job is to ensure that all of our programs and people align to this mission and vision so that we can deliver on our promise to families.

When I read the powerful assertions in our mission and vision, the first word that strikes me is “empower.” It is no small feat to build a school that is designed to truly empower students. One could argue that innovation in schools over the last couple of decades has been heartily focused on questions of empowerment. How do you empower students to be prepared for a future of increased globalization, collaboration, and technology integration? How do you empower them to be flexible, resilient, creative, and critical thinkers who can embrace ambiguity and flourish in continuous change?

Equally as important as these future-facing questions about the world in which our students will someday be working and leading, schools have been asking themselves questions of how to empower students within the school’s curriculum. How do you ensure that every student is empowered to leverage their strengths and improve their growth areas in all of their classes? How do you design high schools towards increased student agency so that students can develop and demonstrate their mastery via unique pathways and apply their learning in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them? These questions of empowerment in school and beyond school are intricately interwoven, as research has determined that developing in students the necessary skills and habits of mind to flourish in their futures requires a more student-centered approach to education.

EF Academy Pasadena is proud to be opening its doors with programs designed using best practices in student-centered education. Our teaching team has been hired with an equal emphasis on their content area expertise and their mindsets for student agency and empowerment. When you walk onto our campus, you will not experience a teacher-driven, one-size-fits-all approach being applied in our teaching. Instead, you will see classrooms with students working shoulder to shoulder on projects of their own designing and teachers serving as facilitators and fellow learners. You will see curricular design that clarifies learning targets and provides students with time and agency to pursue those targets on personalized pathways. You will see a culture of intellectual curiosity, where “failures” are embraced as interesting data points to drive next actions. You will experience a healthy yearning for feedback, where students are asking not how many points they earned but rather what they skillfully evidenced in their work and what they need to focus on to continue improving.

As I reflect on my role to change the world through education and empower the next generation of global changemakers, I am confident that our approach to teaching and learning will be uniquely empowering. I turn my attention next towards pondering my work to support a global mission and vision. EF Academy is not alone in our pursuit of a global vision, as schools across the US and the world have been actively innovating in recent years to focus on developing students’ cultural competency and global problem-solving skills through curricular, service, and travel initiatives. Our unique privilege at EF Academy Pasadena is to do this work every day on our own campus with a truly global population of learners.

Our founding student body is comprised of students from 26 countries, with no single nationality represented at a percentage higher than 20%. Every day in our classrooms, dorms, athletic fields, theater and arts spaces, design labs, and dining hall our students will be practicing global communication and collaboration skills. Our students will have the daily opportunity to negotiate across cultural and language differences and to develop the empathy to be authentically curious about the origins of differing perspectives.

In alignment to our global mission and vision, our signature academic program is our Global Leadership program. Structured around the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this program has students working across their four years on collaborative, student-driven projects that seek to create implementable solutions in alignment to the SDGs. Through this program, students at EF Academy Pasadena will be engaging in global problem-solving with a global population of their peers, creating frequent and authentic opportunities to broaden their thinking beyond their own cultural or national context. I couldn’t be more thrilled to execute a global mission and vision on a truly international campus!

All of us at EF Academy Pasadena are delighted to become part of the Pasadena community, and we look forward to building connections and collaborations. As much as we value our international community on campus, we also value the rich opportunities for learning in Pasadena and the broader Los Angeles area. We cannot wait to inspire our students through engagement with the hubs for art, design, music, film, STEM, aerospace, humanities, and culture that are in our own backyard!  We are also humbled to enter the rich K-12 educational landscape of Pasadena, with peer schools doing the same hard work to prepare our students for an ever-evolving future. We look forward to connecting across schools to do that good work together.

For more information, contact us or attend our Open house on August 18 at 6:30 pm to learn about our international environment, curriculum & Global Leadership Program, and founding staff & faculty, and receive a campus perimeter tour – Register here

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