Spotlight on the Non-Traditional classroom setting

Students take on learning from a different angle


Lilly Fandel-Thompson

Students in the Non-Traditional Academy work to collaborate on group projects as a part of their curriculum May 25. The NTA program at Park has brought new opportunities for learning to students who seek a more hands-on experience.

The Non-Traditional Academy (NTA) is an innovative approach to classroom structure at Park. The teachers and students in the program work each day to foster a more hands-on learning experience so students can find success on their way to earning their diploma. 

NTA is centered around four subjects: math, science, English and social studies. Advisor Jill Merkle said the program is designed for seniors only, and provides students with a different learning experience.

“It’s really cool because essentially what we’re doing is non-traditional,” Merkle said. “We are trying to teach and do things in a non-traditional way, so we’re very community centered and feel a lot like a family.”

Science advisor Scott Miller said NTA allows students to prove their success in a way that is special to the experience they gain in the program. 

“Traditional success means a certain GPA or a certain grade, and although that’s part of the game we have to play, the success here looks very different,” Miller said. “In how we grade, we look at growth. If we see that growth, if we see a change in your attitude, that’s growth and that can translate to success.”

The NTA program strives to follow their mission statement daily, which is to spark, strengthen and support students’ educational experiences by providing a hope-inspired and relational environment with a personalized and relevant curriculum. Senior Jaida Puentes said the program has set her up for success and has proven their mission. 

“I wouldn’t have stayed in school if I wasn’t in NTA because I don’t do well in a normal classroom setting,” Puentes said. “This has really helped me and motivated me to do better in my own life.” 

Senior Cianny Belen said the community that is built in NTA is special and is a motivator to continue to go to class. 

“The feeling of community and actually feeling welcome in class and not feeling foreign or unwelcome is nice,” Belen said.

NTA also works to prepare students for their future outside of school. Puentes said she has felt support from the teachers as they have already set her up for success once she graduates. 

“NTA definitely has supported me in a lot of different ways, not only within my high school career, but they have also set me up on a path for after high school,” Puentes said. “I’ve already gotten a job because of this. Mr. Webber and everyone in here has been helping us with building a resume I’ll use for the rest of my life.”