Program creates new learning environment

Non-Traditional Academy continues to support students


Rachel Salzer

Senior Danny Martinez shares food with senior Braulio Vela-Garray during NTA’s Thanksgiving meal. The Thanksgiving meal is one example of how NTA creates a tight-knit community within the program.

According to Non-Traditional Academy teacher Debra Skadden, the Non-Traditional Academy offers seniors an opportunity to learn in a different environment.

“(It is for) seniors who are either in danger of not graduating … or who just need a different type of learning environment. It’s a place for them to spend their last year of high school,” Skadden said.

Non-Traditional Academy (NTA) coordinator Chris Weaver said NTA differs from a traditional high school experience in that there is limited homework and a heavy emphasis on group work. The program also tries to educate students about options for continuing their academics past high school, according to Weaver.

“We do a lot of group projects, a lot of group work. We try to do a lot of assignments in school so that people who have responsibilities outside of school don’t have to necessarily worry about that,” Weaver said. “We also try to give perspectives on colleges, and we do a lot of college trips and visits.”

Weaver said NTA focuses on making sure students do not go unnoticed by the school system and fall through the cracks.

“Our biggest goal is to support students who otherwise might not get support when they need it most,” Weaver said.

According to Weaver, NTA classes, unlike regular high school classes, are co-taught, which means multiple teachers are there to help students during each hour.

“Our classes are team-taught, so there’s always at least two teachers in the room,” Weaver said.

Senior NTA student Mihretu Ravaz said students get more assistance than in a traditional classroom.

“There’s a lot more help in this room (than in regular classes). If you’re struggling, there are more teachers to help you. It’s a better environment,” Ravaz said. “(The teachers) take the time to make sure we actually know what’s going on.”

Skadden said she enjoys teaching NTA because of the flexible curriculum and the connections she forms with students.

“I have the kids all year long, so I get to know them well. I have a lot of freedom to what I teach and how I teach, and I hope I make a difference in the kids’ lives,” Skadden said.

According to NTA student Soubane Abdi, she was drawn to NTA due to the program’s tight-knit community.

“I feel like I work better in a small community,” Abdi said. “You’re literally in one spot for four hours and you see the same people every single day. We treat each other like family.”

Abdi said she strongly supports programs like NTA as it could help a lot of students learn and catch up on credits.

“Some people might be behind on credits. Some people might not like the traditional classroom,” Abdi said.  “I feel like some people try to cope, (but) everyone’s different. I feel like (NTA) would work for people.”