By Jesús Jiménez-Lara & Annisa Ahmed
Eight years ago, Science Leadership Academy was founded in order to provide students with the highest quality of project-based learning possible. While SLA teachers aren’t deciding things entirely on their own, their collaboration with students is one of the greatest drives behind the smoothly run campus.
The teachers did not appear at SLA overnight, though. There is a process that any potential employee must go through to be offered a spot at the highly sought after high school– and it is quite a long and intricate one.
First, when an opening is announced, teachers send in resumes.
Afterwards, applicants that might be a good fit are contacted for an interview with a large group of people — Principal Lehmann, but also one or more teachers of the same subject, plus an SLA student and parent.
If the interview goes well, the candidate is invited back for a demo lesson taught by the applicant to student volunteers. When the demo lesson is over, the applicant is asked to leave. The class that saw the sample lesson then discusses the applicant’s overall presentation with the teachers. Different topics such as the strength of the lesson, interaction with the students, and even the attitude of the teacher come up as the community decides on the potential newcomer to the staff.
This process is unorthodox — many schools focus on the candidate. After her own demo lesson to work at SLA, “Being escorted out by a student showed me how much SLA valued student opinion,” English Teacher Larissa Pahomov said.
With the current budget woes of the School District of Philadelphia, the hiring process has become more complicated. In recent years, the district has implemented a rule stating that schools can only current employees of SDP. As a result, SLA (and other schools) have found a kind of loophole — they recruit teachers from other schools. From Bodine High School alone, SLA “stole” English-History Teacher Joshua Block, Health Instructor Pia Martin and Spanish Teacher Melanie Manuel.
Being at liberty to shape the length of the school year must have initially been challenging, but as time progressed, they found that this little, community-based, independent-oriented academy fit their skillset.
“I think it’s allowed me to become a better teacher,” noted Mr. Block “It’s given me more freedom and allows me to teach.”