Last summer, I had the opportunity to join Maine Connections Academy. After 13 years of teaching in public schools, I was suspicious of charter schools, but I felt compelled to give it a try.

Within a month, I knew that I had made the right choice. For the first time, I was able to reach my students where they were to provide them the instruction and support they needed, when they needed it.

Rather than spending all of my time planning for and delivering whole-group instruction, I was creating small groups for intervention and offering extension activities to all of my students.

I look at data every day. It tells me about lesson completion, assessment performance and attendance during real-time instruction sessions.

I talk to students every day. We discuss their grades, set goals and talk about plans for the next few weeks. I teach them to self-assess, reflect on their work and self-advocate when they need additional support. I teach them to take academic risks, and hold themselves accountable.

For the first time in my career, I don’t spend the majority of my time working on whole-group instruction. This allows me to consider the individual student as my highest priority. I know my students as people and as learners, and that makes me a better teacher.

MCA isn’t the right school for every child, or for every teacher. Students need to have the support at home to help navigate the curriculum. Families need to understand we are flexible, but still held to state standards for attendance, curriculum and performance.

MCA is an exceptional school where we can embrace and educate the whole student; we demand excellence of them and of ourselves. It’s what I’ve been looking for my entire career, and it is certainly the right fit for me.

Hilary Chase

middle school math teacher, Maine Connections Academy

South Portland