Changing How School Works at S.H. James Prep

SH James Prep entrepreneurship camp

We are proud to share this guest post by Anthony Gordon, founder of S.H. James Prep, about his vision for changing how school works. Photos are from the youth entrepreneurship pop-up shop hosted by S.H. James Prep and the Boardroom Project on May 1, 2021. 

If you had asked me what I want to be when I grow up at age ten, I definitely would not have told you a teacher. The next Bo Jackson or LL Cool J, maybe. But the thought of spending more time in a school building after my legal requirements were met would not have made pre-teen Anthony a very happy camper.  

It’s more than ironic that we hit fast forward and here I am, 14 years into my career and reapplying to found a charter school as a part of the Texas Education Agency’s Generation 27 open-enrollment charter application process

Applying to Open S.H. James Prep

The most common question that I have been asked about our experience last summer in Austin has been, “What have we learned?” 

I typically take a deep breath and respond . . . “Where do I begin?!?!” 

I then start by acknowledging the outpouring of support that we have received throughout this process. I tell them I have learned what it means to be a part of a city that has such a heart for children, education, and community. That I am proud to have so many local leaders, educators, artists and people who I respect dearly, champion our model and mission. 

I tell them that now more than ever we need schools that are responsive to the evolving needs of students. According to the World Economic Forum, in just five years, 35 percent of the skills deemed essential today will change. The organization predicts that the following skills will be most desired in the future:

  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Tech Savviness
  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Data Literacy
  • Critical Thinking
  • Digital And Coding Skills
  • Leadership
  • Emotional Intelligence

SH James Prep entrepreneurship camp

Changing How School Works

At S.H. James Preparatory Academy, we want to change how school works. Our approach is unique because it begins with the end in mind. At James Prep, we want to take innovative approaches to student learning that embrace their interests and elevates their sense of agency over the learning process—approaches like the Career and Technical Education frameworks laid out by the TEA. These frameworks allow us to create personalized pathways for students beginning in fifth grade. They allow students to not only dream, but dream with a plan that allows them to receive potential career based endorsements on their high school diplomas opening the doors for limitless college and career opportunities upon graduation.  

We also embrace approaches that consider adult culture and the evolving needs of campus-based staff post pandemic. Approaches like our partnerships with the Mims Institute and Qubit by Qubit to bring quantum computing to the Eastside and Westside of San Antonio. Programming that has seen multiple students participate in quantum computing coursework run by or in collaboration with MIT. Approaches like our collaboration with Overland Partners to conduct community codesign to create a school facility that reflect the specific needs of our proposed student population. 

S.H. James Prep Approach

Our goal at James Prep is to create an environment where students feel safe, have an active voice in their learning, the ability to push their thinking, to explore the unlimited cosmos of knowledge, to develop self awareness, build strong relationships and skills that will enhance their ability to be global leaders and innovators.

Our campus will focus on three main principles:

  • Fostering the entrepreneurial mindset in our students.
  • Creating personalized student pathways beginning in middle school that focus on skills for the next generation such as tech literacy, design thinking, data analysis, leadership, etc.
  • Maintaining a space that promotes community wellness for all stakeholders and that is welcoming to each member of our community.

We believe that this environment will allow students to develop skills that make them flexible in a future that may not yet have a defined need. I especially appreciate this because, while I sometimes joke about how I stumbled into a career in education. I have been privileged enough to find a career that may not have been my first choice, but has become my passion. I know that so many of us have had to experience the moment when the dreams of our childhood run into the realities of real life. 

SH James Prep entrepreneurship camp

Welcoming the Community to Learn More

As I think back to my ten-year-old self, I was not misguided for dreaming of the Football or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is the beauty of youth, the ability to dream without perspective. 

At James Prep we believe that it is our responsibility to foster that perspective by exposing students to practical learning opportunities that give them the tools to be successful in life. This is our vision for the students of the 78210 in San Antonio, Texas and we are excited to continue the journey with our community.

Please check out our website shjamesprep.org and join our mailing list. If you are interested in being a part of our community codesign, own or manage a business or organization interested in youth outreach, or just want to share your educational story, feel free to email me at agordon@shjamesprep.org. We welcome your voices to be a part of the conversation.

S. H. James Prep on Charter Moms Chats

Anthony Gordon, founder of S.H. James Prep, joins Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on November 19, 2021 at 5:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube for a free virtual Community Information Session for this proposed new open enrollment charter school in San Antonio. Any community member can attend to learn more about the model and get answers to any questions they may have about the campus and its impact on the proposed community (78210).

Anthony Gordon is the founder of S.H. James Preparatory Academy. Anthony has 14 years of experience in education and has worked in private, public, and charter systems throughout the state of Texas. He has been a teacher, a campus-based leader, and a regional leader. He has also worked as a senior education consultant providing leadership coaching for state boards of education and some of the country’s largest school districts on the topics of professional learning support and implementation, educational innovation support, community and stakeholder engagement, and equity.  S.H. James Prep will be named after Gordon’s grandfather who was a pastor on the Eastside and the first Black city councilman in San Antonio. Gordon is influenced by his own educational journey, as well as his experiences as a teacher and leader throughout the state of Texas. He is determined to create an academic environment that acts as a runway to launch students towards their wildest dreams.

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