We are proud to feature this guest post sharing perspectives from Jason Gossard, Kindergarten Teacher, and Niko del Valle, a 6th grade student, about The Circle School, a unique learning environment where teachers have the flexibility to encourage students to follow their passions.
Jason Gossard Shares a Teacher’s Perspective about The Circle School
I currently teach Kindergarten at The Circle School, a unique learning environment that gives teachers the flexibility to teach to the students’ interests, facilitating projects and learning opportunities that build essential academic skills in a manner that originates with the students’ own passions.
The mission at The Circle School is to cultivate the whole child, ranging from academic skills to social-emotional through artistic, and to give those children the tools and drive to become impactful citizens of the world, advocating for positive change in their communities.
This past school year, my kindergarten class witnessed a presentation from our Junior High class, a practice run of their Future City project that they would use to compete against other schools in Texas. Inspired by what they saw their older peers accomplish, several five-year-olds in my class asked if they could do a similar project. A completely spontaneous lesson, this seed that was planted by our older students turned into a month-long project that involved reading, writing, math, science, art, team work, public speaking, troubleshooting, failure, working through failure, and more. At the end of their presentation to the entire school, one of my students, with tears of joy in her eyes, told me that she “felt like a leader for the first time.” Having the flexibility and encouragement to follow students down their own paths, facilitating the journey to make it as academically rich as possible, is an educational framework that makes teaching at The Circle School such a rewarding experience.
In addition, our supports flexibility and innovation in teaching by helping us to attend cutting-edge workshops and having experiences such as the SXSW EDU conference keep us current and on the forefront of educational philosophies. As a teacher, I am allowed, arguably encouraged, to take chances and think outside the box. This ultimately gives me many more tools in my tool box to draw from, and also sets the tone that it is a good thing to try new teaching methods and continually look for new ways to connect with students.
The Circle School’s Co-op Model
Our school is a co-op, which means that the parents of the students help manage almost every aspect of the school. Building close relationships with parents, helping them understand how children learn, and working together to build educational plans for their student helps us maintain our focus on why we are here—to develop every aspect of the child. The teaching staff also regularly discuss every child in the school, building the sense of community and bringing to reality the concept of “It Takes a Village.” We are all responsible for each student, and each family, and each other, and by working together we lift each other up and make sure we are bringing the best to the classroom each day.
Parent involvement is mandatory in that we are a co-op and every family must complete a set number of co-op hours. I see the pride in students’ eyes when they talk about how their parent helped complete a certain project at the school, or how their parent is present in the classroom, helping out or bringing their own passions in to share with the students. We also begin and end each day with an oral story, at which every student in the school, from three-year-olds to eighth graders, are present.
A Unique Learning Environment
I learned about The Circle School when I received a phone call from a friend who’s son attended the school when one of the teachers resigned. I was working in a public school at the time and she knew that this was a place more aligned with my values.
This is a great place for teachers to teach who are bursting with ideas! If you have projects you want to tackle or academic adventures you want to take students on but are possibly feeling restrained by curriculum mandates or time constraints, this is an encouraging environment to take those risks. For parents and students, we are an academically rich school that provides opportunities to learn that do not resemble your standard pencil-paper school work or homework. We value outside play, nature studies, the importance of being a Changemaker and other intangible skills that are developed as we teach the academic essentials such as reading, math, and science.
Every child is a unique learner and every teacher has their own unique teaching styles. While a student my succeed in any environment, there are likely specific environments in which that student can thrive in a manner both unexpected and inspiring. The same goes with teachers, some of whom may do best when given a more guided curriculum and some of whom need an element of spontaneity and freshness to keep them engaged.
Niko del Valle Shares a Student’s Perspective About The Circle School
I am proud to say that I go to The Circle School, and I love that this school lets you roam and connect to other people. Every day I explore more and get more strength to continue to achieve my life goals. Not only do I get closer to my life goals, but also I create more life goals at this school.
This school teaches everyone at the same time. If you’re falling behind, your teacher will put more focus on you to direct you in a way that you don’t feel rushed and so you can stay balanced with everyone.
The Circle School is perfect for making friends. It is fun to learn in an exquisite way. In the past, at previous schools, I felt like I was too energetic, and I wanted to talk more. My parents moved me here after kindergarten because my parents thought this would be a good school for me and I am glad they did. What is my advice for students who are thinking about which school to attend? I would suggest that you go to a school that you like and you are passionate about.
From my experiences participating in community service activities, I’ve learned it feels good to help people. I also like the instinct it gives you when you do something right. I have gone to the San Antonio Food Bank various times to help pack food, and I also make a full breakfast for the church several times a year for church people to enjoy. I have played many sports since I was young. I’ve played soccer, flag football, parkour, golf, badminton, cricket, and tennis.
Connect with The Circle School
The Circle School has a website, thecircleschool.org, where you can learn more about us. You can follow The Circle School on social media on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our phone number is 210-822-0461. The campus is located at 217 Pershing Ave., San Antonio, TX 78209 (map).
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Blanca Luna, Operations Administrator, Jason Gossard, Kindergarten Teacher, and Niko del Valle, 6th grade student, all at The Circle School, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on January 10, 2024 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Blanca Luna became The Circle School’s administrator in May 2000 thanks to the school’s unique barter program. Prior to her current role, she served on the school’s Board of Directors and organized many school events. She has worked in various administrative positions in corporations, at university, child care centers and small businesses. Blanca was a Circle School parent for 18 years and continued her work after her children transitioned out of the school. Blanca enjoys going to comedy and live music shows and spending time with her partners Phillip and Delain. Together they have five children: Sonny, Noah, Violet, Trinity, and Amara.
Jason Gossard currently teaches the children in The Circle School’s kindergarten program and has worked at the school teaching preschool or kindergarten since 2004. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and then moved to Texas where he completed a teaching certification program through ESC Region 20. Jason spent eleven years teaching preschool at Head Start. Jason is also a writer, poet, and organizer for the San Antonio Puro Slam.
Niko del Valle is a 6th grade student at The Circle School. He has been a student there since first grade. Niko loves to problem solve, and his favorite subject is math. He loves to spend his time playing tennis, and in the future he would love to play on the high school varsity team.
Read More Perspectives About Private Schools
- “Rose Parham Shares a Parent’s Perspective From the Keystone School,” Rose Parham, San Antonio Charter Moms, April 26, 2023
- “Jerrel Williams Is a Teacher, Coach, Chef, and Leader at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School,” Jerrel Williams, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 8, 2023
- “Jennifer Semanko Shares Her Pre-K Teacher Tales from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School,” Jennifer Semanko, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 23, 2022
- “Megan Garcia Shares a Parent Perspective from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School,” Megan Garcia, San Antonio Charter Moms, February 23, 2022
- “Anna Koalenz Searched to Find the Right School for Her Son,” San Antonio Charter Moms, September 8, 2022
- “Erin Stinson Offers a Parent Perspective from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School,” Erin Stinson, San Antonio Charter Moms, February 23, 2022