After holding various teaching positions over the last ten years, I heard that a charter school was opening in my area. This was big news since there weren’t any charter schools in the county in New Jersey where I live. The idea of helping to start a new school from scratch, for a disadvantaged community hit a nerve, so I applied hoping to get a kindergarten position.
Here it is a year later, and I couldn’t be happier being a kindergarten teacher at Ocean Academy Charter School. This is not to say that starting a new school is without challenges, trials, and stress, but as we move forward, it brings a sense of accomplishment to my career that I would have never experienced in a traditional public school.
Most of our student body consists of students whose parents recently immigrated to our county so they have very strong cultural bonds that our school embraces and respects. As a teacher at Ocean Academy, I have been given much creative latitude to address and enrich these special cultural needs by making connections of their everyday life to the curriculum. This is not something I have found in my prior public school experience.
The “open door” policy of our school’s administration is special. At our school, all administrators and support staff are just a few steps away. I can always talk with our principal or executive director about issues, ideas, and problems. Such an open and supportive environment only helps to advance our school’s mission “to provide elementary students with a high-quality and student-centered education in a safe, nurturing, and challenging environment so that all students achieve their highest level of academic success.”
Ocean Academy has a high bar for success, aligning with our authorizer, the New Jersey Department of Education. They require that the charter schools they authorize meet higher standards than the local district schools. I have found that this motivates me and my fellow teachers to work harder to accomplish our academic goals while still making certain that the overall needs of our children are thoroughly met with the concern and respect they deserve. Smaller class size and differentiated learning, with the help of full-time aides, makes this possible.
I also feel good about not having a unionized shop at my school. During my previous teaching years (prior to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision), I resented being advised as to what is right or wrong according to union ideas and standards. If I want to volunteer for special assignments or do something that is “out-of-the-box,” I want that right to do so. I really enjoy working without a framework created by a third party that doesn’t have the same vested interest that I have in my school and my career. Most certainly, I don’t miss being told who to vote for!
Bottom line: I know I made the right decision in working for a charter school.
Diane Oxley is a kindergarten teacher at Ocean Academy Charter School.
Learn more about charter schools on our About Charter Schools page.
Thank you for your experience about Public Charter Schools and how your authorizer New Jersey Department of Education to exceed local district school standards.
Thank you for stressing the open door policy with administration that encourages seeking the needs of the children.
Thank you for bringing to light the Union’s coercive influence on daily lives of teachers and private life such as voting.
I appreciate the insight you have shared and hope to hear more about your accomplishments at Ocean Academy