Cross the threshold into Plano ISD Academy High School and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not the typical academic establishment. You’re more likely to find a full-scale tiny house in the foyer than a trophy case. “I never had a student ask to bring a horse to school until I was the principal at Academy,” Principal Lynn Ojeda says. And that is just the sort of request that makes Lynn love her job.
Lynn Ojeda has spent 25 of her 26 years as an educator (first as a Spanish teacher, then in administration, and finally as a principal) right here in Plano ISD. Under her leadership, Academy High School is revolutionizing education.
Where most high schools divide learning by subject, Academy High School amalgamates the subjects into a project-based learning community. With an emphasis in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), “learners,” as Lynn calls them, work together each term to answer questions like ”How can we change water shortage in the world?”
“These questions could have varied answers. Learners will have some choice in how they want to solve that problem,” Lynn says. “They have varied interests and they can incorporate music, fashion design, robotics, debate, etc. Anything a learner is interested in can complement the work in a project.”
We’ve all heard of an open-door policy, but at Academy High School there aren’t any doors. In project areas like the Maker Space and the Fabrication Lab, students learn 3d printing, soldering, electrical circuitry and machinery. At the end of the project, learners present a working prototype, often to professional members of the Plano community.
Preparation for a learner’s future is paramount to the Academy philosophy and Lynn’s ideal graduate has a list of admirable qualities. “He or she will have a sense of self, take on challenges, have integrity, feel they have a voice, be resilient and relentless in pursuit of their goals. They should fail forward, value creativity, innovation and problem solving.”
These characteristics coupled with community internships, student-selected extracurriculars and job references from leaders in the community definitely come in handy heading into college. This year’s first graduating class of 69 students received offers from 50 different universities along with very generous scholarships.
“The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that a child was attractive to a university because of an internship and that experience impacted them,” Lynn says. “That feels good when that kind of thing happens. It’s all about making kids’ dreams come true.”See all of the women in our Girl Boss 2016 feature >