High school is a difficult time for students, whether they’re looking to fit in socially or academically. Paladin Career and Technical School in Coon Rapids is working to give students the tools they need to be their personal best, using project based learning and trauma-informed teaching.
“Students are not defined by their past experiences or hiccups they’ve had along the way - we literally give them a fresh start,” said Brandon Wait, the charter school’s principal. “It doesn’t mean that their past isn’t a part of their story, what it does mean is we help a student reset and restart.”
Paladin has been reconstructing education since 2003. The school practices “project based learning,” a teaching method in which students actively engage with the real world and personally engaging projects. Recently, it launched a new initiative called “standard based learning.”
“The problem with grades in the past and the traditional system is that they are arbitrary,” said Wait. “They really aren’t grading learning or what you learned or how much you know - it's grading on ‘did you turn your homework in on time.’”
Compared to other traditional high schools which may follow more cookie-cutter-like systems, Wait says Paladin makes a commitment to meet the needs of every individual student.
“We define success off of what the students' needs are and what they feel success is,” he said. “And honestly for each student, that success, that need might look much different. One kid might need a lot of emotional support, or help with homeless needs, whether that be food or clothing or shelter. I know we’re a school but we’re much more than that - we will help a student remove barriers to get here.”
Paladin is getting its own fresh start; it recently moved into a new building after working out of the Northtown Mall for the past decade. The new building is allowing the school to expand its enrollment.