Andrew Campanella: Spring Hill High School has a theme-based approach to learning; how do you feel that theme-based offerings inspire students to enjoy learning?
Dr. Michael Lofton: As a class works through a math unit, a teacher at Spring Hill will embed a project-based learning activity that relates to that class of students’ interests. That helps to hook the students into the math component. We find that by doing this, the kids study it deeper. No matter where they go to school, they’re going to take Algebra 2 before they graduate. Our program just has more project-based learning experiences that the kids get while they’re learning their curriculum. They really tend to delve a little bit deeper into study if they enjoy it more and it’s something that they want to relate to.
Andrew: What are some of the best things about Spring Hill?
Michael: Our teachers are very approachable and spend a lot of time with students. We have one lunch period where our students are off for about 55 minutes in the middle of the day. You’ll find teachers and students together during lunch: studying, talking, and working on projects. I’m very fortunate to have one of the best teaching staffs around to work with young people. I would say that’s probably the number one draw that this school has. We get to know all our students personally. I can walk down the hall and see in somebody’s eyes when they’re just not having a good day, and I can pull little Johnny aside and ask what’s going on. Having that open relationship builds a family atmosphere where we encourage and we support each other. Not every day is perfect, so we’ll help you when you’re down and celebrate you when you’re up.
Andrew: As a founder of the school, how does it feel to see the educational vision that you helped create come to fruition?
Michael: It’s an incredible honor, and there are times where I just think, “Gosh, how did that happen?” I do feel blessed. I think it shows that if you have a vision, you have direction, you work hard, and you all work hard together in the same direction, you can accomplish anything. And that’s what it takes. It takes all of us— the entire school, parents, the community— heading in the same direction. If you put in that hard work and you’re all moving in sync together in one direction, you’re going to get great results.
Andrew: How do you see school choice as important to Spring Hill High School?
Michael: All of our high schools in the district are open to choice. If you live in District 5 you can go to any high school in District 5. Our school has a lottery system to get in, but you’re not forced to stay at our school if you don’t like what we’re doing. The awesome thing with our graduation rate is that we have no academic requirements to get into Spring Hill. Outsiders say, “You’re a magnet school and you have all these great test results, you must have all the brightest kids in your district go to that school.” We do have very bright students, but we have kids of all ability levels who want to do well academically, and we meet those kids at their level and we move them higher.
Andrew: That’s incredible and that really does underscore how you and your students are working together in such a way that the outcome isn’t necessarily predetermined. How has Spring Hill participated in School Choice Week?
Michael: We’ve done different things. We’ve participated at a celebration downtown. We throw the yellow scarves out at pep rallies here at school and we celebrate choice and opportunities for students and parents. We do a weekly email information blast to all our parents and we put information about school choice into our parents’ hands so that they’re well-aware of their different options and different things going on in the community. It varies from year to year based on students and what they want to take on and get into. It’s pretty neat to watch!