By Christine Cooke

Sutherland Institute wants local leaders to “school” us with what they know about education, which is why we have started “You Got Schooled.”

“You Got Schooled” is a social media initiative that highlights schools, teachers, and education programs that are achieving excellence for the individual student by thinking outside the box, implementing new ideas and challenging how we approach learning.

With National Charter School week in sight, we chose to highlight Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy, a Lindon charter school that is the overall No. 1 ranked school in Utah, according to U.S. News & World Report.

We visited the classroom of Dustin Simmons, a directed reading teacher and dean of students, and watched a lively discussion about Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels.

Sitting in a circle, with Simmons in his reading chair, students used the Socratic method to learn – reading important passages, discussing philosophical ideas, and even swapping relevant pop culture references. It was striking how much students engaged, not only with the teacher’s direct questions, but with each other in organic dialogue.

Simmons pushed the students to consider big questions, asked for opposing opinions, and often made the students laugh.

Students shared with me their love for the teachers, the smaller class sizes and the unique social environment. While the school emphasizes classical learning, the students accessed the classic texts using iPhones, iPads, and laptops. Students explained that technology is a great tool, but technology is not necessarily the focus of their education.

Mr. Simmons said that the school’s motto, “truth, honor, virtue,” makes its way into the classroom, where students look for opportunities to find the truth in the readings and strive for virtue – or in other words, excellence.

Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy is doing something right. And we were happy to get schooled by them.

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Christine Cooke works as a policy analyst for Sutherland Institute’s Center for Educational Progress. Christine has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in English Teaching and graduated from Arizona State University with a law degree. Prior to joining Sutherland Institute, Christine was an English teacher at a public junior high school and a residential treatment center. As a student attorney in the Arizona State University Juvenile Advocacy Clinic, Christine represented clients in juvenile law proceedings and taught community legal education to high school students. She worked in legal and policy research with the legal counsel for the Arizona Office of the Governor, legal counsel for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the Goldwater Institute, and The Heritage Foundation. Christine has made appearances on Fox-13 News and KSL’s Sunday Edition and is regularly featured in regional publications and radio shows. She currently sits on a state committee that advises the Utah State Board of Education on specific education issues. When in her home state of Arizona, she loves to spend time with her family. She also loves music, hiking, and making cookies.

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