Northwest Academy: new principal, new educational offerings

nwa web

Northwest Academy of Charlevoix has a new principal.
The Northwest Academy Board of Education voted unanimously on Wednesday June 11 to name long-time teacher Phoebe Gohs school leader. Board member Claire Rasmussen was absent.
“I am excited for this opportunity to lead Northwest Academy in a new direction that will include a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade Montessori program and an innovative arts-integrated high school,” said Gohs, who has taught early elementary classes at the school for eight years and has also been both curriculum director and school improvement coordinator.
“We went with someone who is known and who we have worked with and appreciated for a number of years,” said Northwest Academy Board of Education President Joe Seidel. “The board made her appointment official at last night’s meeting and, immediately following, we had quite a bit of discussion of how we could be doing business in the fall.”
He added, “She has, in a very short time, presented a number of very good, positive ideas of how to carry us on into the new school year … and we are looking forward to them coming to fruition.”
Seidel said the tuition-free public school academy currently has openings for new students interested in a positive, close-knit environment.
According to Gohs, Northwest Academy’s new approach to education is a time-tested and sought-after way of combining core content like reading, writing, mathematics and social studies with performing and visual arts.
“With the budgetary challenges both traditional and charter public schools are facing, often the arts are the first thing to be cut,” Gohs said. “At Northwest Academy, we will embrace the arts as a vital aspect of the complete education each student receives.”
She added, “We will offer band, choir, drama, arts classes and dance classes, and we will incorporate the arts in our core content lessons.”
Gohs also has plans to revamp how the school’s online learning offerings are structured.
“Instead of using prepackaged curriculum, our teachers are going to use course management software to create online classes,” she said. “The advantage to that will be that we can customize content to fit our students’ needs. And, our teachers will be more familiar with the lessons and expectations for each course than they are when they are simply administering a one-size-fits-all course.”
Gohs said the new approach will ensure students have the same course expectations whether they are working at home online, are blended learners or are full-time, in-building students.
To help meet the goal of arts-integrated education, Northwest Academy will be turning its North Building into an arts center with classrooms for dance, band, choir, drama and more.
“We’re instituting a lot of new programs but ultimately our mission remains the same, and that is to individualize education while maintaining small class sizes,” said Gohs. “If a student needs extra support, we have the time and the staff to provide the scaffolds they need. Conversely, if a student is ready to move ahead in the curriculum, we have the ability to work individually with students to meet their educational needs.”
Northwest Academy of Charlevoix plans to implement the pre-kindergarten through third-grade Montessori program in the fall and will continue implementing Montessori into the higher grades until they have a complete pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade Montessori program—expected by the 2016-2017 school year.
Unlike a traditional classroom, which focuses on offering education to students based on their chronological age, Montessori programs use multi-age classrooms used to create a more authentic learning environment that include hands-on learning opportunities that teach multiple concepts at once.
“Students don’t learn subjects in isolation. They learn subjects in concert with one another,” Gohs said. “In a Montessori classroom, all instruction is presented in small groups or individual lessons.”
Examples of arts-integrated learning include students performing a play that teaches them about social studies, or writing a research report based on a science experiment they conducted.
In addition to holding a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and a Master of Arts in reading and literacy K-12, Gohs has a Master of Arts in school principalship with an emphasis in charter school administration.
She is a highly-qualified elementary teacher, a Certified Reading Specialist K-12, and a certified School Administrator.
Gohs is also certified as a Montessori teacher for ages 6 to 9.
Gohs, who is married and has two college-age children, has also served as an adjunct professor in Petoskey and Gaylord for Spring Arbor University for five years.
She was chosen following a search for a new school leader after former Northwest Academy Administrator Matt Saunders resigned from the position citing health issues back in late winter. Steve Overton has served as interim school leader while the search was conducted.
“I would like to thank Steve Overton for his leadership during this interim period,” said Gohs. “He was integral in guiding us through this transition period.”
Call Gohs for more information or a tour of the school at (231) 547-9000.