Idaho New School Fellows “Elevate” At-Risk Students

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“Innovation is in high demand. Consumers expect it of businesses. Businesses seek it out in their employees. And as we raise and cultivate the next generation of thinkers, it makes sense that we should also demand it of our educational system. This requires leadership that is not content with the status quo. That actively seeks out what’s working in education and what isn’t. That explores new models and progressive techniques. And that purposely shakes things up not only to keep education fresh and evolving, but to get children excited about learning, feeling confident about their accomplishments, and keenly focused on the possibilities ahead.

These words appeared in a previous post introducing our 2016 Idaho New School Fellows, but they ring true for our 2017 Fellows as well.

Selected in July of 2017, Monica White and Matt Strong are outstanding veteran educators who are widely recognized for their innovative, community-oriented efforts that benefit at-risk students. They resigned from their positions in the Caldwell School District after a decade of service to launch Elevate Academy in 2019. They are committed to creating a system of excellence for traditionally underserved students through a career technical education (CTE) charter public school model.

Matt & Monica have spent the last seven months traveling to high-performing CTE schools throughout the country, researching school models, and exploring community partnerships – all of which has yielded Elevate Academy. Partnering with local industry, Elevate Academy intends to train and create a pipeline of highly-skilled, employable workers that meet the needs of Idaho industry and business, while empowering students to be leaders in their own lives.

Monica has served the students of Idaho as a teacher, coach and administrator for the past 17 years. She graduated from Boise State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Education. She taught physical education in the New Plymouth School district for seven years. During this time, she was awarded the first Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress (PEP) grant in the state of Idaho. Monica was a three-sport coach at New Plymouth, served on the 3rd district coaches board and was awarded accolades for her work. Monica is most proud of receiving the New Plymouth School District Teacher of the Year Award in 2005.

Monica received her Master’s in Education Leadership from Montana State University. She was hired by the Caldwell School district as a middle school administrator in 2007. She served as both vice-principal and principal before being recruited to work at the district office. Monica found her true calling when she became principal of Canyon Springs Alternative School in Caldwell. She believes in empowering people, and moving staff and students to do their best work in all circumstances. At Canyon Springs, Monica received a PEP grant and transformed Caldwell’s K-12 physical education program for over 6,000 students. She served on several committees, was a visionary for systemic change both in her school and for the district. Monica was instrumental in starting Idaho’s first peer court. She is an advocate for restorative justice and guided second chances. Monica is a respected thought leader in the psychology of at-risk youth and has developed curriculum to help students transition from a victim mentality to a mentality of responsibility; empowering young people to take ownership of their own lives.

Matt is a long-time educator and coach. He graduated from Eastern Oregon University where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. He continued his education at Boise State University where he received his Idaho teaching credential. In 2009 Matt received his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from The University of Phoenix. Matt became Canyon Springs Alternative High School’s vice-principal in 2011. This is where Matt discovered his true calling of working with at-risk youth. Matt perseveres to “find a way” for every student he has ever encountered. Matt is a pillar in the Caldwell community. He has served on numerous boards and serves as a football coach at the College of Idaho. Matt was the leader who formed Go-Purple; the group that connected the larger Treasure Valley community to the College of Idaho. Matt has been a driving force in building efforts to improve the city of Caldwell for all with his grassroots movement, Caldwell Proud. His efforts include a partnership with the Lions Club in acquiring and transforming a Caldwell park that needed improvements for the benefit of children in the area.

Matt believes in helping all people meet their maximum potential. He is a master at building and sustaining a school culture that leads to excellence. He has spoken at local and national education conferences on the topic “It’s all about culture.” Matt is a visionary, a leader, and an advocate for children everywhere.