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Maura sits in her 6th grade classroom

Idaho Charter School Alumna Reflects on Experience

Executive Assistant at Anser Charter School returns to her roots

by Lindsay Trombly

Maura Romano learned at 11-years old that attending the neighborhood district school wasn’t for her. She said she wasn’t excelling at her previous school. Her parents got her on the waitlist to attend Anser Public Charter School and once she was admitted into the school — everything changed for the better.

“All of my teachers [at the district school] were…well, it was just the textbook, worksheet-based learning, I had lots of questions and I wanted to learn more,” Romano said. “Anser’s EL Education [expeditionary learning] really helped with that because I spent time focused on one thing and got to go really deep. I liked that structure a little bit better.”

But it wasn’t just the learning model she grew to love. She knew Anser was the place for her after experiencing the Rope Course, a long-standing Anser tradition, during her 7th and 8th grade years. The course is one day during the fall semester for students to connect and deepen relationships. Students have to work together to complete an obstacle course and other activities.

Maura Romano stands with 7th and 8th grade students completing “the wall,” one of the team building activities up at the McCall based ropes course.
Maura Romano stands with 7th and 8th grade students completing “the wall,” one of the team building activities up at the McCall based ropes course.

“I didn’t really have any established relationships,” Romano said. “That [the rope course] really stuck with me.”

At the end of the course students were given bracelets and Romano said she kept it on until it finally fell off years later.

Now, she’s back to the place that has shaped her into the person she is today. This public charter school alumna graduated in 2020 from Willamette University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Biology. She fell in love with working with children through a Psychology Internship at the Boys and Girls Club in Garden City.

“I have established relationships with students and families there [the Boys and Girls Club]. The thought of being able to work with kids in that capacity was really cool – especially kids I already knew,” Romano said.

Romano started her career at Anser being part of their Support Staff while they were navigating how to teach during a pandemic. Now, she is taking on the role of Executive Assistant while also teaching Criminal Psychology as an elective for junior high students. Usually, members of the community volunteer to teach electives, but Anser changed the process this year where skilled staff members could teach electives if they were interested because of COVID.

“Psychology as a science is really fascinating to me,” Romano said. “I’m glad I get to share that with younger students that might not be able to have that opportunity in other schools.”

Romano’s family, friends and mentors aren’t surprised she found a home at Anser. Her 6th grade teacher Dolly Higgins said her former student encompasses Anser’s values as a person, and when she walked in her classroom years ago, she embraced the way they do school.

Students work together to complete “the wall."
Students work together to complete “the wall.”

“Having heard she is at Anser — it makes sense. I think she values what the school does, I think she’s great working with people and with kids — any school would be lucky to have her. I think when you have had a great experience and it has changed you, you feel that sense of identity and connection,” Higgins said. “That’s definitely a powerful thing in Maura’s story. Maybe someday she will be the Principal of Anser, but I know she will take it [the experience] with her in whatever she does.”

Romano has found her place in the Anser community helping Idaho New School Fellow Heather Dennis and her Co-Director Michelle Dunstan with various tasks on helping the school run while it expands to serve 675 students in grade K-9. She has been working in the marketing and recruitment side of things as well and loves learning about the non-profit side of school operations.

“She understands our mission and vision and how we operationalize that each day, which allows her to communicate that out to families when she is recruiting, and she can identify ways to support teachers based on her experience,” Dennis said. “When my Co-Director and I are feeling overwhelmed with the challenges of running a school during a pandemic, while also under construction, she can take things off of our plates and we know that because of her deep understanding of our culture, she will complete them the way we would.”

In her role, Romano has also spent some time reaching out to community members and ran a booth at the Saturday market as an Anser ambassador.

“We’re really focused right now on diversifying our student population,” Romano said. “That’s been really fun to get to learn a little bit about that push for diversification and trying to get kids here who really need an education like this, who might not have the opportunity or otherwise know about a tuition free public charter school.”

Attending Anser has left an impact on her own life in different ways. She said she enjoys reading and writing because of Anser, and Dennis said she has always been an engaged voice in her community.

Maura stands at the Anne Frank Memorial with her project
Maura Romano stands at the Anne Frank Memorial presenting research completed by her junior high class about human rights.

“I kind of said this as a joke, but it’s true, Anser specifically, and I’m sure other charter school experiences that students have, they kind of suck you back in because it is so rewarding,” Romano said.

Higgins expressed nothing but joy for Romano and her opportunity to be at Anser Charter School. Her 6th grade teacher reflected on who her student has become, and she couldn’t help but be emotional.

“I think it’s just an honor to have shared part of her journey and it makes me very happy to think that she’s the one connecting with new crew members and helping them take flight,” Higgins said. “Because I know she’s going to be there for them.”

Romano is just one student, one person, who’s educational experience has challenged her to take on more in high school and college. She found a deeper appreciation for learning and wanted to know more about the world. She learned to like school, and it’s all because of the great experience she has had at Anser Charter School.

Know someone with a charter school story as an alumni in Idaho? Submit stories here and  follow along with our charter school alumni series.

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