Melissa Stevens teaches her English class

Two Journeys, One Destination

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Two alumni return to Compass as teachers

by Lindsay Trombly

‘I VALUED WHAT I WAS TAUGHT’

Being a teacher was always in the plan.

Melissa Stevens now teaches at Compass Public Charter School in Meridian, and knew her calling ever since her time as a student at Compass. Stevens attended Compass in 2005, when the school first opened, as a third grader. Little did she know then, her experience would influence her future and shape her into the teacher she is today. Looking back, she described her educational experience as “a serendipitous, romanticized story,” since she was in the graduating class of 2015 — marking the decade anniversary of the school being opened. She was honored as the class Valedictorian.

Melissa Steven's senior photo

Melissa Steven’s senior photo, courtesy of Compass Public Charter School.

“I decided to stay [at the school] because I valued what I was being taught. I knew they wanted to support me as a person, and to work hard,” Stevens said.

From a young age, Stevens valued her education and knew she wanted to attend college. After graduating from high school, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. There, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Literature with an emphasis on English Literature. Compass gave her the tools she needed to succeed.

“It’s a very rigorous school, and challenging yourself is one of the most fulfilling things. That fills you with belief in yourself and the tools you need to succeed,” Stevens said. “A major focus here is how you’re valued as a person. I feel like I was challenged in a way I want to be challenged.”

After college, she wanted to go somewhere she felt “grounded” and returned to Idaho to start her career in education. She spent a post-graduate year exploring tutoring and substitute teaching. Serendipitously, she substituted at Compass and on her first day, she learned about an English teacher opening through her former principal and teacher — who recognized her talent. She said everything fell into place after that.

“They knew when I graduated, I wanted to be an English teacher — everyone knew that,” Stevens said.

Now in her second year of teaching at Compass, she currently teaches 11th and 12th grade English. Her class focuses on Writing and Rhetoric, as well as British Literature.

“I’ve always been interested in the academic world — what I love about it — is it combines the two basic things of who we are as people. We live in a community, we are community-based individuals. No matter if you are introverted or extroverted, you were meant to be around people, form relationships, create bonds, and discover who you are,” Stevens said. “School is a great place to do it, and I like being a part of a school that does it in a good way, and fosters the whole student. I’m a huge nerd — I love literature and linguistics. The ideas that you discuss in English classes, you really get to know the students in a unique and special way.”

Stevens said being a charter school alumna allows her to relate to the experiences of her students, specifically working with students on their senior projects — since she did one of her own at Compass. And she believes this creates a connection with students, making it valuable for charter school alumni to return to their alma mater to teach.

Administrator Kelly Trudeau said she couldn’t think of a better way to maintain the school’s mission, vision, and culture than having alumni, like Stevens, join the Compass family.

“One of our highest priorities in choosing and hiring a candidate as a teacher is finding someone who can uphold our positive school culture. Melissa’s responses in the interview made it very clear that she would not only uphold the culture, but she knew it well from her prior experience as a student. Therefore, she was the best candidate for the job,” Trudeau said.

‘I WANT TO HELP PEOPLE’

Matt wraps up his lecture in the last few minutes of the class period

First year teacher, Matthew Trudeau, wraps up his lecture in the last few minutes of the class period.

First year teacher, Matthew Trudeau, didn’t initially plan on being a teacher but he knew he wanted to help people.

He started at Compass as a sophomore, after attending various schools including traditional district schools and charter schools. He made the transition to Compass because the school offers dual credit courses. During his schooling he juggled academics, athletics, and graduated with 36 college credits.

“I can remember struggling so much coming from a traditional school, but looking back on it now, I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am in my life without my education at Compass,” Matthew Trudeau shared.

After high school, Matthew Trudeau followed his family legacy of Vandal pride and continued his education at the University of Idaho. He earned a Bachelor’s in Sociology with an emphasis on Criminology.

“I would say criminology is what I’m most passionate about. I ended up getting my degree in Sociology and I really focused in college on criminological theory, and theories that focused on specific types of crimes and why people commit crimes,” Trudeau said.

Because of the dual credit programs offered through Compass, he was able earn his Bachelor’s degree in just three years.

“If I wouldn’t have been able to teach at Compass, I don’t think I would have taken this career path,” Matthew Trudeau said. “I know how great the students are at Compass and how much they want to learn. They are such great kids.”

Matthew in his high school basketball photo

Matthew Trudeau (top row, farthest on the left) stands with his Varsity basketball team in 2015 at Compass. Photo Courtesy of Compass Public Charter School.

He is teaching four different classes including Freshman Navigation, Personal Finance, Criminology, and Law Enforcement — another elective opportunity for students. Reflecting upon alumni returning to the school to teach, he said it helps inspire students, who might think to themselves — “‘I can be there one day.’”

For the past 17-years, Compass Public Charter School has been “providing a safe and challenging learning community that prepares students for life-long excellence through exceptional academics, character development, and the ability to define and defend a personal worldview.”

Stevens and Trudeau are the perfect example of the impact a positive educational experience can have on students – so much so that they are bringing the lifelong love of learning they developed at Compass to inspire the next generation of graduates.

Compass Public Charter School is a Bluum portfolio school and has received grant support from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and from Idaho’s Communities of Excellence federal Charter Schools Program grant.