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Philadelphia Area Charter School CEO Encourages Educators To Fan The Flame

Nicolle Hutchinson is the CEO of Gillingham Charter School, which serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade, offering tuition-free education in a small academic setting. Hutchinson earned her Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Lee College and both her Principal Certification and master's degree in educational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.

(Photo Courtesy of Nicolle Hutchinson)

What is the most challenging aspect of teaching in the classroom environment?

"At Gillingham Charter School, we offer relational education based on Charlotte Mason's model; we find it VERY challenging to teach students the skills required on a standardized test and teach students about how to live in and care for this fascinating world. In relational education, students study whole, living books which inspire because they are rich in ideas and strong vocabulary and figurative language, so they ignite the imagination and the facts and skills are immersed within the learning."

Are continuing education courses beneficial for teachers?

"Continuing education is beneficial, but the deeper question is, 'What is the most beneficial type of continuing education?' As research has proven, our teachers consistently find individualized learning plans, lesson studies, reflective practices and immersions to be the most powerful learning experiences. Teachers new to the relational education approach are immersed as students into a relational education "classroom," experiencing the unique approach from the student's perspective. Throughout the school year, teachers use feedback and reflective practices to determine areas in which they want to grow, creating their own learning plans. Then teachers watch one another teach. Continuing education must be self-directed, must be done in the community and must be immediately implemented so that it is processed and actually learned."

Do you feel a master's in education would be helpful to your day-to-day career?

"A master's in education is beneficial when it is born out of experience in the classroom. Research shows that a teacher feels like a master of this amazing craft after teaching five years. Once a teacher has that confidence and years of 'background knowledge,' a master's degree becomes much more meaningful and enriching because the teacher knows how he wants to improve, and he knows which aspect of the craft he loves."

Do you have any advice for people wanting to enter the teaching profession?

"If your verse is to teach, understand this one thing: children are persons. Children come to us fully developed; their minds and personalities and backgrounds are firmly established. And since they come to us as persons, they are eager to learn. Our verse as educators is to fan that flame, not to extinguish it. If you love children, if you love to learn and if you have a growth mindset, you are ready to fan the flame of learning."

Christina Thompson is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. She reports on various topics such as: Social Media, Local Events, Entertainment, Food and Drink and more. Her work can be found at


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