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Expeditionary Learning Partner School Teacher Named Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year

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    Alexis Margolin

DETROIT, June 10, 2015 -- A second grade teacher at Detroit Achievement Academy, an Expeditionary Learning (EL) partner school, has been named the 2015 Michigan Charter School Teacher of the Year. Jennifer McMillan, a Detroit native, was chosen from the more than 10,000 charter school teachers in Michigan, which has 145,000 students enrolled in 303 charter schools. McMillan is the fifth teacher within the EL network who has received a state teacher of the year honor in the last two years.

"I always knew that my students were incredibly special and hard-working and motivated, and this award is a celebration of this," said McMillan. Detroit Achievement Academy, which opened its doors two years ago in the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood of Detroit, is one of EL's 160 partner schools nationwide. EL schools operate primarily in low- to middle-income urban and rural districts in 31 states and D.C.

McMillan joined Detroit Achievement Academy as a founding faculty member two years ago, helping get the free public charter school off the ground to serve kindergarten, first, and second grade students. The school uses the Expeditionary Learning educational model, which prioritizes intensive teacher professional development as well as high student engagement.

With the EL model, McMillan says, "the students love to take ownership of ideas, and have the drive to be successful and be leaders, even at this young age."

"The first four years that I taught, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the new state standards – I wanted to help kids achieve against state measurements but still wanted to be able to teach creatively," said McMillan. The EL approach allowed her to do both. "EL addresses both what students need and what they want," she said. "It's a harmonious execution of all the greatest ways kids learn in one model."

The young teacher has pushed herself to bring curiosity and creativity to her classroom, taking on weekly professional development as well as attending multiple education conferences throughout the year. She's seen the results with her students: "The biggest difference I have seen in the kids I have worked with over the past two years is their jump in independence. They are true learners who are just as interested in discovering for themselves what the answer is as they are in knowing the right answer. They are driving their own learning and driving their own success."