A Catalyst for Change


From LR: Keenan Gregory, Ms. Spear, Hez Johnson, Allie Haynes Photo by: Sarah Bestor

When asked about one of the ways she teaches her class of Catalyst students Ms. Spear said,

“If I can’t tell them why we’re learning it, I don’t teach it.”

This is only one of the ways Spear showed her true passion and pride about teaching Catalyst.

Catalyst is an alternate education program at Ashland High School that gives meaning behind everything that is taught. It is a project based class that is hands-on, creates a close student teacher relationship and is designed for students who may not fit the mold for the regular track. It creates what Hannah Gibbs, a senior, calls “a family.” Each class having seventeen students and a weekly confidential group check-in helps create that small community atmosphere that many students strive to have while they tackle their four years of high school.

This is also a dropout prevention program for students who have previously dropped out or might be on the fence about dropping out of school. One student said “if I hadn’t joined Catalyst there’s a high chance I would’ve dropped out a while ago.” It shows students a different side of school, a side that incorporates what is learned in the “regular track” with real life skills.

Students can get all credits, except for math and physical education, while taking Catalyst. In order to further incorporate social learning, the group volunteers in the community, doing things from dog training to restoration at the Willow Wind Paradise Creek. Catalyst gets guest speakers that have been through rough times and guest speakers that never really had to struggle, which creates an open outlook on both types of people. The students go on field trips to the outdoors and plant trees throughout Ashland to make the town even more beautiful than it already is. The classroom also contains a kitchen where they learn to cook and have seasonal feasts which makes the Catalyst community even closer.

Spear bases her teaching ideas off the website Edutopia – click here to view the site- that says the specific things the website believes you need to have to create a successful learning environment. One of those things is inspiration and without a doubt Spear is an inspirational teacher. She makes such an impact on students, whether in Catalyst or in her art classes, she brings meaning to school which many students find to be something they are forced to attend. If Spear’s ways were incorporated into classrooms across the nation, students everywhere would enjoy school more.