SPARK School at Kyrene de las Manitas
Team Teaching. Dynamic Learning. Open Spaces.
Kyrene School District is committed to providing engaging, challenging educational environments which promote and inspire passion for learning, leading, and achieving. In 2019, the District launched a new program that reimagines the standard classroom structure by combining innovative practices in learning environments, methods and staffing.
SPARK can serve up to 120 students across three grade levels, taught by a core team of six educators: one Teacher Executive Designer (TED), two certified teachers and three teacher candidates. The program is housed on the campus of Kyrene de las Manitas, in a learning studio that is open and dynamic, equipped with furniture designed for flexibility and collaboration.
This model is the culmination of two years of effort that involved more than 100 Kyrene stakeholders participating in a design process facilitated by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Community input and participation is an important part of the process and continues to influence the program’s design.
The SPARK School at Kyrene de las Manitas includes three grade levels (3, 4, 5) in the 2020-21 school year, and four grades for 2021-22 (3, 4, 5, 6). Interested families are welcome to enroll online.
Meet the Teacher Executive Designer (TED)
Mary Brown is the Certified Teacher Executive Designer (TED) of SPARK. Mrs. Brown oversees a staff of two additional full-time certified teachers as well as a team of instructional assistants, teaching interns, and content-area experts. These experts include professionals in the Kyrene community, such as engineers, who volunteer their time to supplement the lessons designed by the teachers. The goal of this model is to surround students with more educators, to serve their needs on multiple levels.
Mrs. Brown graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Prescott College, followed by a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Mrs. Brown’s roots in education began in the classroom, where she taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders for ten years in Tucson, Arizona. Her family then moved north, to Phoenix, where they sought out a home that would ensure their own children would attend school in the Kyrene School District.
Mrs. Brown served as an English Language Arts (ELA) coach in two Kyrene schools, then supported the work in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) at the district office. Most recently, she has been working in schools across the country, supporting teachers and administrators in implementing best teaching practices across all grade levels. While Mrs. Brown has enjoyed her many roles in education, her fondest experiences are from her time in the classroom, and she is excitedly embracing this new journey.
Member of the SPARK teacher team engaging with students
The Learning Experience
Mrs. Brown has a powerful vision for this new educational model, and she shares this vision with parents:
“We know that our role as educators is to help prepare your children for college and careers that are changing rapidly, for a world where leadership and communication skills are critical. Research shows that by offering opportunities on a regular basis for students to work with real-world issues, we are bridging their current and future selves. Students in this program will have the chance to explore meaningful topics over the course of several weeks, build knowledge on each topic through literature, research, experts in the field and hands-on practice. Simultaneously, they will be mastering grade level standards and working toward a culminating project that allows them to apply their learning to a purposeful task.
Our classroom will look, sound and feel different from what you would typically see. In addition to state-of-the-art technology and creative uses of the classroom where students can build, perform and experiment with hands-on activities, we will also encourage and facilitate discussion, collaboration and healthy debate. We know that the skills of cooperation and building relationships through these tasks are critical for future leaders to have. Students will often not only question themselves and their current understandings, but question their peers, fostering a growth mindset and perseverance in navigating the inquiry process."- Mary B. Brown, Certified Teacher Executive Designer
The benefits of teaming
Deep, personalized learning
SPARK Name Reveal
Background and Development Information
The purpose of this initiative was to design innovative solutions to challenges in education by using an open-ended design process that values local context, diverse perspectives, entrepreneurial thinking and testing of solutions. View the development process below: