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Innovation and Inspiration at Kyrene de las Manitas

Posted March 2022


In 2019, Kyrene School District, in partnership with the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, launched a pilot program on the campus of Kyrene de las Manitas. The program reimagined the standard classroom structure by combining innovative practices in learning environments, teaching methods, and educator staffing. To highlight the program’s success, ASU invited educators from across the country to Manitas to see innovation in action.


“When you walk into a Manitas learning studio you see fewer walls, state-of-the-art technology, and more adults available to provide students individualized learning opportunities,” said Manitas Principal Sarah Collins. “The staffing and curriculum are designed to prepare students for colleges and careers that are changing rapidly.”


Currently, Manitas students in third through sixth grade spend their day in learning studios. Each learning studio can serve up to 120 students, taught by a core team of educators: one Teacher Executive Designer (TED), along with certified teachers and teacher candidates. This staffing model puts more adults in the room with students and surrounds brand new teachers with a support system they can turn to at any time during the school day.



“By providing students with a team of teachers who are able to focus on their strengths, our students receive a dynamic learning experience that is tailored just for that student,” said Teacher Executive Designer Julie Cleveland. “There is a place for everyone at Manitas.”



Learning is individualized at Manitas and students drive the lessons. Students utilize a project-based learning (PBL) model which has been shown to promote independence, active learning, and encourage problem-solving skills. During the ASU tour, visitors witnessed students collaborating on projects in large groups and small groups, working individually, and engaging in lessons with teachers one on one. Many of the tour attendees shared in a question and answer session afterward that they plan to take the first steps towards implementing this model in their school or district.



This school year, the Kyrene Governing Board voted to grow the program school-wide and to make Kyrene de las Manitas a K-8 Innovation Academy. Manitas will expand to serve students through grade 7 in 2022-23 and grade 8 in 2023-24. Interested families are invited to enroll online. The 2022-23 school year for Kyrene students begins July 28.