#EmbraceTheChallenge: JKL Bahweting Anishnabe Public School Academy (PSA)


JKL Bahweting Anishnabe PSA

Meet Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Carolyn Dale & Middle School Science Teacher, Heather Purple

JKL Bahweting Anishnabe Public School Academy (JKL) is a K-8 charter school in Sault Ste. Marie that’s authorized by Northern Michigan University. The school is located on tribal trust lands of the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians, and serves a largely tribal population of students. The school strives for educational excellence through rigorous and relevant programs within a safe, nurturing, and culturally rich environment with specific emphasis on the Anishinabe traditions and language. Check out how they've adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure students get meaningful instruction, at a distance.

Calling on the village to build a path forward in a time of crisis

For many Michiganders, the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) is a geographically isolated slice of heaven - a special place for fleeing city life for a camping trip, observing nature at it's best, and driving through scenic wonderland. But for the Yoopers who call it home, that isolation can present a number of challenges, from limited access to metropolitan resources, to spotty internet service, and more. As the pandemic quickly unfolded, the educator team at JKL faced an uphill battle - but with resiliency built into their nature, they came together to overcome the odds and support students and families.

Carolyn Dale serves as JKL's Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and pre-pandemic her focus was on crafting an education experience that met the unique needs of their diverse student body. Serving about 650 students across a 20 mile geographic radius, 60% of whom are Native American, JKL caters to students from varying socioeconomic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds and geographic backgrounds. They take pride in their integration of Native American studies and their focus on building strong relationships between educators and students. As the first two week break was announced in response to the pandemic, Carolyn felt they had a strong plan of action, which was built around Study Island, a virtual education tool, and student Chromebooks.

Pretty quickly, we ran into an equitable access issue with our plan. Between internet services being spotty in our area, some students not having access to any internet, and lack of security software and other tools built into our Chromebooks, we were facing a number of barriers to implementing an online strategy. Those first two weeks were really unsettling for our educators, and overwhelming for me as I thought about how to solve these problems, but we were determined to overcome the barriers and make it work. 

- Carolyn Dale, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at JKL


Carolyn quickly began calling on her village of educators, administrators and tech experts to help work through the challenges, so that when the initial two week break was up, they would be prepared to deliver an instructional plan to parents and students. From the beginning, teachers, paraprofessionals, food staff and every other member of the team were reaching out to offer insight, ask how they could do more for students, and offer emotional support for families. Carolyn reflected that she was so amazed by their tenacity, she almost had to hold them back and remind them that it was ok to take it slow the first couple weeks. 

We all know that educators are the backbone of a school - you can feel it when you walk into a building. They wanted to do everything for their kids immediately, it's just the kind of people they are. I knew I worked with some special people before all this, I just had no idea how special they truly were. 

- Carolyn Dale, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at JKL

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Through many conversations with educators and admins, JKL developed and implemented a unique distance learning strategy - with separate K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 programs, where parents could opt to either follow a schedule (if they were concerned with the social/emotional consistency of the pandemic) or simply complete required activities with their child. Once the plan was in place, teachers have taken the challenge and run with it, embracing technology in a way many hadn't in the past, and implementing check in processes to ensure students and families are emotionally supported during this time. It has truly been a team effort - something Carolyn attributes to the resiliency that flows throughout her community. 

Our gifted and talented teacher is literally printing 3D masks with our school equipment for our local hospital. We have other teachers who are making masks for donation on top of teaching. We had so many volunteers from our school who asked to help with food preparation for students and community members that we had to turn some away due to capacity limits. It's simply been incredible to see how we've come together - I think we're resourceful people up here in the U.P., because we can't rely on much other than each other.

- Carolyn Dale, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at JKL

And for the JKL students and families, the dedication and passion was much welcomed as they too adjusted to life during a pandemic. 

Our family is so grateful for the dedication of the school staff who worked so tirelessly to ensure our kids had enough food to eat.  I know that many people went above and beyond to ensure that all of our school families were taken care of--from researching and writing grants for meal delivery boxes, to arranging for mobile food pantries, to packing and delivering thousands of meals, and more.  With my family losing an income due to the pandemic, the assistance the school was able to help to provide has helped a great deal.

- 3rd Grade Parent, JKL


More #EmbraceTheChallenge Stories

Check out our other featured MI charter schools who have creatively #embracedthechallenge to support students & families!

New Branches Charter Academy
Covenant House Academy East
Waterford Montessori Academy
Bridge Academy West
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