Teacher Opens Dream School - by Alexandra Elves

Shauna Pollock and five Pioneers (students) sit comfortably in the Language Lab. They
are surrounded by two walls of books organized in rainbow order and a picture of a red
octopus is framed on the wall. Sitting on the table between them all is a round
microphone, they talk about world water day on their weekly podcast.

When Pollock dreamed of starting her own school this is what she wanted. A place
where the boundaries of education are pushed and learning isn’t just about what you
know in a classroom, but about teaching you lessons for life.

Blue Sky School, an independent prototype school of tomorrow, has been living in
Pollock’s head for years, but it opened its doors for students Sept. 2017.
“I would always say within the next 10 years I’m going to open a school, and then time
started passing and I realized, I keep kind of restarting that end date,” Pollock said.
After talking to a former student’s parent, who also happened to be a teacher, Karen
Hill, timing was right.

“We started dreaming about the possibilities of opening a school that would really serve
as a model and a prototype for other people to take some risks in education and try new
things and reinvent the whole practice,” said Pollock.

Reinvention in education is not new for Pollock who in 2013 won the Prime Minister’s
award for teaching excellence for her work incorporating technology into the classroom,
and expanding the classroom beyond four walls.

“Early on in my teaching I was blogging with the students and trying out different digital
technologies. One of the things that is of great interest to me is innovation, in all areas,
but I did a teaching specialist in integrating technology into the classroom,” Pollock said.
This led to a publisher finding her blog and offering Pollock a book deal.

Pollock and her husband relocated to Toronto where Pollock wrote her book, Creating
Classroom Magic, but she started missing the classroom.

Looking for opportunities to volunteer with Syrian refugees Pollock found a small school
for young children being run out a of hotel.

“These children had to grow up too fast and so I thought, ‘oh I can offer something for
the older children,’” said Pollock.

She started an ESL school out of the hotel for older children, which for the six months it
ran had over 350 students go through it and about 50 volunteers.

“It was quite remarkable, and really fun and interesting opportunity and experience to
have,” Pollock said.

Pollock and her husband ended up back in Ottawa, which is when Pollock connected
with Hill and Blue Sky School came to be.

Stephen Hurley, founder and chief catalyst at voicEd radio, interviews Pollock and her
students every week for a podcast show, called Out of the Blue.

Hurley said that many educators, including himself, dream of starting their own school
one day, and he admires Pollock for really doing it.

“You listen to those kids and you listen to those educators in the room and there is
something that’s happening there that is really worth noticing,” Hurley said.

As for the future of Blue Sky School Pollock doesn’t want to look too far ahead. She is
focused on the day to day and solving problems as they come up.

Her main goal, “empowering the next generation of changemakers.”


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