Page 1

EDUCATION LEADERS TODAY

T H E M AG A Z I N E F O R C A P TA I N S O F I N D U S T RY www.educationleaderstoday.com

LIFTING OFF ACADEMY

Owner and CEO of the Colorado Springs, Christian-based program of Lifting Off Academy, David Keith, strives to not only prepare children as thinkers and problem solvers but as good citizens in today’s world.


FEATURE | LIFTING OFF ACADEMY

Lifting off

TO A GREAT EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE by Amelia Doenlen

2 Winter 2010


LIFTING OFF ACADEMY | FEATURE

David Keith, owner and CEO of the Colorado Springs school Lifting Off Academy, strives to not only prepare children as thinkers and problem solvers but as good citizens in today’s world. Keith purchased the school in 1993, and grew it from 40 children and six staff members to the 90 children and 14 staff that it is today. Keith received his master’s in business management from University of Southern California but also has a predominately military background, serving 20 years in the Air Force. His resume includes working at the Pentagon for four years as a White

House and congressional liaison, as well as the Director for Policy, Plans and Programs at the Air Force Academy. He retired in 1991 after logging over 2,000 hours of flying and teaching strategy, tactics and professional skills to incoming students. After spending a couple years with McGraw-Hill as a marketing manger he decided to pursue education by teaching kids how to be better students while creating a positive, measurable contribution to society. He was also the vice president of the Colorado State Child Care Association and is currently a member of the School Readiness Assessment Committee. He is also

Problem Solving: Recently the State of Colorado listed collaboration as a necessary 21st century required graduate competency. At Lifting Off Academy, children learn to pool and connect their talents to solve difficult problems, gaining confidence in the process. Here, they are working on multipart mathematics exercise.

Education Leaders Today 3


FEATURE | LIFTING OFF ACADEMY

a Colorado Large Childcare Center Director and is a level four certified Colorado Early Childhood Professional. Lifting Off Academy is a full service program, providing a regular curriculum program starting at age one. They also offer after school and summer camp programs and wrap around childcare for kids that aren’t in the nursery. While most children in attendance are under 12 years of age, LOA is licensed in childcare for ages sixweeks to 16 years.

“We keep the license for the sake of special needs children and we do occasionally get a few older special needs kids, especially during the summer,” Keith said. LOA is a Christian-based school and has had a top-notch curriculum since their founding 18 years ago. Yet Keith continually strives to make it better. “I think that it’s very important for children to grow up with a strong sense of how they fit into the bigger picture and have a spiritual concept of that,” Keith said. “We have a

spirituality component of our curriculum that is embedded all the way through the time that they are infants to the time when they are too old to come here.” Keith notes that they also try to show a great deal of respect for other points of view. The curriculum celebrates a lot of other religions and other religious and cultural holidays. The Christian-based program also feeds into LOA’s discipline program and Keith said it effects what kind of staff he hires. “The first thing I tell a new staff member is that

we have a really strong academIc currIculum but the most Important thIng we do Is teach kIds to respect each other and be good cItIZens when they go off to school. 4 Winter 2010


LIFTING OFF ACADEMY | FEATURE

rather than give them a list of rules and do’s and don’ts, I expect them to be good Christian role models, which basically means that they embody the golden rule and demonstrate that to their students. If they are in situations with kids they take a second to step back and say, ‘okay, if I change roles with this child would I be happy with what I would be seeing?’” The school week is divided into five primary focal areas based on monthly and weekly themes: math, social skills development,

literacy, science and spirituality. The math program is focused on problem solving and the underlying concepts instead of forced memorization of basic arithmetic without specific purpose. The program introduces core concepts as tools to use when solving problems. Currently, LOA is focused on aligning itself with new Colorado educational standards that incorporate preschool. One thing that was unique in the Colorado education revision was the idea of having life skills as part of the whole process of establishing educational goals and trying to drive the children toward a certain place when they come out of the system. “Our role in that is to set them up in that process with the school readiness programs that we have,” Keith said. “We were already pretty much in line with the revisions but we are adding more collaborative efforts in the classroom and more group activities now. I’m not as interested in cramming

OPPOSITE PAGE: Lifting Off Academy children learn through active experimentation. What better way to learn about aerodynamics, gravity and ballistics than through rousing games with a parachute and ball. ABOVE: Lifting Off Academy uses a common core curriculum to guide development from infants through school-aged. Capitalizing on a long-tenured staff, they are able to focus learning on both concepts and connections. Problem solving and reasoning are always the order of the day. And, music and art are often used to teach science and math.

Education Leaders Today 5


FEATURE | LIFTING OFF ACADEMY

6 Winter 2010


LIFTING OFF ACADEMY | FEATURE

I’m not as interested in cramming their heads full of information as much as I’m interested in teaching them how to access information and use it to problem solve. their heads full of information as much as I’m interested in teaching them how to access information and use it to problem solve.” The school is also focusing on improving their assessment tools to determine where a child is in the development process. Better feedback in this area would help teachers identify and intervene earlier if problems start to emerge. “We already have a pretty good reputation for dealing with kids with behavioral problems,” Keith said, “but want to be able to be more informed in those areas.” LOA has also doubled the amount of teacher training for dealing with student development needs. As a supplement to the standard school year, the students attend summer programs designed to re-enforce the five primary focal

areas. This summer’s program will explore the westward expansion of the colonial states as well as a vacation bible school. “This will give them an appreciation for how Americans expanded to the Ohio Valley and later beyond the Mississippi River,” Keith said. “They are also doing cultural studies on Russian culture, algebra, the electoral process examining petitions, caucusing, conventions and campaigns and on outer space, where they’ll launch rockets.” Community involvement is also largely encouraged. “We really try to teach the kids that they are part of a broader community,” Keith said “and that brings with it some responsibility and some privileges. The time that it really comes home for us is around Christmas time

OPPOSITE PAGE: At Lifting Off Academy, children learn that no learning experience is complete unless it is fun. Lessons are often presented in games and dramatizations, and playground time is imperative, even when it is cold. LOA can always find a place for laughter and playfulness. ABOVE: Lifting Off Academy teaches that people are far more alike than different. When children understand this, it is much easier for them to accept people with disabilities or different races or religions. Disabled staff members and children an equally integral part of LOA’s programs.

Education Leaders Today 7


FEATURE | LIFTING OFF ACADEMY

ABOVE: Books are an important part of every day at Lifting Off Academy. Each classroom has a special minilibrary and reading area. Local libraries are also an important part of their programs, from field-trips to explore new books to excursions to view live performances sponsored by the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration.

8 Winter 2010

and we do a number of programs associated with helping our community. With kids, a lot of times the focus is on Santa and themselves and what they want for Christmas, and we try to shift that focus away from the kids and out to the community.” One of LOA’s unique programs is their swap shop where students and community members can bring in donated goods that can be picked up by families in need. Anything left over is donated to the local ARC thrift store down the street from the school. “We have a really strong academic curriculum but the most the important thing we do is teach kids to respect each other and be good citizens when they go off to school.” The school has also created unique Christmas traditions that incorporate social lessons. At the annual “happy birthday baby Jesus” party, children celebrate as they would any other birthday party, but then transfer presents from beneath the tree to the local Operation Christmas program to help families in need. The school also has a

Jesse tree in the hallway to emphasize the importance of donating time and physical self to positive acts. The tree is trimmed with ornaments that represent acts of volunteerism such as taking out the trash, washing dishes or cleaning up after someone else’s dog. The act is written on the ornament and then placed on the tree. Keith noted that one thing he is most proud of at the school is that the majority of LOA’s staffers and teachers have been there for more than 10 years, a rare find in an industry notorious for high turnover. “In an environment where most of the day cares around us are turning their staff over every 90 days, we don’t do that,” he said. “The families like that too because then we start a child in the infant nursery or one-year-old room we’ll still be taking care of them when they are in middle school. The teachers know them and they know the teachers and it gives us a very extended family orientation that I think is critical in the business that we are in.” Keith works 60 to 80 hours a week. He’s


LIFTING OFF ACADEMY | FEATURE

I think that it’s very important for children to grow up with a strong sense of how they fit into the bigger picture and have a spiritual concept of that. We have a spiritual-

ity component of our curriculum that is embedded all the way through the time that they are infants to the time when they are too old to come here. personally involved with all of the families. He does most of the curriculum design, including the summer camp program. He even cooks, drives and does maintenance work. With that kind of drive and dedication to positively influencing his students’ academic and spiritual future, Keith’s graduates are sure to lift off and achieve success within their own lives and provide a positive uplift in the lives of others. “Along the way you have to remember that first and foremost we’re subbing for parents while they are at work,” Keith said, “and while we are certainly not replacing the parents we

do need to provide some of the things that child would be getting from family if they were at home. That would be a lot of love and nurturing and encouragement as they are developing. That is probably the most important thing that we ever do throughout the day.” ELT BELOW: Students at Lifting Off Academy learn that real learning takes place in mind, body, and spirit. The key to a healthy mind is a healthy body. Daily yoga sessions and regular exercise and play help to keep them sharp in the classroom.

Education Leaders Today 9


Lifting Off Academy  

Owner and CEO of the Colorado Springs, Christian-based program of Lifting Off Academy, David Keith, strives to not only prepare children as...

Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you