Rodney Lancaster, alternative learning environment teacher at Manila High School, has received recognition for a journal article he has written entitled, "A Place Where Teens Have a Choice."
His journal article, "A Place Where Teens Have A Choice," came from a project formulated by Dr. David Holman, professor from Arkansas State University, in the educational leadership department. Lancaster had completed all course work in the doctoral program for educational leadership and needed to write a journal article, hoping it would be accepted by the ALE in education.
"I was endeavoring to produce a written article that would profess my understanding about the critical need for educators to respect the rights of all students and empower them to have a say in their own learning environment and learning goals," Lancaster said.
He came up with "empower all students to have a say in their own education by utilizing the Sudbury Concept," which came from Dr. David Holman's educational leadership class. The focus was to shift the attention from authoritarian structures to democratic structures by encouraging true student empowerment.
Lancaster tried a variation of the Sudbury Concept for new educational opportunities for his ALE students. Instead of focusing their energy on the tests, he created an environment utilizing projects that were creativity aligned with state mandated outcomes.
"This distinct learning paradigm was undertaken with the permission from the administration, Mrs. Baugher, high school principal," Lancaster said. "It was a learning experience and it was very interesting."
Lancaster gave each student the assignments for a period of 12 days. Each student knew exactly what he or she was supposed to accomplish and turn in by the due date. They had control over when, where, how much, and how long they wished to study. They were allowed to work in small groups, one on one, or with Mr. Lancaster.
"What was espoused in my ideological expose was illuminating," he said. "Students were more critical and developed higher standards for themselves when they engaged in a self-imposed goal versus me giving them a pass or fail test."
His article was forwarded to Lori Lamb, director of Alternative Learning for the Arkansas Department of Education. Ms. Lamb then sent the article to the AAEA (Arkansas Alternative Education Association), and to the NAEA (National Alternative Education Association.) It was then further published by the AERO group (Alternative Education Resource Organization) in their March 2011 issue. Following that, the ISTE community (International Society for Technology in Education) whose members included Philipp and Katerina Perkhova e-mailed Lancaster to discuss their transcribing his article into "Russian" for a new magazine called Domashniy Rebenok (Home Child), on innovating educational ideas.
"From a small idea launched by a group of ALE students and me right here at Manila High School, it has circumnavigated the world," he said. "As far as I am concerned, I have one of the best jobs in the school. The administration backs us and it works well."