Ms. Katie Mahoney 

The second hand of the clock moves at the pace of a snail as the teacher yammers on about the new pointless unit that the class will focus on for the next six weeks. In the back of the classroom, students stare out the window and text on their phones, completely disinterested in the teacher’s endless lecture. Minutes go by. More valuable time that could be spent on passionate learning is lost.

To tackle this wasted learning and disinterest of some students in the traditional learning style, CVU plans to implement the Nexus Path next fall, an alternative program through which students still receive the education necessary to graduate, but will do so through a learning environment that they create and run. According to Troy Paradee, the current Snelling health teacher who will be one of three teachers working in the Nexus Path program next fall, “the idea is for students to design their own learning based off of their interests rather than simply following a curriculum that teachers and adults provide for them.”

Troy Paradee in his unnatural habitat.  Photo by Lexi Lewis.
Troy Paradee: A portrait of flexibility

CVU began to consider incorporating such a program into the CVU learning setting several years ago. In 2013, the Vermont legislature passed the Flexible Pathways Initiative (Act 77), which required secondary schools like CVU to offer alternative ways for students to reach graduation requirements outside the traditional classroom environment. The goal of the initiative was to increase graduation rates and offer a diversity of learning pathways for students who would like learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom setting. Although CVU does have other alternative learning methods, such as dual enrollment and tech schools, the administration felt that more could be done to accomplish the goal of Act 77. According to Paradee, “when Principal Adam Bunting arrived back at CVU this fall, he brought with him the idea for the Nexus Path, which he modeled after the SOAR program at Montpelier,” and this alternative learning path was born.

The program will work very differently from the learning style that students are used to. Traditionally, teachers and adults take the leading role in classes, but in the Nexus Path, students run their own learning almost completely. Paradee noted, “The teachers really take a back seat role. We will be there to support them and assess their learning. The goal is for students to follow their passions, so they can create their own curricula and decide what they want to spend their time learning about. If they are really interested in social justice, they can spend their year’s social studies class, learning about that through research and working in the community. If they want to take almost all traditional classes, but learn about the environmental science behind maple sugaring for half the day, they can do that, and we support them. It’s all about allowing students to take control of what interests them and pursue those interests in an academic setting.”

According to Gallup, only eleven percent of employers feel the work force is prepared by their education, and participation in internships and apprenticeships makes individuals twice as likely to be employed later in life. Alternative learning that better prepares students for their future is a necessary addition to the high school experience. The Nexus Path is a path to a strong future for CVU students.