A letter to Eliza, as we open UP Academy

We opened this month. I wish you were here. The struggles and battles to find a location, to secure a lease, to fund raise, to raise awareness, to market, to recruit and admit kids; all of these pale next to the struggles that brought us to this adventure in the first place.

It was you, with your bright eyes and curious smile. You, who taught us that everyone has potential, that people of all abilities are too often not given the opportunities they deserve. And as I meet more families, I understand that to be more and more true.

We were lucky to have been given some services, to have wonderful teachers who tried their best. But that’s not always true. I’ve talked to families who have not been offered needed services, families who have been promised experiences and support that have not been supplied. I’ve met smart, aware students who are being put in a classroom with no challenges, no academics, and little support. Students whose futures are being taken away before their childhoods have even started.

My daughter loves to come to our school and asks excitedly in the morning if she can come. UP Academy was built with all three of my kids in mind, to challenge, to support and to engage different learners. She told me she likes all of our activities, she likes being active in her learning, she likes doing fewer worksheets.

We are creating an elementary community and education that allows kids to learn by doing, gives them choices in activities, supports their strengths, and challenges their weaknesses. It is a place for gifted students to thrive, physically disabled students to be supported in learning skills for independence and for all children to learn empathetic action, emotional fitness and build better brains.

I came home the other night exhausted but happy. I am never bored. I am challenged each day with inspiring those who work with me, with creating a warm, nurturing and engaging learning environment, with leading our cause and finding ways to reach our market, recruit families, and build our school so that it can benefit so many.

But I wish you were here. I think of how much easier launching this school and sharing our ideas would be, if you were here. You taught our family so much about life, spirit, intelligence, and disability, and you would be able to help us teach the world. You gave me the gift of purpose. It is up to me to build our school, invite families to join our community, and create the vision you helped shape for children's education.

We opened this month, there is so much more work to do, but I am enthusiastic and excited to be on this journey. I did my happy dance the day we opened, it’s been a roller coaster ride since day one, but there’s no where else I’d rather be. Thank you, Eliza, B, and K.

Tanya SheckleyUP Academy