Curriculum and Instruction - Learning, Design, & Technology doctoral student Jeanette Salinas has successfully opened The Journey School of Houston which personalizes curriculum to meet the needs of children ages 5 through 13 years old. Salinas believes that a child’s traditional grade level hinders learning when the child’s ability varies across subject areas like reading and math. “The Journey School of Houston’s whole child approach considers the social and emotional needs of each child while supporting children to reach their academic potential,” she said.
The Journey School’s classrooms not only have highly qualified graduate degreed teachers, but the school matches every child and family with a child development expert. The child development expert helps educators with understanding the internal challenges of the child. Understanding the whole child supports the teacher to build a curriculum based on preferred modes of learning, and social and emotional needs.
Even though successfully opening the school is the hardest venture Salinas has ever undertaken, it was the easiest decision she has ever made. “Anyone who has ever met me knows that my work, my research, my goals, my passion all point to one place - the millions of children underserved because their social and emotional needs are not met,” said Salinas. “I am striving to build a school and a body of research to support this underserved population of children.”
Each day starts with a check-in which is a time for the educators to focus on social emotional learning using discovery lessons about feelings, journaling, mixed media art and a myriad of lessons. “A child might arrive to school upset after a conflict with a parent or sibling, or a parent might be out of town,” said Salinas. “These situations can play a role in the child’s mindset for the school day. We believe that by listening to each child, teaching them emotional vocabulary and allowing them to reflect; they will be able to communicate their feelings and develop grit to be successful in their academic work.”
The school’s open concept classroom is sectioned off for peer group learning and cross-age learning which supports collaboration and communication of teachers. The constant collaboration and communication of the educators sets the stage for children to model after their teachers. The environment creates a practical and natural setting for children to become mentors and mentees who are building relationships based on the tenets of respect and compassion.
While the curriculum is guided by the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS), the school individualizes the curriculum by developing lessons based on the child’s preferred mode of learning. “We want our children to be part of their learning which aligns with the many facets of project based learning and real world application,” said Salinas. “Our children are artists, writers, stock market traders, gardeners, and budding philanthropists.”
Technology has allowed the school to push the boundaries of the concrete walls by utilizing websites like World Wonders, powered by Google, to explore the world or the online Stock Market Game connecting our students with other schools to learn about financial literacy.
Many College of Education professors have inspired Salinas in her journey through the program. She credits CUIN professor Lee Mountain with encouraging students to believe in their abilities. “She not only teaches skills and knowledge, but she teaches each and every student to believe in their abilities,” she said. “After being a student in her class, I got to truly experience the educational approach I had aspired to implement for over a decade. She met me with a smile, sometimes a thoughtful snack before class, and always praised me and her other students’ work before supporting us to stretch our talents further by applying new skills she demonstrated.”
“Jeanette embodies the dedication and idealism necessary for opening The Journey School, combined with the even-more-necessary experience, determination, and business savvy for making The Journey School a successful venture,” said Mountain. “She inspires by example, and she’s a dynamo!”
Salinas also praised CUIN associate professor Sara McNeil, CUIN professor Cameron White, and CUIN visiting professor Susan Day who were her advisors and mentors through the program. “There is so much to learn from each faculty member at UH, and I am so grateful for the leadership I have had throughout my time in the program,” she added.
Salinas’ current research interests are in the use of mobile devices and applications to support the learning of students who are twice-exceptional, gifted, and talented with a diagnosis such as Anxiety, ADHD or other diagnosis/trauma which interferes in success in school and life.