“We’re not your average school,” remarked first-year Edmonds Heights K-12 principal Kathleen Hodges as an estimated 200 parents and graduates began filling the seats in the school gymnasium. “The big thing that distinguishes us is the vital role of families – at our school, it’s the parents who are the primary educators of their children. It requires some commitment, but the rewards are amazing. We’re graduating several seniors tonight who have been with us since kindergarten.”
Organized in 1996, Edmonds Heights K-12 specializes in parent-based alternative education. While faculty hold classes on campus covering a range of academic and other topics, Hodges stresses that the students don’t get all their learning in a classroom setting.
“Our faculty’s primary role is to work with parents as an advisor,” she explained. “Every family has a faculty advisor, and every teacher here is an advisor. Together with the student they work out a written student learning plan (WSLP) that maps out the overall goals and how they will work together to achieve them.”
This was very much in evidence at Friday night’s graduation ceremonies, where diplomas were presented not by school officials, but by the graduates’ parents. And in keeping with the self-directed nature of learning at Edmonds Heights, Friday’s student speakers were not selected by faculty. Rather, students who wish to speak can “self-select” and volunteer as a graduation speaker. This year’s speakers were Gryffon Matthews, Jayla Judd, Chayton Remie and Zeb Schultz. View the full program and graduate names here.
Graduating seniors filed in to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, taking their seats to be welcomed by Hodges, listen to the student speakers and view a special commemorative video profiling each graduate in music and photos.
In her remarks as principal, Kathleen Hodges stressed again that Edmonds Heights is a family partnership, and asked that all the parents of graduates stand and be acknowledged for the vital role they play.
“This was my first year in the world of alternative learning, and one big thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know what I don’t know,” she explained. “This has kept me humble and curious as I joined this dynamic community that fosters independent thinkers who are poised to live authentic lives, test boundaries and seek truth. I am truly in awe of these graduates.”
Following her remarks, students and parents lined up for the presentation of diplomas. Student stepped up to podium on the left, parents on the right, meeting in the middle amid handshakes, hugs and not a few tears evidencing and acknowledging the teamwork, love and dedication that brought them to this moment.
The ceremonies ended with the traditional switching of tassels signifying the reality of graduation, and the exuberant tossing of a sea of mortarboards into the air.
The ceremony was live-streamed and you can watch the video recording of it here.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel