The Steller Philosophy
Steller is a school devoted to the creation of independent, courageous people capable of dealing with the shifting complexities of the modern world. Steller runs on the energy and excitement of people who have committed themselves to self-directed learning. With the support of parents and staff, Steller provide students with a humane education experience based upon freedom and responsibility.
We believe that every student should be free to establish his or her own path to becoming a more fully self-sufficient person. We recognize that this search takes place in the context of an interdependent world, and that part of this quest involves the recognition of each individual’s roles and responsibilities in the larger community.
Students are responsible for defining their own educational goals, selecting or devising a course of study to achieve those goals, and working to fulfill those goals. They are also responsible for assisting in the continuous evaluation of their performance in relation to those same goals.
(1) Student Ownership Of The Path To Learning
The Steller community believes that self-motivated, self-directed learners can surpass all expectations.
Self-directed learning classes (SDL)
All students are encouraged to take at least one self- directed course of study each semester. This allows students to explore areas of personal interest. Self-directed learning is a contractual agreement among student, teachers, and parents. Students set their own goals, identify needed resources, use a variety of strategies to learn, and participate in the evaluation of their learning. A presentation to others or some alternate form of sharing is encouraged and considered an important part of the SDL module. The teacher serves as mentor, guide and resource for the student.
Independent Study classes
If a particular class or topic is not offered in the regular program, a student may design an independent study class with a teacher. A contract is drawn up which specifies goals, products, evaluation, grading, and conference times.
MyHigh online classes
High school students may take online courses offered by the ASD.
Peer taught classes
Knowledgeable, responsible students teach classes to other Steller students with the support of a staff sponsor. Credit is granted for taking or teaching a peer taught class.
The Gifted Mentorship program is for the exceptional 11th and 12th grade high school student who has the self-discipline and interest to pursue independent study under the direction of a professional/expert in a field of great interest to the student.
A Passage Class is usually a senior project in which a student selects a “passionate” topic and does an extremely in-depth study on it, with a final project (the intention being the project will give something back to the school) to showcase accomplishments. Notable examples include: the production of a school play, the building of a gazebo in the school’s garden, and the creation of “Temple of the Bean” (our in-school espresso bar).
Other learning opportunities
Steller students may have the opportunity to attend classes for part of the day at any other ASD school, including the King Career Center, as well as the University of Alaska. Students may also join a school athletic team, band, or chorus at another school.
(2) Intellectual Development and Preparation
At Steller we believe that adult challenges, in college and life, reward flexible thinkers, innovative problem-solvers and serious scholars. We prioritize these skills over memorized content. Most language arts and social sciences are taught in discussion format. The teaching is based on allowing the student to process her own thoughts and understandings through interactions with her peers and teacher. All students take seminar classes that are based on the Socratic method of teaching. Students learn to think critically, analyze texts and express their ideas with coherence and confidence during group times that are based on dialogue and discussion instead of debate.
(3) Freedom, Individuality, And Responsibility
Students who think and act for themselves gain the opportunity to take personal responsibility for their individual potential and for their obligations to others.
All students are expected to attend their classes. However, they can choose not to attend. While students are not forced to go to class (meaning that there is no punishment for not attending), almost all students attend all of their classes. Students who do not attend class receive an unexcused absence and that can result in lower grades.
- Open lunch hour for all students.
- No detentions
- Discipline, when required, is not punitive, but focused on changing behavior and encouraging growth and maturity.
(4) Commitment And Hard Work
Our school needs and requires dedication and consistent effort from every person.
Steller students are expected to come to school ready to learn. They are given input into their course of study, and in return, are expected to responsibly pursue that study. All students are expected to maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher. If the GPA falls below this level at the end of a semester, the student is placed on academic probation. Failing to raise their grades may cause the student to lose his/her place at Steller.
Steller does not offer advanced placement classes. However, many of our classes are on an honors level and students who take advanced level classes have the opportunity to take an AP test upon completion. Not having the AP label on our advance classes allows the freedom to explore topics in depth without the pressure of teaching to the test. Steller has high expectations for students and our academic standards are high. At least eight-five percent of our graduates attend a college or university.
Each class at Steller offers opportunity for every student to explore deeper in the subject matter, through projects and experiential learning. In this way, a wide spectrum of ability and challenge is met. Students with greater passion and higher academic experience in respective areas are inspired to reach their full potential.
(5) Challenging Limitations And Taking Risks
Learning—and teaching—should be a process of constant experimentation. We back up students and staff who try new things and stretch beyond their comfort zone.
Students are encouraged to take intellectual risks. Students plan and implement community projects for which they have a passion. They may start a food drive, collect supplies for an animal shelter, or start a small business.
(6) Joy And Love For Learning
A good education instills life-long curiosity and a delight in new knowledge and ideas. Steller teachers model a love of learning.
Students celebrate and share projects and learning experiences with the entire school body during the Stand and Deliver presentation at the end of the year. Student generated activity days: Earth Day, Art Day, and Culture Day
Steller holds intensives twice a year. These are two-week periods in which the school ends regular classes and allows students and teachers to focus on a single subject the entire day. Popular intensives include winter wilderness camping, national and international travel, various outdoor activities, photography, video production, mentorships in the community, art, and cooking.
(7) Respect And Celebrating Differences
We honor the worth of other people and the things they value, and our own worth as individuals. We enjoy friends unlike ourselves. We encourage uniqueness. Diversity gives strength.
Steller is a community where differences are accepted and being unique is encouraged, not just by staff, but by the students as well. Bullying is virtually non-existent and there is an overall culture of acceptance.
(8) Kindness And Helping
We’re in this together; we reach out to one another.
Every member of our community can teach and mentor another.
Each Steller student is assigned an advisor and is part of an advisory group. The advisor helps with communication between home and school, works with the student on class selection, and is an advocate for the student. Advisory groups are made up of 7th-12th grade students, allowing for multi-age learning and team building. The students stay in the same advisory group throughout their time at Steller.
Advisory groups also take part in community activities and are the first level of student government. Within their advisory group, students discuss and vote on issues that are before the student body. Their elected representatives then report to Op group. (See more under student leadership.)
Peer taught and mixed age classes allow peer-to-peer learning and teaching.
(9) Student Leadership
Students share in guiding the school as a whole. Empowered young people can grow into good citizens and leaders.
Government at Steller is a representational democracy.
Three groups, one each to represent students, parents, and staff, send representatives to the Steller Advisory Board (Ad-Board). The Ad-Board provides guidance and leadership within the general Steller Community.
The student branch of the government is known as Operational Group (Op-Group). Each Advisory Group has a middle school and high school representative that attend Op-Group meetings during lunch one day a week. During Op-Group, news and proposals are discussed and voted on. Examples of proposals are mural proposals, financial help for clubs, and changes in policy. Some proposals are discussed and voted on in Op-Group. Others are brought back to Advisory Groups to be discussed and voted on by all of the student body.
Parents meet monthly as a group (Parent Group) and also send representatives to Ad-Board. Parent Group meetings are an excellent way for parents to stay informed with events at Steller and help shape and enhance the Steller experience for all students.
(10) Community, Within Our School And Beyond
Our school community sustains us as learners and as human beings; Steller and its members likewise participate in the broader community of our neighborhood and world.
By doing volunteer work in the Anchorage community, a student will not only feel connected to their community as an active member, they sometimes earn class credit, extra credit or public recognition. Tutoring in the elementary schools, working on political campaigns, elder visits and assistance, and community cleanup programs are popular choices.
Steller staff and students implement service projects that benefit the Anchorage community multiple times during the school year. Examples are food and clothing drives and collecting items for animal shelters, and collecting money for the Leukemia foundation.
(11) Learning Through Experience
Life is the ultimate classroom. Living teaches the ultimate lessons.
Our students can teach one another, design a totally independent study of any subject they find interesting, find other classes and opportunities out in the community, or even travel to other parts of the world to gain knowledge.