Alpine Academy: Going Above and Beyond the Classroom
On the wall of Alpine Academy’s Creative Writing classroom is a Margaret Mead quote written in large, beautiful calligraphy. It says, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” This motto serves as a reminder to administrators, teachers, and students alike, that ways must be found to help students learn concepts, skills, and ideas that will enhance their individual abilities and lives.
Two examples of teachers who consistently go above and beyond by providing unique student learning experiences and by increasing interest, belongingness, and confidence in the classroom are teachers Charity Judkins and Ellen Smith.
In March, Ms. Judkins orchestrated a Dinner Theater evening for staff members, guests, and students. Under her direction, teachers and staff from both campuses worked together in the planning that led up to the big night. It was a fun evening that showcased many talents of our remarkable students and highlighted work created by them that they proudly presented to their peers and the Alpine staff and their guests. Amazing works of art, poetry, music, dance, and a wonderful on-stage theatrical performance were highlights of the evening. The Consumer Science class provided delicious food and the evening was truly a night that will be remembered for years to come.
Also in March, an Alpine Academy alumni student shared with us the essay she wrote for her Common Application as she begins to apply for college. The essay is a tribute to our Criminal Science teacher, Ms. Ellen. Here is her essay:
“Many are the strange chances of the world,” JRR Tolkien.
The air was dry and crisp. Outside homely mountains peered at me almost mockingly. “I hate it here already,” I thought to myself. The previous day, March 19, 2020, I was legally “kidnapped” from my family. That same day I was herded to Utah, a land I had forgotten was even part of our great and vast nation. At 13 years old, I was dubbed the public menace of my family. I had some issues that I hadn’t shared yet, my behavior was comparable to a modern-day Moriarity, and my family and friends were the subjects of my deplorable actions. I underwent sexual trauma at 13 years old, and my demeanor changed completely. I was no longer a “teacher’s pet bookworm,” and as the pandemic interrupted my daily routine, I had too much time on my hands. Smoking, engaging with much older men, and mutilating myself consumed my days. At that time in my life, “maladaptive behaviors” could have been my middle name. I didn’t share what I went through, so my family was confused because they had a she-devil on their hands instead of a young Jane Austen. I don’t particularly appreciate boring anyone with those details, everyone has a sob story, and now they are frequently expected to shove it onto unsuspecting parties.
Nevertheless, at the time, I was stuck in Utah with other pre-juvenile delinquents. My therapeutic boarding school included schooling on campus (obviously, Utah has different laws where Covid was concerned). In the second period, I had Criminal Justice- something just filled into my overgrown schedule. I never expected that March 20, 2020, would forever change my life.
The second I walked into that classroom, I met the teacher as the proud-looking woman standing at a podium. Mrs. Ellen- the teacher, was a practicing criminologist and head of security for the 2002 Olympics. Her nature compelled me to grab a seat in the first row- something my introversion frequently prohibited. Her words transported me into a different world, and the Criminal Justice system enthralled me. Nothing piqued my interest as this subject had. Soon, I wrote pages upon pages of notes and did more work than Mrs. Ellen had asked of me. I sought solitude in textbooks of Crime Scenes Investigation proceedings- soon joining the club at my school. I read books about legal proceedings for pure bliss.
Still immersed in an intriguing new hobby, I was desperately homesick. I progressed through my therapy yet felt more alone as the program had separated me from the people I loved the most. Mrs. Ellen bore a strong resemblance to my grandmother. My grandma is my role model, and my limited interactions with her shattered my heart. I began confiding in my teacher and felt like Mrs. Ellen had lifted an anchor from me. I was finally starting to be free from the burdens that weighed me down. My long-winded chats with my new confidant led me to see changes within myself. In my other classes, I felt free to speak up more and ask questions- a landmark for me. The mock trials in Mrs. Ellen’s class (in which I was always the lead prosecutor) led me to do so. One day, nearing the end of my treatment, Mrs. Ellen said, “I have never had a student with such promise as you do. I will see you in the Supreme Court one day.” Those words brought tears to my eyes, and that’s when I decided to become a criminal litigator to honor my beloved educator.
Alpine Academy is honored to have the leadership of wonderful teachers such as Ms. Charity and Ms. Ellen. Equally important is the courage of our impressive students who are willing to try new things, develop their talents, and share themselves and their inspiration with us.
About Alpine Academy
Alpine Academy is a nationally certified Teaching-Family Model treatment program. Through its strength-based, trauma-informed, individualized approach, students are taught healthy behaviors in a setting that replicates family, school, and community life.