Skip to content
Aurora Institute

How Can We “Do School Differently”? Lessons from Springpoint’s StorySLAM at iNACOL

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Victoria Crispin

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Learn Lessons from the Field

At iNACOL’s Blended and Online Learning Symposium this fall, Springpoint hosted a StorySLAM—a session where principals, teachers, and students in competency-based high schools shared their stories in the style of The Moth’s live storytelling format. Focused on the theme of “Doing School Differently,” these compelling stories describe everything from a seasoned principal’s experience adjusting his school’s model to a student’s story of agency and empowerment in a new high school.

Watch and listen to each story below.

Rick Reynolds, founding principal of PACT (Problem-based Academy of Critical Thinking) recounts the intensity of moving to a new city to design a brand new, innovative high school. With a focus on adjustment in the face of challenges, Reynolds traces his school’s pivot from a heavily tech-driven model to a more balanced approach. Most of the changes were spurred by teachers and students themselves, and were successful as a result of the strong culture at the school. As Reynolds says, “when you create a school and kids feel empowered, and teachers are as passionate as you are, they will not be quiet if something is wrong.”


Otis Edwards, a 10th grade student at PACT (Problem-based Academy of Critical Thinking) discusses how he came to PACT, a new and innovative high school in Cleveland. With humor and candor, Edwards recounts his first days in this new school, his relationship with an unconventional principal, and how he leveraged his passion for comic books to create and lead a popular club at his school (among his many accomplishments!).


Lisa Simms, instructional designer at the Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design, compares new school design to a scattered student hike. After weeks of preparation, Simms’ students were unprepared for a back-to-school hike in the Denver outdoors. Simms was able to quickly problem solve, realizing that the hike’s challenges paralleled those she had faced as a new school designer.


Amanda Delaney, an eleventh-grade student at the Urban Assembly Maker Academy, describes her experience as a student in a highly personalized school that prioritizes rapid iteration and feedback. Delaney relives a conversation with an advisor who sought her feedback to fuel the school’s iteration process. Though appreciative of the school’s commitment to iteration, when it came to her own work Amanda had to learn how to fail forward in order to iterate in the context of her own learning.


Andrew Sigal, Instructional Coach at Internationals Network for Public Schools, talks about his time as a teacher at the International Academy at T.C. Williams High School. After facing challenges connecting with his students, all of whom are English language learners, a tip from a colleague helps Sigal begin to build his classroom community. This story shows why new models and teacher collaboration are indispensable aspects of school school design.


Paula Amadeo, ESOL Success Coach from the International High School at Langley Park, shares the story of particular student who took a leadership role in her summer language camp. Enrique, an English language learner who has an interrupted educational career, led a lesson that really engaged his peers. For Amadeo, this was not only an inspirational moment, but one that tangibly showed her how employ a key aspect of her new school’s instructional model.


Victoria Crispin, Network Engagement Manager at Springpoint, narrates her journey developing pathways of opportunity for students in a small New York City high school. As coordinator of out-of-school enrichment, Crispin worked one-on-one with students to help them forge paths to college and career success, including one special student who she meets years later.

Springpoint is a national nonprofit organization that supports the design and launch of new, innovative public high schools. Our mission is to enable all students – regardless of environment or background – to succeed in high school, college, and beyond. Since 2013, we have partnered with school districts, school networks, and charter management organizations around the country to design and launch 12 new high schools in six cities, and next year we will support teams in opening five more. Together these schools will serve over 6,000 students at capacity. Visit our websitelike us on Facebook, and follow us on twitter

Victoria Crispin is Network Engagement Manager at Springpoint, leveraging her experience in project management, school-based programming and operations, and positive youth development. She began her career in the Small Schools of Choice movement in NYC at Millennium High School, and has spent over a decade both in schools and community-based organizations growing school-based programs and partnership models. Prior to joining Springpoint, Victoria served as a director in the Office of Postsecondary Readiness at the NYC Department of Education. Victoria holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University.