Innovations in Education

Editorial StaffJuly 1, 2023
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In this special advertising section, we demonstrate how six trailblazing learning establishments are going above and beyond. From spearheading academic initiatives to unique immersive projects, these schools are molding the next generation of innovators.


All Saints’ Episcopal Day School

Established in 1963, the All Saints’ Episcopal Day School was created as an outreach ministry of All Saints’ Episcopal Church. It has evolved and grown tremendously since its opening, but it’s still guided by its mission to educate students in a nurturing community. The school is known for providing a balance of rich traditions and progressive pedagogy. It prioritizes not only challenging academics but building character and creating an inclusive space inspired by its Episcopal values. The independent pre-K-8 school is located in North-Central Phoenix on a 15-acre campus. The large, park-like setting provides the opportunity to introduce unique learning areas both inside and out.

All Saints’ is striving to create innovative environments that foster student growth and academic excellence. It recently opened a new 50,000-square-foot academic building accommodating 26 classrooms, a new library and two makerspace labs that connect to an additional 45,000-square-foot outdoor learning space. The outdoor learning commons opening this fall will be the heart of the campus. with a stage, classroom areas, gardens, an orchard and a second amphitheater for community gatherings. With this learning model, the school hopes students will learn to think outside the box and develop skills that will help them thrive in and out of the academic environment.

The new spaces allow for whole-group, small-group and individual instruction that emphasizes building relationships and student engagement. The student-driven innovation and flexibility empowers students to take learning into their own hands and allows them to be supported but independent in the learning process.

Tempe Union High School District

Understanding that traditional classroom settings may not engage all students, the Tempe Union High School District created the Innovation Center, which will debut this upcoming school year. The Innovation Center is a program that partners students with businesses, nonprofits, colleges and government agencies. These partnerships will take the place of traditional classes, but students will still earn English, science, social studies or business credits.

This program caters to students who thrive on hands-on learning and solving real-world problems. Some of the district’s community partners include the Phoenix Zoo, Shamrock Farms, Intel and the Pathways Rehabilitation Center. Students will get to see the direct impacts of their work, create meaningful connections and develop life skills that aren’t easily acquired in a typical classroom setting.

The administrators and educators of TUHSD believe that affording students the freedom to choose curricula they’re interested in will increase their engagement and help them pursue their passions. Not having access to adequate technology can be a barrier to innovation, but the district also introduced a makerspace to ensure students can meet the demands of rigorous projects. The area includes state-of-the-art laptops for each student; big-screen, interactive presentation televisions; an art studio; and woodworking and metalworking equipment.

TUHSD’s Innovation Center is an immersive and inclusive learning environment that allows all students within the district to explore potential passions and gain valuable experience.
The Children’s Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies

The Children’s Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies is a private day school and nonprofit located in historic downtown Glendale. It has been serving students with developmental disabilities like autism, emotional disorders, speech-language impairment and other health concerns for 45 years. CCNS provides free public education in a safe and caring environment, and it’s partnered with 13 school districts around the Valley to support district-placed students.

The small class sizes, low student-to-teacher ratios and individualized instruction ensure an exceptional education for all students. The school uses evidence-based curricula such as Unique Learning Systems, Freckle by Renaissance, Principles of Structured Teaching TEACCH Method and more. For students in need of behavioral support, it uses applied behavior analysis strategies. CCNS emphasizes transparency, collaboration and individualized instruction. Students’ instructional level and data is collected weekly to monitor their progress toward Individualized Educational Program goals. Behavior is also monitored by a board-certified behavior analyst. Parents are informed of the student’s academic and behavioral data every quarter and connect with their student’s teachers daily. In addition, students have scheduled therapy time and are provided with therapeutic enrichment activities. The park-like school grounds, with a playground, field, garden, splash pad and walking pad, are also included in the student’s daily schedule to provide essential sensory and social experiences.

Parents, teachers, therapists and students collaborate to ensure students are receiving tailored instruction and care to help them succeed and eventually reenter the district school system. This year, 12 percent of its student population is able to transition back to their district school. This is a testimony to the well-rounded academic, therapeutic and behavioral services provided by CCNS.
Phoenix Country Day School

This Paradise Valley college prep academy is the only independent pre-K-12 school in the Phoenix area, meaning it’s a not-for-profit private entity accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools. Its independent status allows its curriculum and programs to develop with the evolving interests of its students. A recent focus has been the significant growth of athletic facilities and participation, with nearly 80 percent of PCDS students currently involved in sports. In 2022, the school won six state championships, seven regional championships, 17 Player of the Year awards and an accolade from the Arizona Interscholastic Association for outstanding achievement in athletics at the 2A level.

Of course, the school’s competitiveness extends to its academic merits, where disciplines like art, music, technology and eclectic electives are mixed in with standard subjects for a more dynamic curriculum at the higher grade levels. A tech design class allows PCDS middle schoolers to hone their coding skills and experiment with animation software. In the upper school, new courses emerge yearly based on student feedback and what’s feasible for faculty. Recently developed classes include American Social Protest and Popular Music, Society Through the Lens of Sports, Cultural Anthropology, Wildlife Biology, Biotechnology and Bioethics, and Physical Computing. If a student wants to pursue an area of study that is not currently part of the curriculum, they can create their own independent project – a graded course that culminates in an end-of-semester showcase presented to a faculty committee.

Small class sizes and low student-to-teacher ratios are cornerstones of the PCDS concept, empowering students to build genuine relationships with their teachers and peers. As such, admission is extremely selective. In addition, a comprehensive advisory program encourages collaborative discussions and activities. Weekly assemblies and inter-grade buddy programs teach older students leadership skills and allow younger students to have mentors and role models.

Diversity is at the forefront of the PCDS ethos. In the last six years, the middle and upper schools implemented an annual in-school conference called Humans of PCDS, which consists of various student-driven workshops and lectures meant to serve as catalysts for conversations about equality and inclusiveness within the student community.

Meanwhile, in the classroom, PCDS staff pulls from a plethora of different pedagogical approaches and modalities, ensuring that innovation occurs at every level. Project-based learning is a priority here, promoting cross-curricular connections that are proven on the playground, during field trips and among countless other hands-on opportunities that broaden both personal and academic horizons.

Phoenix Country Day School’s multidisciplinary ideology, emphasis on growth and experiential approach allows students at any level to feel prepared not only for higher education, but whatever comes next.
Arizona State University

Eight years ago, U.S. News and World Report introduced an innovation category to its renowned rankings of various institutions, and every year Arizona State University has won the No. 1 spot, beating out prestigious universities like MIT and Stanford. Marked by increasingly innovative improvements in its curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology and facilities, ASU is constantly developing creative ways to approach higher education.

Earlier this summer, ASU announced plans to open a medical school. The medical school will cater to the growing demand for health-care workers in the state and will fuse clinical medicine, biomedical science and engineering. To further validate its commitment to advancing education and innovation, ASU joined the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group of top research universities known for being leaders in higher education. Over the past two decades, ASU has increased the scale and scope of its research by nearly six times.

Its research and education contribute to societal impacts and groundbreaking discoveries. ASU is creating a $25 million collaboration to restore and preserve Hawaii’s coral reefs and leading a space mission launching this fall to explore – for the first time ever – an asteroid made not of rock or ice, but metal. These projects and ever-evolving teaching strategies demonstrate ASU’s dedication to excellence.
Midwestern University

Located in Glendale, Midwestern University is both Arizona’s largest medical school as well as the first College of Veterinary Medicine in the state. Over the years, the health-care learning institution has steadily introduced new colleges, graduate degree programs and community clinics. With more than 14,000 alumni in the health-care sphere and nearly 40 percent practicing in Arizona, the university is instrumental in the process of training experienced professionals who consistently address the state’s most critical health-care concerns.

The dynamic academic programs at Midwestern address current health-care trends. Licensed and experienced bachelor’s- or master’s-prepared registered nurses can complete master’s, doctoral, or post-master’s certificate programs that were recently awarded full accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Each program is offered online and designed to support working nurse professionals in achieving their educational and career goals.

The programs’ accreditation comes at a critical time for Arizona health care – specifically the nursing profession. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of nurses that is expected to intensify due to aging, the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in general health-care needs. Nursing schools are working to expand their capacity to meet demand, while the health-care industry is struggling to meet employment demands brought about by nurse retirements and workforce exits.

“Nursing professionals are the backbone of our health-care system and are at the forefront of caring for some of our most vulnerable, underserved and marginalized populations. The need for strong, capable leaders and advanced-practice registered nurses has never been greater,” says Misty L. Pagán, D.N.P., M.S.N., APRN, AGNP-C, program director of the College of Health Sciences, Graduate Nursing Programs. “At Midwestern University, our unique online program offerings are designed to support our students in becoming effective leaders in the nursing profession by providing them with a strong foundation in advanced nursing practice, complex interprofessional health-care systems, global health and nurse leadership.”

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