From the desk of Deanne Paul
Our community is blessed with a public charter school that ranks #8 out of 601 public high schools in Texas, as rated by US News & World Report in 2018.
Incredibly remarkable is the fact that Imagine International Academy of North Texas is only in its 7th academic year and has achieved this recognition with only three graduating classes to date. Far more than a high school, Imagine offers the continuum of all three International Baccalaureate Programs for grades K-12 at no cost to families.
There was never a question about what we were working on because we always knew this project would be a boon to the community for years to come. Back then it was a matter of getting enough people to believe in what we’re doing and sign up to be part of our school.
-Julia Brady, Head of School
With a new academic year under way, it was a pleasure to visit with Julia Brady, Head of School, to learn more about how the unique academic opportunity offered at Imagine International Academy of North Texas became a reality. Ms. Brady shared that while growing up in Africa and attending international schools, she became familiar with the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. She recognized the value this educational experience offers in areas of preparation for college, creating global citizens with an international-minded perspective, and second language acquisition starting in kindergarten. Certain these ideas would appeal to our growing community, her vision for a school of choice within the public school system began to take root.
From early on, Ms. Brady’s vision included the priority of having a K-12 IB school available to all families regardless of ability to pay. The path to achieve this goal led to a partnership with Imagine Schools, a unique charter that did not have its own proprietary curriculum or “one size fits all” approach to its schools. At a time when the process of applying for a new charter school was competitive and the state was approving very few charters each year, demonstrating community interest and building a strong charter application was imperative.
Ms. Brady recalled the grass roots efforts to reach out to the community through in-home coffee meetings where interested parents learned about this potential new school. Ultimately a larger parent meeting held at a local middle school demonstrated the great interest for this type of school of choice. In fall 2008, the state of Texas awarded the highest points for charters to Imagine International Academy of North Texas and the charter application was approved.
After securing the location and completing construction, Imagine opened in the fall of 2012. Starting with grades K-9, the school grew into K-12 by 2015 when the first group of ninth graders entered their senior year. They were the inaugural class of 2016; a small group of 22 students who persevered through unknown territory embracing all that the International Baccalaureate requires.
The inaugural Kindergarten class has grown into the current 6th graders; they are the first to complete the IB Primary Years Program and begin the IB Middle Years Program. I spoke with Holly Baker, Primary Years Programme Director, to learn a little more about how an IB education in the early years differs from a traditional curriculum. Ms. Baker highlighted that teacher and student respect is the biggest difference she sees on a daily basis throughout all activities of planning and learning. IB allows teachers to have a pivotal role in the creation of curriculum, placing high value and respect for the vast knowledge and creativity they bring into the classroom. IB equally recognizes the many skills and interests children bring into the classroom as learners in all areas of their lives. The early years set the stage to develop internationally minded lifelong learners. Students are given many opportunities to show what they know and what they have learned. Project parameters may not be narrowly defined, enabling even the youngest students to explore modes of expression that allow their individuality and strengths to shine. Students learn to collaborate, think critically, and present their ideas beginning in kindergarten!
While the International Baccalaureate curriculum offers excellence in academic rigor, the Imagine K-12 environment provides special opportunities for students of all ages to work together. To encourage connections across grade levels, each student at Imagine is part of a “Family Group” throughout their time at Imagine. These small groups are comprised of students from all grade levels who come together during “Family Day” activities several times each year. Ms. Baker excitedly shared the positive impact upper level students have on younger students as they offer encouragement and act as role models. The opportunity to grow into leaders and develop interpersonal skills as students across grade levels listen and work together is an added benefit of the K-12 Imagine community.
While ultimately earning an IB Diploma is the goal and badge of honor, the personal growth and skills students develop during their academic journey at Imagine are likely the greatest achievements of all!
Imagine International Academy of North Texas is located at 2860 Virginia Pkwy, McKinney, TX 75071
Learn more about Imagine and the application for enrollment lottery.
photo credit: Dragon Pride Yearbook
To read more about McKinney, head over to our Visit McKinney page.