From the February 2020 issue

Frankel Jewish Academy Students Explore Diverse Interests

This college-preparatory high school, located in West Bloomfield, boasts a variety of immersive opportunities that allow students to pursue their passions.

Brought to you by Frankel Jewish Academy

At Frankel Jewish Academy, “Own Your Journey, Discover Your Tomorrow” is more than a memorable tagline – it’s affirmation of the unique, individualized education that each Frankel student receives.

As a private Jewish college-preparatory high school, Frankel Jewish Academy, which is located in West Bloomfield, allows students to take ownership of their educational experiences by offering a wide variety of rich, immersive opportunities – and plenty of encouragement to pursue their passions in a structured, yet flexible setting, explains Randy Gawel, principal of Frankel Jewish Academy.

“We recognize that students must be participants in their education,” says Gawel, pointing out that the school’s unique, intimate environment helps make this possible. Very small class sizes facilitate increased interaction with teachers and peers, deepening the educational experience while building essential life skills.

“Students become better advocates for themselves, and then, when they go off to college, they are more willing to form relationships with professors and peers,” Gawel says. Graduates of Frankel Jewish Academy share candid feedback about their abilities to guide themselves through post-secondary educational experiences, especially at the largest flagship universities and top-tier colleges.

“You’d think it counterintuitive in such large environments, but our students come back and say how better prepared they are than their peers to navigate the college process,” he says. “And in the work world, they are more willing to stand up and talk about what they need in order to do the best job possible.”

Frankel students thrive through personalized instruction…

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Frankel’s flexible structure allows students to pursue interests as they develop, and this applies to extracurricular activities, too, Gawel says. “Here, if they have an interest in soccer, they can play, even if they haven’t been playing since they were 9 years old. By contrast, in typical public high schools, it’s too late. They can’t pursue that interest simply because they didn’t have an adult making a decision about how they would dedicate themselves to their sporting life,” he says. “At Frankel, they have the opportunity to explore interests as they develop, in real time.”

While still maintaining a structured environment appropriate for high school students, Frankel Jewish Academy reflects a daily rhythm that blends high school with collegiate practices. The school day now begins at 8:30 each morning, a full hour later than in previous years. This was a student-centered decision made in accordance with research from the American Academy of Pediatrics supporting a later start time to better align with the adolescent sleep cycle. Students attend classes of lengths and meeting times that are appropriate for the subject and are encouraged to pursue coursework that aligns with their interests, from STEM to arts and humanities to Jewish studies, and so much more.

…and build skills through immersive, experiential learning

When specific courses don’t exist, Frankel students can work to create the curriculum. Gawel shares one example of a group of students studying world religions in their AP Human Geography class. “They said, ‘This is so interesting; we’d like to learn more. Let’s have a comparative religion class.’ So they approached a faculty member with the idea, and next semester the students will have the opportunity to take a comparative religion class,” Gawel says. “We have much more flexibility and are more nuanced in the things we can do, and the approaches we can take because we are a small private school.”

Placed in the top 1% of Michigan schools by Newsweek and STEM.org, Frankel Jewish Academy boasts a fully-fitted Genesis STEAM Lab where students explore engineering, robotics and other disciplines. Experiential education, like a visit to the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana to engage with a community working to preserve a distinct culture and language, allows teenagers to ponder big societal questions within a new and highly relevant context.

Inherent in the Frankel philosophy is the trust that students have the wisdom to pursue their interests and own their journeys. Because the school does not teach merely to achieve state testing standards, students reap the benefit of an education structured for true engagement and learning.

“The individual education is realized in the work of the student,” Gawel explains. “It’s important to not presuppose that the same path is right for every student, but rather to let students have the opportunity to grow and learn individually within a framework that is supportive enough to allow for this.”

Content brought to you by Frankel Jewish Academy. For more information, visit frankelja.org.

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