ACE teacher Julie James took a unique path in making her way to Brookline High School. Growing up in Davisburg, Michigan on a small farm with her four brothers, she learned to love animals and the outdoors. After attending Notre Dame and Indiana University, James went on to teach for over 30 years before even arriving at the high school.
What pulled you to Brookline High School?
What pulled me to Brookline was the ACE program. I have taught in schools where grading was done through stating clear competencies and the benchmarks needed to get to competencies, and I’ve worked in programs that empowered students to move through those in ways that made sense to them. I have really seen the impact it has on empowering those people to be leaders when they leave. It gives young people the opportunity to try to figure things out for themselves and to make mistakes in a place where it’s okay to make them. You learn what to do after you mess up, because we all mess up. I just feel like navigating that process is a great way to teach and learn.
What teaching experience did you have before this?
I’ve taught at a school for Native Americans in New Mexico and at an alternative school in Indiana. It’s kind of like your School Within a School, but even more democratic — it’s pretty much run by the students entirely. I also taught in more structured settings; I taught at Roxbury Prep High School in Boston for four years, I ran the first-year studies support program for the University of Notre Dame and I taught a class at a community college. I also homeschooled my kids. Doing school with them means that I’ve taught homeschool classes to their friends, and even to other parents, because the homeschool world doesn’t do age boundaries.
Can you tell me about where you grew up?
I grew up in Michigan, between Detroit and Flint, in a town called Davisburg that no one has ever heard of. It might have a stop sign now, but when I grew up there it certainly didn’t. I grew up on a farm. It wasn’t a “the source of the family income” sized farm, but it was 32 acres, which my four brothers and I took care of. That’s probably where I learned to love being outside. I also learned a lot about fixing stuff.