IGNITE Middle School was founded on a vision that all scholars should have the opportunity to learn, grow, and explore the aspects of their lives that make them unique, special, and great. IGNITE's founders, Dr. Michael Gayles, Shirley Preyan, Andrew Benagh, and Shartajeye Wright called that the scholar's Superpower. After countless cups of coffee and late night hours, the founders wrestled with the question of how a school can do both: provide an opportunity for scholars to engage in activities they personally find meaningful and experience academic achievement. The answer, as Dr. Gayles saw it, was a little bit of East Coast meets West Coast. All they needed was a... spark... to get the scholars started.
The founding principles of IGNITE were born from extensive research into Personalized Learning, Purpose Driven Learning, and Career Exploration. Dr. Gayles and his team traveled the country visiting schools. On the West Coast they saw scholars that were interested and excited about going to school. There was innovative work in the purpose-driven learning experiences of those scholars; but, they lacked the academic achievement he knew they could achieve. On the East Coast, he saw the opposite. Scholars were making major academic gains but were less enthusiastic about going to school and didn't feel as engaged. The founders knew there was an answer in the middle. From that spark, a small flame began to IGNITE.
The founders worked out a model in which scholars would receive purposeful and intentional opportunities to explore and grow their passions while applying that to their day to day learning. A blended learning model would serve as the vehicle with support from Dallas ISD's Personalized Learning department. Programs like campus wide career exploration projects named i90 (for "Investigating Careers for 90 Minutes) would expose scholars to a wide variety of careers they may never have known existed while preparing them for a future of careers we may not even be able to imagine yet. A house system was built not based on random selection, but rather, a balanced approach that focused on each scholar's strengths and put them in a community of peers that share their passions. Finally, teachers were empowered to innovate in the classroom to bring 21st century practices to the support of scholars.
IGNITE opened its doors at JW Ray Learning Center with a lofty promise and dedicated team in 2018. Today, we look forward and up. We are... IGNITE!