Head of the class

Local educators showcase their passion, experience and expertise

Behind every impressive educational institution and intensive curriculum, there is always a leader who can mobilize their team to make the whole thing a success. We reached out to area educators who have dedicated their professional lives to enriching the lives of children. Through their innovative techniques and pedagogical philosophies, they truly make a difference in their students’ educational journeys.

Jack Hunter

Principal Toledo Public Schools’ 
Pre-Medical and Health Science Academy

Toledo Public Schools is now taking applications for their newest program, in partnership with ProMedica, which is set to launch in fall of 2022. Incoming ninth graders will have the chance to earn their STNA (State Tested Nurse Aide) certification, along with education in phlebotomy, pharmacy, and biomedical engineering at the Toledo Pre-Medical and Health Science Academy.

Jack Hunter, who has served as an administrator at TPS for a decade, will serve as principal of the school. He says that the program will be intensive, but within a nurturing environment suited to help students thrive. “The academic courses will be designed to meet each student’s needs every year,” Hunter says. “We understand how mental health plays a role in education and life, so we will meet with families frequently to check on how the learners are doing with coursework to decide what is best for them moving forward.  We will have numerous types of course track options, allowing our students unprecedented flexibility.”

Hunter is the ideal leader for this new initiative, as his philosophy is to challenge the status quo and “uncovering the hidden talents in students.” What he loves most about this position is its potential to help students become immersed in a career that they love, and to see them excel as they move from high school to college, or immediately into the job market.

“Many times I have met students who already have the vision for what their success will look like,” adds Hunter. “My passion is to help remove all barriers so that learners can reach their goals.”

Sarah Bennett

Leadership Resident iLead Spring Meadows
1615 Timberwolf Dr., Holland

Years at institution: This is my second year at iLEAD Spring Meadows. I have spent 13 years in charter school education.

Describe your responsibilities within this position: To support the campus, however possible, with my background in charter school leadership, and also to learn and grow within the iLEAD organization.

What is it that makes iLEAD stand apart from others? Aside from the open concept class spaces and project-based learning, we truly focus on the learners as individuals. iLEAD’s vision and mission provide opportunities for intentional activities that truly support all aspects of a learner’s growth.

What do you love most about your job? The people I work with, as well as the freedom to do what’s right for those people!

Educational philosophy: When you put people and relationships first, the rest will come. You can’t teach people if you don’t know them.

Jordan Nathaniel

Director, Lead Preschool Teacher
Cardan Montessori Center
1555 S. Byrne Rd., Ste. 100

Years at institution: 6 years

Describe your responsibilities at Cardan Montessori: I play a dual role as a teacher and as the school’s director. As the lead preschool teacher, I create group and individual lessons to ensure I’m meeting each child’s needs academically. As the Director, I oversee curriculum, budgeting, and student-parent relations. I aid our staff in creating and implementing developmentally-appropriate lessons, as well as guide and support them during their Montessori training. To me, it is essential to form a relationship with every family that attends Cardan Montessori Center. If I’m familiar with each child’s individual needs, I’m better able to help them develop a life-long love of learning and to reach their highest potential.

What is it that makes your school stand apart from others? We are bridging the education gap by providing high quality early childhood education to children and families from low-income homes. Our goal is to make Montessori education accessible to everyone, regardless of the family’s ability to pay, and to support them as their child’s first and best teacher.

What do you love most about your job? My favorite part of my job is being in the classroom when children make new discoveries and realize they are capable of anything they set their mind to. I love when a child understands a new concept, especially if it’s one they’ve been struggling with, and you see the lightbulb go off…it’s the “aha” moments for me.

What is your educational philosophy? I believe the purpose of education is to create individuals who can think, not only for themselves, but for the well-being of others in their community. All children deserve equal access to a quality education, regardless of any differences they may have. Children need an enriching environment in order to succeed, and as an educator I provide that.

Michael Blochowski

Computer Science teacher and baseball coach
St. Francis de Sales High School
2323 W. Bancroft St.
Years at institution: 29

Describe the work you do at St. Francis:  My current responsibilities are teaching Introduction to Computer Science, Web Design, Game Design, AP Computer Science A and Principles, Cybersecurity, and Introduction to Engineering; however, over the last 29 years, the courses I have taught have changed in the same way that technology has changed.

What is it that makes your school stand apart from others? St. Francis is a high academic institution that focuses on equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college. What makes us different is that the uniqueness of each student is valued and supported, and the students form a bond that no other word can describe except “brotherhood.” The slogan, “Be who you are and be that well” is lived.

What do you love most about your job?  Most teachers realize that they won’t inspire every student they teach to love their subject or even love themselves. But when that does happen, it brings a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Additionally, seeing a student go out and make an impact on the world is very rewarding.

Joella Simmons

School Leader HOPE Learning Academy
4234 Monroe St.
Years at institution:  3 years

Describe your responsibilities as school leader: As the school leader of HOPE Learning Academy of Toledo, it is my responsibility to uphold the mission and vision of HOPE. Our primary goal is to support the social, emotional, and academic needs of students with special needs and exceptionalities. Hope Learning Academy uses a non-traditional classroom approach to meet the needs of students we serve. I support my staff in executing their commitment to high standards and success for all our students.

I lead the day-to-day activities of the school with a positive, enthusiastic attitude, taking the time to listen to what the students, staff, and parents need. It is my responsibility to ensure that our teachers are effective by supporting classroom instruction,  providing professional development, and providing a curriculum across all grade levels that will support our students’ learning.

My most important responsibility is to provide a safe and engaging learning environment where each individual student can learn, be inspired, and grow academically as well as socially.

What is it that makes your school stand apart from others?

There is no other school in the Toledo area that is like HOPE Learning Academy. We are dedicated to being a successful school by focusing on the social, emotional, and academic needs of the students we serve. HOPE provides small classroom sizes, sensory integration, social skills, and arts integration.

We believe in:

  • Helping each student reach his or her potential
  • Obtaining and implementing various teaching strategies to accommodate different learning styles
  • Protecting each student’s right to learn in a safe and healthy environment
  • Expecting only positive outcomes

What do you love most about your job?  I love that every day I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on those around me.  My goal is to inspire others with kindness, grace, and positivity. I lead with patience and kindness with the hope that others feel the impact of that approach while working with me.

What is your educational philosophy?  My personal philosophy of education is that all children are different and have different learning needs.  Every child deserves to  have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. It is my mission to create this type of atmosphere where students can meet their full potential. HOPE  provides a safe environment where students are invited to be themselves.

My personal mission is to teach, inspire, and help others to grow. HOPE Learning Academy is about giving hope to students and families that may have faced challenges in traditional classrooms. We individualize our education and instruction so that each student can learn and grow to their fullest potential. As the school leader, I am able to make a positive impact on the students and teachers that I lead. 


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