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Glacier Lake school moves to new leadership

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ST. IGNATIUS – One measure of success is passing something lasting into the future, and Glacier Lake School founders Ben Kestner and Lisa Pavlock have done it.

Kestner and Pavlock founded the non-profit Alternative School in St. Ignace in 2014. Their vision was to provide children of all walks of life and income levels the opportunity to lead their own education and activities within the framework. of a democratically run school, the first in Montana. . Both had taught in international schools; Kestner was a college principal and Pavlock was a department head who also coached sports. But when their own child entered the system they were teaching in, they recognized that she would likely thrive more under something entirely different.

After researching several schools around the world, they decided to move near their family to Saint-Ignace and opened Glacier Lake School when their daughter, Marina, was 7 years old.

“A school where we trust children to take responsibility for their learning and their lives,” Kestner wrote in a recent blog post.

The school has grown to enroll around 30 students each year, ages 4 to 19, and has found the community welcoming.

“We felt supported here by such a wide range of people,” Pavlock said. “People here really embrace so many different types of people. This is what I love about our valley.

Some families have children both in public schools and in GLS, recognizing that different children have different learning styles, she said.

Based on this successful experience, Kestner and Pavlock were recruited by a group of families to start a similar school in Ibiza, Spain. They are delighted with the new adventure and happy that GLS continues with the new staff. There might even be opportunities for exchanges between the two schools, they said.

New staff Nora Gibbons and Janet Moxness have been associated with GLS for years. Both taught there during a transition period last school year. The school plans to hire a third part-time staff member and also invites volunteers to share their experience.

Gibbons offered a drama class at GLS during his senior year of high school in Missoula. She continued to visit as she pursued her BA in Global Studies from Long Island University Global College. She has volunteered and worked in democratic schools in several countries and completed a research thesis on conflict resolution and mediation at one of these schools in Ireland.

“Ben and Lisa have built such a beautiful thing, and I’m really happy to be able to make sure that this kind of opportunity continues to be available to any student who wants it,” Gibbons said. “At Glacier Lake, young people can discover freedom and cultivate their own voice and decision-making power, as well as their own community. A self-directed environment is the perfect place to develop these unique and important skills.”

Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts was the first democratic student-run school in the United States

“When Nora went to college, everywhere she went, she found Sudbury model schools and made connections,” Pavlock said. “So not only does she come back to us, but she shares with us what she has learned. She has a wealth of insight.

Moxness has been teaching American Sign Language at GLS for several years, and her son graduated from the school last year. She holds a Diploma in Teaching English from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and brings a wide range of experience including occasional teaching, camp counselor, professional cook, caregiving. elderly and dying, agriculture and property management, piano instruction, Cub Scout Leader, PTO member. She even helped found a cooperative parent school based in Waldorf.

“I’m really excited to get to know the kids more and support them as they grow up and find their way,” Moxness said. She maintains strong relationships with local public school teachers. She gave examples of children, including her own, who chose GLS and public school at different times in their lives. “We are all one community and we can all support each other. “

The school reunion, where school work is negotiated and decided, is one of the most important aspects, Moxness said.

“Because they have so much of a say and responsibility in school, this is good leadership training and training in your community, on city boards or government, on county, state or country. ”

Watching students manage this process, combined with the conflict resolution tools of mediation and the “Peace and Justice Committee” gives Moxness hope for the future.

“We need leaders who can resolve conflict in a positive way, especially in our divided society. They will know that they can change their world, and they will learn to accept that they disagree.

“I am just honored to be able to help provide this caring container for these children,” Moxness said.

Glacier Lake School is accepting applications for the next school year. Visit glacierlakeschool.com or call 745-2345 for more information.

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