Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school, focused on preparing kids for the ever-changing world of the future. Our team of educators have a diverse background of experience on the cutting edge of teaching and learning, whether they’ve worked in brick and mortar schools or dynamic online environments. In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma.
Next up is Claire Cummings, our Head of Middle School. Claire started out as a beloved Learning Coach in our middle school program before transitioning to the Head of School role in January 2023! She is based in Detroit, Michigan.
Tell us a little bit about your background in education.
I started out as a newspaper reporter covering education. I was in schools and writing about policy when I realized I actually wanted to be teaching the learners instead! I moved to Las Vegas where I received my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I taught grades 3-5 and coached fellow teachers for 10 years. The bulk of my time was spent in my neighborhood school but I also taught for two years at a technology magnet school where we focused on learner-centered and personalized instruction. Most recently, I served as a specialist teaching computer coding to grades K-5 and delivered webinars for teachers as a Digital Engineer for the state of Nevada.
What's your favorite thing about your role as Head of Middle School?
My favorite part of my role is helping our coaches regain the joy, passion, and innovation they had lost in their traditional school settings. There are so many incredible educators in this world who burn out not because they don't enjoy what they do but because they are tired of the red tape and systems blocking their way. It's so rewarding to take all of that away, give them the keys, and say, "I trust you to do this job." Educators are some of the most creative, hard-working people out there and they soar when you give them that level of autonomy (just like learners do!).
If you could pick one skill that all kids should master to prepare for the world of the future, what would it be?
Critical thinking. Our learners have vast amounts of information at their fingertips but they need to know how to find and sift through multiple sources quickly as well as analyze them for accuracy, bias, and usefulness. If you have this skill, you can teach yourself nearly anything, and it will help you make better decisions as a voter, consumer, and all-around citizen of our world. I never purchase an item without researching it first.
What was middle school like for you?
I lost some friends in elementary because they said I had been too much of a “teacher’s pet.” So I started to rebel a little in middle school to become more likable. I would crack jokes while the teacher was talking and tried to slack off on my studies a bit. I had some wonderful teachers who recognized the shift in me and made time to explain that I could still excel academically and make friends. It wasn’t either/or. So I embraced my inner goody two-shoes but in a more relaxed manner that allowed me to attract a great group of core friends.
You have experience leading learning experiences both online and in person. What do you like about the virtual environment?
I love teaching online because learners are able to set up and respond to their learning environment in ways that make them most comfortable. They can wear what they want, turn their camera off if they need a moment, and communicate via chat instead of audio, if they prefer. There are also far fewer distractions (like fire drills!) and I love that learners can go at their own pace.
What are you most excited about as Prisma enters its next phase of growth?
We are proof that you can blow up the idea of school and start fresh. Oftentimes, people just tinker with existing structures and it ends up looking a lot like school still. We've built something so unique, rigorous, and fun that ultimately mimics the kinds of tasks and projects we are preparing kids to engage with down the line. I'm excited to continue iterating on the idea of school and serving as a model for what is possible in education.
What do you love to learn about? Or, what’s something new you learned recently?
I am a futurist so I love learning about emerging technologies. I recently took a deep dive into cryonics — preserving human bodies at low temperatures — and even toured Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona last year. There are 181 people who are “frozen” there with the hopes of returning to life when technology is able to revive them. It’s fascinating!
Want to learn more about how Prisma can empower your child to thrive?Talk with us
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