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 Leena Williams, one of Prisma's Founding Learning Coaches. After two years as a beloved coach in our middle school program, in Fall 2022 Leena transitioned to another Founding role as the Lead Coach & Curriculum Designer in our new high school program.
Tell us a little bit about your background in education.
I have known that I wanted to be in education ever since I was a little girl. As the oldest of four children, growing up I spent countless hours instructing my siblings and pretending to be Ms. Frizzle in elaborately imagined scenarios. As I grew up, I loved reading more than anything, and so it was a natural fit to pursue my Bachelors degree in Secondary English Education, and then my Masters in Curriculum and Instructional Design. I became a teacher at a local high school immediately out of college, where I taught for eight wonderful years. During my time in the classroom I was able to guide students of all levels in courses ranging from Intensive Reading to Theory of Knowledge, and both AP and IB Literature at the Higher Level. I have also had the honor of serving as a peer mentor to new and upcoming teachers, supporting them on their journey to becoming distinguished educators.
You’ve won several really prestigious teaching awards. Tell us more about those.
During my time in the classroom I was awarded a Golden Apple, giving me the honor of being recognized as at the top of my profession in my school district. In 2018, I was also nominated by a student for the prestigious NSHSS Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Award, and was honored nationally as one of their Claes Nobel Top Ten Educators of the Year. However, the distinction I am most proud of is being commended by the Florida Governor’s Office for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership in 2017, recognizing myself and my students for our ambitious community service project. I had the privilege of working with my students to understand local water resource management issues, adopt a local park for pollution reduction, and fundraising to landscape the school with water-waste reducing and pollinator-friendly native plants.
You’ve taught hundreds of kids, many of whom you still have deep relationships with years later. How do you build positive relationships with young people and what do those relationships mean to you?
Without a doubt, the best thing about being an educator is that my students make me a better person. They invite me into their lives and we form a family with a mutual commitment to support one another on our learning journey. The core of these positive relationships is mutual respect. Not a day goes by that young people do not prove to me how immensely talented they are and how brilliantly they exceed my own abilities. My life is immeasurably enriched by knowing them, and it is my honor to have many precious relationships which have extended far beyond their time in my classroom. I have gotten to watch my former students grow, blossom, and reap the rewards of their efforts. I have also gotten a front row seat to watch the leaders of our future as they hone their skills, and I can confidently say that we are in fantastic hands!
What was middle school like for you?
Middle school was a time of transition for me. I was always a shy child, content to walk around with my head buried in a book. Middle school was the first time I got to feel challenged both academically and socially, and I grew from that experience. Like all change, there were growing pains. I was forced to examine myself through the eyes of others, and it highlighted and magnified things which were difficult to process. However, it was also the first time I formed deep friendships with people who I genuinely had things in common with, not just people who I happened to be close to geographically. It exposed me to a diversity of emotions, opinions, and experiences and ultimately formed the cornerstone of my own adult independent values system.
What is your favorite part about your role at Prisma?
The opportunity to innovate with direct feedback from our learners. In education, so many innovations are imagined by adults for kids, but leave the kids out of the process. At Prisma, as we are piloting our new high school this year, we are bringing our learners into the conversation. They are actively participants in the construction of the high school- giving us feedback, providing ideas, and taking control over shaping their education. It has been an inspiration to watch them design their own culture, create organic socialization opportunities, monitor their own learning progress, and compile their own academic evidence to demonstrate mastery.
What are you most excited for as Prisma enters its next phase of growth?
I have had the honor of being with Prisma from the very beginning, so I have watched us grow from a small pilot cohort of around 30 learners to a thriving and robust community of learners from all over the world! I am so excited for us to grow and have the opportunity to touch even more lives. I think that one of the things that makes Prisma special is that every individual leaves their indelible mark on our community, so as we grow there will be ever more unique and beautiful perspectives incorporated into our model. It makes us so much more than the sum of our parts, and I look forward to being a part of that!
Middle School Curriculum Designer Lizzie uses her diverse experiences: studying Literature at Harvard, leading outdoor adventure expeditions, and teaching high school English, to help Prisma learners find their voices.
The pandemic has made homeschooling easier than ever before with a boom of online options from curriculum, to part-time programs, to full-time schools. But which is best for your family?
Prisma High School’s Launchpad Program will prepare learners to tackle their next phase, be it college, training, or an exciting career. Trevor Baker, our LaunchPad program designer, describes how he sets learners up for success.
You might have to jump in at first. But eventually, with the right modeling and practice, kids can develop the skills to make thoughtful decisions.
Middle School Curriculum Designer Gabe, an expert in interdisciplinary learning with a PhD from the University of Michigan, explains how he designs themes that blend together STEM and literacy.
One of the most fun parts of being a homeschooling parent is creating fun learning experiences for your kiddos! In this post, we share our favorite at-home activities and online resources.
Our Head of Middle School Curriculum explains how her team blends core subjects and real-world topics to design “hard fun” cycle themes.
One of the reasons our team wanted to develop a new kind of school was because we felt traditional schooling doesn’t put enough emphasis on developing emotionally intelligent kids. But what is emotional intelligence and how do you develop it?
"Carolyn is a miracle worker in math. Piper's attitude towards math has improved so much this year. It's never been her favorite subject but Carolyn's patience and encouragement has made such a positive impact." -Alexia A., Prisma parent
Media literacy is touted as one of the most important “21st century skills” for kids to master, in line with creativity, communication, and grit. Thinking through the amount of time most of us spend interacting with some form of media each day makes a good case for this.
“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
By introducing these concepts at home, you're setting your child up to be more financially responsible and savvy, giving them the tools to navigate an increasingly complex financial world.
“I’m so happy to have an opportunity to call out Javi. As a math educator myself I am really impressed with how he presents math concepts, differentiates for and challenges learners as needed. From a social-emotional perspective he is so kind, patient and invested in the kids as a whole. I am so happy he is Brynn’s math coach.” -Chandra S., Prisma parent
The ability to tolerate frustration is not merely about weathering the storm of the moment, but about instilling the persistence, adaptability, and resilience that set your child up for future success.
“We are eternally grateful for Prisma and the wonderful people who work there - especially the coaches - whose patience and expertise make our kids feel seen and heard and loved while also coaching them to learn knowledge and skills.” -Ashley S., Parent in Angie’s cohort
We are thrilled to announce that Prisma has earned accreditation from the Cognia Global Education Commission.
Online program? Good old-fashioned workbooks? A mix? Let’s help you unpack the options.
"Thank you for the bottom of our hearts for showing Story what it means to show up and do the hard work.” -Jenna W, Prisma Parent
Your unique way of processing the world brings with it challenges and rewards that color your parenting journey.
“Kristi sent Madeline a little note saying how much she likes seeing Madeline everyday, and Madeline grinned from ear to ear. Certainly a nice reminder of how different the relationship has been between coach and student compared to what we saw in public school.” -Pamela D., Prisma Parent
Many people assume advanced intellectual ability sets kids up for success in school, so when gifted kids struggle, it can be confusing for educators and parents.
“Despite Levi’s frustrations with science in the past, he had the most ambitious projects for Anne’s class. I love that she was able to inspire him!” -Joy J., Prisma parent
“Cindy is AMAZING! I’m so blown away by her accommodations, reprioritizing Parker’s to do lists, and always providing tons of encouragement. I’m knocked off my socks everytime I overhear her doing anything, really.” -Priscilla W., Prisma Parent
The first big surprise for me was the amazing team I would get to help me. I didn’t feel so alone when it came to supporting my kids' academic education.
“Natalie is so amazing and Karl has become very close with her. This year has seen Karl expand in his learning very much." -Anna H., Prisma parent
“Gwyn has been so wonderful to Jack. She is so relatable and authentic and really kind. She immediately bonded with him, and has really given him the freedom to be creative and take risks. She has made education and the whole "school experience" a safe place for him. With her support and encouragement, she has really made him thrive.” -Wren W., Prisma parent
How do you make sure the projects you design for your learners or homeschoolers are more than just volunteering, but meaningful learning opportunities?
In this blog post, we’ll explain what “school refusal” really means, possible causes of school refusal, and why rates might be rising. We’ll also share concrete strategies you can try if your child is struggling. You are not alone!
All kids need to learn these important cognitive skills, but kids with ADHD and autism might struggle more
Our favorite processes and activities for helping kids achieve their dreams
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” -Milton Berle
How kids can design projects that solve real-world problems
Falling in Love with Science
There are plenty of ways that homeschoolers make friends and engage with their peers, while still reaping the benefits of a homeschool education.
Tools to build self-awareness and resilience
The real world isn’t divided into school subjects. Learn how we design our interdisciplinary curriculum.
Explore the importance of education for children’s overall development and get practical tips for convincing your kids of its importance.
The Superpower that Turns Kids into Lifelong Learners
What would it look like if school prepared us for life?
Why is it that in a world of unprecedented technological advances and time-saving innovations, we seem to be busier than ever before?
Imaginative play isn’t just for preschoolers. Here’s how to spark your child’s imagination.
Engaging kids in the kitchen goes beyond food preparation. Here’s how to incorporate cooking into your weekly lesson plans.
The job landscape is shifting before our eyes. Here’s how to help kids navigate future career choices.
If your child has doubts, here’s how to help them get to a “yes.”
With adolescent mental health in crisis, here’s how to support your high school student’s well-being.
At its core, creativity is the expression of our most essential human qualities: our curiosity, our inventiveness, and our desire to explore the unknown.
The concept of critical thinking can seem vast and abstract. But one of the most meaningful ways you can start to tackle it is by rethinking the role of the teacher.
Imagine your child exploring new countries, meeting people from different cultures, and gaining a deep understanding of the world in a way that simply isn't possible in traditional education.
Unstick your child’s creativity, stretch their thinking, and improve their writing skills with topics that tap into their passions.
I never expected to find a family within my child’s school, but the leadership, teachers, parents and kids have become friends for life
Homeschooling can be overwhelming for parents. Here's how to recognize the signs of burnout & concrete solutions.
What’s behind your child’s complaint — and what to do about it.
If building social skills has been a bumpy road for your kid, here’s how to help them form healthy friendships.
The homeschool day can be quite efficient, compared to a typical public school day. Then, their school work completed, kids have plenty of time for extracurriculars, hobbies, unstructured play and generally... fun.
Possibly. But here’s what to do first.
To instill life-long healthy eating habits, take a hands-on approach
Distance learning doesn’t have to be a drag. Here’s how Prisma creates a community-centered online learning environment.
Distance learning is gaining popularity. Here’s what you need to know about online learning for high school students.
A bridge into high school, middle school is the time to prepare for independent learning. Here’s how to set the stage.
ADHD is only one reason for a short attention span. Find the cause, then try these tips for helping your child focus.
There’s no roadmap to develop a true passion — but here are ways to make the journey more fruitful.
Kristen Shroff is an experienced educational leader who has been with Prisma from the very beginning, first as a Founding Curriculum Designer & then as Head of School. Now, as CEO, she will lead Prisma into its next stage of growth.
Meet 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.
From making a meal to balancing a budget, here’s how to help teens learn to thrive in the real world.
In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma. Next up is Emily Veno, one of Prisma's Founding Curriculum Designers. After two years focused on building Prisma's middle school curriculum, in her new role as Head of Learning Innovation she works across both the middle & high school programs.
Get to the bottom of your child’s apathy and help them find their ‘why.’
At Prisma, we believe the families and learners who like to call themselves Prismarians—are our ‘secret sauce’! Here we highlight one of our favorite stories from the Prisma community
From national parks to beach vacations, design an in-the-field learning experience the whole family will enjoy
Online learning takes many forms. Decide why you want to go remote — and the rest will fall into place.
Here’s how parents of ADHD children can set themselves up for successful learning at home.
Online learning doesn’t have to be distracting. These tips can prime your child to thrive at home.
From early childhood through high school, homeschooling provides the ideal setting to facilitate a gifted child’s learning. Here’s how.
And how can you support them in the classroom?
From fostering a love of learning to developing problem-solving skills, child-initiated learning is a pillar of a successful homeschooling journey. Here’s how to get started.
Focus on number sense and you’ll help your child add math skills to their toolkit.
Combine fun with a pinch of self-discipline, and you’ll be well on your way to a wellness routine your child wants to follow.
Kids need to develop their own world as they mature. But the stereotype of the zip-lipped pre-teen doesn’t have to be your reality.
It’s not easy to juggle full-time work and homeschooling — but it is possible. Here’s what we’ve learned about how to thrive.
Learning languages opens doors, offers connections and inspires new ways of thinking. Here’s some advice about which one(s) to pick.
Critical thinking matters for academics, work and relationships. Here’s how to lay the foundations at home.
Read about the hands-on learning opportunities one Prisma high schooler tackled in the Secrets of the Biosphere theme
Creative thinking is the key to problem-solving. Here’s how to foster creativity at home.
Traditional four-year college is only one option. Here’s how to inform your decision.
The Montessori approach focuses on early childhood. Here’s how the popular pedagogical method can lend itself to home-based learning for all ages.
Here’s what parents need to know about the popular social media network.
Here’s what every parent should know about facilitating a routine that works for the whole family.
Hands-on learning benefits all students. Here’s how to incorporate it into your homeschooling.
There’s no evidence to confirm the validity of these popular labels. But here’s how auditory learning strategies can benefit everyone.
Although no studies link these popular labels to academic achievement, here’s how visual learning helps everyone.
Here’s what parents need to know about the free, popular chat app.
Incorporate these reading tips into your routine, and you’ll be on your way to fostering a love of reading in your child.
Ready to Deck the Halls? Here are projects to engage kids of all ages—and tackle your seasonal shopping with DIY keepsakes.
More than just asking questions in the classroom, the Socratic Method helps learners test their own ideas in a real-life context.
Here are some guidelines to help sift through the infinite options.
When students set the conditions of their learning experience, they show more creativity, passion and sticktuitiveness.
With built-in lesson plans, educational tools, and endless problem-solving opportunities, Minecraft: Education Edition can help motivate kids in coding, science, language arts, and more.