Young entrepreneur creates non-traditional school

It’s 8:30 a.m. and 11 kids sit quietly in a circle for morning launch — an activity that challenges students with a question. Jake Thompson explains to his students the importance of learning to focus and get into flow.

This is a typical morning at Heroes Academy, a non-traditional school in Boise that opened four weeks ago.

It’s a school with no grades, no homework and no tests.

Entrepreneur Jake Thompson, 31, is the founder of the school. He started a business at age 21, wrote an Amazon best-selling book in 2014 and now wants to disrupt education and inspire change.

He believes the traditional model of teaching is factory-based and kids are learning the same things, at the same time, in the same place, at the same pace, at the same age, with the same tests. He wanted a different type of education for his three children.

“Today’s schools seem to continue an aging pattern of memorizing and regurgitating facts and information that lead to obedient, order-taking factory workers for an industrial era,” Thompson said.

Thompson never understood the purpose of school. He was not a fan of college and never imagined working in education.

“I had a hard time connecting with how school was going to help me get to my next step in life,” Thompson said.

Entrepreneur turned educator

Thompson grew up in Eagle and graduated from Eagle High School. He served a two-year mission in Italy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When he returned home he attended Brigham Young University. While there, Thompson started a financial education and services company, which was the start of his life as an entrepreneur.

After receiving his undergraduate degree, Thompson attended the Acton School of Business and Entrepreneurship where he got his master of business administration degree. There he learned about Acton Academy, a non-traditional school in Austin, Texas, which led him to create Heroes Academy.

“I believe there is tsunami of change that is bubbling under the surface in education,” Thompson said. ​”I believe the problem boils down to one fundamental question — what is the purpose of education?”

Thompson is concerned about the education and future of his three children, and believes that his experiences have led him to his calling of education and entrepreneurship.

“Traditional education and the real world are drifting further and further apart as schools don’t have the resources, desire, or ability to adapt,” Thompson said.

Thompson taught in a classroom for six months at a private school to gain an understanding of a classroom setting before opening Heroes Academy. He does not have a teaching credential.

“I don’t know if that matters to me having credentials,” Thompson said.

The school

Heroes Academy serves 11 students in first through fifth grade, and will add a grade a year. In the next five years, Thompson plans to add middle and high school and expand to 120 students.

The school mission is to inspire each child and parent that walks through the doors to find a calling that will change the world. The school is modeled after Acton Academy, which has more than 12 schools across the nation.

Students learn on three pillars of education:

  • Learn to learn: Self-paced challenges, goal setting techniques, and measures of accountability will equip children to be independent lifelong learners.
  • Learn to do: Hands-on activities for science, entrepreneurship and the arts will prepare children for apprenticeships and real world challenges.
  • Learn to be: Self-governance, and relational contracts and consequences will form the virtuous habits that develop strong character.

“Kids won’t be looked at as widgets in a factory, but as young heroes on a hero’s journey,” Thompson said.

Students use technology for project-based learning on topics such as literature, history, math and science. Students work in online classes with the Khan Academy. Kids must show mastery before moving on to more challenging lessons. Students take the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, a standardize test to measure growth and learning.

The non-traditional approach at Heroes Academy include:

  • Guides not teachers.
  • Studios not classrooms.
  • Portfolios and exhibitions not grades.
  • Contracts and covenants not rules.
  • Ask questions not lecture.
  • Self-paced not teacher-paced.
  • No homework.
  • Group students into groups, not by age.
  • Students do real world apprenticeships.

“Everything doesn’t always go smoothly at school, but (Thompson’s) approach allows the kids and the program to evolve on almost a weekly basis,” said Candice Despain, who’s son attends Heroes Academy. “We love the school because of the approach they have.”

The staff at Heroes Academy is Thompson and a certified teacher. Annual enrollment is $9,360. Financial aid is available to families. The schools is located at 13945 W Wainwright Dr. #101 Boise, ID 83713.


Andrew Reed

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