Monarca Academy: Valuing Every Student’s Unique Life Story

In our new series, ‘Meet Our Schools’, Teach Indy will share the work of schools across center township uplifting the vision and mission for student success through the eyes of educators in the buildings.

Monarca Academy is a new middle school, founded in 2022, that eliminates barriers to success for all students. Inspired by the Latino and immigrant experience, Monarca develops tomorrow’s leaders through high academic standards (ganas), cultural responsiveness (orgullo), and community building (comunidad).

The school deeply partners with community anchors like La Plaza and the Immigrant Welcome Center to ensure students and families have access to the wrap-around services they need to actualize their potential. 

Teach Indy sat down with two of Monarca’s founding educators, Science and Social Studies Teacher Jazmin Nysewander and Math and Ethnic Studies Teacher Nick Meyer, to learn more about what it’s like to teach there and what the school does to imbue each day with a celebration of students’ cultures. 

Describe your experience working at Monarca in its first year. What have been some of the best things about it? 

Jazmin: One thing I love about working here is the leadership. Felicia, our principal, I don’t have words to describe how wonderful she is. I have felt very valued and my ideas are worthwhile and taken into consideration. It’s been unique, especially so early in my career where I have a say in how the school develops.

Nick: One of the best things about teaching here, and I’ve been an educator since 2003, is that we strive to meet individual needs. We make adjustments based on where kids are at. 

Monarca is purposefully starting small and will expand over time. What are some of the benefits for you as a teacher to be in that kind of environment? 

Jazmin: I know each of my students on a personal level. I can also provide more support to the students who really need it. 

Nick: It really is like a family. I know every student. You know immediately if someone is missing or sick. Students have grown together and they sometimes bicker like siblings. It’s a very student-centered, family environment.

What is the student experience like at Monarca?

Jazmin: One unique thing is the discipline system we use. It’s different from other schools and focused on restorative practices. When there’s inevitable drama between 12 year olds, that can have a huge impact, especially with how small we are. We handle it through restorative conversations, talking through the impact things have and what action steps we can take to make amends to restore relationships and the overall culture of the school. We emphasize that we are a community.

Nick: The electives are the biggest thing that jumps out. Things that are not the normal art, music, physical education. They do baile folklorico [Mexican folk dance] and capoeira [Brazilian martial arts that are infused with dance]. A lot of our special area classes are based on Latino experiences or culture. 

What does it mean for Monarca to be inspired by the Latino and immigrant community?

Jazmin: We have a humanizing approach. We take into consideration the life events and cultural backgrounds of our students. Especially when we consider behavior and how to approach them and address them. Trying to understand the whole child, that naturally involves their life story.

Nick: One way I see our core value of community (comunidad) come alive is the amount of times that people from the community come in to be part of the school experience. Just recently, we had a Latino pilot visit and speak to students. We are always elevating people who reflect our students’ backgrounds.

What makes working at Monarca special and rewarding?

Jazmin: It feels real and authentic here. The way we interact with students and the way we speak with them. We treat them as humans. I can be myself here. I’m learning to become the teacher I want to be and I’ve had an immense amount of support.

Nick: The leadership here is so humanizing and understanding. I feel lucky to have the leaders we do. Everybody here is willing to do anything for our students and we believe in them and their whole health. Kids are safe here and adults believe in them. 

We thank the incredible educators of Monarca Academy for sharing their experience: Jazmine Nysewander, Science and Social Studies Teacher and Nick Myer, Math and Ethnic Studies Teacher.