My story starts about 14 years ago when I graduated from college with the anticipation of entering the teaching profession. I always wanted to become a teacher ever since I held “classes” with my stuffed animals in my room every Saturday morning. My dream finally came true…as I secured my first job as a 4th grade writing teacher. This opportunity happened to be at one of the lowest performing Title I schools in Palm Beach County. I was ecstatic, but right away I realized there was something missing…there was no specific writing curriculum available for me to use with my students. I remember frequently searching online for resources and also visiting the local teacher store, but always ending up with the same results…nothing. I knew I had to do something for my students so they would be able to pass the state writing test.
I knew I had to do something for my students so they would be able to pass the state writing test. I decided to start with the basics and go back to the way I learned how to write...with structure, repetition and practice. I began to teach my students in “pieces” and showed them the “parts” of a well-structured essay. Then we put it all together. I created and implemented many different strategies such as: color-coding with the students, strategic outlining, and elaboration techniques. Before I knew it, my students were catching on quickly and becoming improved writers. In the previous year, the fourth grade students at my school had a proficiency rate of less than 50% on the state writing assessment. Fast forward a year after delivering intense writing instruction to my students, and I was able to raise the proficiency rate to 95%. For the next few years, I served as a teacher and writing coach and was able to continue to increase the proficiency rate of my students…finally achieving 100% proficiency! Not just once, but two years in a row!!! Because of the quick turnaround success at our school, we became the focus of attention from district and state officials. We were questioned several times about our writing scores and put in the position of always having to defend our success.
My principal at the time told me that I should take the summer months off from teaching and start compiling my ideas and thoughts into individual writing lessons. I took that summer and started writing lessons from scratch. By the end of the summer I compiled a small binder of about 25 lessons. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I put the binder with my other teaching books and started the new school year. I continued working as a writing coach and then moved on to becoming a writing specialist with my district. I worked with the low performing schools and supported their teachers in writing. During this time, I shared my lessons and ideas and worked closely with the teachers and students. That year those schools outperformed most of the schools in our area. After working as a writing specialist for two years, I became pregnant with baby number three. I left the district completely and took a job online with Florida Virtual School. It was during the first few weeks of this job that everyone starting calling and asking where I was and that they needed a curriculum to use for writing. Many teachers inquired about purchasing the lessons that I created. My initial thought was “You want to buy them?” So I literally googled how to start a business in Florida, came up with a name, and that is how Top Score Writing began.
I started with a small one-inch binder of about 25 lessons. My days consisted of teaching virtual school all day and then going to Office Max at night to make copies of the lessons. My husband and kids would help me 3-hole punch the papers, make the binders, and then help carry the boxes to UPS to ship them out. I continued this family-led assembly line production for about a year and then a superintendent in another county found out about the program. She bought the curriculum for her entire district and I went there and trained over 300 teachers. After that, word started to spread quickly and more and more districts started to purchase the curriculum for their schools. I ended up leaving virtual school and running Top Score Writing full time. Nine years later, the Top Score Writing curriculum is being used in thousands of schools in five different states. My goal is to take the program nationwide and I know I will accomplish that.
In the midst of my Top Score Writing journey I found out about a small private school in my area designated for students that struggle in school, have dropped out or just needed something different. I knew I wanted to own this school to be able to provide students with an alternative educational setting. I purchased the school in 2015 and opened the doors in 2016. It is a very small private school with 10-15 students. We are not your normal traditional school. We offer lots of flexibility, frequent breaks, various curriculum choices and lots of small group and one-on-one teaching. I do not run this school as a means for income, but solely as a resource to help kids. I do not agree with the “one size fits all” approach to learning. Some kids are different and need an alternate way of learning…exactly what I provide at my school.