Principal Steve Pond Interview
by Amber Brandt
Even though his professional life has taken him from corporate training to professional sports management, Principal Steve Pond claims it was the “education bug” that bit him early in life and wouldn’t let go. But that’s just one of the reasons he’s so excited to open Peak Charter Academy in Apex, North Carolina.
Steve had a couple of outstanding teachers growing up, both of which impacted his life in special ways. So when it was time to pursue a college education, Steve earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, a teaching certificate from North Carolina Central University and a master’s degree in school administration from North Carolina State University. Today, with over 15 years of educational experience, he’s served in the public, private, charter, and university sectors — as well as teaching and training across a variety of industries.
Most recently Steve served as program director for the 2015-16 school year with an organization called New Mind Education at North Carolina State University — a first year program for Chinese students coming to the U.S. While he notes that was an amazing experience, it was during that time he realized just how much he missed elementary and middle school education.
Steve has a real passion for leading kids — and his philosophy of teaching is perfectly suited to NHA schools. Peak Charter Academy will be the third school Steve has opened, and he’s found some tested approaches that not only impact student achievement, but create a culture that’s welcoming, challenging, and truly unique. Plus, the added benefit of building a school from the ground up allows Steve the capacity to hire likeminded faculty who are committed to extending the culture into the classroom. His approach to Peak includes:
- Customized education for 3rd grade and up. By using ongoing instructional data based on ability — each student will be met right where they’re at — and receive customized, differentiated and tiered instruction. For students who may have a little catching up to do, they’ll be helped to achieve mastery. Those who demonstrate high ability in class will be given additional opportunities to enrich and enhance their critical thinking. While 3rd grade and up will change classes, K-2nd grade classes will be fully differentiated and tiered as well. His hope is that no one will be left struggling or bored on Steve’s watch.
- Quarterly electives for elementary students. Steve uses an analogy about fitness to explain why quarterly electives are important. “Imagine if you worked out just one day a week. What would happen if you worked out for 45 days straight? How much better would you feel? How much more progress will you have made? Now think about your child. What if he or she were able to see their art teacher every day for one academic quarter versus once a week?” This is a unique draw parents won’t find anywhere else.
- A Culture of Love. Inspired by a program fellow principal rolled out at her school, Steve will be incorporating school-adapted lessons from the book The Five Love Languages at School by Dr. Gary Chapman. These lessons will address how to foster appropriate and respectful relationships — teacher to student, and student to peer. It will help students demonstrate words of affirmation, quality time and more. It’s designed to dovetail perfectly with monthly moral focuses as well. Steve is excited to try to replicate the success that his fellow principal has had at her school and to create a Culture of Love at Peak.
According to Principal Steve, "We believe in using differentiating and tiered teaching to challenge our students to grow. We don’t do one size fits all education. We apply our personal and professional passion to teaching others so they can go back and make a difference in someone else’s life too.”