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Teacher’s Creativity and Passion Shine Through at Peak Charter Academy

As Peak Charter Academy was preparing to open in 2017, Lisa Surprenant saw the opportunity to fulfill her passion shortly after expanding her family.

Surprenant was at home with her daughter on maternity leave when an opening for a science-only position at the elementary level became available. Her older daughter was starting kindergarten at the time, giving them an ideal circumstance for a fresh slate at a new school.

“You don’t see that a whole lot,” she said. “I was really excited for that opportunity to just focus on science because it's just a passion of mine,” she said.

Lisa Surprenant smiling
Lisa Surprenant is an original staff member at Peak Charter Academy.

Surprenant has capitalized on the chance as Peak’s third-grade science teacher. She was named Teacher of the Year and was an NHA Excellence in Teaching Award finalist for 2020-21.

As an original staff member at Peak, Surprenant has led Peak’s beginning teacher program for a few years. Peak Dean of Upper Elementary Kacey Gorman said Surprenant has transformed the program by alternating between online and in-person meetings to provide a mix of dialoging for ideas as well as a forum to share videos that will help teachers acclimate to National Heritage Academies and satisfy their needs.

“She is truly a wonderful teacher,” Gorman said. “Her strengths lie in thinking outside of the box and create engaging hands-on activities for her scholars. I have had the privilege of working with her as her dean and having her as a teacher for my own child. I could truly go on for days about how amazing she is.”

A Peak student displays their solar system unit project
A Peak student displays their solar system unit project.

Surprenant is known at Peak for her ability teach creatively. The COVID-19 pandemic hindered that in terms of bringing parents in to see projects, but she is excited to show off the scholars’ solar system units, such as a planet made of cake, and research projects. While the projects allow the kids to get messy, they also talk about going through the scientific process of building, and other possible solutions they could have taken.

She also taught an economics unit that saw students become entrepreneurs and develop, market, and sell their own product.

“We have all these really hands-on fun ways for the kids to show their learning and then we invite parents to come in and check it out,” Surprenant said. “That’s one of my favorite projects that we get to do each year.
 
“Just being able to work with kids and when you see those like light bulb moments and you see them get excited about something you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is why I do it.’ That excitement for learning.”

A Peak scholar shows off their model of Neptune
A Peak scholar shows off their model of Neptune.

Surprenant said Peak’s diversity is one of her favorite things about the school. A few years ago, a student showed her appreciation by inviting her to an Indian ceremony that included a blessing for teachers.
 
“It was just a really special moment,” she said. “I love it, not only for myself, but also for my personal children, just being able to be in other cultures.”
 
Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Surprenant!
 
About Peak Charter Academy:
Peak Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Apex, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.


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