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NHA Foundation Compels Former Student to Become Teacher

Joe McCarthy was inspired to become an educator by his high school history teacher at Arbor Preparatory High School. It was only natural that when he became a teacher, it was at another National Heritage Academies (NHA) school.
McCarthy spent his K-12 years at Keystone Academy, Canton Charter Academy, and Arbor Prep, while his mom, Joni, was a registrar at Grand River Academy. After graduating from college, he moved back to Canton, reconnected with Principal Dana Gurganus and taught at South Canton Scholars for two years before coming to Wellspring Preparatory High School this fall.
The curriculum that molded him resonated strongly enough that he wanted to be the one to pass it on to younger generations as a teacher.

Joe McCarthy with student
 Joe McCarthy is a social studies teacher at Wellspring Preparatory High School.

“I really was drawn back to NHA after spending 13 years of my life there. I think we provide students with a solid foundation to develop those scholars to make them successful in life, whether that be in college or if they choose to pursue a different path,” McCarthy said. “I think we are able to ground our students really well with using the Moral Focus curriculum. We can redirect students really easily and show them the purpose for why we do what we do here.”

Joe McCarthy
Joe McCarthy has taught at South Canton Scholars and Wellspring Prep and spent his K-12 years as a student at Keystone Academy, Canton Charter Academy, and Arbor Preparatory High School.
McCarthy never pictured straying far from education professionally, and his path to becoming a teacher started at Arbor Prep. He said he was “deeply inspired” to follow in the footsteps of his history teacher, Jessica Wood, who still teachers at Arbor Prep.
“She showed me what history could be,” he said. “That it wasn't necessarily learning dates and people and events, but it’s developing these historical thinking skills.”

Joe McCarthy with student

McCarthy has enjoyed his time at each NHA school but is able to form more close-knit relationships among the teaching staff at Wellspring, which has a significantly smaller community than South Canton and outperforms the local district in all subjects. He said his greatest joy has been getting students to feel confident enough to challenge themselves with tougher material, such as taking an AP class in high school.
“That’s when I know I’ve done my job, that I’ve taught them the skills to make them feel confident that they can go on and take an upper level college class,” he said.

Joe McCarthy with student
Much like his time at Arbor Prep, McCarthy hopes that his history class serves as a jumping off point for students, whether it’s piquing their curiosity to be a teacher or any number of other ambitions the subject stirs up.
“I definitely understand that most of my students are not going to major in history, they’re not going to be a historian,” he said. “History teaches students critical thinking skills, it teaches students to collaborate with each other, it teaches students communication skills, and it teaches students creativity. All of these things are lifelong skills.”
Keep up the excellent work, Mr. McCarthy!

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About Wellspring Preparatory High School:
Wellspring Preparatory High School is a tuition-free, public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving students in ninth through 12th grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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