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New Leaf Prep Academy bringing new perspective to education in Brown County

Posted at 9:35 PM, Mar 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-06 22:36:14-05

HOWARD (NBC 26) — Paige Christoff is a Howard resident and was looking for a nontraditional school to send her daughter to for kindergarten. She said she couldn't find quite the right place, so she started her own.

"That's when New Leaf was born," Christoff, Founder and Head of New Leaf Prep Academy, said.

New Leaf Prep Academy is the only kindergarten through eighth grade independent charter school in Brown County, meaning it's open to everyone and tuition-free.

The school is funded through state allocations, grants and donations, and its purpose is to teach students at their own pace using the Montessori method of education.

"It's just a different approach. They don't sit at a desk all day," Christoff said. "They're up moving. They have freedom within their classroom, but we do have some expectations on them so they learn how to be responsible citizens in their classroom and then broader out in the community."

She said students have more time to move around and work independently, and the academy emphasizes nature, hands-on learning and life preparation skills, including classes like gardening and nutrition.

This is the third year the academy has been open, and she said they can have up to 200 students.

Brianna Simoens is a mother of two sons in the school and said even her four-year-old son already knows how to vacuum because of the life skills he's learning at the academy.

"They take care of cleaning their classroom, watering plants...and that carries through their entire life," Simoens said. "We notice it at home."

Simoens said she feels there's a need for schools like New Leaf Prep Academy in the area because not all students learn the same.

"There is definitely a need for families who maybe cannot afford or do not want the religious aspect of private school to find something different than traditional public education," Simoens said.

Christoff said she looks forward to watching her students blossom in year three.

"They're learning and growing at their own pace, and I just feel so fulfilled in how we're able to serve them," Christoff said.