By: Melanie Wisniacki, Junior, and Deborah Augustin, Senior
On August 19, 2019, our legendary Phoenix dusted off its wings, iPrep opened its doors for the 2019-2020 school year, and the student body unknowingly is celebrating the high school’s tenth anniversary.
iPreparatory Academy, Upper School, originally opened in August of 2009 to juniors and seniors exclusively. While talking to Ms. Hernandez, one of the school's first teachers and present day Activity Director, she recounted that iPrep originally consisted of 17 students and 3 teachers. The original highschool was in the current area designated for the Primary Learning Center, specifically where the “Biscayne Office” and the fourth grade classes are located.
Back in 2009, Ms. Hernandez explained that a typical school day consisted of six classes where History, English, and Technology were taught by physical teachers while math, science, and electives were taught on Florida Virtual School (FLVS). FLVS was new, and no other school was integrating technology and learning in this way.
Inspired by the advent of the iPhone and omniscient power of the internet, Mr. Carvalho, our Superintendent and Principal, imagined his school to reflect the same revolutionary and cutting-edge efficiency of the internet. Carvalho’s vision for iPrep consisted of a school that was free of rigid and confining structures like disruptive bells and doors. He envisioned that the lack of austere boundaries would create a more freeform and relaxed environment that would allow students to progress at their own pace.
However, Mr. Carvalho’s seamless plan wasn’t free of any doubters. While many questioned the lack of outdoor space and unusual placement of the high school, Carvalho held onto his vision and firmly believed that iPrep had more upsides and opportunities than it had downsides.
As the years progressed, Carvalho’s plan for iPrep has exceeded the expectations of every skeptic to the success of the school. When asked about the work that went into iPrep earning the National Merit award for Performance, Carvalho remarked that it’s due to the “support that the system itself gives [iPrep], remarkable faulty and leadership, and the power of choice.”
In order to get a first hand account of life at iPrep during the first years, to a few members of iPrep’s first ever graduating class. Luckily, we got in contact with Yolanda Gonzalez and Claudia Cerceda. This is what they had to say about their experience at iPrep:
1. Why did you choose to enroll at iPrep Academy?
Yolanda Gonzalez(Y): I chose to enroll at iPrep Academy because of the focus on internship opportunities. I felt that having experience in my future job field from early on would benefit me. Also, being at a school primarily focused on working with new technology, even at that time, was advanced and ahead of its time. That was also clear when you started seeing our program progress and begin at different schools around the county.
Claudia Cerceda(C): I enrolled at iPrep because I wanted to be part of the new model of education that the Superintendent was creating. One that was not bound by classroom walls and traditional teaching methods. A truly unique learning experience that was catered to each individual students’ strengths and interests.
2. What was your first impression of iPrep the year you entered the school?
Y: It was so brand new. The smart boards and Mac laptops they provided you made you feel like you were in a whole new world of learning. The vibrancy of the colors and break out rooms was something we hadn’t seen before. It made you feel like you weren’t really in school even though our program was rigorous.
C: My first impression of iPrep was healthy suspicion! How did I go from a high school of thousands to a class of 50? How did I go from carrying 5 different textbooks to carrying a MacBook? I jumped into the unknown without knowing if the school would be successful. However, in the end, it was even better than I could have imagined.
3. Do you think your experience at iPrep shaped you as a college student or working adult? If so, how?
Y: Definitely, the advantage going into college was evident. Having had two years at iPrep made the transition into college way easier. Having dealt with technology as much as we did until this day helps me. Not only did learning the different tech and software programs help us, but having teachers who also cared about you was important. If it weren’t for Ms. Hernandez, I wouldn’t have even applied to the University of Florida. She pushed me to pursue a school I thought was out of my reach. All the teachers ultimately wanted our success, and I think they taught us independence at a time that was very important in our lives.
C: My organizational skills and work ethic came from what I learned at iPrep because we were given real opportunities to work on these skills. Through our online coursework that we were required to complete by the end of the semester to the responsibilities we had at our various internships it taught us quickly that our success is dependent on our own dedication. The teachers and administrators were fantastic and always available to help, but the best thing they did was teach us to be both self-reliant and resilient. Two invaluable characteristics that are key to being successful.
I am an amateur astrologist that loves cats and the Handmaid’s Tale. I am constantly searching for caffeine free tea and the meaning of life.
My name is Melanie Wisniacki. I am from Miami both born and raised. I am a Women's Rights and Jewish Israel advocate and am also a marvelous baker.