Hi there! I’m Nicollette, the Explorer Guide here at Acton Academy Jacksonville. If you’ve read my bio on the “Our Team” page, you’ll know I have a B.A. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Integrated Arts. I won’t spend additional time here discussing my degrees; after all, this is an Acton Academy, and while we value academic rigor and excellence, we are more concerned with each hero’s personal journey.
As we guide our community of learners, we strive to help them develop a strong sense of three things in their lives: gifts, joys, and opportunities/injustices. We believe that at the convergence of these three things, each person can find a calling in the world. In a single lifetime, we go on many journeys, chapters in the larger book of our lives, and verses in the epic of humanity—a daunting thing to consider, if you ask me. Anyway, I mention this triad because it seems an appropriate way to describe how a psychology student from the west coast landed at an Acton Academy in Jacksonville, FL.
Gifts—I think most of us find it difficult to discuss our gifts, so I’m going to start with those. Public speaking. Two words that strike fear into the hearts of many, regardless of age. While I wouldn’t consider myself unafraid, I think it’s fair to say I have the gift of a strong, yet diplomatic voice. Rather than monologue, I prefer to use my voice to encourage others to speak, a preference which lends itself to Socratic discussion more than it does to lecturing. Another gift of mine is creativity. It is often one of the first words others use to describe me, not because I am particularly artistic, but because I enjoy taking the road less travelled and occasionally pivoting my direction entirely. This applies to everything from gift-making, to domestic projects, to life-changing decisions. Creativity is a gift I think we all possess, it’s just a matter of discovering how each person can use it.
Joys—As it pertains to this part of my Hero’s Journey, I find my greatest joy in people. Specifically, I find that joy in an endless web of people possibilities. A professor of mine once described her students in two groups: those who find a challenge in attempting to step outside their respective “boxes”, and those who find a challenge in focusing their scope into a definable shape to present it to others. I am the latter, and I apply this trait to people as often as ideas. Humans, especially children, are so full of possibilities! They have so much to offer, and they are discovering those things daily. For me, true joy is not found in the academic “aha!”—though, don’t get me wrong, that’s a triumph too—but, rather, in the “aha!” of self-discovery. The most beautiful moments are when confidence is built through speaking up, a new passion sprouts, or a disagreement is handled through constructive discussion.
Opportunities/Injustices—This, to me, is the easiest of the three to narrow and describe. The way we view and approach education, as if people were products on a factory line, is an injustice I feel drawn to resolve. It is such a privilege to be educated, to spend the better part of our first twenty years of life, focused solely on learning. However, we have become so fixated on an arbitrary outcome for education (*ahem* standardized test scores), that innate curiosity and creativity dwindle because they are associated with “learning”. How can we take what we know about learning, development, and society, and create a learning community focused on growth, self-discovery, and practicality? In that question, I find my opportunity.