Erika Crumley tries to make school feel more like a home than a classroom.


“Almost like a home school atmosphere where kids feel more relaxed and more comfortable,” Crumley said. “[They] have more ownership and direction in what they’re learning.”


Crumley teaches first and second grade at Chugach Optional Elementary School.


“The feel of the school is warm,” she added. “We don’t have a classroom; we have a family group.”


During school hours, you won’t ever find her behind a desk — she’s opted out of having one altogether.


“I don’t have kids coming to me,” she said. “Kids are engaged and working and I come check-in.”


Crumley says this time of movement and group learning teaches students to work together. She encourages them to choose a project and they take the initiative to work at their own pace and direction.


“One idea can spark their path for the rest of where they go and I get to that and help guide that,” Crumley said. “It’s one of the best parts of my day.”


Although her students have the freedom to choose their daily activity, there is one thing Crumley says her students must do everyday.


“They’re sort of expected to make at least one mistake a day, and if they don’t, it’s a mistake,” she said. “It’s their homework because that’s how we grow and we learn.”


It’s a lesson that will help them later in life.


“A lot of kids see their parents and adults as perfect, which we often want to be for our kids as models,” she said. “I let them know that everybody makes mistakes all day long and that’s how we grow.”


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