Michelle Flowers, Excelsior Village Academies

Monday, May 9, 2022

This interview is a part of TARA's Visionary School Founder Series where we highlight the vision, innovation & strides that school founders have made in education.

Founding Principal: Michelle Flowers
Excelsior Village Academies
Atlanta, GA

As an educator and school administrator for 15 years working in high performing college-preparatory charter schools in underserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York, and Atlanta, Georgia, Michelle believes we have an incredible opportunity to be who or what inspired us for our scholars, so they too can one day stand in their life’s purpose. She has provided and will continue to provide quality development for leaders and teachers as well as outstanding educational choices to families, scholars, and communities we hope to serve.

Excelsior Village Academies are public Pre-K -12th-grade community co-designed charter schools committed to service, impact, and equity in education. EVA will open its doors in the fall of 2024.
Learn more about enrolling your student at Excelsior Village Academies!


What is your unique approach to K-12 education? What makes your school different in terms of method?

“Excelsior Village Academies, a community co-designed charter school, has been undertaking a unique approach to creating schools that truly reflect the needs and aspirations of the communities we plan to serve. We co-design our schools with families, educators, students, and community organizations. We believe it takes a village to actualize the promise we are making to families to prepare our students for a life of opportunity and impact. Schools are important institutions within our communities and Excelsior Village Academies has a responsibility to amplify the voices and create a responsive experience for the students, families, and communities we wish to serve.

A Classical Educational Model

Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The phases are roughly coordinated with human development and would ideally be coordinated with each individual student's development. The philosophy of education is a robust study of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, art, and languages. The early years of school are spent absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves.”

Single gendered middle school experience

Grades 6-8 academy will be single-gendered as students begin their quest to establish independence and identity. Based on research adolescents are engaged in significant changes in their learning approaches and strategies and require developmental methodologies that support this growth and maturity. Mixed gendered school activities still happen throughout the school day.

Teaching and Learning Professional Development

EVA’s school design incorporates teacher and leader planning and development meetings, the aim of which is to develop the teacher's content knowledge and the leader’s leadership capacity to lead their teams. EVA will also provide teachers and leaders with ongoing coaching (observation and feedback), weekly professional development, and summer institutes.

Community “The Village”

We will be built on the idea of interconnectedness and interdependence. We approach one another with the generosity of spirit and acts of service. We engage as a whole school and a class community, meeting daily. Out of many neighborhoods and communities, we are one village.

Family and community engagement

Our families and our communities are our partners. We will promote collaboration and engagement with our families and communities through calendared events and our school's “open door” policy. We will actively engage our village to support the development of our scholars.

Restorative Approach to Behavior

EVA will develop a warm and supportive culture rooted in the Responsive Classroom philosophy which encompasses engaging academics, a joyful and inclusive learning environment—effective classroom management, and basing all decisions for teaching and discipline upon research and knowledge of students’ social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

Student Support Services

We will proudly serve students with special needs and English Language learners. We meet scholars where they are no matter how they learn.

Small-Group Instruction

Students will be challenged every day to engage deeply with rigorous academic content but will also be supported with flexible small groupings tailored to their specific learning needs.


Mindfulness matters to us. Practicing mindfulness will support our students to build awareness of self and how their thoughts, feelings, and actions may impact others. The act of learning to self-regulate is essential to social-emotional learning. We take care of ourselves and our “village”.”

What is the future of education? Watch Michelle's interview episode!

What lesson(s) have you learned from the founding process? Looking back, is there anything you would've done differently?

“I am just starting out and still learning a lot on this journey. However, one of the most profound lessons I have learned is nothing happens before its time, so trust the process and do the work required. I would not change anything currently as I am still learning a lot about the entire process of founding a school, one with a unique methodology in the charter sector. I am soaking it all up as I learn from other founders. Founding this community co-designed school with a grassroots approach does have its fair share of challenges from networking in a pandemic, mothering three school-aged children, funding, resources, and shifting mindsets. You inevitably will not have all the pieces of the puzzle in the beginning--but, I am holding on tight to this “heart” work, and my “why" to achieve my vision for creating educational excellence and pushing urgently to unlock what is possible for children no matter their zip codes or socio-economic background.”

Why would a teacher want to work at your charter school vs others? What types of support will you provide teachers to cultivate a position culture?

“Teachers want to work in highly effective schools that feel supportive of their development and well-being as a person and professionals. Our work to become a highly effective charter school will be built on the prongs of frequent feedback and communication from our stakeholders regarding school systems, structures, and programs, particularly our teachers who we view as an important asset to creating great school choice for the children, families, and the communities we wish to serve; consistent professional development for teachers and leaders, and data-driven instruction and high academic and behavioral expectations. EVA is committed to supporting the development of all instructional team members by providing coaching and professional development on an ongoing basis throughout the school year in targeted areas of need. We will work together to build a collaborative team that feels jointly responsible and committed to equity in education while still taking care of each on this incredible, but demanding voyage.”

What is your / your school's biggest need today?

“The work to expand equity in education and advancing the agenda for creating better school choices for children that have been historically underserved by making profound shifts across the scope of teaching and learning can be tough. My most urgent impulse on this journey to creating one of the best networks of schools in Georgia is to develop and maintain a strong community co-design team and connections to the communities we wish to serve, recruit a remarkable group of Founding Board of Directors, secure funding that will sustain our school model and finding a facility that can potentially be our forever home. Fulfilling these needs is so critical to the petition process.”

Follow Excelsior Village Academies - @excelsiorvillageacademies
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