Panther Pride: The IMHS Story

Our sister school is Innovation Montessori Ocoee (IMO), a K-8th grade charter school just 3 miles from Innovation Montessori High School (IMHS). Our story and beginning came from a desire to offer an authentic Montessori model for our IMO students moving to high school. In 2018, Orange County Public Schools granted our high school charter, and we had our first group of seniors graduate in the spring of 2022.

Dr. Maria Montessori, who developed the Montessori instructional model spoke of the needs of adolescents as two-fold, the physical side which has them transforming physically into adults and the psychological side which has them transforming from the child who has to live in a family to the human who has to live in society. It is this preparation that Innovation Montessori High School embraces. Maria believed that when the adolescent sees themselves capable of succeeding in life by their own efforts, merits and work it results in a ‘valorization’ of their personality bringing them the self-efficacy, sense of self and independence they need for adulthood. This is the work of our instructional model. This is the preparation for life we promote whether the next step is into college or career.

While we believe our program is well suited for most high school students, we also know that the program demands independence and is not necessarily the best fit for all. We are a small public charter high school and do not have extensive resources or abilities to offer courses offered at other larger schools, this includes credit recovery, dual enrollment or a wide range of AP courses. The Innovation Montessori High School (IMHS) model is a dynamic classroom-based model with independent study and blended learning opportunities integrated into a block schedule that provides opportunities for students to complete the various courses for most high school diplomas that the state offers. Students who flourish within the program are those who are intrinsically, not extrinsically, motivated.

The teacher is not the “sage on the stage” as it is expected that the student be the one to dig into the content for deeper understanding. To help facilitate this IMHS makes use of a 90-minute block schedule allowing for students to work through larger increments of time with the teacher as their guide. With block scheduling, classes do not meet every day. This unique classroom-based model is also structured around limited whole group instruction. Instead of primarily whole-group instruction, the emphasis is on flexible groupings, with individual work time throughout the block. Teachers spend part of the block teaching whole-group and or working with small groups leaving the remainder of the time to judiciously guide and observe students working independently or collaboratively with peers.

The jewel of our program is our Innovation Incubator in which all students must participate. This is a four-year program where students are gradually given the autonomy to fulfill their individual purpose. As a “capstone-style” project, it brings all the learning and training together for students to embrace their own unique mastery of their chosen business, invention, discovery, non-profit, or artistic expression.

The classroom is set up for students to move about freely within the environment choosing to work wherever and with whomever makes sense depending on the task at hand. This is referred to as ‘freedom within limitations’ which simply means if students struggle with the freedoms offered, they may experience more limitations placed on those freedoms. The important piece is that the goal is independence. It also describes how adults participate in and facilitate learning by giving students the opportunity, at times, to fail. In the same way we ask parents to allow their adolescents to experience the natural consequences, for instance, of missed or late assignments. Birds learn to fly when nudged out of their nests and so, too, we facilitate students’ flights in the academic world. This philosophy requires students to personally invest in their growth. It becomes important to the adolescent when it is their investment and not the parents or teachers. This then becomes their valorization of self as mentioned above.

As you look into our program, we encourage you to take a tour of the school, think through what your adolescent needs, and ask for input as we are here to assist you in your decision.

Innovation Montessori High School is distinguished by a student-centered methodology that enables students to manage time, exercise choice, become organized, and develop self-regulation in a group setting.

Our community focuses on collaborative work, student leadership and equitable practices through

  • Scheduled communal gatherings and student-led committee groups 
  • Academic circles, Socratic seminars, inquiry-based problem-solving activities & project-based learning that promote diversity in ways of thinking and learning styles.
  • An equitable approach to grading that focuses on mastery versus compliance. Learn more about our grading philosophy HERE
  • Uninterrupted opportunities to focus on work completion and mastery of skills during what is known as work cycle
  • Recognition that we are an ecosystem of diverse members and rely on the diversity of our community to thrive-Relationship building and cultivating authentic connections is pivotal to our work at IMHS
Educators are conscious of how vital it is for adolescents to harmonize school/life. As a result, IMHS places less of an emphasis on “high stakes” testing and has fewer take-home tasks for students to complete. Thus, we emphasize work completion during school hours.

Our educational structure is based on our objective to help students understand that success can be achieved through effort, skill proficiency, and learning of new knowledge. The academic culture at IMHS was developed in response to the demands placed on adolescents to become creative, problem-solvers who accept responsibility, and assert their independence as they prepare for life outside of high school. Our program helps each student find their position in the community and develop into a respectful, accountable, and ethical member of society.

Our expectation is that all members of our community are modeling these qualities in their day-to-day interactions with one another, with an extra emphasis on grace and courtesy that allows us to cultivate a culture of communal care and interdependence

We have implemented Restorative Practices designed to address the unique needs of students (Grades 9-12). Restorative practices embedded in indigenous ways of being have been paramount to us establishing our identity as an antibias anti racist (ABAR) school of choice. In doing so, we recognize that all members of our community are valuable, and we seek to acknowledge and celebrate the value that each member brings.

The foundation of Restorative Justice (RJ) blends respect for community safety and a systemic understanding that builds on strengths of the participants, employs a System-of-Care team approach, embeds Multi-Tier System of Support (MTSS) practices, and identifies clear and specific expectations and outcome measures to help students develop more effective coping skills and pro-social behaviors. In instances where harm takes place and for those who have violated the OCPS Code of Conduct, restorative justice focuses on repairing harm through inclusive processes that engage all community members. Restorative Justice shifts the focus of discipline from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community. In our school, the practice of RJ starts with an emphasis on community building. IMHS has a discipline policy that interfaces with OCPS. You can find the policy HERE