Rachel Stroup was at a crossroads in her life. She had graduated from Lynchburg College and moved to Wilmington to live with her mom for the summer. While she had completed her degree in education, she was drawn to EMT work as well, having been part of the Lynchburg Life Saving crew while a student. So during a year working in the phlebotomy department at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, she spent time thinking about what she wanted to be.
“I just thought a lot about what would make me happy for the rest of my life,” Stroup recalls. “I love the kids, I love fire and EMS, I love the kids…how am I going to work this out?”
That’s when a patient told her that her gifts needed to be used in education and suggested The Roger Bacon Academy. Things happened quickly from there.
At the start of the 2010 school year, Stroup found herself as a kindergarten teacher at the Columbus Charter School of The Roger Bacon Academy, where Steve Smith was the headmaster.
She felt like she had come home.
“I love the Charter school movement as a whole, but especially what The Roger Bacon Academy is doing,” she now explains. “They are providing so much support and individualized attention to the students.”
Since 2010, Stroup has risen quickly and successfully in her field. She moved to the Leland school, Charter Day School, in July 2013. She was lead teacher of Kindergarten, won Teacher of the Year, was again lead teacher for Third Grade, and was a mentor teacher.
She officially took the position of Assistant Headmaster of Charter Day School (a Title I school) for the 2016-17 school year, where she has loved her work.
“I had shared my willingness to help teachers,” Stroup says. “That is essentially why I wanted to come into leadership: to help those teachers and to help the students. It wasn’t putting myself forward as a career move, it was ‘How can I expand from helping my class to the helping the bigger picture?'”
But only the sky is the limit for Stroup, and in January 2018 she will move on to an even larger role. She has been named as the Dean of K-3 for the entire Roger Bacon Academy family, a total of four charter schools.
Baker Mitchell, the founder of The Roger Bacon Academy, shares that, “Rachel brings a can-do attitude that we value highly. She is committed to excellence in all things, and has demonstrated her ability to make a positive impact.”
In her new role, Stroup will continue to hold The Roger Bacon schools across the community to the curriculum standards she believes in, while also recognizing that each school is unique.
“What my role is going to be is to make sure we are achieving the missions and the goals of the organization curriculum-wise (making sure I am setting the learning goals for each of the students at each of the schools in our community),” Stroup says. “We will have our overarching mission and goals to make sure The Roger Bacon Academy is consistent, but I will also be looking at each individual school and how we can tailor that to meet those students’ needs in those grade levels.”
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. Charter Day School alone had 965 students enrolled at the beginning of this school year, the largest yet. And the foundation of The Roger Bacon Academy is a focus on each student’s individualized plan. Stroup explains the process by which they keep data on each student and every four weeks teachers and curriculum coordinators meet to go over the students’ progress, making changes and adjustments as needed. Every year, the grade-level curriculum changes based on the students.
This means that administrators like Stroup work hard to ensure that students feel successful, that school is a place they like to come, while also being challenged and achieving at grade level.
Stroup certainly has her work cut out for her in her new role, but she is excited about the future.
“My biggest thing is that there is no such thing as failure, there are only setbacks. And you just keep pushing forward. You have to be willing to learn, you have to have a positive attitude, and you have to be willing to take on challenges.”
Her love for Roger Bacon Academy extends to her family, too.
Her son, currently 4 years-old, will be starting at Charter Day School next fall and couldn’t be more excited. When asked where he wants to vacation, he asks to go to Charter Day School.
As for Stroup, her ultimate decision to be a teacher and school dean when she grows up seems to be the right one.