Choice Schools Associates and MIChoice recently named Terry Larkin, the principal of New Branches Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, as their 2017 School Leader of the Year. Larkin began working for Choice Schools Associates 13 years ago as a teacher at West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science. She then became the director of human resources at Choice Schools Associates.
Her desire to work directly with students took her back into the school setting in 2015 as the principal at New Branches. Since then, she has increased their enrollment by 115 students and has implemented bus transportation to better serve the needs of the school’s families. Larkin has also led her New Branches team to outperform its resident area districts on the M-STEP in reading and math for the last two years.
“Terry lives and breathes the Choice mission of empowering others to achieve their American dream and create a community where everyone can thrive,” Sarah Wildey, CEO of Choice Schools Associates said. “Terry’s deep concern for each and every student coupled with her unique ability to inspire her team has catapulted New Branches to a whole new level. We are proud of all that Terry has accomplished and look forward to the future.”
“I am honored to have received this award from my colleagues. This award is not just about me, it is about all of us and doing the right thing for students. I believe that good work is never completed; it is ongoing and always improving,” Larkin said.
Not only have test scores improved since Larkin has been at New Branches, but she has also implemented many other new and exciting changes. She has integrated environmental science into their curriculum and helped the school team build a new garden so students could learn about growing their own food. She has also improved the culture, safety and overall appearance of the school. Her love for the school is evident. Working with the staff, students and parents bring her joy. She chose to work in education because she likes to see children grow, learn and use what they have learned to make the world a better place.
“I thrive on challenging work, and this is the most challenging, impactful but rewarding work there is… I am working with children and adults who provide the environment and experiences for that work,” Terry said. “I continue to work to always better myself and the school to be the best it can be. We still have a lot more good work to do, but we are making great progress!”
The School Leader of the Year award is based on nominations from school staff and other school leaders in the company. Choice Schools Associates and MIChoice manage a total of 12 schools across the state of Michigan and specialize in making academy boards’ dreams of high-performing schools a reality.