School Spotlight: Benton Harbor Charter School Academy

Benton Harbor Charter School Academy Snapshot:

Students Served: 400+
Grades Served: Preschool – 8th Grade
Year Established:  1998
Principal: Tim Harris

Board Members:

Jean Nesbitt
Glenda Bell
Willie Mitchell
Betty Mason
Saundra Lynch
Robert Snyder
Terri Mays


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Benton Harbor Charter School Academy (BHCSA) is unlike any other school in the Benton Harbor area.

Benton Harbor Charter School Academy (BHCSA) is unlike any other school in the Benton Harbor area. From the moment you walk through the doors, there’s a feeling of security; a feeling of warmth; a place where all children belong; a feeling of success. Children come to BHCSA for an education built on the grounds of understanding who they are and where they come from. Parents choose Benton Harbor Charter because they know the family-like environment provides a rigorous education within the walls of security, support, and achievement.

As a comprehensive Prek-8 school, Benton Harbor Charter School Academy sincerely believes that their staff is equipped to answer the needs of their students; they know who they are, and their relevance to their community. Additionally, BHCSA stands behind the concept that young people learn best in the safe environment of their classrooms, from their classmates, and from knowledgeable adults.

Inclusion in the Classroom
BHCSA has always worked hard to treat their all children as gifted students. Special education students flourish in the same inclusive learning environment along with all students. In the broad spectrum of the classroom, the aim at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy is to educate all students. It is their belief that the most significant learning occurs where diversity is celebrated.

Building Community
The compass at BHCSA is pointed to True North which has set them on the path to become an accelerated school, providing their students with all that they are capable of and with every resource available. The seeds of their mission have been planted, and now they are moving forward with the camaraderie that working together as a community has created.

Teaching Teachers
The best teachers learn in the classroom, and the staff at BHCSA has received and benefited from the most significant training in educating students of poverty. The learning that has occurred during the 2016-2017 school year has occurred from both sides of the desk, and everyone in the school community is richer for the experience.

Preparing for the Opportunity
At Benton Harbor Charter, the focus is on preparing students for high school. They stimulate their students’ mindsets to believe that they belong in the most rigorous studies and are destined for success  “Persist until I succeed” embodies the mindset that you work harder you get smarter. School Leader Tim Harris, with his outstanding team, is determined to empower our students with the knowledge, skills, values, and work ethic to be the most sought out ninth graders in the region. The day of “the short end of the stick” is fast coming to an end and BHCSA is leading the way for those that want the best for their children.

Uniqueness of BHCSA
Benton Harbor Charter School Academy is more than just an academy. It is a the school place where students are given the opportunity to learn, regardless of their background to become responsible young men and women, and to lead the resurgence of Benton Harbor as the place to live, work, and educate children. They learn what is essential, meaningful, and enlightening. Every student is worthy of the attention, care, and the unique love that comes with shared achievement.


Tim Harris

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”20″]“I am exceedingly proud of the growth and determination of the staff this year,” explained Principal Tim Harris. “There have been trying times at our academy and our staff has weathered them with the spirit of dedicated educators,” he concluded. [/perfectpullquote]



From the neatly ordered halls, to the classrooms of children excited to embrace their futures, it is clear that Benton Harbor Charter School Academy is the school where children achieve academic excellence and become successful citizens.

How BHCSA educators motivate their students to learn…

Shaya Helbig, Accelerated Classroom Teacher at Benton Harbor Public School AcademyShaya Helbig, Accelerated Classroom Teacher at Benton Harbor Public School Academy

What keeps your students aiming for success in the classroom?

Practicing growth mindset in the form of weekly mindset lessons has been vital in helping students believe that they can attain success. I pair this practice with making individual goals known to students, and celebrating even the smallest success toward those goals.

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Kendra Zichterman  - 8th Grade TeacherKendra Zichterman  – 8th Grade Teacher

I cultivate motivation in my classroom by combining the development of community and curriculum early on among my students. In doing this, my students develop a sense of ownership and become self-motivated. Students have roles in collaborative groups and in the classroom that they follow to foster engagement. These roles also hold students accountable for their own learning and the progression of the classroom. Students are going from concrete to abstract concepts which is when they start questioning the relevancy of what they are learning.  This is where project-based learning is most valuable and enforced in my classroom. Motivation begins with the relationships that we have with one another, and the connection that students have with what they are learning.

Sarah Puchala - 6th Grade TeacherSarah Puchala – 6th Grade Teacher

From the beginning of the year, I try to instill motivation within my students by involving them in the development of our Classroom Community. My students actively participate in creating our Classroom Procedure Handbook, so they take part in creating the rules, consequences, and positive reinforcement that takes place within our classroom. My students also participate in self-reflection and assessment that allows them to challenge themselves to do better the following week. My students also evaluate me as a teacher and I reflect on the feedback that they give me. I compile the data from their evaluations and bring back their suggestions as an addendum to our Classroom Procedure Handbook. From there, we make changes within our classroom. Keeping my students motivated is an ongoing task. I try to ensure that they know that I am always there to support them when they need it.

Julie Nurbhai - Kindergarten TeacherJulie Nurbhai – Kindergarten Teacher

I take various approaches to motivate my students’ learning. I begin with promoting the importance and value of education. In the same vein, I attempt successful role modeling by demonstrating that I too am continuously learning, and how much I value education. In addition to role modeling, I make it a point to interact daily with each individual student on a personal level, which leads to ongoing conversations and relationship building. Successful relationship building also extends to families, and family involvement is a crucial factor in motivating students to learn. Some of the technical aspects I employ in motivational learning is using a classroom economy system that rewards students, incorporates team building, and celebrates class learning goals. However, I think my personal favorite is displaying their work on our Proud Wall.