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Alternative Advocate

While principal is her official title, “cheerleader” may be a more fitting title for Jenks’ Amie Hardy, who works with students who are challenged in earning a diploma.

Article
Lindsay Morris
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
August 28, 2018

Amie Hardy is no ordinary principal. She’s the kind of principal who knows each one of her students by name and will do just about anything to make sure they get through high school. While principal is her official title, “cheerleader” may be a more fitting unofficial title for this principal of Jenks Alternative School.

Jenks Alternative School is a place for students “who have an issue with transitioning into the high school with the 3,000 students there,” Hardy says. Some students need a little more attention, and Hardy’s school provides that, with a student-to-teacher ratio of 15 to 1.

Students who attend Jenks Alternative School receive a Jenks High School diploma, but they are able to earn their credits through trimesters rather than semesters. That means they have an extra trimester to earn credits. They can also earn credits through working while in school.

Many of these students would have a challenging time earning a diploma in the traditional high school setting.

“All students have to come through an interview process and have to be referred by a teacher or counselor,” Hardy says. “During the interview, we see if they’re willing to make a change and adjust whatever they were doing.”

During Hardy’s 15 years as principal at Jenks Alternative School, each student who has earned his or her diploma under her watch is someone who was struggling to make it through high school for one reason or another. “Every student that graduates and gets their high school diploma is a success story.”

Jenks Alternative School works with about 130 students, and Hardy says it’s very important to her personally to go the extra mile for her students. “They need you every day to be their cheerleader.”

One way Hardy and her teachers do this is by regularly providing snacks and breakfast for the students. “A lot of our students are coming from a lower income environment, and we provide a healthy snack like granola bars for children who may need to eat.”

Hardy and her teachers are also known to regularly provide pancake or muffin breakfasts for the students.

One of Hardy’s favorite memories as principal at Jenks Alternative School was when a tutor at the school made a donation and asked her to buy a gift for each student. “I let the students request what they wanted, and most of them wanted food. I went to Wal-Mart for four hours and filled four carts.”

One of her greatest joys during her time at Jenks Alternative School was watching each student open their gift.

Jenks Alternative School is unique in several ways. For one, students are offered counseling for issues like alcohol and anger management. The school also has a senior strategies class that teaches about college education and career tech opportunities and a life skills class that teaches about grocery shopping, finances, and other essential tasks. Additionally, students at the alternative school can take any elective or extracurricular at the main high school that they are interested in.

Hardy’s career didn’t begin in education. With a degree in psychology, she started her career in youth mental health at Tulsa Boys Home, St. John Medical Center and Grand Lake Mental Health.

“I did everything from taking students to medical appointments, breaking up fights at school, treating head lice and even assisting in the removal of children from abusive home situations,” Hardy says. “I knew each day that I could not do this for an extended period of time; it just wasn’t for me.”

While Hardy was working in youth mental health, she visited many clients at middle schools. During one of her frequent visits to a school, a principal approached her and asked if she’d ever thought about teaching “those kids.”

“I didn’t like his descriptor, but I definitely liked the thought of summers off,” Hardy says.

So she started her teaching career in the basement of Central Middle School in Bartlesville with “those kids.” From there, she was asked to start an alternative school program at Skiatook Public Schools.

“Talk about a one-room school house. I was given a classroom that was an old chorus room with wooden risers that I had to tear down myself in an elementary school gymnasium! I was the only teacher, with no administrator and no money,” Hardy says.

From Skiatook, she made her way to Owasso Public Schools to once again run their alternative program, this time as an administrator. She was given the opportunity to hire teachers and create a safe academic environment for a larger student body. The alternative program actually held classes in a random restaurant, which is now Fish Bones Bar in Owasso.

Fifteen years ago, Hardy was approached to head up the alternative program at Jenks. “I wake up every day loving my job as JAC principal, my fellow administrators, teachers and my students. I’m so excited to see how many walk across that stage at the end of the year,” Hardy says.

“In my time in public education, I have had the privilege of watching over 1,000 students walk across the stage who possibly may not have seen that day if it were not for our efforts. To me, there is no greater professional opportunity we are given each year than to be a part of the success story of our students.”

March 2019 Cover