Every five years, teachers at Zeke Vanderhoek’s school in Washington Heights will be required to take a year-long sabbatical. To do what? He explains: “There’s no requirement. They don’t even have to connect it. In fact, we don’t want them to connect it to what they’re doing in the classroom and how it’s going to make them a better teacher. We want them to go skiing for a year if that’s what they want, to go get an art history masters if that’s what they always wanted to do. Get a job, another job.”
It’s a radical idea. But Vanderhoek’s brainchild, the Equity Project Charter School, is no joke. This month, it opens its doors to 120 students, most from low-income Hispanic families. There are seven teachers on staff. Big Think sat down with Vanderhoek earlier in the summer to hear about his venture. The school’s core philosophy is to place an unconventionally high value on its teachers, through a generous compensation package that totals $125,000 a year (plus the potential for bonuses). That’s nearly two and a half times the national average teacher salary. Will superior pay ensure superior learning in the classroom? It might be a better option than what we’ve got. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.