Dr. Stephanie Boyce’s F.R.E.S.H. classroom (an acronym for Fun, Relevant, Engaging, Standards-Based and Higher Order) is a platform focused on the professional and social development of teachers.
The business was born from her work as an instructional coach in the Lancaster Independent School District. When she joined her department, they began to see growth with their writing scores. When asked what they were doing in the department in order to cause this growth. She sat down and packaged the ideas for educators. She began using examples from her students’ work so that rather than just telling people, she could show them. Then, she started sharing her work with teachers on the regional and state level in conferences for free.
“From that the business was born. And now we’ve been across the country sharing this work with teachers and empowering them to create more culturally relevant classrooms,” she said.
When Boyce began her business, she learned as she went along, listening to business podcasts, researching things herself. How to run the business came to her with time. From then on, she started piecing together the website for F.R.E.S.H. classroom, with plans to further expand operations.
“Now we’re at the place where it’s time to kind of take everything that we created and started with and kind of amplify it and take it up a notch,” she said.
One aspect of F.R.E.S.H classroom has been providing culturally relevant education, which focuses on taking what has to be taught and making the connection between why kids should care enough to learn this information. Without educational content being put into context, says Boyce, it can lead to kids finding the material to be insignificant. Boyce also teaches to emphasize the prior knowledge students probably had and connect it to what they need to know.
“It’s really just a matter of helping teachers to unearth some of the limitations they may have about the cultural composition of the students that they’re serving. Because I can’t get into connecting to that background knowledge and understanding if I’m teaching in an area and that’s a low resource area, or resource depleted area and I think, well, all these kids are poor, they don’t have any money, so they don’t have any background knowledge. They’re just empty vessels coming to me. If that’s what you think about them, then you approach them that way and you will miss out on opportunities to really connect with students because they are so rich in cultural capital, even when they don’t have a lot of resources in the bank,” she said.
According to Boyce, what informed many of her work were her own educational experiences. She herself had once been an at risk student, and she also attended both a title one school in an low income neighborhood as well as a majority white school, which helped make her privy to the disparities between both. How she was treated by some of her teachers when she was exhibiting rebellious behavior (due to the math deficits in the classroom that manifested as misbehaving) made her sympathetic to the needs and struggles of marginalized students.
“That insight allows me when I’m training teachers, to help them to reflect and move past the wet, which is the behavior we see on the surface to get to the why, which is what’s the root of the issues that the student is dealing with is causing them to continue to make bad decisions,” she said.
The first half of the training provided to students focuses on training and focusing on mindset, which includes establishing a shared vocabulary around terms that are being used. As Boyce states, when you pull definitions from different books and news states, you can step away with different definitions.
“When we give you the definition that we’re going to use in this space, as we’re having these conversations, we can make sure that we’re on the same page so that you understand that the work that we’re doing is not to suggest that they don’t create equitable spaces and allow students to show up in the full authenticity of who they are,” she said.
In April, FRESH classrooms will be opening registration for their summer workshops and their lives will be back for the first time since COVID where teachers are taught the FRESH classroom strategies, what she calls holistic development.
“Our summer workshops are coming for the registration launches in April, and then it will be the first time that we’re expanding our footprint to Houston as well,” she said. “So, we’re excited about live workshops in Dallas and Houston this summer.”
To learn more about F.R.E.S.H. click here.