Teens find their life passion
By Barb Shelley
Photo Credit: Laurie and Donald Hall, CO-Founders. Hall Institute for the Arts
What if you could create a high school where: the atmosphere was peaceful and happy, 100 percent of the students graduate, and the students look forward to going?
Thanks to Idaho’s enlightened laws about educating children, there is such a school, a privately-owned art school. It is in the heart of Treasure Valley — the Hall Institute for the Arts — located at 1167 E Iron Eagle Drive in Eagle.
With a voice that seems trained to do professional voiceovers or radio, Laurie Hall, co-founder and administrator describes her brainchild. “Education is a process, not a product. Hall Academy is a place where kids get to figure out who they are, own their progress and learn how to be full, successful humans who express their artistic and academic passions.”
Walk through the hallways on any school day, you will encounter, well before school starts, students in the kitchen preparing breakfast, reconnecting and laughing. When class starts at 8 (there are no jarring bells ringing in this building) you will see students, heads down, focused on their academics that Laurie calls the “hard brain work.” But when afternoon comes, the atmosphere changes and the artistic curriculum blooms. You might hear the film class in action or the animation students making squishing and popping sounds for recordings. Shakespeare soliloquies boom from the theatre, and music echoes down the halls.
“The afternoons are not quiet,” smiles Laurie who, with her co-founder, husband Donald Hall, designed the curriculum and schedule to best suit creative, sensitive kids who they found, have a unique learning style. They learned about the challenges of educating quiet, artsy children firsthand. Laurie is a teacher and both of them experienced their own three children who were not well-served in the traditional classroom.
“Our curriculum was designed through the eyes of the students,” says Laurie. The instructors switch out so that students are not with the same teacher through the year. They get to learn from a variety of teachers and perspectives. All of the arts teachers are working professionals. Some have performed or presented their work internationally.
The academy has been open for five years and began welcoming international students four years ago. As a child, Donald lived all around the world and U.S. Knowing how important these experiences were to his understanding, he and Laurie decided to bring the world to the kids. Often the students become lifelong friends and even spend vacations abroad with their global classmates.