Watershed is important to me because I believe in the importance of strong public education, not just for my children, but for all children and for the greater good. In my teaching career I have primarily worked with older children, mainly college freshman, so I have a slightly different perspective than many involved in K-12 education. I have seen students pass out in my class because they forgot to eat that day. We interrupt class time to teach basic life skills. Students fall into hysterics when faced with problems that don’t have “an answer.” Tests can be an effective tool for teachers, but they cannot serve as a replacement for good teaching and real learning. Hands-on/ cross curricular/ project based learning, arts integration, and time spent outdoors engaging with the environment and the community are not particularly controversial goals and are supported by countless studies. What is hard, is to meaningfully incorporate them into instruction and to give teachers the support they need to do so. This is where a charter school has an advantage, they don’t have to try and implement changes across an entire district- which is incredibly difficult, but can instead focus on one school and then share their process and resources. This is why I have chosen to move from supporting this type of education at the district level to the school level.
Jessie Lehson is the Executive Director and Founder of Watershed Public Charter School. Ms. Lehson was a professor of sculpture for 12 years and is a practicing environmental artist. Recent shows include the Baltimore Museum of Art, DUMBO Arts Brooklyn and the Biennale of Ferrara, Italy. Most recently, Ms. Lehson served as the Executive Director of Friends of Great Kids Farm. Great Kids Farm is a working farm and Environmental Education campus owned by Baltimore City Public Schools. She has also taught at the middle school and high school level. She has worked as an administrator and fundraiser for several local schools and nonprofit institutions including the American Diabetes Association. Lehson is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art with a MFA in Sculpture and a BFA in General Fine Arts. She holds multiple Health and Safety certifications and is certified in OSHA compliance. She is a member of Governor Hogan’s Project Green Classroom Initiative and serves on the Conference Committee of the MD Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. Lehson is an avid chicken keeper, master gardener and permaculture designer. She founded her first environmental club when she was seven. She is the parent of one, soon to be two Watershed students.