Small Class Sizes, Open Communication Make Breakaway a Great Option for Family

February 11th, 2018

Among the top goals at Breakaway Academy is to help young people become more confident, both in the classroom and out on the ice. It’s this focus and the small class sizes that initially attracted Jeff and Karin Heil to the school when looking at options for their son, Caleb.

Karin, who is a public school teacher, says that Caleb was simply not getting the attention he needed at his previous school.

“Caleb was really well behaved, and he would sometimes get overlooked because of that,” Karin says. “When we toured [Breakaway], I was just really impressed with the time they spent with us answering our questions, and the sizes of the classes. We feel that the small size really helps him get the individual attention he needs.”

Jeff says he has been impressed with the classroom environment found at Breakaway.

“Having like-minded kids with a common interest and a really safe environment for them to develop a relationship with their teachers is really impactful,” he says. “They can build a relationship and get that trust, and also have a safe environment to be able to be themselves and come out of their comfort zone.”

The Heils have noticed a significant difference in how Caleb feels about going to school. In fact, for the first time ever, he tells his parents school was “great” when he comes home in the afternoon.

“He’s just a lot happier and more successful,” Karin says. “The teachers are fantastic. They know the kids and can appreciate them for who they are and all their little quirks. That has helped his general attitude for school, which was really our hope.”

A positive learning environment

According to Karin, Caleb previously had never been comfortable speaking in front of a group. Because the groups of students and teachers at Breakaway are smaller, he has been able to develop his public speaking skills. He also already knew many teachers from his past involvement in hockey, so there was a level of familiarity and trust already there.  

The attitude instilled by the teachers and the school have also played a big role in Caleb’s growth.

“We just really appreciate their focus on trying hard. They have an attitude that it’s okay to make mistakes,” Karin says. “They have chances to go back and fix things, and it’s more about attitude and effort than always your performance. It’s about working hard to get better. That’s not always something that teachers have time for in the public school, because we have lots of kids that we are trying to serve at the same time.”

The same has been true when it comes to Caleb’s time on the ice. He was already familiar with his position coach, which made for a seamless transition into a new school setting.

“Caleb is one of just a handful of goalies in the school, so right away there was an instant connection with the goalie coach,” Jeff says. “We’ve known Coach Dan [Hoehne] for three or four years now, even before he started at the academy. There is just a good mindset of continuing to get better, pushing yourself and not settling. That’s something we see in all the coaches. It’s also in the classroom—they really push the kids to become better students and people.”

Karin and Jeff are both thrilled with the progress their son has made at Breakaway. They’ve also been extremely happy with the open communication and accessibility they have with the teachers and staff.

“Even if there was no hockey, we would be sending our kid to school there,” Jeff says.


Breakaway Students Get Individual Attention, Learn Lifelong Skills

January 25th, 2018

For kids who love hockey, Breakaway Academy offers a truly unique opportunity. All students get one-on-one instruction both in the classroom and on the ice, while benefiting from small class sizes that allow them to develop critical skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Paula Sarsland’s oldest son attends Breakaway, and she has been thrilled with the experience so far. What initially attracted her to the school was the ability for her son to get extra training in hockey, but as she did more research, she found plenty more to love.

“I saw how they focused on character development,” Paula says. “I liked that, along with the community feel. It was a good spot for a middle schooler to go to become a better person, as well as a better hockey player.”

Paula has seen her son thrive as both a student and an athlete during his time at Breakaway Academy. She says the smaller class sizes allow for individual attention, which has helped her son excel in his coursework.

“On the academic side, they teach the students how to do their own learning,” she says. “If the student has trouble, they teach them to be proactive about going to the teacher to get help. They teach the kids how to use all the resources available to them, including their teachers, to get the help they need.”

Paula is also appreciative of the emphasis the school places on skills like writing and public speaking, in addition to regular character development exercises. These, Paula says, are “things you don’t always get” at standard schools, but Breakaway excels in areas that go beyond the basic curriculum mandated by Minnesota’s state standards.

On-the-ice curriculum

Paula has been equally pleased with the hockey aspect of her son’s experience. She says she greatly appreciates the variety that’s built into each week’s practice schedule.

“They have a lot of different people come in and work with them,” Paula says. “On Thursdays, they just do skating skills, and on Mondays and Wednesdays, they do a combination of dry land and hockey. On Tuesdays, they have this fun thing where they play Canadian three-on-three [hockey]. Off the ice, they teach the kids a lot of proper training skills so they don’t injure themselves, and they do a lot with nutrition, which I really like. My son has really changed his eating habits in a positive way.”

Equally important are the lifelong skills student-athletes learn.

“[The coaches] do a lot of different things where they teach [the kids] about the sugar content of foods and making better choices for their bodies,” she said. “They have a registered dietician who comes in and teaches them a lot about nutrition and what’s good for the body, and how better eating makes you a better athlete.”

This has led to her son being extra-aware of what he is eating and the decisions he makes regarding his health on a daily basis.

All this instruction on and off the ice has truly paid off. Paula is thrilled with the person her son is growing into and gives a lot of credit to Breakaway Academy for playing such a positive role in his life.

“He has become more of a leader and gained a lot of confidence, which is a good thing for a middle schooler,” she said. “He has become more confident in every aspect of both school and hockey.”


Teaching Kids First, Curriculum Second

December 15th, 2017

When children learn in small-class settings, they tend to reach higher levels of achievement and develop strong social connections with their fellow students. While the average class size in schools across the country is 26.2 students, research indicates that children learn best when that number is 20 or fewer.

This is why Breakaway Academy emphasizes small class sizes, allowing for one-on-one interaction between students and their teachers. This leads to an environment in which educators can teach their students first—with a high-quality curriculum being a close second.

Why small class sizes matter

Small class sizes offer a range of benefits to children, and perhaps the most important is accelerated academic achievement. Although achievement is often also influenced by other factors, such as the experience of teachers and the value of curriculum, studies have shown that decreasing the number of students in a classroom can drastically improve achievement, starting from an early age.

One of the most notable studies was the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR), first conducted in the 1980s in Tennessee. Researchers compared student achievement in class sizes of 15 versus 22 students and found that those in the smaller classes achieved at rates that were the equivalent to three more months of schooling.

It’s easy to see why this would happen. With fewer students in the classroom, teachers can spend more time working each learner individually to address his or her academic needs and interests. Children also tend to build stronger relationships with their peers, feel more confident and learn important life lessons when engaged in a small-class environment.

Teachers, meanwhile, don’t have to worry about managing a large number of students in their classrooms, which improves morale and allows them to offer a more supportive and personalized learning environment. They can spend more time getting to know their students and how they learn best.

When we consider all the evidence, we can see that fewer students in a classroom goes beyond the quality of the curriculum (which is certainly important, as well). Small class sizes help teachers impart in their students a high standard of critical and creative thinking. These lessons can have a major impact on young people as they grow up and learn how to navigate life.

Our mission to help students succeed

At Breakaway Academy, small class sizes allow students to connect with their teachers and engage in a truly supportive classroom environment. Quality time and positive connections help students harness their true passions and grow as young learners.

To that end, we are focused not only on the curriculum, but also on the small things that make an incredible difference for children in the long term. It’s at the core of our mission to meet the diverse learning needs of all our students and dedication to academic growth.