The staff of the Woods Learning Center expressed immediate disbelief when they heard the Secretary of Education was coming to Casper, a teacher said Tuesday.

But it made sense, said Deyonne Jackson, who also is part of the school's administrative team

"We think we do amazing things for kids," she said. "We were happy to share what we do in hopes that other schools can learn some things from us, and continue on to great things."

Jackson said she and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos talked about how Woods is a teacher-powered school, and how teachers want to instill in students a drive that that they are the ones who want to learn and change.

The students saw the importance of themselves in a bigger picture, Jackson said.

"We are a small town, and we all know each other here, but we rarely get the opportunity for people outside of Wyoming to see what we do," she said. "So I think they take away, 'wow, what we are doing is cool, and we matter.'"

The school has about 160 students. There is no principal.

Woods was founded 26 years ago when the superintendent at the time wanted something different, Jackson said. A group of six teachers came up with the vision and were joined by other teachers, she said.

"Our model here is teacher power, team taught so there are two (teachers) in the classroom, and it is kindergarten through eighth grade school that really focuses on project-based and experiential learning," she said.

Woods is innovative, but it is not elitist, Jackson said.

She heard words to that effect -- "'they get special treatment'" -- when she began teaching here 12 years ago, she said.

Woods works the Natrona County School District and participates in its open enrollment program, Jackson said. "We take all kids. We are part of the lottery. You don't have to come in early to sign up, and we take all kids and we educate all kids."

Woods does not isolate itself, she said.

"We team with other schools throughout the district because they're doing great things and we learn from them," Jackson said. "So I think that's how we really make sure that we're not on a pedestal because we don't feel like we're on a pedestal, and we want others to know that we value their input."

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