Enrollment at Victory Life Academy may be small, but the new principal is bullish on the private Christian school as the school year enters its second month.
    “It’s been wonderful,” first-year principal Debbie Hagood, who taught for 33 years in public schools in Arkansas and Texas, said as she paused outside the school to speak with a visitor.
    “The academic strengths of this school are amazing. It’s been a fabulous experience.”
    In previous years, enrollment at Victory Life — or VLA, as it is often known — typically has been at 90 or more when the school year starts. Current enrollment is at 65, said Hagood. In an earlier interview, Hagood, a Mississippi native, said the school is under new administration and is in a rebuilding year in terms of enrollment.
    Curriculum is driven by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, TEKS, and includes 21st Century learning skills that include “the 4 C’s,” Hagood said: critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration training and communication skills in a Christ-centered environment.
       Hagood took a visitor to two classrooms where classes that are part of “Voice and Choice” — a component of 21st Century Learning Environments. There are four Voice and Choice classes — robotics, guitar, multi-media presentation and technology, and students in grades 7-12 choose any three.
    In one of the classrooms, science teacher Raeann Kouterick watched as two members of the robotics team practiced operating the robot through various tasks.
Senior Justin Tobias manipulated a controller that resembles an X-Box controller as senior Rachel Acker acted as spotter.
    The 10-member robotics team is preparing for the Big Country BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) robotics competition in Sweetwater on Oct. 21. If the team does well in Sweetwater, it can move on to regional and national competition.
    Robotics team members built and programmed the robot, which performed tasks including firefighting and rescue as Justin operated the controller.
    In another classroom, students held acoustic guitars as instructor Joey Bishop told them they were about to learn a new chord: G sharp minor.  
    21st Century skills are incorporated in the elementary classrooms through the process of STEAM, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, lessons and activities, Hagood said. Students are presented problem-based learning topics and work to explore, explain, and elaborate on the TEKS via the cross-curriculum units.
    “The Vision for Victory Life Academy is to transform from a traditional educational system to a 21st Century Learning Environment where students learn to fall forward rather than to see mistakes as setbacks,” Hagood said. “Our goal at VLA is to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges.”