Teacher Marca Whitten works with students at the pilot school she started.

Every year, the parents of Ivanhoe Elementary School in Los Angeles would rally together to ensure that one of their favorite teachers, Marca Whitten, wouldn’t lose her position.

Marca had been at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school for seven years, serving as a lead teacher and a member of her School Site Council. But she had been pink-slipped four years in a row by an outdated district system which failed, year after year, to recognize her talent, leadership, and impact.

Marca was inspired by the community support at her school. She was also drawn to the growing body of research showing the effectiveness of social-emotional learning approaches in the middle school years. She wanted to create better learning opportunities for the children in Northeast Los Angeles and at the same time feel more valued in her career.

So Marca decided to start her own school. With the support of Future Is Now, Marca and her fellow educators in the Teacher Action Network opened a new LAUSD pilot middle school in fall 2013 called the Studio School, which engages students through arts and social-emotional learning approaches, preparing them to become compassionate global citizens.