Parent Choice Leads to Empowerment for All with Tyson Junkers
August 1, 2023
Parent Choice Leads to Empowerment for All with Tyson Junkers

Too many parents think they don’t have power and choice in their children’s education, but this week’s podcast guest proves otherwise. During COVID, Tyson Junkers saw his children thrive because they were learning at home in a project-based learning environment that Tyson himself developed. And as schools went back to in-person, his son was entering kindergarten. They visited a number of traditional schools and saw the discomfort in his children’s eyes.

After searching for a solution and a lot of discussion, Tyson and his family moved and opened an Acton Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The result is a school that allows children to pursue their life passions while learning, making mistakes, and starting again. The school teaches character and values as part of the learning process, embedding it into everything they do. And it creates a system where teachers are empowered to do what’s best for their students instead of holding everyone back.

Listen in to this thoughtful and empowering conversation about how parents have the power to do what’s best for their own children, and the community at large.

About Tyson Junkers:

Like you, we want to be confident in the school we send our children to. The problem is that conventional schools aren’t always equipped to foster children’s spirit, creativity, and passion for learning, which made us feel like we were losing our children to the public education system.

We wanted a school that focused on our children’s future instead of its own. One that lets children experience real-world, hands-on projects. One that throws away pointless tests in favor of mastery and excellence in everything from leadership skills to community involvement to academics. One that doesn’t have teachers but Guides who put every decision, big or small, into our children’s hands. And one that celebrates failing as a way to push yourself forward. And we knew we weren’t alone.

Like you, there’s nothing more important to us than our kids. We, too, would do anything to see them thrive in life and on their educational journey. That’s why we started an Acton Academy in Palm Beach Gardens, which has been called one of the most important education developments in the world.

So, instead of your child not getting the individualized education they deserve where they see learning as a choir, your child will discover their unique strengths through family values, Christian faith, and the freedom to explore, create, and grow.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:54] – Where Tyson’s path began
[7:10] – Why Tyson decided NOT to open a school (and then changed his mind)
[9:15] – Key concepts of Acton Academy
[10:46] – Making every child independent and resilient
[16:20] – Bring past careers and experience into the school
[17:31] – How the voucher system works in Florida
[19:56] – Competition is okay in schools
[22:20] – Growth mindset applies to educators too
[23:43] – What is the outcome we’re all after? That’s what matters
[25:32] – The system is holding back great teachers
[26:48] – Turbo Time
[28:27] – What parents need to know about their kids pursuing their life passions
[31:50] – Tyson’s Magic Wand
[33:03] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hey, Tyson, it is so good to have you on Education Evolution.

Tyson Junkers 1:12
Thank you very much.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:13
I’m excited for it. And listeners today I’m chatting with Tyson Junkers, founder of the micro school Acton Academy of Palm Beach. His K six Christian Academy offers the Acton Academy innovative approach to education that celebrates personal responsibility, creative freedom, and the pursuit of one’s life’s purpose. Tyson. Let’s learn more.

Tyson Junkers 1:38
All right, absolutely.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:39
I’d like to start. I know you’re an entrepreneur, I know it runs in your blood. But not everybody really has on the radar is that schools need to be evolving so that all learners are served. So where did this story of school transformation begin for you? I know you’re not a career educator, you’ve done a lot of other things. How did you get on this path?

Tyson Junkers 2:00
Yeah, it’s funny because I and I say it to everybody that I meet that if you told me even two years ago, Hey, did you know you’re going to be opening a school, a Christian school, that matter? I would have laughed at your face. And I’m like, That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. And what ended up happening is, I was looking for my children when they were getting to that age where I was like, either they’re bored at home, they need to go to school. And I’m like, You know what, there’s a school right down the street from me from where I work, and this is up in in New Jersey, put them in the school. And all of a sudden, I started noticing that I’m like, you know, they’re doing some really interesting things like they’re doing sign language they’re doing well. I’m like, what is happening? I was just like, there’s a school down the street. That sounds good to me. It turned out to be a Montessori. And at the time, like, I don’t really know anything about Montessori, like I said, it was just the location I started looking into. I was like, that’s amazing. Like, I really loved the hands on approach and, and the differences that they had compared to conventional school, then COVID hits. And then that point, I all of a sudden, you know, like everywhere, they closed for two weeks, and that just kept going and going. But the problem with is doing Montessori at home virtually is not really a thing. It’s like, I don’t know how you would do that unless they’re sending the Montessori manipulatives to every house, which would cost him a fortune. So it got to the point where I just said, You know what, I’m gonna have to homeschool them, I’m home. And I’m going to just sort of take on their education at that time. And I did it in a very sort of project based way where I would give them something to do, I’d say, here’s the end result we’re looking for, I don’t really care how you get there and kind of have fun with it. They loved it. They had such a fun time with it. At the same time. They were they were doing a little bit of reading, writing and math in there. And I was kind of just hoping this was something that they’d enjoy. And I’m like, well, worst case scenario, they’re having fun. But by the time they went back in school, my son went from needing speech therapy and being behind in reading, who no longer needing speech therapy and being ahead of in reading than everyone else. And as much as I wanted to pat myself on the back and take all the credit for it. I was like, No, it was it was the way that he enjoyed education. And unfortunately, as they were going back into school, they were entering their last year of Montessori there, which was kindergarten. And so I said, Okay, well, we need to figure out where to go from here. And around me, all I knew were conventional schools that my wife and I met in high school. So we went in that high school was two towns over so we’re like, alright, we’ll go see how they’re doing. Because, you know, we enjoyed, or we thought we enjoyed it for the most part. And so we went to visit them went to visit five other schools, all them conventional and seeing how uncomfortable my children were when we would do those visits because they went from being able to draw on the other underside of a table and play around with manipulatives of their choice to sit behind a desk, do what you’re told, and there’s a right way and wrong with everything. I was like there’s there’s no way I can do this. There’s absolutely no way so I quite literally went online and Googled, where do I send my kids after Montessori and I came across Jeff Standefer who was one of the cofounders of Acton Academy. He has a TED talk and he quite literally says, the exact story that I went through the exact experience. I went through words that his kids were Montessori. It was coming to an end, they were looking for a school and they started homeschooling. I’m like, Well, this is eerie. And so he mentioned acting Academy. And it was funny though, because when he, when he gave the whole pitch of what active Academy is all about, I immediately was like, that’s, that doesn’t work. Like that’s, that’s a great idea. But it doesn’t work. Because I had it so ingrained in my head, like a lot of parents do, that the conventional education system is the way to do it, even though so many people are unhappy in it, and not really getting the education that they deserve. So he mentioned that his wife wrote a book called The courage to grow. And I said, Okay, I’m gonna just, I’ll read the book, I’ll at least give them that that part. And I read that book, and I said, I will only send my kids to an acting Academy. I was like, that is the coolest thing. I was just so in love with it. I was like, that’s amazing. So my wife and I, at the time, because of COVID, we started saying, Well, we know we want to move potentially out of New Jersey, we both grew up there were there our whole lives. My my wife kind of grew up going back and forth between there and West Palm Beach. And so I said, Well, why don’t we apply them to Acton academies in all the cool spots that we would love to live around the country.

Tyson Junkers 6:13
So we quite literally had them applied to five different active academies. It was everywhere from Maine to Florida, to New Jersey, to Texas, and Georgia. And because I applied them there, I ended up talking with the owners. And when I talked to the owners, I just saw this uniform love of what education can be, and and this amazing idea and philosophy that, that they all believe, which is that every child is a genius who can change the world in their own unique ways. And it was something that I’m this when they would say that to me in my head on like, Well, yeah, that’s obvious. You know, of course, I believe that because that’s just how I’ve always believed that for my kids is that it doesn’t matter what they tell me what they want to believe, I 100% believe they can be that it requires hard work and requires discipline. But I 100% believe that. And so through talking to these owners, it popped in my head, almost like a random thought I was like wonder what the process is to open one of these. And so I talked about it, and I’m like, you know, maybe I’m gonna put my name in there. And so she said, Well, is there one in like Palm Beach and anywhere in Palm Beach? And I look it up, and no, there wasn’t. And she’s like, well, maybe we should put Palm Beach in there. Because I always want to live there. And I’m like, half joking. Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah, here you go put Palm Beach, I’d like to open one. And you have there’s a rigorous application process, you have to submit videos, you have to submit a letter to them, you have to give a whole application that fill up. And they really go through I mean, they get 1000s of applications. And so I wasn’t expecting anything. And within two weeks, I get an email that was like, if you want to open that one you’re approved. And I it was funny, because I read that and and really was kind of I was staring at the email in disbelief. And there was such a back and forth of No, we can’t actually do this. Yes, I really want to do it. And we just went back and forth. And at one point, I made the decision that No, I’m not going to open it. I’m going to write them an email in the morning. And I’m just gonna say I’m out. It’s it’s too crazy, even though I like felt like I want to. And that night was the worst night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had, like, I felt so much regret at the thought of saying no. So I got up in the morning, I just said the more from like, this isn’t something I it’s not just that I’ve wanted, I was like this is something I feel like I need to do. Like I feel like this is I’m being called to some sort of purpose here. Because I’ve ever felt that sense of regret. I’ve always called myself a hobby collector where I would try things out. And then I’d get pretty good at them and be like, maybe I can turn this into something. And then I’d say you know what, no, I’m going to kind of go away from it never once felt any regret. But this second I said no to that I was I realized that I’m giving up on some incredible opportunity to help not only my own kids in their education, but to open this up to families who don’t even realize that an education like this exists. Wow, God, could I still you?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 9:02
I love it. So we’ve had a previous Acton Academy owner on but it’s been a couple of years. So can you explain what action provides and where you know, so what are some key concepts to act and Academy? And then where do you have individual license? Like with the Christianity piece and I know you’re a 3d artist animator, do you get to where do you get to sprinkle in pieces that tell your story and things that you want to make sure your kids are learning? How does that balance out?

Tyson Junkers 9:35
Yeah, so there’s a background of myself in what I do here. So I came from a marketing background and I always love being creative and having fun and I I love learning. I absolutely love learning. I love learning in a way that is fun. And really get you involved in that and that was something that really when I saw Acton Academy, I saw that l I meant in it that I said, that is exactly what I want. I’ve always been obsessed with understanding the why behind everything I do. I don’t like to be told, do this do that, I want to know why I should or shouldn’t do that, you know, I look at it, as an example would be, YouTube is the greatest learning resource in the world. And it is also one of the worst places you can be. But it’s how you use it. And if you understand the why behind it, how you should use it, or how you shouldn’t use it, you can get so much value out of it. And I’m like, That’s what I want. For everything I want to understand the why behind it on acting Academy really has that in there. What really drew me in and made me kind of excited about it is that first and foremost, acting Academy is learner driven. So our primary concern is making every child independent and resilient, and even build up their discipline and critical thinking skills. And that is done through this learner driven process where we are putting everything back into their hands or as much as we can back in their hands, we want them to make the decision big or small. Because we don’t want them to do something because they were told to do it, we want them to do something because they chose to do it. And that doesn’t mean it will work out. In fact, there’s going to be many times where it doesn’t work out and it goes horribly wrong. And at that point, yeah, they failed at something. But we actually really encourage them to fail often early and cheaply. We really want them to understand that there is no such thing as success without failure. And failure is not something to be afraid of it is a natural part of anything, you’re going to do anything of significance you’re going to do. And so I love that part of being of making every child independent. And that comes yet by us staying motor driven. You might hear some kids in the background that says by us staying learner driven, and our guides always think Socratic. So they answer questions with questions. And ultimately, they really want that every child to make those decisions. And then the other part to it is we are project based school. And so we really want every child to learn by doing we want them to learn by being and so when they get their hands involved, their bodies involved, and they are trying out these different projects, everything from coding to gardening to starting a business, it’s so amazing, because it’s not to sit here and say, Oh, for gardening, you have to grow garden, it’s more about who you are as a person changing in this project and experiencing a possibility in life. Their path might take them down gardening, it might take them down coding, it might be some kind of combination, but they get to try all these things out at an elementary school age. Once they go into middle school, they actually will start doing apprenticeships. And I love that that as the follow up because now they’ve had these, these or they’ve tried all these different projects. And now it’s like, hey, now you get to actually go somewhere and really see what it’s like to be in that. And imagine somebody in middle school, they go in, they say, Okay, I’m going to try this out, whatever it might be, and they hate everything about it. And they come back from that, like, Well, you’re in middle school, try something else. And I love that it’s not saying hey, go through high school, going to college, leave college and now try for the first time and all of a sudden they go Oh, I hate that. What did I just do for the last five plus years.

Tyson Junkers 13:17
So it’s it’s amazing that a middle school level, they’re already getting to experience the actual real world. And we try to bring the real world as much as possible even into our elementary studio. I love it, yes, to touch on the faith based part of it. So we initially weren’t a faith based school at our location, we have the freedom to make that choice. And the way I looked at it is because x Academy is learner driven. And we aren’t teaching any anything. We really, they again, they learn by doing. I looked at how we have our history in our school, and we call it civilization. And civilization is done where we’re talking about a point in time, and then we try to put them in that person’s shoes. And we actually will tie a project to it. And let them experience what it would be like to be that person at that time. And it really becomes about the character and the values of a person to go through something like that. And I started thinking about how I think the values you get from through faith and through the you know, in our case, we’re a Christian school, I think the values are absolutely a necessary part of anyone’s life, regardless of beliefs, because they’re just they they are values that make you an incredible human being. And so it doesn’t matter to me, if you are a super strong Christian, or if you are the opposite way and you’re more in the atheist sort of way. We want those conversations to happen. Because we want people to be to really push their beliefs and that we want them to really push on their character and as well and really when we start focusing on that and the focus on the character and values from that, from something faith related. I think it just makes them even more incredible people.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 15:00
I love what you’re saying. And I completely agree. And I see a lot of public elementary schools that have a character value of the month, and they really focus in on activities, and they have posters and everything, connecting, what we choose to do to values is really important about the value of empathy that is so many. So I don’t see this being something that’s either or you’re, you’re doing student centered, you’re doing value based project based learning. It sounds like a powerful model for learners.

Tyson Junkers 15:32
That’s, that’s how I see it. And we’ve basically, since August, this coming fall is our first year. But since August of 2020, I’ve had my my kids here, and my guide son is also here. And we’ve been running an active system. And I say after ish, because it’s very difficult to run full Acton with only three. But seeing their who they are as a person changing has been amazing. They’re doing incredible, and reading and writing and even math, like they’re doing better than they’ve ever been doing. But who they are, has changed so much. And over the last even six months. It’s like I can’t even begin to imagine how incredible that’s going to be. For all these families that start coming in this fall.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:15
Absolutely, it’s going to be amazing. Have you been able to bring in some of your marketing and artistry and animator background into the educational part, I’m sure it helps with the marketing part.

Tyson Junkers 16:28
The marketing parts very fun. So I enjoy that, especially when it comes to maybe getting out there, whether it’s on podcasts like this, or if it’s just me doing social posts, like I really have fun time with that. I also one who it’s like I designed our whole website and put it together because I just enjoy that. And then what the one area that I really bring in as much as possible to the school is that I want it to be fun. And I want this to be I want to be challenging because it needs to be, but I want them to be excited to be here. My ultimate goal is that kids are disappointed on Friday when they have to leave school and I’m so excited on Sunday night, because schools the next morning, because we’re making this an environment that they enjoy, while they’re also learning incredible things.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:11
I love that. Speaking of your website, I It’s impressive. It’s well organized, I remember there is a link, I think to one of the blogs, on how people might be able to, especially in Florida use vouchers I think when people think private schools like I could never afford that. Tell us how that plays out in Florida.

Tyson Junkers 17:31
So it’s funny, I got a lot of parents in who really loved the idea of the school. And then they would ask about tuition, or most of the time they knew about it beforehand. And they were like, we really have to see if we can kind of if we can do that. But they really really want to be involved in Acton Academy, whether it’s mine or, or one of the ones nearby. And what ended up happening is I told them about how at the time I was like there’s this bill expansion that’s on the table that would allow any family to use. And they’ve been able to get up to $8,000 per child to use for either homeschooling or a private school of their choice. And it ended up passing. So as of July 1, that means parents can start to apply and get, yeah, it’s about up to $8,000 per child. And at that point, they can use that to go to any private school of their choice. So that is tremendous. Because if they were to get update that was and they would end up making our school costs $5,000 a year to these families. And that when I tell them, they’re like, they they light up, they get very excited about it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:36
That makes really good sense. And I know there’s pushback from a lot of schools, school districts because it’s taking out of their pool. But we all know we know as parents even no two children are the same. So we can’t just have the limited number of public school options with the public school regulations and expectations for everybody, we need to have a rainbow of options because we have a rainbow of learners. So I love when people have access to public school funding. We don’t in Washington State in the same way, but our 11th and 12th graders do so they can do community college or high school or a combination of the two, they call it reading start and it’s a dual enrollment program. And it’s like Yay, thank you for giving our like I have a senior that’s in her third quarter of ASL, taking college classes. And so she’ll start college in the fall with a whole year of a sign language under her belt and she’ll already understand college. So when we can relax the purse strings a bit and trust that there are so many ways kids can learn. And when educators in public schools can say hey, if they’re not coming here, maybe we need to start looking at personalizing or schools in schools or thematic or maybe we need to grade update to keep the population I think competition is okay maybe Because you shouldn’t your children should not have gone into a classroom after the Montessori experience and sat in rows and men talk. That was one right and one wrong answer that was happening to me in the 70s. And 80s. I mean, know, if we carried around the phones we had from the 70s and 80s. No, people go, Oh, heck, no, I want a cell phone. I want a smartphone. So I think it’s okay to nudge education. And until there is that nudge, it’s hard to make changes, because everybody’s so busy educating and because they’re kind of stuck. They’re big, and it’s hard to to maneuver. So to me, the voucher piece is something whose day has come and I hope that it’ll spread to many more states.

Tyson Junkers 20:41
Yeah, it seems it seems like that’s starting to happen more, or at least it’s starting to be taken seriously in many states that haven’t offered anything like it. And there’s two things that I always think are interesting. So a lot of times, you know, conventional schools, public schools, especially will kind of talk out against it. But it does two things. It for me it is one, especially in Palm Beach County. I would almost say at this point, most of the public schools are full, and they have waitlists, even the private schools are full and have weightless. So after an academy, a full K through 12x, academies around 150 learners, and some of these schools have a 300 learner waitlist and your I, you can give me half your waitlist, you’d still have a waitlist, and I’d be full. So we’re you know, it’s in that regard. It’s it’s they look at it almost like it’s this big threat. But also number two is now what it does is when public schools realize, and this happened in another state, and it actually worked out incredibly well for this is that public schools, all of a sudden, were realized, wait a minute, if we want people to go to our school, we have to be competitive. So what we now have to offer has to be better, in some way, shape, or form. And so all this bill is going to end up doing is offering parents other choices, and also make public schools better, because they have to because it’s now part of the competition. And I think that’s incredible, because in the end, I don’t care where someone’s child goes, but I want them to go to the right school for their needs. And I want them to get an amazing education. If it’s acting Academy, awesome. If it’s not, that’s fine, but I want them to go somewhere that they need it. And so if all these schools around us start getting better, that’s just serves these kids even more. And that’s awesome. And I’m excited about that.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:22
Absolutely. I noticed on your website, one of the one of the phrases that you talked about was growth mindset. And I think that applies to parents and educators as well. We know what we know. And we know that public schools are free for everybody. That’s what I went to that. And we know that colleges, you have to get admitted into what we know is a US model. My first board president was from the Netherlands, and college kids choose the college they want based on how cool it is how it has the program’s if its relevance. And it’s so different from our model with tenured professors who are guaranteed they can teach there for life, regardless of what they do, and you’re lucky to get in. So when we look at other models, we realize, hey, we have one model that we are used to but is that the best model and no, in the Netherlands, those colleges have to hop they have to stay relevant, or they don’t get the students and the teachers don’t have a job where ours they have guaranteed jobs for life in so many in the public schools and in the public universities. So I think it’s really good for us to have that growth mindset, when we look at resources for our kids, and people being competitive to get those resources.

Tyson Junkers 23:35
I absolutely. And like I said the, to me, it’s what is the outcome that we’re all after. And for myself, it’s that my kids have an amazing education that the families who come in here are at school that their children thrive, that that’s what I care about. I don’t to me, if every school has that as their primary concern, then that’s all that matters to me. And it’s like, but unfortunately, many do not. And now you see universities whose college campus is pressing the resort at this point, and you’re like, what is the primary concern here? Is it the kids education or what and it’s something that I always question and that’s why I’m excited to get involved in this. Because with knowing what I care about what my end goal is, it makes me excited to see what happens with my kids over the coming years.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 24:22
Absolutely. And I don’t our conversation to me in no way is a diff diff to public schools, public universities, I think the pandemic and the the oncoming vouchers and all that I think are an opportunity is no teacher. I when I taught high school, I didn’t want to have five groups of 30 kids. I didn’t want to have 150 kids I was trying to get to know well in this assembly line. So I think this competition can actually be a force for good where districts have to say, Wait, we’re burning our teachers our teachers are burning out and quitting. We have a system that teaches kids how to be good at school but not connected to their A passion or purpose or gifts? I think it can help us make public education something that’s a viable option for kids, and a present relevant, important option. And not just this is how it’s always been done. So in no way am I dissing public school educators, I think that they do amazing work with no choice in the students that they have no choice in the funding. And, yeah, a lot of pressure. So I’m just thrilled that we’re slowly having more options. So hopefully, we can shift that landscape.

Tyson Junkers 25:31
Yeah. And teachers, honestly, I’ve met so many amazing teachers, and they really have a kid’s best interest at heart. And a lot of times, unfortunately, it’s the system itself that holds them back from being able to really personalize the education in the way they want to. And that tends to be the problem, I would love to start seeing teachers, the the great teachers that do exist, be able to say, You know what, I have this amazing idea and try it and make education fun and make it really enjoyable while being challenging. And I think kids would thrive in that environment.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:04
Absolutely. This is exciting. And I look forward to hearing updates on how it goes once the vouchers kick in how your next school year goes. I think that what you are doing is is very important. And you are a wonderful example of how parents can say wait, I want something different. And I can make it happen because you’re not a career educator. So if you can do this, other determined parents can also

Tyson Junkers 26:29
I definitely agree, I will say it’s, it comes with a challenges like everything in life, but it’s been beyond rewarding to see how excited kids are when they come here. And they learned what education can be like.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:42
absolutely. I am going to shift. Tyson. I always like for the listeners to get to know a little bit more about the person behind the innovation. So may I ask you some turbo time questions?

Tyson Junkers 26:55

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:56
Great. What is the last book you read?

Tyson Junkers 27:00
Last book was called the 16 undeniable laws of communication by John Maxwell.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:06
Ooh, John Maxwell. Okay. Yes.

Tyson Junkers 27:10
Yes, amazing book, really something that I really enjoy public speaking, I enjoy talking with people. And I went to John Maxwell’s conference when this book was launching. And it was such perfect timing, because I’m like this communications an area that I want to brush up on. And the book really is like a manual on how to communicate better, both publicly and even just one on one with people.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:34
Excellent. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?

Tyson Junkers 27:38
Well, one is John Maxwell. After that event, I was like, I gotta see if I can grab him. But of course, there’s a lot of mile long to get to him. He would, he really would be incredible. Because he the way he communicates and and the way he cares about people is right in line with how I do and I want to be able to communicate even more like him. And he would be someone amazing to me, on a different side of it would be somebody like Jordan Peterson. And that’s somebody just because I, I wish I could speak as intellectually as he, you know, it is absolutely amazing. But he’s a really a great speaker, and I join his work a lot. He also did a podcast with Jeff Sandefur recently. So that was a really incredible story to hear.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:23
Yeah. Oh, about the biggest thing you wish folks knew about students pursuing their life purpose, that purpose and passion piece.

Tyson Junkers 28:33
So a lot of parents don’t. And I don’t mean this as a knock to any parent, but a lot of parents don’t realize how incredibly capable their kids are. And a lot of times when I tell parents about how children in our school, teach themselves and learn with their peers, they really look at me like, that’s impossible. And I’ve had it many times, but they’re just like, How could five year olds or six year olds do that. And it’s, you know, it’s not that they’re doubting that their child, but they’ve just had their children’s capabilities painted for them by a school system that isn’t set up to really, for their child’s needs. And I have seen what happens with my own kids, when they have that bit of freedom. And it’s amazing, like, it’s amazing to see how capable are they it’s like they of course, they have times where they goof off. But then all of a sudden, they go from that to helping each other or going from that to being like we need to work together to solve this problem. And you sit there going, where did that come from? And it’s so amazing to see. And it’s yeah, there’s a lot of parents who don’t realize how amazingly capable their kids are. And they will see that once they are in the right environment.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:37
Love it. What is your favorite thing or fun fact about West Palm Beach?

Tyson Junkers 29:43
Well, so I moved here from New Jersey, in 2012 and 21. And being able, like this is the most fun thing I’d say is my wife and I would go out on a date night and we ended with a walk on the beach. And it’s like one of those things where Mike The fact that I can just do this is and it’s, it’s funny because it’s like, well, we’re in West Palm Beach. Of course the beach is right there. But it’s like you, you’re almost take it for granted now. And it’s like, it’s so amazing to be able to go and go for a nice walk. And I of course, we have to send pictures up to the family in New Jersey to make them a little upset and winter up there. And I was like, yeah, it was a little chilly on the beach today. Right?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:26
And what is something that most folks don’t know about you?

Tyson Junkers 30:30
I’ve had, it’s interesting, I’ve always had this, this thing about me that I only recently had an author who wrote a book that basically was like, here’s what you’ve been doing your whole life. And here’s words to put to it that I was so blown away by. And what that is, is, I’ve always, I always had this like innate desire to leave every room that I enter better than when I entered it. Alright, the record room better than one today, I really, I want to have as much fun as I can in my life. I want I love the challenges that come with the work that I do. But I just, I never want to have a day where I’m just stressed and miserable and everything. And that will come but I still will go I have to leave this day better than when it started. And if I enter a room, and there’s people like that, that I’m talking with, I want to make sure I’m leaving where everyone’s in a better spirit or mood or anything like that. And there was an author recently that I heard about his book, and it’s called the coffee bean. And his his story is exactly that. It’s about changing the environment that you’re in for the better. And when I saw that, I was like, that’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. And I really haven’t a kind of obsession with doing.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:39
Yea, we need more people with that obsession. Yes, right. I end the podcast with a magic wand moment. So Tyson, I’m handing you the education evolution magic wand. What do you wish all learners had access to in their schools?

Tyson Junkers 31:59
I would say the ability to talk with others whose perspective they disagree with. That’s something we do at x Academy every morning. And it’s something that builds up not just critical thinking skills, but being able to talk with people who you don’t have everything in common with and not hating each other, which nowadays, it’s adults are difficult.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:22
Oh my gosh, we need that much magic wand. First through age 105 for all of our lifelong learners. Excellent. Tyson. Thank you, thank you for believing in your children as learners and for doing the hard work it takes to create a micro school so that other learners can also benefit and, and really get to connect to their strengths and passions and purposes. It’s been wonderful having you on the show.

Tyson Junkers 32:50
Thank you. I love being here

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 33:03
I love Tyson’s passion. ActOn Academy is such a wonderful way to be supported in the process, the daunting process of starting a micro school with LEED prep my micro school in its 10th year. I know firsthand how hard it is to start and maintain a market, a micro school or any school. So to have a whole system of support, and an infrastructure is a gift. And Acton Academy has such a learner centered model. It’s time for our world of education to be centered around learners, and not around curriculum with experts dispensing while students are passively receiving. I will put a link to courage to grow the Acton Academy book and to just Sandy for his TED talk in the show notes. Tyson shows us that any parent who wants to see something different for their child’s learning experience can be an activist to help make that happen. Sometimes parents feel like they don’t have choices or power. That doesn’t have to be the case, especially if you can collaborate with others seeking the same resources or with structures that are already in place. We need fierce parent advocates to demand learning opportunities that are equitable, and accessible for all of our learners. Tyson’s magic wand is beautiful and so needed in our country and world right now. There is way too much hate and lack of flexibility. If somebody has a different view, they are suddenly the enemy. So for Tyson to wish that every student has the ability to talk with others whose perspective they disagree with. is powerful. Then we Get to focus on topics and explore them from multiple perspectives. And it doesn’t have to become a personality assassination because somebody has a different belief. We’ve talked about this before in terms of polarity thinking, and starting with our common desire, and then exploring polarities without being polarized. I will put a link to my interview with Lindsey Burr in the show notes. She does amazing work in this area. Folks have been singing about the world needing love and John Lennon sings about imagining, these are lofty, but when we build tools for listening, and respecting differences, to underpin those aspirations, and we let students practice those in an ongoing manner, we can transform the world. And thank you to Tyson for being a part of this needed important transformation.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:03
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening. To support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information in shownotes go to education evolution listeners. You are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.


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