Billy Handmaker, Inquiry, Inclusion and Integrity in College Readiness

The Path to Higher Ed is a SchooLinks hosted podcast community that explores trending topics and issues in the area of college and career readiness. Our featured guests are pushing education forward by constantly learning from, innovating and applying their college and career readiness practices. Listen to gain their insights and apply them to your own college and career readiness practices.

Today, we’re speaking with Billy Handmaker, Head of School at Bosque School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Using an inquiry-based curriculum, students at the Bosque School are able to choose the societal problems that they want to solve and actually build proposed solutions around them. This involves college-level research, research and thesis defense. By structuring the education experience to reflect real-world problem-solving, Bosque is helping its students engage in a process of self-discovery before determining right fit colleges and careers.

About Billy Handmaker

Billy Handmaker joined Bosque School in 2011 as the third Head of School. He has served as a teacher and an administrator in independent schools since 1989. From 1989–96, Billy taught history, chaired the History Department, and served as the Dean of Faculty and the Assistant Head for Faculty and Curriculum at Whitfield School in St. Louis. From 1996–2011, Billy was the Head of School and taught history at Crossroads College Preparatory School in St. Louis.

Billy has also served on many nonprofit boards, including the St. Louis Public Library, KIPP-St. Louis, Independent Schools of St. Louis, Shaare Zedek Synagogue, and other organizations. Holding a B.A. in Political Science from George Washington University and an M.A.T. in Education/History from Washington University-St. Louis, Billy has also taught as an adjunct faculty member at Maryville University. Billy teaches a junior/senior elective in International Relations, and has accompanied students and other teacher-administrators on the Civil War and Revolutionary War Winterim trips.

About Bosque School

Bosque School’s core values of scholarship, community, and integrity manifests itself in a variety of ways throughout its campus and programs.

As a school devoted to scholarship, Bosque strives to challenge and support students as they prepare for college and the world beyond. The combination of a college preparatory curriculum with innovative teaching helps students gain the skills and content that will enable them to be successful wherever they go. Every student ends his/her education with Bosque’s capstone program, the Junior, and Senior Thesis. Students research a historical or literary topic in junior year and write a 10–15 page thesis; in their senior year, they choose a topic in any field, write a 15–20 page thesis, and defend their findings in front of an audience composed of teachers, peers, adults, and often alumni. This capstone project is just one of many ways Bosque School prepares students for the academic rigors of college.

The school’s commitment to community creates a culture where students encourage each other in classes, in the arts, and on the fields and courts of play. Having support from their teachers and peers allows Bosque students to challenge themselves and try new things that they might not have had the confidence to do in another setting. For example, every week in upper school commences with a student performance during Monday’s morning meeting. Students will sing or play a piece of their choice ranging from opera to folk to jazz from “The Lumineers” to a song they wrote themselves. One student even commemorated the premier of The Hobbit movie by composing an entirely new piece on the violin that combined music from the three Lord of the Rings movies. Whether it’s students cheering each other on at games, attending each other’s concerts or having a meaningful conversation at a Friday night coffeehouse, the young women and men at Bosque are there for one another. It is this commitment to the community that students at Bosque often say differentiates it from other schools. Bosque students are also devoted to the greater Albuquerque, New Mexico, national, and global communities. This commitment is evident in the admirable work they do in Bosque’s unique and extensive service learning programs that begin in sixth grade and continues through the senior year.

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