Bachelor’s Degrees in Graphic Design and Art Education and Master’s Degree in Special Education
Co-Founder and Director of Operations | REACH Academy Charter School | Buffalo, N.Y.
Amie Peterson Caster is surrounded by scholars.
That’s what the faculty and staff call the students at REACH Academy Charter School in Buffalo, a school co-founded by Peterson Caster. Located near downtown on the city’s East Side, REACH Academy gives families another choice for their child’s education.
It is a public school of choice that offers students a flexible curriculum. In the case of REACH Academy, make that a unique curriculum, like no other public school you’re likely to see.
Eight different classrooms throughout the school carry different themes or experiences. There is a farm, grocery store, firehouse, and a construction work site. There is also a multi-cultural room, a Buffalo community room, and a Dr. Seuss inspired room. Students work in small groups and rotate through the different rooms throughout the year, spending five weeks in each classroom.
“We are all about letting kids have more experiences that make learning more meaningful for them,” explains Peterson Caster. “Our variety of classroom themes offer hands-on, real-world learning and expose the scholars to all kinds of new vocabulary.”
Peterson Caster notes that she and the other founders of the school had previously worked together at another charter school in Buffalo that had closed. Learning from their experience at the other school, they set out to create something very different with REACH. The school keeps classes small, which are capped at 20 scholars, for a smaller student to teacher ratio and more personalized attention.
Peterson Caster brings a full palette of skills to her role as director of operations at REACH Academy. She first earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Daemen, returning the next year to earn a bachelor’s degree in art education. By this point, she knew her passion was in education.
As Peterson Caster completed her student teaching, an opportunity arose in 2005 to continue her schooling by earning a master’s degree in special education at Daemen. Her unique combination of knowledge in graphic design, art education, and special education was a major contributor to the teaching philosophy and environment at REACH Academy.
The school follows the New York State Common Core curriculum and scholars enjoy gym, music, and art activities on a daily basis. The school serves kindergarten and first grade students, with plans to add grades each year to become a full K–8 charter school.
“Our school day is a little longer than at other public schools, as is the school year,” Peterson Caster says. “That’s because we want to give our scholars more time for experiential learning, which is another way REACH Academy is unique.”