Cadi Russell on how the Minerva Baccalaureate combines academic rigor with student engagement

Minerva Project
February 8, 2021

Cadi Russell is a Minerva Baccalaureate instructor teaching English Fundamentals since September 2020.

How are the Minerva Baccalaureate classes you teach different from standard high school classes?

Minerva Baccalaureate courses have been an incredible experience that I am thankful as an educator to be a part of. The classes have an elevated engagement factor that I have not seen in standard high school programs. Students collaborate and challenge each other, all while being a part of a higher-level program. The software used, Forum, allows each student to be heard and therefore valued in the classroom. This allows students to learn from each other and to continue to push themselves to reach their highest achievements.

What kind of preparation is needed to be able to facilitate Minerva Baccalaureate classes?

As a Minerva Baccalaureate educator, it is important that I am prepared for my students. The content must be known and reviewed. I find it critical that I am ready to prompt, challenge, and engage with my students each class session to further their active learning and deepen their academic success. Further preparation for Minerva Baccalaureate is learning and maneuvering through the software Forum. There are many different factors that go into this software, so learning to use it meaningfully each class to assure students are engaged, collaborating, and learning is important. It is different from other courses because students are actively engaged throughout the live class, therefore having follow-up questions ready to prompt students to dig deeper into the material is beneficial to assure they are making achievements.

What kinds of activities do you find work well or that students thrive on in an active learning environment?

There are many different aspects of Minerva Baccalaureate that allow students to thrive in an active learning environment, some of which include polls and breakout groups. Polls are answered in class and students are able to see their peers’ responses which can support productive discussions among differing opinions and interpretations of the content and real-world topics. Group and peer work are essential to successful collaboration, and this is something valued and used often in the Minerva Baccalaureate program.

What is a moment in your Minerva Baccalaureate course that stands out as being active, interdisciplinary, and called students to high-level thinking?

After each synchronous class session, I am proud of what students have accomplished. The Minerva Baccalaureate allows students to be engaged throughout the entire class, and therefore the final product is mastery of rigorous material while enjoying class with their peers. The tiered questioning in place throughout each class allows students to think critically and think in ways they have not before. They are not only dissecting and learning complex material, they are also becoming skillful communicators, researchers, writers, speakers, and more.

What is your favorite thing about teaching Minerva Baccalaureate classes?

My favorite aspects of this program are the students I am fortunate to teach and the Forum environment. The students strive for excellence and take on every challenge. Forum, the software used, is an impressive technology that allows each student to be actively engaged and a valued member of the classroom.

How do Minerva Baccalaureate classes encourage inclusion? How do shy students fare?

Our students are spread throughout the country, and their histories and backgrounds might be different, yet these teens show support and encouragement to their peers in each class. They offer praise, emojis, and motivating comments so all students know their worth when speaking, sharing their responses to complex material, and opinions. At times, students may disagree on a topic, but because of the communication skills they have built, they have learned to communicate productively and offer new ways of thinking to their classmates. The rapport built, allows students who are gregarious, shy, and anything in between to feel at ease and comfortable in our classroom.


Building upon the best in contemporary high school curricula, the Minerva Baccalaureate is a transformative four-year program that teaches essential skills across disciplines. The program blends self-paced coursework with engaging peer-based class time, offering the advantages of both individualized and fully active learning techniques. Students learn in a fast-paced format that interweaves core subjects to accelerate understanding, capability, and growth.

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