Why Change and Why Now? Tates Creek High School Educators Explain the Benefits of Academies in Lexington

Amanda Wickersham
Meredith Bordas

For more than 16 years, Tates Creek High School’s Amanda Wickersham has dedicated her career to shaping the lives and education of students in Lexington. Prior to her current role as Academy Coach, she served as Department Chair, taught technology and engineering, and was a district liaison for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). Describing Tates Creek as her “home away from home,” Amanda’s passion for providing high school students with the support they need spans far beyond the classroom.

And just a short walk down the hallway from Amanda at Tates Creek, you’ll find Freshman Academy Principal Meredith Bordas—a woman whose devotion to paving bright futures for students has been a force at the school since 2005. Her commitment to helping teenagers learn and grow throughout high school was solidified her first year of teaching when she taught ninth grade English. Since then, Meredith has served in various capacities including Language Arts Coach and Reading Specialist/Building Assessment Coordinator where she helps teachers incorporate literacy strategies into their classrooms.

Together, Meredith and Amanda have been championing The Academies of Lexington movement since launching Tates Creek’s Freshman Academy this fall. To increase awareness within the community about the transformative change that’s underway at the school they’re so proud of—we recently sat down with them to get their perspectives.

Q: Why do Academies matter so much for the future of education?

Amanda: I worry that we have not been serving our students to the fullest capacity. I want more for them. I want them to appreciate and understand the importance of what they are learning. We truly owe it to them. A student should not have to ask, “Why am I learning this?”

Academies help bridge that gap. Two of the foundational pieces of the Academy model are Project Based Learning (PBL) and work-based learning experiences. Teachers collaborate on both small scale PBL activities in individual classrooms, and large scale PBL across disciplines, which is statistically proven to engage students. Students also receive work-based learning experiences, which include job shadowing, internships, plus co-op and capstone projects—all of which add up to more interconnected and relevant learning.

Q: How will Academies enhance collegiate and workforce performance?

Amanda: The Academies model is a multifaceted approach that combines college preparation with a career focus. Students continue to receive rigorous academic instruction, but are also taught how their core classes are relevant in the real world.  Students will graduate with the academic knowledge base, and with the essential skills they’ll need to be productive in a working environment.

While Tates Creek currently only has a Freshman Academy, we look forward to moving toward a career-themed Academies model for all of our students beginning fall of 2018.

Q: Can you tell me more about Freshman Academy?

Meredith: Our Freshman Academy provides a nurturing environment in which our ninth graders can more smoothly transition to high school. All of our freshmen are divided into cadres with the average class size being smaller than usual, which allows our teachers to really get to know their students. In fact, I would say that our teachers have gotten to know these kids more in the last three months than they have in any given school year—and that’s really cool.

Our students are also really loving their Freshman Seminar course because they get to explore what they like, and think about what career path they may be interested in for the future. It’s also great because they are discovering that their voice is going to dictate a lot about their futures here at Tates Creek—and they won’t just be plugged into a schedule.

Q: How can the community get involved in the Academies of Lexington?

Meredith: A lot of times, we think it’s just educators who can help prepare our students for their futures. But, we also need the community to join in! We want our students to see good models of the real jobs that they can have after high school. We want them to see examples of how to be successful, how to carve their own paths, and how to get from Point A to Point B. Together, we can help our students prepare for life after high school beyond just walking across the stage. And the community can help our students answer that question of “What are you going to do after graduation?”

We need real-life professionals coming in and showing our students what success looks like. Every school in our district could use that, as well as continued support from parents in helping students discover their true interests.


If you’d like to continue the conversation with Amanda or Meredith, feel free to contact them directly:

Amanda Wickersham

Academy Coach




Meredith Bordas

Freshman Academy Principal




Learn more about how the Academies of Lexington are revolutionizing what school can be for students at Tates Creek, Bryan Station and Frederick Douglass high schools by visiting our website at academiesoflex.com.