Des Moines Educator Resigns After 22 Years to Start Liberty Self-Directed Learning Center

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Des Moines Educator Resigns After 22 Years to Start Liberty Self-Directed Learning Center

For the past two decades, Troy Salazar has served Des Moines Public Schools as a regular education teacher, special education teacher, school counselor, coach, and gifted learning consultant. Over the course of his tenure, he’s worked at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. After resigning this spring, he says he can no longer ignore the fact that conventional school simply does not work for a lot of his students – and he believes they deserve another option! 

Enter… Liberty Self-Directed Learning Center. 

Troy and his small staff have joined a nationwide and international network of self-directed learning centers called Liberated Learners. With guidance and support from the network, Liberty Self-Directed Learning Center (SDLC) plans to open its doors this fall in West Des Moines for the 2022-23 school year. While 2022 will bring Iowa its first self-directed learning center with Liberty SDLC, the idea of self-directed education (often referred to as “unschooling”) is not a new one. Northstar for Teens, the original center in the Liberated Learners network, was founded and has been in operation since 1996. In the wake of Covid though, there’s been a small surge in the demand, and therefore the opening of self-directed learning centers like Liberty across the nation.

As a K-12 program following the traditional academic calendar, Liberty will offer a full-time alternative option to kids struggling to be successful in conventional public and private schools. Using what’s known as Choice Option #2 of Iowa’s friendly homeschooling laws, Liberty helps families leave school in order to become free and clear of the state’s mandatory CORE curriculum. Families can then enroll their kids in and use Liberty SDLC as a resource to provide the necessary community, classes, and mentorship needed while on their new and exciting self-directed learning journey. 

Education Designed by You! 

A guiding belief in self-directed education is that kids need and deserve to have more choice in what they’re learning and how they’re learning it. Conventional school systems, both public and private, follow a compulsory state-mandated curriculum model that requires student participation and the “successful” completion of that CORE curriculum. With very little real-life application of the contents in that curriculum, “successful” is reduced to each student’s ability, and willingness, to complete assignments and memorize information in order to pass the regularly scheduled testing across each of the CORE subject areas. 

With self-directed learning, the script is flipped when it comes to getting an education. The CORE curriculum is tossed aside and instead, “We simply start where it makes the  most sense – with what kids are interested in and whatever their strengths are!” The K-5 Program looks like a Montessori-esque, mixed-age, play-based learning community. It’s loosely structured with math, reading, and writing subtly embedded into the daily and weekly routines. As far as the Teens at Liberty, each one gets an adult mentor they meet with on a weekly basis. The mentor’s role is to simply support and assist the teens’ exploration and pursuit of their own interests. With a menu of weekly available classes, a network of community-based partners, and simply the time and flexibility to pursue what they love, these teens are exploring themselves, discovering their passions, and finding their paths in the world. They are exposed to and are participating in real life on an ongoing and evolving basis.  

Consent – The Other Critical Piece 

Next to providing the freedom of choice, consent is another critical component of the self-directed learning model. Kids across the K-12 learning community will be offered and exposed to various experiences and opportunities – but every activity, field trip, class, and event is fully optional. Furthermore, there are no tests, grades, GPAs, class ranks, rewards, or punishments related to the academics and/or learning at Liberty SDLC. When you’re learning the self-directed way, the learning itself becomes the reward! 

Liberty combines the best parts of the conventional school – peers, classes, and mentors – with the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling. 

Connect with Liberty Self-Directed Learning Center


Facebook: Liberty SDLC 

Instagram: libertysdlc 


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