Great Hearts Archway Lincoln is Arizona’s top-scoring school, according to data recently released by the Arizona State Board of Education. There were 1,342 others competing for that distinction.
Great Hearts Archway Lincoln, like all public charter schools, has no entrance exam, behavioral review, tuition or fee.
Great Hearts Archway Lincoln, 2250 S. Gilbert Road, Chandler, offers a classical liberal arts curriculum with assignments and grading that reflects commitment to excellence, according to the school.
How did Archway Lincoln place first? While there are many factors, one reason would be the school’s leadership, faculty and staff.
At the helm of Great Hearts Archway Lincoln is Toyin Atolagbe, a seasoned educator who was born and raised in Southwestern Nigeria, far from the Western world. Her parents embraced Western liberal arts education and sought out a classical school for their children.
Her first teaching job was at Central Christian School in Belize. It was a Title I school that served many children from the area’s lower socio-economic population.
“I developed humility and a genuine love of teaching during this experience,” Atolagbe said. “These children showed up daily with little or nothing, and the school ran efficiently with little or nothing. During the tough times now, the tenacity of those students and teachers reminds me to remain unbending in the face of trials and tribulations.”
Atolagbe attributes Great Hearts Archway Lincoln’s results to her faculty and staff, whose “steadfastness and genuine love for their students has brought the school this far,” she said.
She said she is grateful to her administrative team, including Assistant Headmaster Karen Marzulo, Dean of Academics Erin Stecker and Dean of Students Glory Pabon. Atolagbe describes them as “a powerhouse of servant leaders whose indefatigable commitment helped cultivate a strong school culture of teamwork, accountability, and partnership with parents.”
Atolagbe also credits Archway Lincoln families.
“I love our parent community because they are also ‘bought in’ to the mission and go above and beyond to support our faculty and staff,” she said. “And of course, I adore our students and continue to be impressed by their kindness, hard work and growth mindset.
“At the heart of our team is a genuine love for one another and an understanding that we can only achieve our collective goals by working together. So, with a good sense of our mission, we all show up daily with our hearts of service and unwavering commitment to instilling virtue in our children. We cultivate habits of excellence in them that enable them to flourish as human beings. We do this as a team and in partnership with our lovely parents, with everyone rowing in the same direction, for the good of our students.”
Jay Heiler, CEO of Great Hearts America, says Atolagbe has been an inspiration since her arrival at Great Hearts.
“Toyin’s contribution to Great Hearts is immeasurable,” he said. “She embodies the ideals of her own Classical education — hard work, perseverance, courage, humility, and magnanimity. She inspires everyone around her.”
Atolagbe’s directs credit to others for the accolades.
“There are many people throughout Great Hearts schools who work as hard or harder than I do, who love their scholars as much as I do, who pour their hearts into meeting each scholar’s needs and helping them develop a love of their classical education, and I believe this distinction for Lincoln belongs to each person who is contributing to the lives of any of our thousands of scholars,” she said. “This achievement is for all of them, including the executive team and all the staff at the head office who support us operationally, every day as we strive for excellence.”
While Archway Lincoln took the state’s top honors, several other Great Hearts Schools in Arizona experienced noteworthy successes in the 2021-22 school year. For example:
When asked about the network’s success during a school year that had unprecedented challenges due largely to COVID-19, Heiler expressed his appreciation to Atolagbe and her colleagues across the Great Hearts network who kept their schools open so that students could continue in-person learning.
The Great Hearts organization comprises 40 schools in Arizona, Texas and Louisiana, with a charter granted and a location pending in Florida, educating nearly 26,000 students.