MARICOPA — Teaching has been a part of Tim Ihms’ life and a passion for 40 years.
But unlike other teachers, he has taken his passion a step further by building Christian-based private schools to educate students with individualized course materials, something he said is special to his private schools.
“I could have fourth-graders working on seventh-grade math and a sixth-grader working on fifth-grade math,” Ihms said. “Because it’s individualized, I can meet the needs of the kids where they’re at.”
The New Park Street Christian Academy will be taught online from 4:30 to 9 p.m. beginning Aug. 10. For the first year, he will be teaching fourth through sixth grade, though he plans to expand with first through third grade after a year and eventually first through 12th grade in a brick-and-mortar school.
When he faced hardship in finding a building for the school, a friend suggested the concept of online courses. Zoom is an online program that allows Ihms to talk to his students and grade their papers in real time. Although unsure of the idea of online teaching at first, he soon realized that universities from all over the nation use the program for lectures of their classes.
“There are amazing opportunities with online teaching,” Ihms said. “I can educate students that don’t have other opportunities because of where they’re at. Whether they’re in prisons or they’re in different homes.”
Despite the convenience of online lectures and interaction with his students, he emphasized sticking to a more traditional way of learning with textbooks and pencils.
“I will not have e-books, and the computers will only be used for communication and keyboard lessons. I prefer using real books and paper and pencils because kids will not get distracted by playing games on their computers.”
Ihms has previously opened two schools in Gilbert, called Gilbert Christian Schools, which he described as “very successful.”
After moving to Maricopa from Gilbert three years ago, he has taught special education at Pima Butte Elementary School. His career has taken him from being a principal for 18 years to teaching special education for 12 years and other education at various grade levels for the rest. His first time starting a private school was in 1996 and ever since, he has continued to follow his passion.
About 530 kids were enrolled in the previous schools in Gilbert, though boards took over operations about five years ago.
“I’m getting my feet back on the ground again. I’m excited to specialize in something I can do and I really enjoy doing it,” Ihms said.
His plan is to buy a house in the older Heritage District, where he will have his office and a base for his classes. For now, he will be teaching from the extra bedroom of his home in Maricopa.
Many of the students that sign up come from homeschooling families or families that are looking for a different option for education, Ihms said. He ensures that his teaching methods will target all students’ needs no matter at which level. His classes will have 15 students and they will be able to communicate via Zoom with him and each other.
“The reason I’m doing the school is because I think I can give opportunities to families that they wouldn’t have before,” Ihms said. “It’s something I have done before and it’s a passion I have. I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Students from around the state are encouraged to enroll at New Park Street and he hopes that students of Maricopa will enroll as well. Sign-ups are taken at his website: newparkstreetchristianacademy.com.