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Pathfinder Academy 

How We Got Started

In my 5 years of teaching high school special education, I was noticing a growing trend with the population of students in my classroom on a daily basis.  Yes, I had my regular caseload of students, but there was another set of students that found their way into my room whether by choice or by a suggestion from a teacher.  These students were absolutely brilliant, and the classroom setting was not the place that they were able to best showcase their talents. In forming strong relationships with these students, we were able to gain that respect for each other and they were able to complete the classwork that their peers were completing in the other classrooms. Superintendent, Mr. Cochart, saw the amount of frustration that I had because I knew these students could do it with a bit of tough love.  He, along with the support of the school board, decided to repurpose the former Harbor Credit Union in downtown Algoma and give it to me to create something for these students. With a bit of demolition and the right staff in place to run the school, Pathfinder was created.

Recognizing passions using them to fuel schoolwork


Work Study Electives

Small  Class Sizes

Authentic Credit Engagement

Family Enviroment

Personalized Learning Experience 

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The “Green room” at Pathfinder

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Reading to the senior citizens in Algoma

Habitat for Humanity work for Rock the Block in Brillion


The progress is deep rooted in each student.  Their perceptions of school change, attendance goes up, and their willingness to participate in class and discussions increases greatly.  Students at Pathfinder come from a wide variety of backgrounds and each has individual talents. A large change that can be seen in each student is their acceptance of others that are different from them and learning to accept that everyone has varying viewpoints.

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Trip to UW-Madison with a behind the scenes tour of Camp Randall

Masculinity Summit and St. Norbert’s

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Personal Stories

At the beginning of eighth grade I began to struggle with my mental health, which began to affect how well I was doing in school. I felt that the traditional environment wasn’t working for me. I began to look for some new options and before I knew it, I was contacting Ms. Horn and Mr. Ball. When I started going to school at Pathfinder Academy,  I immediately began to make progress socially and academically. One of the many things that I love about Pathfinder Academy is how much of a family we all are. We are offered many amazing, unique opportunities that I am very grateful for. I can base my work around things I am passionate about. At Pathfinder Academy, I’ve been able to work ahead so I am now able to graduate early!

Lily Bretl



Cameron Sherman


Before attending Pathfinder, I had struggled with staying out of trouble and focusing on my education. I was easily influenced by the people I chose to associate myself with. The first day at Pathfinder was the start of something new, something I was missing. I was able to be myself and interact with people I enjoyed being around. Even though I’ve had ups and downs since then, Ms. Horn and Mr. Ball have always had faith and believed in me. I wouldn’t  be able to say I’m a graduate if it wasn’t for Pathfinder. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for this place.

Students define my role to be “the Dumbledore of Pathfinder.”   What I like to think I do is help kids find their purpose and passion in life.  Everyone has their own story. Some days I am a mother-figure, some days I am a mentor, some days I am a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen, some days I give tough love and try to steer the kids in the right direction.  My “why” is helping kids to see themselves and their potential for who they truly are, and not how others view them to be. My heart really belongs to the students who need an alternative learning location in order to be successful.  So often, we have students come in with a load of baggage and not know how to unpack it. I enjoy watching the kids grow and flourish over the years, changing for the better, and ultimately have them set up for success when they leave school.

Katie Horn

Special Education Director/Creator of Pathfinder


Ray Ball

Pathfinder Teacher

I facilitate the building and the students, and according to the students I’m the teacher and guidance counselor at the same time.  I guide the students into a successful direction that they see will be possible along with a direction that is going to make their families and community proud. I truly believe it is my calling to give back to the community I reside in, and growing up in Columbus, Ohio, guidance was something a lot of the youth were in need of.  I was one of those individuals who received guidance from my parents and mentors, and I always think about how fortunate I am that I was one of the lucky ones that were able to get out of Columbus and start a journey on my own with the skills I’ve picked up from both my parents and mentors.


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