Two mothers develop their own school, curriculum for students

Morgan Aguilar
February 22, 2017 06:23 PM

Two Albuquerque moms couldn’t find what they were looking for when it was time for their daughters to go to school. Rather than settle, they founded their own non-profit.


Chinook Spirit Children’s Academy is in its third school year. They currently have 23 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Founders Holly Wu and Val Sahyoun are both National Board-certified teachers. They wanted to create a curriculum that allows kids to use and keep their own wisdom.

“We didn’t want a direct textbook approach, and sometimes the other extreme of that is a little too free,” Wu said. “We wanted a balance.”

The students learn in a small environment with personalized instruction based on the skill level of each child. Students also have an option of meditation for five minutes each day.

“It seems to be a trend in research right now,” Wu said. “It increases students' ability to self-regulate or get calm. It increases their compassion and empathy.”

The students take a field trip once a week and come up with a service project to help their community once a month.

"We teach the kids that we care for ourselves and then we have the energy to care for others," Wu said.

Mari Spinelli’s soon-to-be 7-year-old daughter goes to Chinook. She said she looked at APS and charter schools, but she found what she wanted at Chinook.

"I love that they incorporate consciousness and kindness into their curriculum,” Spinelli said.

Parents and educators can learn more about Chinook Spirit Children’s Academy on Saturday. Wu and Sahyoun will offer tips on conflict resolution alongside author Sandra Alexander. The event is at 1 p.m. at the High Desert Center at 5621 Paradise Blvd. NW.

You can register and find out more at and


Morgan Aguilar

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved



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