Opening in East Cobb in August 2017 is a new elementary private school with a unique approach to learning. Called Homegrown Learning Academy (HLA), the school will offer small class sizes with a focus on personalized learning – learning tailored to each student’s needs and interests. It’s conveniently located in the heart of East Cobb in Johnson Square.

HLA is the brainchild of Georgette Dobkin and Michelle Hession, East Cobb residents and former Cobb County teachers with master’s degrees in education. According to Hession, the inspiration for HLA came from a passion for personalized teaching.

“As friends, we often discussed our frustrations with how teaching has evolved,” says Hession. “We are public school teachers at heart. But with the testing now required and emphasis on acquiring data, there isn’t time for personalized instruction or even a teachable moment. Students’ individual needs aren’t being met, and many are slipping through the cracks.”

With a combined 30+ years of elementary school teaching and a commitment to bringing learning back to kids, these student advocates decided to start a school. Plans are to begin working with students in grades K-2, ultimately growing to offer through 5th grade.

“We consulted with several other local start-up schools,” says Dobkin. “From talking to administrators at these successful schools, we gained the fuel and belief that we can make it happen.”

HLA blends the best of public, private and homeschool settings. According to Dobkin, the school’s atmosphere encourages risk-taking and feeds curiosity. Students and teachers walk the path of learning hand-in-hand. What sets HLA apart from other schools? Here are the top distinctive features:

– An 8:1 student-teacher ratio allows for highly personalized instruction.

– Student assessment relies on everyday observation and performance tasks rather than on test results and data.

– Students’ work takes place at school, with little emphasis on homework. Instead students are encouraged to read at home.

– Recesses and brain breaks are part of the daily routine.

– A unique approach to learning called PBI (Personalized, Balanced, Integrated) resides at the core of the learning experience. In essence, this means that teachers meet students where they are instructionally and guide them to their maximum potential. This is done through developmentally-appropriate yet rigorous instruction that integrates the curriculum through high-interest units of study.

If you are interested in learning more about HLA, visit or email

This article originally appeared in the April issue of the EAST COBBER magazine, on page 11. Click HERE to access the digital edition.