An Origin Story


Origin stories always fascinate me: how something came to be or the events that shaped a person’s life are beguiling. With these stories, we walk away with a greater understanding of a product or a person—perhaps inspired and more appreciative of the hard work and tenacity it took to get there.

SnapSavvy Academy’s story is one born out of years of educating and photography work. I didn’t realize it at the time, but SnapSavvy started the minute I stepped into a classroom, almost 12 years ago. I never set out to be a teacher, but the moment I started, I was hooked. The opportunity to engage with creative minds, and to shape those young minds, has been both challenging and humbling. I became a better photographer because I had to teach my students how to be better photographers.

Whenever I taught a lesson, I’d make notes on what worked and what needed improvement. And every year, I would endeavor to do it better. Teaching at a classical school required thought: to be taught classically is rich and academically rewarding. I was seeing the benefits of this in my own children as they learned math, history, and science, but was I challenged as to how to bring that approach to a more “modern” subject. Compared to the ancient subjects of science, language, math, and the arts, photography is a recent invention.

Classical education includes the Trivium of learning: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Grammar is the foundational stage, where building blocks of information are laid, with logic students learn to evaluate and relate various pieces of information, and with rhetoric they learn to creatively put together those pieces into persuasive arguments and impactful works.

The trivium, I realized, was transferable to whatever subject one wanted to teach. So, I started to break the course down into stages: learning how to use your camera (grammar), the technique and artistry of taking an actual photograph (logic), how to use that image for the benefit of the viewer and the photographer (rhetoric).

With this systematic approach, I noticed a strange thing happening: once my students got through the first stage, the mechanics, their skills blossomed. They were taking photos that I found inspirational—as did others. I’d hang their photos in the hallways at school, where parents and visitors could see, and I’d get comments… or should I say “compliments.”

For two years, I took the same classical approach to teaching photography to a homeschool co-op, and I saw the same results—I was encouraged! Photography wasn’t a dying art; it was just one that wasn’t taught or appreciated in our modern pursuits.

And that’s when the magic happened. Parents started telling me they wanted to take my class. So, for a while I did private lessons, but I could only teach one or two people at a time. Yet an idea had been planted: what if I could offer my course to more people? Especially students outside the walls of the schools where I was teaching?

Slowly the idea of an online homeschool course took shape—but it came with a daunting shadow. I had questions and hurtles. But my friend, Wendy, gave me a mantra (from Walt Disney): “Keep moving forward.” “Whatever you can do now, do now,” she said. So I did. And I started talking about my idea with friends and acquaintances and things started happening!

Nan connected me with a Classical Conversation coordinator. Then I started talking to homeschool moms that I knew: Jordan, Martha, Haven, Megan, and more. They helped me to formulate course structure and marketing strategies.

Within my own community, I found rich resources: Steve told me about the website to host the class—a huge piece of the puzzle! I hired a current student, Reyna, as my illustrator; a former student, Lizzie, is helping finalize the logo; and another recent grad, Sam, filmed the video portion. And for the things that were beyond my scope, I found solutions: like crowd-sharing the name of the business. Before I knew it, SnapSavvy Academy was coming together.

In just a in short time:

  • it had a name: SnapSavvy Academy
  • three courses are planned (Foundations, Framework, and Finishing)
  • there’s also a plan for micro-courses (landscape, food, portrait, family, etc.)
  • the email list is growing
  • a logo will be finalized this week
  • a color palette is chosen
  • we have a mascot: an illustrated "camera-guy"
  • the video portion of the courses has been planned, scripted, and videoed
  • the url is purchased:
  • an Instagram “handle” is secured: @SnapSavvyAcademy

I’m one of those people that works well with deadlines, so I’ve given myself a deadline of June 1—just in time for students to try it out over the summer. And I might need a few “ambassadors” to give it a test drive. Let me know if you’re interested—

So, what’s next? There’s still lots to do! Although the modules are planned, I still need to photograph the backgrounds for the slide decks I’ll use during the lesson presentations. And those presentations need to updated and given a strong branding vibe, then recorded. Oh, and the website needs to be built. But all of these things are doable—if I just “keep moving forward.”

Can’t wait for you to see the final product!