MACCS leader uses innovative teaching to grow media arts

Glenna Voigt recently was honored by the New Mexico Technology Council as one of six women featured in their 8th annual Women in Technology Celebration. Photo by Jake Schwanitz / NM News Port


One New Mexico charter school is taking advantage of a booming industry that has made an impact across the state. Students at the Media Arts Collaborative Charter School in Albuquerque focus on careers in digital media and film, and their leader recently was recognized for her work.

Founding principal Glenna Voigt recently was honored by the New Mexico Technology Council as one of six women featured in their 8th annual Women in Technology Celebration. Voigt spoke to local business representatives about MACCS and what makes the charter school unique.

MACCS, which opened in 2008, is similar to other middle school or high schools in that it has a student government, and it allows students a chance to play sports at a high school within their district. MACCS even has its own boys basketball team. Dual credit courses also are available at MACCS through UNM, CNM and NMSU online.

MACCS students go through the same core classes that every other Albuquerque student goes through, but instead of being limited to electives like home economics, art or physical education, students can enroll in scriptwriting, animation, game design or film and TV production classes. Students are required to take four media classes a year.

What makes MACCS different from other schools is its project-based learning model. The content learned in all classes is put towards projects that span multiple classes. The students are then put into teams across grades and their classes to complete their projects.

Projects show of the creativity of MACCS students and range from modern reenactments of the Shakespeare classic Macbeth to abstract graphic design and other art pieces.

One of the most notable projects is a music video titled “Haley We Miss You” in tribute of former student Haley Paternoster who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 16. Students were not only the on screen talent for the video, but they also wrote and performed the music and lyrics. As of April 2016 the video has earned nearly 8,000 views on YouTube.

The Basement Kids series (so named because it is filmed in the basement of the school) is another notable MACCS student project that features modern versions of characters Charlie Brown and Scarface.

Voigt calls the series “a bit tongue in cheek,” but said it ties in serious issues including racial stereotyping, truancy and bullying and is able deliver messages successfully while maintaining a sense of humor that can be appreciated by all ages.

The students who make up The Basement Kids do not just specialize in comedy skits, they also wrote and performed their own rap video that blends their unique and hilarious sense of humor with topics that challenge kids of all ages.

Building MACCS from the ground up

Voigt got her start in education as a physical education teacher at Jimmy Carter Middle School in 2000, eventually working her way up to curriculum principal at Valley High School, where she worked until 2008.
Through Voigt’s vision, MACCS has become one of the premier charter schools in the state, and has even earned national recognition from National Geographic and the National Stock Market Game/Competition. ‘Albuquerque the Magazine’ named MACCS to the list of the city’s top schools and was the only public school on the list.
“We were the first charter school, state or APS, to purchase our own facility,” Voigt said. Voigt is proud of her school and after the success she has had over the years, is ready to move MACCS on to bigger things, literally.

After spending eight years in one building, MACCS is looking to expand into another nearby building so that the middle school students and high school students can be separated into their own spaces.
Right now, 240 students attend MACCS, and the graduating classes in 2012 and 2013 included 41 and 33 students respectively. Those students earned $500,000 in scholarships in 2012 and $600,000 worth of scholarships in 2013. Scholarships included the Bridge and Lottery, Daniels Scholarship and the Martin Luther King Jr Scholarships for New Mexico colleges.
“It is so gratifying to see our students graduating and obtaining jobs and scholarships, especially when many students coming to MACCS may have been behind or not even enjoying schools before their ‘MACCS experience’,” Voigt said.



By Michael Marcotte

Hi, I'm the (first-ever) Professor of Practice in Journalism at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. So I'm very involved in helping students learn multimedia journalism. Before New Mexico, I was the 2012-2013 Reynolds Chair in Ethics of Entrepreneurial and Innovative Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno... and, before that, a 2011 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. I'm also very active as a consultant, having spent over 25 years as a news director. My website is or on Twitter: