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Meeting Kids Where They Are: Life in the Middle School 

Students high-fiving after game during field day

The beginning of adolescence sees dramatic shifts in children. 

The external shifts are significant enough, and the internal ones — cognitive, emotional, and social — are even more profound. 

Packer’s faculty guide students through these changes with expertise, sensitivity, humor, and affection. Take a look at how the Middle School program offers students a rich and exciting intellectual experience while supporting kids’ need for independence, self-discovery, and fun.

Walking into a Middle School classroom at Packer, you can’t help be struck by the energy and engagement of the students. Asked what they’re studying, they jump at the chance to explain what they’re working on. These are happy classrooms, alive with excitement and the joyful, sometimes messy, noise of learning. 

It’s hard to miss this noise as you make your way past the music practice rooms, watching students unload instruments from their lockers and clamber into position. Or, as you head down the checkerboard hallway of the science wing, where students huddle around lab equipment measuring, recording, and interpreting what they observe. 

Upstairs on the first floor, the Middle School’s soaring neo-Gothic architecture comes into view. The North and South Halls frame the 5th and 6th Grade Core classrooms. There, with the guidance of their teachers, students are often in pairs or small groups, reading, writing, researching, rehearsing presentations, and giving feedback to one another — in short, practicing how to work together as a learning community. Dramatically stacked above are three floors of classrooms for mathematics, history, English, world languages, computer science, learning support, and health. Every space brims with energy. 

“Packer’s Middle School hinges on an amazing combination of serious scholarship, authentic curiosity, unbridled enthusiasm, and genuine care for the community,” says Noah Reinhardt, who has led the division since 2007. “All of that is on display — in the classrooms of course, but also in the gyms, the dance studio, the art room, the library, the lunchroom, and the Garden. You can see it in students’ Chapel announcements, at team practices, and during rehearsals.

“Most kids this age are exuberant and expressive by nature. When they’re living Packer’s mission — thinking deeply, speaking confidently, and acting with purpose and heart — you can’t miss it.”

 

Attuned Adults

In early adolescence, children grow from dependent to highly independent beings. They move from thinking literally and concretely to thinking abstractly and appreciating complexity. They shift from a myopic view of themselves as the center of the family to a sense of just how big the world is. They begin to see their friends and other adults in their lives as representing new ideas, new interests, and new influences. Most of all, kids in early adolescence begin the work of trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

Mr. Reinhardt leads the division in part by articulating a deep understanding of this tricky developmental stage. “Kids are given freedom in Middle School that they’ve never had before, but they haven’t fully developed the skills to manage it. We work to support every student through the many transitions of early adolescence, not just the academic ones. We want the Middle School to be a safe place in a turbulent time.” 

Not once in Middle School have I felt discouraged or neglected. The teachers do their hardest to make you feel like you and your thoughts matter.

— Julian Isikoff, 8th Grade

Students’ overall well-being is the focus of many of the division’s basic structures, such as nearly daily meetings of advisor groups (10 to 12 students under the guidance of at least one experienced faculty member) and weekly meetings among the faculty who teach at each grade level, led by the grade’s dean and head teacher. The administrative team, the division’s psychologist, and three learning specialists also hold weekly meetings to discuss the progress of individual students with those students’ teachers. 

On their own, however, these structures wouldn’t be successful without the faculty’s deep knowledge and understanding of early adolescence.

“Kids’ growth in Middle School is amazing, but it has to be nurtured and taken care of,” says Josh Srebnick, the Middle School psychologist. “The faculty here really get that. Despite Packer’s being an outwardly traditional school in some ways, our faculty have a progressive view of who children are.”

He compares the Middle School’s style of support to extendable leashes: “Students can go far enough away to feel free and make their own choices, but they’re also close enough that the adults can rein them in if necessary. Our role is to give them independence but also to be a buffer against anything too bad.” 

In conversations about the Middle School’s commitment to students’ emotional well-being, many point to the leadership of Mr. Reinhardt and the deans he has hired: Marisa Mendez, Nitya York, and Coy Dailey. 

“Noah and the deans regularly ask the faculty to think about the Middle School experience,” says Dr. Srebnick. “The caretaking of kids — from a really holistic perspective —is our mission.”

“We have a faculty who love working with Middle School kids and are passionate about what they do,” says history teacher Monika Johnston. “That makes for a creative and fun experience for our students — and challenging, too, because we do ask them to stretch.”

 

An Academic Program That Meets Kids Where They Are

Students entering Middle School from Packer’s 4th Grade encounter a myriad of changes in their daily school life. Some of them are in a part of campus they have rarely seen. Instead of a pair of teachers overseeing all of their regular classroom activities, students have different teachers for different subjects, one at a time. They have to manage multiple assignments simultaneously. No one escorts them around the school: they are expected to get to class independently and on time. 

When you’re 10 or 11, these changes can be daunting. Yet they are introduced intentionally to make students more self-sufficient, a process that begins in Lower School. 

“The entire Middle School program is designed to meet kids where they are,” says Mr. Reinhardt. The key, he says, is to balance new experiences and responsibilities with appropriate supports.

Patrick Kieffer, 5th Grade Head Teacher, is among the faculty whose job it is to create an unintimidating ‘on-ramp’ for the Middle School’s youngest students. “We structure the fifth graders’ first weeks pretty intensely [in part because they] are accustomed to instructions coming at them all the time,” he says. 

It is so great to have independence and responsibility. I love being able to spend [free time] with my friends and having time to be with the people who make me who I am.

— Mariele Protos, 6th Grade

The first years of Middle School are designed with the same thoughtfulness. To provide a sense of continuity and to ensure that every child has a core learning relationship, 5th and 6th grade students have one teacher for both English and history. This also helps students make the interdisciplinary connections that are an important part of their intellectual growth. In 5th Grade, report cards are qualitative and comment-based; letter grades aren’t introduced until 6th Grade. World language study starts in 6th Grade, when most students begin learning Spanish, Mandarin, Latin, or French. 

Part of the fun of teaching 10- and 11-year-olds, says Mr. Kieffer, is “teaching them to let go of their reliance on outside structure. Little by little, we ask them to take more responsibility for their daily schedules, their homework, their laptops, their study plans. They learn to make more decisions on their own.”

As students transition to increasingly complicated material, new struggles can emerge, according to Marisa Mendez, Dean of the 5th and 6th Grades. “We have systems in place to detect and address these struggles right away, so we can make sure that every student has the opportunity to find success in our program.”

Middle Schoolers Talking in The Commons

Students entering Middle School soon discover that there is more daily freedom and choice than in Lower School. At break, they can go to the Commons and buy a snack, mixing with students in other grades. During lunch they can meet with teachers, hold club meetings, go outside, spend time in the library, or just enjoy a little down time with friends — all of which they are free to do without direct supervision. 

However, this freedom exists in balance with structure. For instance, a new schedule in the Middle and Upper Schools provides a daily 45-minute “Community Time.” In the middle division, it is variously designated for study halls, individual meetings with teachers, arts and physical education electives, special events, and a weekly opportunity for every fifth through eighth grader to “Drop Everything and Read.”

Developing Deep Thinkers

From age 10 to 14, a typical child’s cognitive ability grows rapidly and measurably. Over the course of Middle School, students trade a simplified view of their environment for more complex ideas and a more nuanced view of the world. 

“In the younger grades, most kids tend to be pretty literal and concrete in their thinking,” says Nitya York, Dean of the 7th and 8th Grades. They tend to be most comfortable with objective facts and simple binaries: this or that, true or false

“Kids in the first years of Middle School are answer-oriented,” says Coy Dailey, the division’s Dean of Student Life and a math teacher. They often look to their teachers for more prescriptive, step-by-step instructions. To help students become more comfortable with challenging processes, the Math Department has adopted a new curriculum in 5th and 6th Grade. “Now we ask them to grapple pretty intensely with mathematical concepts before they learn the ‘right’ way to solve a problem,” explains Ms. Mendez.

The English and history core curriculum in 5th Grade, which begins with prehistory and moves through Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, helps move students out of their answer-oriented comfort zone. “Prehistory is as uncertain as can be — it’s all informed guesswork and inferences based on limited artifacts,” says Mr. Kieffer. “It forces the students to deal with the fact that we don’t know for sure.” 

Even in the arts, younger middle schoolers tend to cling to their vision of how things are supposed to be. “They don’t want to make mistakes. They want to use their erasers all the time,” says art teacher Elizabeth Eagle. To “shake them up,” she often moves her 5th graders through rapid drawing exercises. “They think I’m crazy because sometimes we don’t finish. They’ll say, ‘What do you mean, Stop? We’re not done!’ But I want to get them away from being perfectionists.” 

Even beyond 5th and 6th Grade, students may still “look for the right answer,” says Todd Johnson, 8th Grade Head Teacher and member of the English department. “At the beginning of 7th Grade, many of them want to be told what the interpretation of the reading is. When they realize I’m not going to be doing that”— he pauses — “that’s a big learning curve for them.”

My favorite thing about Middle School so far is that we get to take care of ourselves. We get to take ourselves to classes and not walk together in a line.

— Freddie Houser, 5th Grade

Mr. Reinhardt points out that cognitive growth doesn’t develop along a linear path. “At times it looks and feels like a steady upward curve, but more often the path is punctuated and unpredictable.” With this in mind, Middle School teachers nurture higher-level thinking by offering opportunities for students to stretch intellectually alongside direct instruction in specific cognitive skills: grappling with ambiguous and subjective concepts, developing and testing hypotheses, analyzing and synthesizing different forms of data. For instance, students receive explicit guidance on how to organize their ideas and plan an argument. They are as likely to use graphic organizers to chart claims versus evidence in science as in English or history.

“In science, we teach kids how to find the qualitative data to back things up,” says Catherine Jennings, 7th Grade Head Teacher. “The kids will make a claim, and I’ll say, ‘Okay, how do you know?’ They’ll say, ‘Well, it got bigger.’ I’ll ask, ‘How much bigger?’ That requirement for specific data can be challenging.”

But by 7th Grade, students begin to make the leap into more sophisticated realms of thought. “Gradually, there’s this increase in capacity for abstract thinking and critical thinking,” says Ms. Jennings. “They begin to understand problems in a different way.” Toward the end of Middle School, for instance, the students are able to go a step further by adding rebuttals to their arguments. A rebuttal entails more sophisticated cognition “because it requires them to think outside of themselves,” she explains.

The content itself is sophisticated by any definition. “Our curriculum is increasingly international and interdisciplinary,” says Elissa Krebs, Chair of the English Department. “We teach Maus to the eighth graders in conjunction with their World War II study in history. We discuss totalitarianism and fascism, the makings of Hitler’s rise to power. The connections the kids make are really impressive.” 

Group of Middle School students looking at laptop together

Increasingly as they move through the division, students are asked to use disparate skills simultaneously. To prepare for group projects, Ms. Johnston’s history students locate themselves on compass points around the classroom to represent their preferred work strategies. “Developing this self-awareness isn’t just about emotional intelligence,” she explains. “It’s about strengthening their work as students and scholars. It helps them know how to approach other people, and how to be responsible and accountable to themselves and one another.”

Mr. Johnson gives his students similar responsibilities in his English classroom. “In 8th Grade, we have completely student-led discussions. I sit back and orchestrate. The students form most of the ideas. They have to call on each other. They have to keep track of who has spoken. And [by 8th Grade], most of them are comfortable in the idea that there isn’t that ‘right answer.’” 

Ms. York sums it up. “What we are looking to develop is thinkers. If we’re successful, they leave the Middle School as competent abstract and critical thinkers. They can make connections between disparate ideas and disciplines independently.” 

For the Midsummer Night's Dream scene share, I was Thisbe, the summer camp janitor. I stabbed myself with a pool noodle. The whole grade roared with laughter. Mr. Johnson congratulated me and so did my peers.

— Sarah George, 7th Grade

Along that path of intellectual growth, says Mr. Reinhardt, students and faculty are enjoying each other. They are having fun. And when students are digging into material that challenges them, joy and humor are still present in the room. 

In fact, maintaining a balance between rigor and levity is an important teaching strategy. “Middle School classrooms at Packer embrace the ‘work hard, play hard’ philosophy,” says 6th Grade Core teacher Sadelle Chain, who is in her first year at Packer. “We can be rigorous one moment, and goofy the next.”

Ms. Johnston agrees. “If you can create a safe enough environment, most middle school kids will try just about anything. And if it looks silly, we laugh!”

Instilling Strong Habits

Parallel to the Middle School’s increased cognitive demands come heavier workloads. Homework may be required by three or four teachers in different subjects on any given night. Assignments are more complex and take longer to complete. The level of work requires strategic approaches to studying and completing projects. 

To strengthen students’ work habits, teachers provide explicit instruction in so-called “executive function”: meta-skills such as time-management, organization, work habits, and study strategies. 

Middle School English class

Todd Johnson teaching 8th Grade English. It is not unusual for Middle School students to leap out of their seats to share an idea or answer a question.

The Middle School faculty tend to share the view that what usually holds a student back is not a lack of intelligence or ability but a lack of habits that make it possible to push through difficult moments. “A huge piece of student success has to do with organizing, prioritizing, and managing procrastination,” says Ms. York. “A student who has a content deficit or an academic-skill deficit but who also has strong executive function will probably do well.”

Helping students manage increasing workloads is a many-year effort that goes beyond study skills. The broader goal is for students “to become proactive learners who are organized, accountable, and independent,” says Colin Levitt, 6th Grade Head Teacher. “We build up their independence incrementally so that they learn to seek out support from their teachers when they need it.”

Every time I walk into Mr. Riggio's class, the room is so fun and happy. He has so much experience with music, and I learn so much every class. That's my best moment of Middle School!

— Alexander Bourtin, 6th Grade

Students develop this autonomy at different stages and at varying speeds, however. “We recognize that while some kids are mature enough to ask for help, not all of them are there yet,” says Mr. Levitt. For that reason, the division holds Formal Academic Support Time, or FAST, a weekly period when teachers sign up their own students for extra help. 

“Our new FAST program has changed the way students think about getting help from teachers,” says Ms. Mendez. “Now every student does it at one time or another.” It has also changed the way teachers approach student support, she says. Since FAST is built into everyone’s schedule, each teacher now reviews on a weekly basis which students would benefit most from one-on-one support. 

“With younger students,” says Ms. Jennings, “we help them figure out their learning styles. We help them learn when to have grit and persevere versus when to reach out for help. But as kids move through the Middle School, we give them room to develop that autonomy. We want them to enter the Upper School able to identify their needs themselves.” 

Knowing the Individual Child

Because children mature differently and at varying speeds, the ages between 10 and 14 represent a broad spectrum of cognitive and emotional maturity. And because many young adolescents find comfort in some degree of conformity, it is important that they be seen as the complex and evolving individuals they nevertheless are. This awareness fuels the Middle School faculty’s most significant form of academic and personal support: knowing each student well.

Increasingly, says Ms. York, the Middle School is “focused on what progress looks like for each individual student. If a student who is struggling is also motivated, that becomes the basis of our discussion and action plan. At an academically demanding place like Packer, it’s essential that we engage the whole child.” 

Moving students away from the viewpoint that grades are in themselves an end goal is an important part of this effort, says Mr. Reinhardt. So is actively engaging with every single student. 

Two students acting out a scene in English class

Ms. York concurs, citing current research on student success. “If children have one adult at school that they feel connected to, that they feel known and seen by and can go to if they need support, they are much more successful in every facet of their school life — academic, social, and emotional.” 

“At this age, you can feel completely invisible at times,” says Dr. Srebnick. Adolescents treasure “adults who let you know that you have an impact on them, who let you know that your happiness and your ideas matter to them.” Packer’s faculty work hard to make sure that every child feels valued “for who they are at that moment, which may or may not be perfect.”

And when students do fall short, faculty and administrators hold them accountable — compassionately. 

“If kids are going to make mistakes, I want them to do it on our watch,” says Mr. Reinhardt. “A lot of good comes from kids making both small and significant errors of judgment, and then owning them and dealing with the repercussions, whether social, academic, or within their families.”

We had practiced for weeks, but when we finally did the Maypole dance at May Day, the ribbons got all tangled! The second group laughed at us—and then they had the same problem!

Afterward, we couldn't stop laughing! When we mess up, we don't beat ourselves up about it. That makes me feel comfortable at Packer.

— Daisy Zuckerman, 8th Grade

“Even though the kids will pretend they know everything, they’re listening at heart,” says Mr. Dailey. “They just want to be good people. We’ll say to a student, ‘Do you understand why this could be a problem?’ It’s not about shutting them down. Instead, we engage them in a conversation about that behavior. And they genuinely want to know your opinion.”

“We’re never simply punitive,” says Dr. Srebnick. “There’s a willingness among the adults here to look at these 11-year-olds and know that they’re going to be profoundly different as 13-year-olds. We do a good job of remembering that our middle schoolers become great high school students, in part because we didn’t judge them.”

 

 

Guiding Personal Growth

“Middle schoolers go through tremendous changes, and we have the opportunity to help shape that change,” says Mr. Reinhardt. “We want to be part of the conversation about the people they’re going to become. Adolescence is about trying on new hats, so we offer students lots of opportunities to figure out pieces of their identities and find their voices: on stage, on the athletic field, in a club, in a particular subject, on student counsel, or in diversity work.”

 Having to make choices encourages students to reflect on their interests and personal goals, and commit to them in some way. An exciting example of choice in the Middle School is WinterSession, a three-day event held in January. In mixed-grade groups, students dive deeply into immersive learning, often off campus, in subjects such as woodworking, DJing, meditation, architecture, and the stock market. 

Clubs are another important way for students to explore and express both academic and nonacademic interests. Long-standing clubs include Model Congress, Model UN, Student Diversity Council, Mock-Newbery Awards, the Middle School newspaper, the writing club and the service club. More recreational options include a comedy club, a movie club, and a magic club. As with chorus, orchestra, theater, and athletics, clubs also give students opportunities to try on different responsibilities and roles. And clubs are entirely student-driven: students have to find an advisor, collect members’ emails, find a common meeting time, and set the club’s agenda. Through club activities, students are motivated to collaborate, set goals, rally their peers, and practice speaking in public. 

“We try to give the kids as many different experiences as possible,” says Mr. Levitt. “It’s about exposing kids to new things, pushing kids to be uncomfortable. It helps them figure out who they are.” 

Building Relationships 

Parallel to teenagers’ growing internal sense of self is an intensifying outward focus on their relationships with each other. 

But the latter development — interacting constructively with others — usually has the steeper learning curve. After all, 10- and 11-year-olds may not fully understand that what they are thinking is different from what people around them are thinking.

Three students holding a decorated pumpkin

Pumpkin decorating contests are one example of division-wide activities that give advisor groups the opportunity to bond.

Supporting this learning curve is an important way in which the faculty contribute to who the students become. Advisor groups, which meet four times a week, devote a lot of time to activities and discussions that deepen students’ ability to cooperate and compromise. “Advisors convey nuts-and-bolts information to the students,” says Bessie Oster, who leads the advising program with Mr. Reinhardt. “But they also engage students in conversations about fairness and social justice, meet one on one to support their advisees academically, and provide a fun and safe space for students to unwind and be themselves.” 

Students often have a profound effect on each other, and when that effect is managed thoughtfully, it provides a valuable opportunity for peer-to-peer learning. Field Day, a cherished Middle School tradition for the past 15 years, has this effect in mind. Sixteen mixed-grade teams participate in athletic, academic, and spirit challenges — from capture the flag and ultimate football to Trivial Pursuit and team cheers. Eighth graders are expected to lead their teams and are given explicit leadership training at the beginning of the year. 

In my 6th grade advisor group, we always laughed. Not all the kids in your group are going to be your best friends, but it's a chance to make new friends and connect.

— India Brecht, 6th Grade

Eighth grade advisors talk to their students about being role models for the younger students on their teams. “We try to get 8th graders to the point where they feel a sense of responsibility for the day’s success,” says Mr. Dailey. And when younger students see older ones taking on this responsibility, “it’s socially powerful. They know they’re all expected to pay it forward as they get older.”

Middle Schoolers dressed up for Field Day

At Packer, Field Day is exclusive to the Middle School, and it extends beyond September. “Field Day activities” are scheduled throughout the year. Reuniting the mixed-age teams from time to time for special projects and events helps ensure that every student has opportunities to connect with peers outside his or her own grade level and friendship circle. Students’ team affiliations also carry over from year to year so that those connections have a chance to build throughout Middle School. 

These efforts to support relationship-building, says Ms. Mendez, “help create a very strong communal identity in our division.” 

Nurturing Empathy

“With kids’ entrance into the Middle School, there’s a natural progression when they realize the world is so much bigger than they ever imagined,” says Dr. Srebnick. Several activities try to influence this progression by expanding students’ appreciation for difference inside and beyond Packer’s walls.

Chapel Stories is a new weekly event designed by Director of Diversity and Equity Ramón Javier to build community by introducing students to the diversity among them through first-person accounts. Selected faculty and students give short prepared talks sharing how a specific aspect of their identity — such as physical or learning ability, socioeconomic status, or family structure — has helped shape who they are. Gaining insight into the otherwise private experiences of teachers and other students has had a profound impact on the student body, who listen to each story with palpable interest.

Each grade in the Middle School participates in a community service project for the duration of the year, walking in advisor groups to neighborhood organizations. Sixth graders, for instance, volunteer weekly at the First Presbyterian Church’s food pantry, preparing and serving meals to the homeless. They also spearhead a school-wide food drive before Thanksgiving. This year, the entire grade carried 150 bags of donated food to the pantry. 

Group of 6th graders on front steps holding bags from the food drive

Structured service opportunities such as this yield authentic and sincere responses, says Ms. Chain. “After our trip to the food pantry, totally unprompted, my students were sharing their questions and reflections, and brainstorming ‘next steps’ for our service work.” 

“I’m continually impressed by our willingness and ability as a community to come to terms with and contribute to the world outside of Packer,” says first-year Latin teacher Jackie Kazarian. “Educating students to be informed and compassionate human beings is, to me, part of what makes Packer’s Middle School such a warm and joyful academic community.” 

The division’s commitment to develop empathy and understanding beyond the students’ own life experiences can also be seen in the annual Equity Simulation. The day-long event gives students roles to play that spark discussions about fairness and justice. Typically, in advisor groups and Field Day teams, the faculty facilitate student discussions and provide additional information to help put the game-like activities into a real-world context. As students experience several of these simulation exercises over their Middle School years, “the goal is for them to acquire a deeper understanding of identity, privilege, and equity as they approach the Upper School,” says Mr. Javier. 

After the Hunger Banquet, we had a lot of fun decorating bags for God's Love We Deliver. It reminded me how lucky I am to have enough food, and that I am happy and healthy and go to a great school.

— Charlie Michael, 6th Grade

In this year’s “Hunger Banquet” simulation, each student was randomly assigned to one of three global income groups. As the world’s top earners, a lucky fifteen percent of the students enjoyed a breakfast buffet. At the other end of the spectrum, representing the world’s lowest income earners, half of the students were given four crackers for breakfast. During what Ms. Oster considers “the single most powerful day in the Middle School,” the students experienced the abstract realities of global hunger in a way they could relate to more easily. Afterward, many of them expressed a new awareness of food insecurity and of the role of education in reversing poverty. [Read more at www.packer.edu/2015hungerbanquet.] 

Welcoming Families 

At Packer, educating early adolescents is very much a family affair. Students and parents are made to feel welcome in the Middle School office. In the early morning, students often lounge in the office’s inviting armchairs to chat with César Ayala, the division’s administrative assistant. They are equally likely to stop in to speak to the deans or Mr. Reinhardt about a game from the day before, a project they are working on, or a problem they’ve encountered. 

“When I became the Middle School Head, my hope was that kids and families would feel welcome here and see the office as a resource,” says Mr. Reinhardt. “I wanted to make it a place where you go for support, not just where kids and families go when they’re in trouble.”

Communication is integral to this partnership. “Noah’s regular outreach to parents invites them to partner with him and his colleagues to better raise and educate our children,” says parent Karen Wharton P’18. “Our family felt that we were an integral and valued part of the community.”

“We knew that the administration and faculty wanted to hear from parents,” says Matt Brogan P’17. “When Noah extended his hand to each student at the 8th Grade Graduation, each of them gave him a huge hug instead. If the parents had been allowed to, we would have done the same thing!” 

Clare Huntington P’21 sees the profound influence that these years have had on both of her children. “The Middle School has formed Zoe and Sam into the students and people they are today. The ethos of the Middle School — that it can be a place for kids to take risks and find their own voices — has come to life for them.”

 

When asked what contributes most to Packer’s achieving its mission for Middle School students, Mr. Reinhardt says, “Everything! So much comes together to make this place special.”

He continues: “We have extraordinary teachers who understand and appreciate these kids, teachers who are experts in their fields and care so much about their work. Add to that an amazing program of academic classes and extracurricular activities that we are able to offer our students. There’s also this beautiful space — just expanded this year — where we get to spend our days. 

“Most of all, there are the students themselves. There’s a shared joy and openness among the adults and children that makes the hard work incredibly rewarding. 

“And though the kids wouldn’t say it in these words, I think most of them feel the same way. These are students who love to be together, who have deep and meaningful connections with their teachers, who feel a part of this place, and who feel known and seen and heard.”

“Living our mission isn’t something that happens in the ‘in-between spaces’ here,” he concludes. “It’s in everything we do.”

 

— Karin Storm Wood