Why Lower School at St. Andrew’s?
In entering my new role, our Head of School, Mark Toth, asked me what I believe to be the most relevant questions for parents during their school decision-making process. Questions that come to mind include, Why the Lower School at St. Andrew’s? Why make the investment here? What is unique about an independent school such as St. Andrew’s?
These questions do not hit far from home. Both as an educator and parent, I know the mixed emotions that choosing a new school can bring. Transitions can be hard. I think I am more accustomed than most to change, being the daughter of a career Navy Captain, as we moved up and down the east coast and overseas, entering new schools and communities on a regular basis. Yet, even for me, as accustomed to change as I am, I considered the question carefully. As the mother of young children, I had to both ask and answer this question, “Why St. Andrew’s?”. Let me share with you how I answer this question, for my own children and for every student within our walls.
The answer is both simple and complex: Beginnings Matter. Where we spend our time and with whom we spend it matters. And we know from psychology, the most crucial and influential time to our formation as people and as students are our earliest years. It matters where and with whom my children and your children spend their time.
I had the pleasure of meeting some of the parents in the Lower School over a book study this spring on Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. If there is one central and important premise of this book, it is that what often appears as a product of chance is actually the accumulation of not-so-random circumstances. The people and places with which we surround ourselves profoundly shape us and influence us more than we often realize.
So what is so special about this place, about the people at St. Andrew’s? At St. Andrew’s, more than any other educational community I know, the student matters most. We embrace a philosophy and approach that recognizes that each child comes to us with unique backgrounds, dreams, and goals and that it is our responsibility to provide a nurturing environment that helps each student be successful. As an independent school, we have the ability to tailor and modify instruction to meet each student where they are at and then help them excel. This doesn’t mean watering down standards. Often, doing what is in the best interest of the child means not compromising and holding standards high. What distinguishes St. Andrew’s is that we provide a safe and nurturing environment in which each child is encouraged to take risks, to stretch and challenge themselves to their fullest potential, always taking care to give the support and guidance they need to be successful.
This philosophy is manifested in an interdisciplinary, theme-based curriculum beginning in our 3 year-old pre-kindergarten class and carried through our fourth grade. Learning is integrated across disciplines with the intention of allowing students to see the connection and relevance of their learning to the world around them. While using text and materials that are linked to national and cores standards, we are not required to march our students in lockstep fashion towards some arbitrary goal or test score. We implement our curriculum with an individualized approach to learning that engages students in authentic application and assessment of their knowledge. This is a powerful model of learning that embraces students’ prior experiences and unique attributes while empowering them with some decision making around their own learning within a guided structure. We combine the traditional best practices of elementary education with technological and instructional innovations to make our classrooms truly relevant.
These are the reasons why, ultimately, I chose St. Andrew’s as an educator and a mother. Why the Lower School at St. Andrew’s? Because beginnings matter and at St. Andrew’s I know the faculty and administration work tirelessly to bring these beginnings the attention, energy, and expertise they deserve.