During school vacation week last month, Bob Sylvain, John Tocci and I trekked down to Potomac, Maryland to visit The Heights, a school that has served as a model and an inspiration for us in launching the great adventure of Sparhawk Academy. The Heights has been educating boys in grades 3 through 12 for over forty years. They were in full session during our visit but many members of their faculty and staff set aside a considerable portion of their time to meet with us. We were especially interested in learning from the Heads of the Middle School (grades 6-8) and the Lower School (grades 3-5). Both men have over a decade of experience in teaching boys; they offered many insights that only a seasoned educator would be able to offer. We also spent time with the Head of School, Alvaro de Vicente, who has been providing a wealth of wisdom to us since we first began to consider this project in earnest a few years ago.
The consistent message mentioned by all faculty and staff throughout our visit was the importance of setting the right tone from the first day of classes. The themes they emphasized will sound familiar to those of you who have already heard us speak about these same things: professional excellence among faculty members; instilling a lifelong love of learning; teaching boys how to use their freedom wisely; encouraging parents in their role as the primary educators of their children; the natural integration of faith into everyday life. Clearly, The Heights has successfully embedded these tenets into the very core of their program.
Now that we are in the midst of the admissions process and meeting our first families, we are seeing first-hand just how attractive this vision is to parents and how much it resonates with their own instincts about education. These first families will play a very important role is helping us “get it right” right from the start. And, indeed, the circle of interested people is widening as more folks learn about our adventure. Even the next generation – those whose children are too young for Sparhawk and even those young married couples who do not yet have children – are recognizing that our approach to teaching boys make a great deal of sense.
As I have mentioned previously, from a Board perspective we have already raised our gaze to contemplate the 3-5 year horizon for the school’s growth. Relying on God’s grace, we are applying ourselves to make sure that we are ready for the years ahead.