The ISACS New Teacher Institute (NTI) was hosted this year by Wolcott School in Chicago. Eager to see this program in action, I spent part of each of its four days on campus. This brought an opportunity to meet Head of School Miriam Pike and learn more about Wolcott.
One of the newest schools in the ISACS membership, Wolcott opened its doors for the first time in August 2013. In that first year, they welcomed 33 ninth and tenth graders. As those original students progress to the next grade this fall, another class will join the student body, bringing enrollment to the mid-50’s. Wolcott looks forward to its first graduation in June 2016.
Imagine having the opportunity to create a school from the ground up – communicating a clear mission, establishing program and policies, and outfitting the space to fit that foundation. Wolcott serves college-bound high school students with learning differences by offering small class sizes, instruction in the mode best suited to the student, and a rich and academically-demanding program. All students take Spanish. All students read Beowulf. The school points to its arts program as particularly strong.
Wolcott is set in a vintage Chicago building — built in 1926 as the home of the Union League Boys Club — now renovated to LEED-NC Gold standards through the design work of Larry Kearns of Wheeler Kearns Architects and outfitted with contemporary, modular furniture and an abundance of instructional technology.
What one aspect of the school would Miriam Pike like to highlight for her ISACS colleagues? Wolcott’s aim is to prepare its students for success in college. For the high school student of superior to average intelligence with a learning difference, Wolcott can be a path to a more successful school experience. The student managing in a more conventional independent school program with substantial tutoring and other types of supplemental support may thrive here, achieving both greater academic success and a more balanced life.
For more information about Wolcott School, contact Rachel Spiro, Director of Admissions, at email@example.com
My first school visit in my new capacity as ISACS President was close to home — just five blocks up the street in Lakeview, my northside Chicago community. I met my host, Middle School Head Motoko Maegawa, at the school desk, and we began our visit with a walk to the nearby Horizon Cafe for breakfast. Motoko is the Chair of ISACS Equity & Justice Committee and, in this role, serves on the ISACS Board. So, over coffee and a “Kentucky Scramble,” we enjoyed getting to know each other and the opportunity to talk about our shared work.
We then returned to school for my introduction to Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School. BZAEDS, founded in 1946, describes itself as a Jewish Day School combining “the best of Jewish learning and traditions and the best of innovative educational practices in a rigorous and nurturing learning environment.” The school serves 540 students in nursery through grade 8.
Asked to offer one highlight of the school that might be of interest to ISACS colleagues, Motoko pointed to their eighth grade experience, which includes a World Issues course. Based in the belief that their students must interact in a pluralistic society, develop humility, and learn to deal with complexity, the class traces the history of Israel from ancient to modern times. The school is committed to strengthening students’ connection to Jews in Israel and in communities around the world. From the time students are in Early Childhood, they learn about Israeli culture and history and all students have the opportunity to interact with Israeli students each year during the Mifgash, an eighth grade exchange program with a sister-city in Israel. One of the culminating experiences of the BZAEDS education is the eighth grade trip to Israel, the Tiyul, which Motoko had the opportunity to attend this past year.
For more information about the BZAEDS middle school, or ISACS Equity & Justice Committtee, readers can contact Motoko at firstname.lastname@example.org. General inquiries about BZAEDS should be directed to Karen Goodman Minter, Director of Marketing and Communications, at email@example.com.
If you could highlight one aspect of your school for your colleagues in the Independent Schools Association of the Central States, what would it be?
ISACS President Claudia Daggett will be visiting schools throughout the fall and winter months — stopping by — to get to know school leaders, learn about the diversity of schools in our association, and ask that very question.
Beginning in mid-July, watch this space for the answers.