Daycroft Montessori School


The final stop on my fall Michigan tour was Daycroft Montessori School in Ann Arbor where I visited Head of School Seth Kopald. A Michigan native and Montessori-trained school leader, Seth began his tenure in July 2014.

Over lunch at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, I learned about Seth’s path to Daycroft. Then we headed back to school for a tour and a peek at classes in session. As we arrived at school, Seth invited me to join him in a walk through a grove of trees at the entrance to the campus, a routine he practices each morning to set his intentions for the day.

IMG_0023Daycroft serves 170 students in preschool through grade six configured in mixed-age classes on two campuses. The school’s mission is to provide a personalized learning environment that appreciates individual differences, nurtures the whole child, and enables students to develop at their own pace and achieve to their full potential.

What one aspect of Daycroft would Seth most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Says Seth: “With two teachers per classroom, we provide individualized education while supporting the whole child: academically by creating tailored work plans, socially by providing a culture of support and kindness, and creatively by providing an assortment of fine art specials.” 

Eton Academy

Eton Academy, September 2014 (2)

I was off down the road to Eton Academy, in Birmingham, Michigan, to meet with ISACS Board member and Head of School Pete Pullen.

Eton’s mission is to educate students with reading, attention and other learning challenges — building academic skills and self-confidence in an accepting and supportive environment. The school’s approach to meeting the needs of students with learning challenges includes:

  • Provide a positive, non-threatening, and nurturing environment in classes of no more than 10 students.
  • Build academic skills and learning strategies by using multi-sensory and neurodevelopmental approaches in a literacy-focused curriculum.
  • Provide personalized instruction by continually evaluating a student’s academic, social, and emotional needs.
  • Hire compassionate and caring faculty who are committed to educating students with learning challenges and have a commitment to further their teacher education.
  • Promote student development by recognizing student strengths, teaching skills that support social success, strengthening academic and school transitions.
  • Teach students to self-advocate by identifying their strengths and challenges and understanding their learning styles.
  • Provide ongoing parent education and support to promote the partnership between school and home and share Eton’s resources with the greater community.

IMG_0018Eton Academy was established in 1986, formed from the Adventure School, a tutorial program founded in 1980 for students with learning disabilities. Today the co-ed day school serves 185 students in grades 1-12.

What aspect of Eton Academy would Pete Pullen like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Pete is excited and passionate about the school’s Training, Learning, and Coaching Division that provides direct training and coaching to Eton teachers in an effort for teachers to master and continue to develop the school’s specialized instruction used to support different learners.  Eton has a staff of trainers who have the exclusive role of supporting teachers and instruction.

Cranbrook Schools

IMG_0012My travels took me next to Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield, Michigan, for the Association of Independent Schools in Michigan (AIMS) fall heads meeting in conjunction with the AIMS Admission & Marketing Committee. After an opportunity to meet and greet and a shared look at trends in admission and marketing in the Central States, I spent the afternoon touring the campus with Arlyce Seibert, Director of Schools.

Cranbrook Schools is one of the largest among ISACS members, with over 1600 students and a campus of 319 acres. This was my first campus tour by golf cart!

Cranbrook Quad
Cranbrook Quad

Cranbrook is comprised of three schools all on the same campus, joined in 1985 as a single institution under the umbrella of the Cranbrook Educational Community (which was established in 1970). Today, the Lower School, including Brookside School and the Vlasic Early Childhood Center, serves junior kindergarten to grade 5 in a co-educational, day school environment. In middle school, students move to a single-sex day school model at Kingswood Middle School for Boys and Kingswood Middle School for Girls. At the high school level, students enter Cranbrook Upper School, a co-educational program that includes a boarding option.

Cranbrook Science Center, AIMS meeting venue, fall 2014

Sharing the grounds with the schools are the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Museum, the Cranbrook Institute of Science, and the original home of Cranbrook founders George and Ellen Booth. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the campus features architecture by Eliel Saarinen and other noted architects and works by Swedish sculptor Carl Milles.

What aspect of Cranbrook Schools would Arlyce most like to highlight for her ISACS colleagues?  Arylce points to Cranbrook’s developmental approach to gender configuration, giving students both a single-sex education in the critical middle school period and the advantages of co-education in the early and later years.

Quest Academy

DSC_0199After my Evansville-Louisville-Lexington trek, I had the opportunity to make a school visit closer to home. A visit to Quest Academy for a meeting with ISACS Board member and Accreditation Review Committee Chair Deborah Chen, Director of Finance & Operations, included a tour of the school and time with Head of School Ben Hebebrand. I had been on campus before, in my earlier Elementary School Heads Association role. It was a treat to see the school again, this time from an ISACS perspective.

DSC_0202Quest Academy, located in Palatine, Illlinois, serves 304 students in preschool through grade 8 hailing from 72 communities in the Chicagoland area. Founded in 1982, its mission is to provide gifted children with a challenging curriculum and a nurturing environment. The admission process includes an I.Q. test for applicants for kindergarten through grade 8.

DSC_0201Curriculum is based on Understanding by Design and emphasizes both academics and arts. It is among the first ISACS schools to establish a makerspace including an early pilot of the use of 3D printing. Character education is an integral component of the school’s program, with leadership in this area developed through the theme of “Knights of the Round Table,” in keeping with the school’s mascot.

What aspect of Quest Academy would Ben Hebebrand most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Ben points to the authentic learning experience that takes place at Quest, in which students have the opportunity to dig deeply into a topic, following their interests and using their full abilities.