~ Blue Mountain School is hosting an Open House on Saturday, August 15th from 11 — 3. The following story was published in The Floyd Press on 8/13/09.
There are big changes at Blue Mountain School (BMS), the independent school on 8 acres off Christiansburg Pike in Floyd. Although the school will no be longer be identified as a “Parent Run Cooperative,” parents are still involved, says the new school director Shelly Emmett.
Emmett, who grew up in Michigan and moved to Floyd with her family from Rhode Island in 2006, is the school’s first full time director, a position that was recently voted in by the Blue Mountain School Board of Directors, which consists largely of school parents.
With a background in community-based and school-based counseling, Emmett previously worked as a school counselor and then as a director at Tekoa, a residential facility for adolescents. Her children Madeline, 10, and Layla, 7 ½ have attended BMS in the past and are currently enrolled, along with their 4 year old brother Alonzo.
Emmett speaks with enthusiasm of the school as a living and growing entity, and in a calm and focused manner she describes the new developments in its evolution. For more than 25 years BMS has been operating as a non-profit organization providing hands-on learning to elementary and middle school aged children, an approach that will remain but one that is being reviewed and refined.
The educational philosophy currently being pursued at the school is referred to as Contemplative Progressive Education. The progressive model refers to a mission of “promoting social-emotional learning and critical thinking through experiential activities and creative expression in a collaborative, project-based curriculum,” Emmett says.
The contemplative aspect of the school’s philosophy reflects its commitment to assist students and staff in developing awareness, concentration, and insight. This will be accomplished through a combination of approaches, such as silence, movement, poetry, story telling, meditation, inquiry, and modeling.
“I know that the Contemplative Progressive model of education has the ability to act as a subtle but powerful agent of social change. If we can truly put into practice each of the elements of our educational model, we will have initiated a way of being with children, a way of educating children, and a way of growing them that is rare,” Emmett says.
Along with administrative duties, Emmett will be responsible for supervising the teaching staff and monitoring the quality of education at the school. Outside counsel and consultation from others in the field have been employed to assist the school in designing guidelines and staying abreast of latest developments in education. Emmett is being joined by several new teachers for the 2009/2010 school year.
Amy Myers is an accredited Waldorf Early Childhood teacher with previous teaching experience. As the school’s new Early Childhood teacher, she plans on focusing on crafts, outdoor play, storytelling, puppetry, and music. “Our classroom will be a warm, loving space – much like a home away from home,” she says.
Dalton Bodtke, the school’s Lower Elementary class teacher, says, “In my training to become a teacher, I have taught many children, but I have learned from them as well. I believe in striking a healthy balance between structure and freedom and in the importance of educating the mind, body, and spirit – thus nurturing the whole child.”
Corey Avellar, who will be teaching an Upper Elementary class, has 20 years experience teaching preschool through eighth grade. She has led camps at the Roanoke Science Museum and Reynolds Museum and enjoys exploring the world through theater, music, dance, art, horseback riding, and archeological digs. Avellar, who has taught at the Blue Mountain School in the past, says her goal is for her students “to be disappointed when they have to stop school for summer vacation.”
Jamie Reynolds will be teaching a second Upper Elementary class. He has a long history of working with young people in his home country of Australia. Reynolds has experience as a youth mentor, activities director, and counselor, and most recently worked as a substitute teacher for the Floyd County School system. He served as a BMS board member and as board president in the past and has been influential in forging the school’s new direction.
Other BMS staff includes three Enrichment teachers. Sarah McCarthy will offer yoga and contemplative practices. Lora Giessler is on staff as the school’s art teacher and Kari Kovick will head up the music program.
Another important change at BMS is that the school is seeking accreditation through the Virginia Association for Independent Schools, which will involve a two year self-study process of self-evaluation and visits and evaluations by members of the association. Opportunities and workshops for professional development for teachers and staff will be available through the program.
As in the past, BMS does not administer standardized testing, and students and teachers at the school work together to complete a portfolio of the students’ work for review several times throughout the school year. The portfolio is used in place of grades.
BMS classes begin on September 8th with a tuition range of $125 to $400, depending on the number of days a student will be attending. Some scholarships and parent work-trade options are available. An open house with refreshments and planned children’s activities is scheduled for Saturday the 15th from 11 – 3 p.m. Everyone is invited to come and meet the teachers and tour the school, Emmett says. ~ Colleen Redman
More about the Blue Mountain School story HERE.