Dear Dr Jorgensen! Thank you for blazing trails at Almaden Country School by helping to regularly apply current research-based practices in the global education field to the classrooms at Almaden Country! Your educational leadership is crucial to developing young minds in the 21st century!
The teachers at ACS are highly skilled and have a tremendous amount of experience. It is clear that they want to do right for each child and that they love teaching which I think goes a long way. They are approachable and answer my questions. They are supportive.
The homework policy is very thoughtful. Just 10 minutes at first grade, 20 minutes for second grade, and so on and so forth. Teachers carve out some time for students to work on what they need to in class as much as possible including their projects, and the administrators are clear that homework is about quality, not quantity.
The students work often on teams or groups to solve a problem/challenge and they come across obstacles they have to figure out together what to do or how to resolve it. The projects are often complex, with some structure. The students are in musicals from grades 1-5 and for some this is out of their comfort zone -- they manage to pull together and put on a terrific show no matter what. These are just a couple of examples.
While the students are invited to have a voice and share their thoughts, they do so in a respectful manner. The school embraces positive discipline and the students are to consider their actions and decisions to see what they could have done differently.
Makers classes encourage design thinking to get the students to look at a problem from the perspective of someone else and how they might solve it, Big Buddy program encourages the Middle School students to mentor and look out for the youngest students and there is community service at every level in the school.
ACS has a Big Buddy program that really unites the student community -- it teaches the older students to look out for their buddies and make them feel safe and important. The home room classes have weekly meetings to talk about issues the students are facing, speech classes push the students to think about larger ethical dilemmas, social justice classes have them considering identity, culture, and different paradigms, and community service in a wide range of forms encourage the students to consider others outside of themselves.
ACS brings to mind the quintessential school experience: the warm, inclusive community, kids laughing and having fun, approachable teachers and administrators, and of course their approach to education which is that the student is more than their brain. My kids thrive here because the teachers develop relationships with each child, really get to know them (due to small class sizes), they get to learn by doing (and not by sitting rigidly at a desk doing worksheet after worksheet), and because the school offers so much opportunities for my kiddos to figure out why they like! ACS offers drama, coding, makers, robotics, athletics, music, debate, community service, choir, and other cool STEM classes like Biomimicry -- how awesome is that?
ACS manages to feel like how schools used to -- intimate, caring, engaging -- while still continuing to expand their pedagogical approaches to include Project-Based Learning, Mission Skills, STEAM, and social justice. Its not all fun and games here (though it may look like it) -- I learned that on average, over 95% of the graduating classes get into a private high school of their choice, place in advanced classes in High School, and score high in standardized tests. My kids may be playing Marcy Cook games and having fun but I know underneath it all, there's serious math and serious math love happening and I love it. Just don't tell the kids it's homework. Sssshhhh. :)
Julia Hatch is one of those infectious music teachers -- she embodies that which she teaches: passion, movement, and being yourself. My son has become confident and enjoys classical music, composers, history and playing his ukulele more because of her influence!
ACS has been a wonderful school for my children to grow unto responsible young people while in a nurturing environment. The teachers are great and the hands-on learning experience is awesome. Their Drama program is the best in terms of developing their public speaking skills - they are so confident!