Friends loving God together
Our first priority in creating school culture is to cultivate the fear of the Lord. Christ is our end and goal. He is our Lord whose commandments are sweeter than honey, and in whom is eternal life. Therefore, everything about the Saint Andrew Academy aims to inculcate true piety, wisdom, and prayer by witnessing to His love and power as seen in the glory of our Orthodox faith and worship.
Secondly, we must begin with a true understanding of human nature. Humans are frail and sinful, yes; but also humanity is “made in the image of God.” Our potential is to be bearers of His likeness, resplendent with all the virtues of divine wisdom, virtue, holiness, peace, joy, and love.
With these two truths in mind, Saint Andrew Academy culture is a place of lovingkindness, cooperation and synergy, joyfulness, and an eager striving after truth. We learn about history, mathematics, science, and other subjects in order to know the truth about God, His world, and ourselves. We practice the highest virtues of faith, hope, and love with each other because we must learn together in community as we mutually strive toward knowing God.
All ages interact
As we witness on Sundays in St. Andrew’s parish culture, older and younger students from various families can still treat each other like beloved siblings, supporting each other. The realities of a small school, and the formation of a House System will make success in this arena highly likely. In addition, volunteer tutoring allows older students to help younger ones, build volunteer hours, save parents money, and foster synergy.
We learn in rhythm with the liturgical life.
In addition to morning chapel every day, the rhythms of work, rest, and liturgical worship are scheduled around Great Feasts. We schedule school assemblies for major Feast days, and we incorporate festal traditions in age-appropriate ways. In addition, the daily life of the student body is directed with pastoral care: Clergy serve as school advisors, assist with spiritual direction and teaching, assist with discipline, and offer their spiritual encouragement through leading chapel services, giving sermons, etc.
We work hard yet practice true leisure.
Especially younger grades enjoy one hour or more of recess daily, as well as nature studies or PE outside. All academic levels aim for no busy work. There is minimal homework (just reading, drills, and projects) assigned until grade 6. In grades 7-12, homework consists of reading, writing, projects, and assigned practice. We want students to have time and energy to engage in self-directed reading and learning, to volunteer, to attend services, to play sports or engage in hobbies, and to spend time with family. (This perhaps is hardest as students in 10th and 11th grade, when studies may occupy the majority of student’s time.) The type of hard work students engage in is “humane” hard work — not immoderate but balancing academic goals with the rest of a peaceful, holy life.
We serve the parish and community.
Academy students are not narrowly focused on their own individual achievements. Rather, as individuals and as a community, we aim to benefit and delight our families, churches, godparents, grandparents, and friends through a variety of means, such as recitals, performances, and engaging in service.
We build a robust intellectual community of students, families, and teachers
The primary purpose of a school is to educate young people. However, adults can only call young people to a life that they themselves (the adults) are already living. Therefore, our school is a locus of learning that intersects all ages — students, parents, staff, faculty, and clergy. Our school invites our students (as junior members) to grow into the life we are living, rather than being exclusively devoted to them (as if we adults no longer need to learn anything!). To this end, we encourage parents and faculty to continue to grow and learn.
Our teachers love teaching! And they love children and love learning!
In order to provide the most excellent educational product that we can, our primary “providers” are teachers. The faculty is hired, trained, and developed with an eye toward a unified and enthusiastic vision for our children. We hire joyful teachers who inspire hope in their students, bring liveliness to the classroom, and encouragement to parents.
Our students are mentored in learning and growing as persons (just as much as they are taught subjects)
Related to the above, we do not merely teach the subject, but we teach the pupil. Students are, in many ways, apprentice learners. They must be given the tools to succeed and also the freedom and autonomy to practice using those tools, however imperfectly at first. Teachers equip and empower students, letting them use their own mental muscles. We do not micromanage.
Our administration teaches, and teachers help administrate.
A fully functioning school requires the synergistic cooperation of parents, school administration, and teachers. To optimize the amount of the school’s effort, energy, time, and money focused on providing the primary “product” — that is, the education of students — 100% of our school leadership are also classroom teachers, and more than 50% of our classroom teachers have an additional responsibility in the overall flourishing of the school: from IT, marketing, fundraising, recruiting, admissions, to curriculum design, staff training, and personnel.
We have a “faculty of friends”.
Related to the above, our primary “product,” (the education of children), grows naturally out of our culture of goodwill and friendship among the adults working and serving at the school.
Our parents and families are involved.
A school is not a place where parents sign over their parental responsibility to teachers, but rather an additional team of helpers in that sacred responsibility.