EducationPrivate Schools

Through Our Teachers’ Eyes
Get to know metro Atlanta’s private schools from the educators who call them home

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When one of metro Atlanta’s private or independent schools wants to help people learn more about it, the admissions team often encourages inquisitive individuals to talk to current students and their parents about everything from the school’s history and mission to its academic offerings and extracurricular activities. Collectively, those testimonials are a powerful tool that provides potential students and their families with a glimpse into what their own experience would be like at that educational institution. Yet, there’s also another equally compelling source that can—and should—be used to offer insight into how and why a school would be an excellent option to consider: the teachers.

Here, KNOWAtlanta Magazine offers a unique perspective of Atlanta’s private schools through the eyes of the educators who are in the classroom every single day. Serving students from kindergarten to 12th grade, these teachers have a keen understanding of the schools they choose to call their professional homes. Their points of view help shine a light on the way their schools—and they—approach everything from curriculum design to teaching strategies to student development. And as you consider the educational opportunities available in metro Atlanta, it might be helpful to take their impressions into account. It could make all the difference as your family gets ready to settle down in the ATL.

The Right Choice

Choosing the right school in which to teach is important for all educators, as finding the best possible fit allows a teacher to serve students fully while pursuing and achieving both professional and personal goals. And every teacher has his or her own reasons for selecting a school.

“I felt an immediate sense of wonder and magic as I entered the gates at Trinity School for my interview six years ago. The wrought iron gates depicting happy, dancing children set the scene for what to anticipate inside the gates. I was not disappointed! While the environment itself was warm and inviting, it was Trinity School’s child-centered focus and commitment to teaching the whole child (physical, social-emotional and cognitive) that aligned with my personal and professional beliefs, confirming that [it] was the right place for me.”
-April Patton, Pre-K and Super Scientists summer camps for rising Pre-K through 1st graders, Trinity School

“I am a proud Greater Atlanta Christian School alum, so teaching at GAC is ‘home.’ Teaching creatively while sharing my faith and discipling my students is my greatest joy, and I’m proud to tell others that I teach at GAC. Its reputation is second to none.”
-Ansley Keiser, 5th grade Bible, Science and English/Language Arts, Greater Atlanta Christian School 

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The Davis Academy

“I began teaching at The Davis Academy after my children enrolled. I saw firsthand that the school is more than a place of learning. It is a loving community where the individual needs of every child are met. I wanted to be part of the amazing teaching and learning I saw in my own children’s classrooms and was excited to have the opportunity to join the team.”
-Julie Herman Cohen, Reading for 6th through 8th Grades, The Davis Academy

My role is to build a scaffolding, to allow the students to stay within a range—but after that, my role is to observe and assist as the students build the rest of the structure.”
-Brad Droke, Director of iDiploma, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

A Distinctive Approach

Dedicated educators spend years honing their teaching philosophies. When they find the approaches that work for them, they apply them in the classroom with confidence and skill.

“Every student has a voice and deserves an environment to share that voice. The student should be better after stepping into the classroom and should always be learning. My role is to build a scaffolding, to allow the students to stay within a range—but after that, my role is to observe and assist as the students build the rest of the structure.”
-Brad Droke, Director of iDiploma, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

“I believe that every child has been given the gifts to make a positive impact on the world. Children need to know that they are loved for their individual talents, personalities and learning styles. I strive to create a classroom community where all students feel valued and safe to express themselves in their own unique ways. My role as the teacher is to provide active learning experiences and opportunities that will support the growth of every student to reach their full potential and create lifelong learners.”
-Diane Winfield, 1st Grade, Mount Pisgah Christian School

“I believe wholeheartedly in teaching kids over teaching math. While I do have a passion for and deep understanding of my subject, I care much more deeply for my students. I have a plan coming into each day, but that plan is loose and changes from class to class as I read my students and understand what they need. I never try to get hung up on what I thought I was going to accomplish, but instead on helping each student truly understand what we are doing and find the confidence to approach each problem.”
-Ashley Cochran, 8th Grade Math (Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry), Mount Paran Christian School

Tackling Challenges

Teaching is a challenging profession. Fortunately, the educators at metro Atlanta’s private schools have both the knowledge and support they need to overcome any difficulties they face.

“Regardless of where you teach, I believe differentiating for students is the biggest challenge. Students enter a classroom with a wide range of prior knowledge as well as interest in the content. Keeping everyone engaged is challenging; however, the small class sizes we enjoy at Whitefield certainly help me as a teacher in taking each and every child to the next level.”
-Beth Figaretti, 6th Grade Life Science, Whitefield Academy

“My greatest challenges are making sure that I am relatable to the students and keeping up with technology. Woodward does a great job of ensuring the faculty has the technology and training needed to create and teach in the classroom. Staying relatable is my responsibility.”
-Dana Jefferson, Middle School Algebra (8th Grade, Enriched College Prep Level), Woodward Academy

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Mount Paran Christian School

“There is not enough time to do everything. Teaching is obviously rewarding, but it is also tough and exhausting. Our school has a motivation team who thinks of creative ways to encourage us—from a chocolate station to prayer e-mails to funny memes. We also have an early release day on Wednesdays to have time for professional learning.”
-Kelly Fletcher, Advanced Placement Literature and Composition, Dual-enrolled English 101, College Prep English II and IV, Strong Rock Christian School

A Superlative Curriculum

How well a school operates depends heavily on the development of a solid curriculum for students of all ages. Metro Atlanta’s private schools place great emphasis on the programs of study they provide to their pupils.

“Our curriculum is constantly adapting to the needs and demands of the students. We as teachers are given the freedom to develop curriculum and lessons that change as the students change. No class, no student, no grade year is the same, so every year we have to change and adapt to make sure we are teaching for the future, not for today.”
-David Leflar, 8th Grade Social Studies, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School

“One of the things I love about Greater Atlanta Christian School is our focus on making sure that there is a seamless transition between our Lower School, Middle School and High School courses. We have time built into the school year, where each of our kindergarten through 12th grade subject areas are able to meet and ensure that our vertical alignment is solid. Students can expect to be challenged and taught at a high level in each of their classes.”
-Michael Washington, 10th and 12th Grade Math (AP Calculus BC and Honors Algebra 2), Greater Atlanta Christian School

“[Our curriculum] is challenging, but it might not look like the challenging curriculum that you grew up with because it’s created to prepare our students to succeed in today’s rapidly-changing world.”
-Elly Bookman, 7th and 8th Grade Literature, Writing and Social Studies, Paideia School

A Strong Staff

Teachers do not work in a vacuum, and collaboration has become a significant part of today’s educational environment. And these educators enjoy the interaction they get to have with their colleagues.

“Trinity houses the most dedicated and talented group of teachers I have ever seen. In addition, we support each other completely. Through good communication and caring actions, we are a true family.”
-Kathy Bruyn, 5th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies, Trinity School

“The people who teach at Mount Pisgah are 100 percent authentic in all aspects of their lives.”
-Latonia Anthony, 10th Grade Chemistry (Honors and Basic Concepts), Mount Pisgah Christian School

“The teaching staff at The Davis Academy is amazing! They are not just co-workers, but my second family. Everyone cares about each other, and we support one another in many ways. we are all incredibly dedicated to our jobs and to our students.”
-Stacy Schleicher, 3rd Grade, The Davis Academy

I strive to create a classroom community where all students feel valued and safe to express themselves in their own unique ways.
-Diane Winfield, 1st Grade, Mount Pisgah Christian School

The Overall Experience

Every teacher wants students to leave the classroom feeling like they’ve accomplished great things. That’s why they strive every day to provide an exceptional learning experience from beginning to end.

“Mount Paran truly focuses on teaching kids using a discovery approach and helping students understand that it isn’t that they can’t do something, but that they can’t do it YET. We utilize problem solving, questioning and deeper levels of thinking. We get to know our students and how they learn so we can best teach them.”
-Ashley Cochran, 8th Grade Math (Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry), Mount Paran Christian School

“It takes a village to create an engaged, positive, thankful and globally aware student, and that is what undergirds Woodward’s teaching/learning philosophy. Teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors and parents work hand-in-hand to develop not just a student’s academic and intellectual acumen, but also their athletic prowess and artistic abilities in order to create the whole person.”
-Dr. Bill Nicholson, 9th through 12th Grade Modern World History (Honors) and AP U.S. History, Woodward Academy

“We cling tightly to our mission statement and consider education a partnership with families. As a result, our community of families is like a village working together to support one another as we raise our children not only in academics, but also socially, emotionally and physically. I am blessed not only to be a teacher but also a parent of three Whitefield students. I don’t ‘work’ at Whitefield—rather, I choose to spend these years of my life investing in the next generation of leaders.”
-Beth Figaretti, 6th Grade Life Science, Whitefield Academy

For More Information

The Davis Academy, davisacademy.org

Greater Atlanta Christian School, greateratlantachristian.org

Mount Paran Christian School, mtparanschool.com

Mount Pisgah Christian School, mountpisgahschool.org

Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, mountvernonschool.org

Paideia School, paideiaschool.org

Strong Rock Christian School, strongrockchristianschool.com

Trinity School, trinityatl.org 

Whitefield Academy, whitefieldacademy.com

Woodward Academy, woodward.edu

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