Lower School academic Life
Young children have a natural love of learning and exploration. In the Lower School, the accountable classroom builds on those natural inclinations by introducing children to the fundamentals of intellectual inquiry within a safe, affectionate community characterized by close attention to each student.
The Lower School accountable classroom has its foundation in three equally important elements: the team-teaching model; small class sizes; and the use of differentiation.
- Lower School class sizes are purposefully kept very small to ensure that each child gets the attention and guidance he or she needs. The student/teacher ratio in the Lower School is 8:1, and the average class size per homeroom teacher or specialist is 12. Learning groups in both the homeroom and specialist classrooms can be as small as 5 children.
- In the team-teaching model, each grade-level homeroom is led by two teachers whose academic credentials are matched by a love of teaching and a deep understanding of the emotional needs of young children. Having two teachers in every classroom means that students receive a great deal of individualized attention, and teachers have the benefit of a close colleague with whom to collaborate on planning, curriculum, and student development and evaluation.
- Differentiation is the practice of meeeting students' individual needs through ongoing assessment and flexible groupings. In the Lower School, differentiation is used carefully with the understanding that each student's quantitative, reading, and writing abilities are constantly evolving. Throughout the course of the year, homeroom teachers and specialists make continual adjustments to individual and group instruction based on what they observe in each child.
As a result, Lower School students from Kindergarten through Grade 5 develop exceptional academic skills in addition to the foundational skills that will serve them as they move up to the Middle School: excellent communication and public speaking skills; a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility to the community; organization and time management skills; and a sense of pride in themselves and their school. Students also develop a deep affection and respect for their teachers and peers, which is evident in the sense of community and warmth that permeates the entire Lower School.
Meet the Principal: Holly Fidler
Holly Fidler joined SPA as the Principal of the Lower School in 2014. She holds a B.A. from Emory University and a M.A. from the Ohio State University; she is also an alumna of St. George’s School, a boarding school in Rhode Island. While studying at Emory, Fidler volunteered teaching elementary science and dance in the Atlanta public schools and also served in the Big Sister program. After returning to her native Ohio and earning her master’s degree, she joined Laurel School, an independent girls’ school outside Cleveland. At Laurel, she taught and directed the North Star Collaborative, an innovative all-girls educational partnership pairing Laurel students with girls attending a single-gender Cleveland public school. “Teaching was not something I chose --it was something that chose me,” Fidler says, noting that she observes that same sense of calling and commitment in the faculty members she now works with in SPA’s Lower School. “They have a real openness and willingness to look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how it feeds into helping children be successful at they move on to Middle School,” Fidler says. “There’s positive energy, good will, and a desire to do more and be better.” Email Holly