Whenever asked, “What do you teach?” my reply is always the same, “Students.”
Here at Greenbrier Academy, we strive to teach people, not subjects. We believe we must meet the student where she is, get to know her, develop a trust with her, and then help her to grow academically. To foster this trust, our faculty looks for opportunities to interact with the girls outside as well as inside the classroom. Teachers and students even eat lunch together, which promotes a sense of community and fosters conversation that allows us to see each other, not only as students and teachers, but as people. Students are encouraged to have a hand in decorating and designing classrooms so they view that space as their classroom rather than the teacher’s classroom. Student input on projects is sought and highly valued.
Formally, Greenbrier Academy operates under the accreditation of the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and follows the WVDE content standards for curriculum. GBA is a member of, and accredited through, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. All GBA teachers maintain a professional teaching license and many have advanced degrees. Equally important is the variety of lifetime experiences that each instructor brings to the classroom. Teaching is a second career for several of our instructors. This allows them to bring a unique perspective that encourages their students to focus on real-world relevance of the subject they teach. Our teachers, like our students, come from across the United States and internationally. This fosters an educational environment with a wide reference point that benefits from each other’s experiences. It also cultivates a community that is built on respect and acceptance of others.
GBA teachers work closely together with all parts of our community to meet our students’ needs. This includes weekly meetings between the teacher, therapist, residential advisors, and students of each family unit as well as weekly trainings for our teachers by our clinical director and two weekly meetings of the academic faculty for training and to review each of our student’s academic progress and needs.
The two major priorities in teaching at GBA are:
1) To promote a love of learning. We have this love as small children and GBA teachers believe everyone still loves to learn but, often, this desire to learn has been stuffed down behind doubts and fears. At GBA we want to help students rediscover that love of learning.
2) To promote deeper levels of critical thinking and to help students develop the skills they need to learn new tasks. We do this by combining cooperative learning with quantum techniques in classrooms where students are made to feel safe by distinguishing their personal self worth from their scholastic accomplishments. Students are encouraged to first ask the right questions, and then work as a team to discover the answers. We do not know exactly what skills a student may need in twenty years to be successful in their chosen career. What we do know is that, if we have inspired her to learn, taught her to think critically, and to work as a team member, she will be able to master those skills necessary for her success.