Pictured above: Salisbury Academy students design amusement parks in their BrickEd Lego Robotics enrichment program in the SA Spark Center.
Rowan County is truly a special place for education. From our public schools, to our colleges, to our private schools, kids of all ages are getting amazing educations across our county every single day! Throughout September, I spent a lot of time at some of the private schools in RoCo – Salisbury Academy, North Hills Christian School, Sacred Heart Catholic School, and Grace Academy – and was so impressed with what I saw! Our students are lucky to have such great opportunities and schools right here at home. Since I grew up in public school and teach in one now too, I was not very familiar with the practices and opportunities private schools offer. I figured some of you, Your Rowan followers, may be the same way. So, this month, I wanted to put a spotlight on four special places to highlight what they do for kids across the county every day!
Salisbury Academy serves around 200 students in junior kindergarten through 8th grade. Their experiential learning environment and teachers’ creative approach to teaching and learning makes them truly shine! They pride themselves on teaching the whole child; not only do students engage with their academics, they also grow physically and spiritually as community and environmental stewards – as members of a community that is much bigger than just Salisbury Academy. In addition to their core subjects, they teach Art, Music, Spanish, and P.E.
Their mission is to inspire a love of learning and prepare passionate leaders through discovery, stewardship, community, and faith. During my time at Salisbury Academy, I certainly saw those core values come to life in the way that students are being taught and the opportunities students are offered.
Students discover daily in their creative learning spaces including in their MakerSpace and outdoor learning facility, at Horizons Unlimited through their partnership, and through the “World As Our Classroom” initiative, which promotes the idea of applying learning to the world around them. Students regularly attend field trips where the knowledge learned in their classrooms can be directly applied. For example, third graders were recently in their animal classification unit, so they traveled to the North Carolina Zoo to explore real-life animals. When the junior-kindergarteners learn about plants, they will travel to a farm or produce stand.
Students learn to be good stewards in their community by participating in yearly service projects. Each grade has a different organization that every class does community outreach with monthly. Once in middle school, they get the opportunity to take ownership of that process by choosing their service outreach, developing a strategy, and executing those efforts to help someone in need. Also, they have a monthly core value that is taught in their classrooms and throughout their whole school. Every week at chapel gathering, community speakers come and speak on that virtue through their own lens, whether that be in sports, business, entrepreneurship, etc.
Additionally, as a North Carolina Green School, students see environmental sustainability efforts taking place regularly in their facilities and are taught a love of conservation from an early age.
Lizzy Roy, the Director of Marketing and Communications at Salisbury Academy, says that Salisbury Academy is a special place because, “We live our mission each and every day. Each and every school community member is fully invested in those key goals and in our approach where students are inspired to love learning and become passionate leaders. There’s a very strong sense of community and really a joy here – our teachers take great joy in their work with the students and the connections they form. The children engage very deeply and with great curiosity in their experiences. The theme that I see is that kids genuinely love coming to school every day.”
Sacred Heart Catholic School
Sacred Heart Catholic School is another K-8 private school that is also very much focused on teaching to the whole child. They serve about 160 kids and want people to know they are not your traditional Catholic school. Tyler Kulp, the Principal of SHCS, describes the school as a family, saying they are “relationship centric, leadership focused, hands-on, and innovative.”
A different core value is taught weekly at Sacred Heart and is ingrained into the curriculum of all core classes – Math, English, Social Studies, Science, and Religion. For example, if the core value is trustworthiness, they define it, figure out what it looks like in a religious tone and in real life, and role play different situations where the core value should be used.
Though SHCS understands that technology is important for students to learn, and they have the tools/resources to utilize technology to enhance a lesson, they still firmly believe in pencil and paper. In addition to their core classes, Art is taught twice a week, Language is taught twice a week through Rosetta Stone, and students attend P.E three times a week. These students have the opportunity to take 24 different languages. The whole school stops and prays as a whole community three times each day.
Something that Sacred Heart Catholic School really focuses on is transforming learners to leaders. This year, every student will attend a field trip that incorporates leadership in some way. These field trips are focused around different leadership opportunities and teaching that from different perspectives. For example, their first graders recently visited Lazy 5 Ranch. Beforehand, they discussed how the leader of the wagon was important, and why the wagon would not work without the leader. Then, students were able to actually engage with the leader of the wagon and discuss the role they play in the wagon ride being successful.
Cooper Fleeman, a 2019 graduate of SHCS, says his favorite part about Sacred Heart was that, “Everyone is super close at Sacred Heart, and I feel like we were able to build really special relationships with teachers due to smaller class sizes. I also value how morals are taught over academics. I think all of these things will help be more successful in the long run.”
Something that I found super interesting about SHCS is their Friday afternoon flex times, which are cycled out every four weeks. Basically, community members and parent volunteers teach different “real-world” electives that kids can sign up for. Things that are being taught there currently and in the past are how to sew, engineering, auto repair, financial literacy, cooking, etc.!
Sacred Heart Catholic School is tucked away on a 100-acre campus and is often referred to as a hidden gym. They have a cross country trail where anyone is encouraged to come walk/run, four gardens, and a greenhouse. Tyler says they are an “open book” and would love for anyone to come and take a tour of their truly beautiful campus!
North Hills Christian School
North Hills Christian School is a junior kindergarten through 12th grade private school in Rowan County. They are fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a division of AdvancEd, and by the Association of Christian Schools International. Founded in 1967, the school has a rich heritage and remains faithful to its original mission: “Equip hearts and minds of students to impact the world for Christ.” Currently serving approximately 315 students, NHCS seeks to provide a foundation built on a knowledge of Truth, guide students to develop qualities reflecting the character of Jesus, and provide opportunities for students to function as the body of Christ in service to God and in outreach to others.
Their eight core values are: Biblical Worldview, Excellence, Scholarship, Leadership, Service, Character, Innovation, and Supportive Community. These values are integrated into everyday instruction. They strive to produce students who view political, moral, social, and other life issues through the lens of scripture. Because they represent the name of Christ, they believe excellence is not optional. They ensure their academic program remains rigorous and relevant while customizing the curriculum to meet the needs of every student. By providing opportunities for students to organize and plan events, participate in clubs and co-curricular activities such as sports, and serve in student government, NCHS provides many opportunities for students to develop leadership skills. At NHCS, they consider themselves a family; not only do students develop incredible bonds with instructors, but the parents and faculty bond together as well.
Students in grades 6-8 are required to complete twenty community service hours per year, while students in grades 9-12 are required to complete forty hours per year. I don’t know about you, but I love the theme of commitment to community service I saw across these private schools as I visited. These places and kids are making our county a better place!
Grace Academy, located in Rockwell, has a preschool program, kindergarten program, and 1st-5th grades. They are dedicated to bringing all students to their highest potential academically, socially, and spiritually. Using the ABeka curriculum, they are Biblically centered and encourage the educational growth of every student. Music, Art, and P.E are taught within individual classes, and they serve about 200 students in Rowan!
Director Tom Correll says that Grace Academy is a special place because, “We are a Christian facility. We focus on a spiritual and biblical education as well as the reading, writing, and arithmetic. We don’t just look at our students’ lives, but we try to prepare them for eternity as well. We try to cover the full scope of life and life afterwards. It’s truly a ministry. We have teachers and staff members who are dedicated not just to the day to day care of the students, but who are dedicated to the spiritual lives of the kids and parents. With small class sizes, our teachers can really take time to work with each child individually.”
Grace Academy offers after school programs too! The children at Grace Academy are invited to participate in after school, but so are students attending public school. Currently, students from Faith, Rockwell, Granite Quarry, and Shive Elementary Schools attend. Students who hang out there after school have a snack and get to play games. There’s also a homework room where students can do homework independently, or get help with reading, writing, math, and more from staff members.
“It’s a good chance for children to meet and interact with kids who don’t go to school with them. Our counselors are really great, and the kids love coming here to unwind after school, says Jessica Randolph, Food Service Manager and After-School Counselor at Grace Academy.
Check out some of these private schools in RoCo if you ever get a chance! They are truly remarkable places for our young people to learn, grow, and give back.