At St. James Academy in Monkton, it’s the school’s commitment to developing the whole child — intellectually, athletically and ethically — that makes it stand out. That commitment is exactly why Dave Eiswert and his wife, Stephanie, chose to enroll all four of their children at St. James, with their daughter in seventh grade, son in fifth grade, son in fourth grade and daughter in first grade.
They have experienced the school at nearly every grade level and have seen the advantages of each stage of the kindergarten through Eighth Grade experience. One clear benefit: the exercise of defining ambitions in adolescence.
“Because the students have to leave St. James Academy for high school, they have to be self-reflective and think about their goals and passions and therefore, which high school will be the best fit,” Dave explains.
St. James Academy lays the groundwork for that kind of mature contemplation. The school takes a holistic approach to education, encouraging students to participate in a variety of enrichment opportunities. Students are not pegged into an activity or role but encouraged to make pathways to explore a wide variety of activities to inspire, challenge and help students discover and develop their interests. Each child is shepherded on their journey to become writers, scientists, artists, athletes, explorers and more.
Dave has seen this first hand. Because of the school’s small size, his children have had the chance to try a host of different activities without the discouragement they might face at a larger school.
“My daughter (7th grade) had never played basketball before and decided she wanted to try it,” he says. “Being a small school, there’s no such thing as ‘this is full.’ In our world of specialization, especially with kids’ sports, I love seeing my kid getting the chance to try.”
At St. James, he says, students aren’t cast into expected roles: lacrosse players perform in the school play, and students with an affinity for science explore the art program.
“Students have the chance to be well-rounded due to a large number of opportunities within a small school,” he explains. The intimate-sized school also allows students and families to get to know each other and appreciate different personalities and perspectives.
The Eiswerts, Roman Catholic, also value the religious aspect of the Episcopalian school. “The religious, ethical component is an important part of the education as it drives how we treat other people and how we deal with people with different views than ourselves” he notes. “We (as parents) see our kids reflecting on those teachings to be a good citizen.”
He advises parents considering St. James to “embrace the community and the opportunities.” For the Eiswert family taking advantage of those opportunities has set the foundation for the personal and intellectual growth that lies ahead.
“I feel like these students have the confidence to be successful and are prepared for any challenges that come their way.”
St. James Academy will add a PreKindergarten class beginning in 2018-19.