— A non-traditional approach values ‘goodness’ above all else.
Founded in 2004, Shepherdstown’s Morgan Academy is an innovative K-8 private school (including preschool) with small classes that allow for one-on-one teacher-student time. Rather than being strictly divided by age or grade level, students at Morgan Academy are grouped into “learning pods” by academic, social, and emotional maturity, with never more than 12 children in a pod.
At this point, the region is becoming increasingly aware of Morgan Academy’s success—to date, 100 percent of its student’s have gone to college. The approach at the school is not only innovative, but much of the success for the children and the program can be attributed to a simple word: love.
“The work of the staff at Morgan Academy certainly takes on a look and feel of love,” said Founder/Director Bernardine Somers. “The academics are taught and the kids learn, and learn well, but before the academics, the staff and I strive to teach the children by example that being a good human being is the number-one priority.”
Respecting opinions, accepting differences, and promoting tolerance and respect is a key theme at Morgan Academy. “When students leave this school, they take with them an understanding and acceptance for everyone—allowing them to find success in life, which ultimately spreads love beyond the walls of Morgan Academy.”
Not a typical focus in traditional schools, love as a component of education is a daily part of the Morgan Academy curriculum. “No question about it—love and positivity are the most important ingredients,” Somers stressed. “When love and positivity are present in the classroom, there is a sense of security, which allows for exploration and leads to confidence and growth—both socially and academically.
“When a child feels safe and loved at school, the potential for growth and learning is limitless. I’ve seen students show love outside of the school, and their futures have been, and will continue to be, positive because of this.”
This formula for success at Morgan Academy hasn’t been lost on the community. “A visitor last week made a statement that he could feel love the moment the door opened,” said Somers. “I asked him how, and he stated that there was a positive energy—a feeling of happiness and warmth that he felt immediately.”
Somers also takes great pride in the effect this approach has had on the kids. “It’s evident that the kiddos feel love by the way they help to take care of each other and the school. I’ve seen them scramble to help pick up a box of dropped crayons, clean things without being asked, ask to fix things that are broken. You take care of what you love, right?”
Especially in a time where social and political division can often dominate conversations both large and small—no matter the age group—Somers thinks the influence of love at Morgan Academy is at its most impactful.
“I say or hear this at least once everyday in school: You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you are not kind and positive, if you are rude and intolerant, no one will listen to you. And what is accomplished then?”