Morgan Academy’s brand-new school building is now open, with classes in session. Tucked comfortably on 12 acres off of Shepherdstown Pike (Route 230), it can’t be seen from the road, but at the end of the winding lane leading up to the beautiful new building, the seemingly perfect setting provides an inspiring location for young students to explore nature, enjoy each other’s company, and receive a quality education.
Founded in 2004 by Bernardine Somers and her friend Patty Neely (who retired in 2008), both former teachers at Country Day School (now Jefferson Academy), Morgan Academy is an innovative K-8 private school, with a preschool program added just this year. The new location’s ample space offers the possibility of even adding high school at some time in the future.
Classes at Morgan Academy are small, allowing one-on-one teacher-student time. Rather than being strictly divided by age or grade level, students are grouped into “learning pods” by academic, social, and emotional maturity, with never more than 12 children in a pod. Some children might require extra help in a particular subject, while others might work at advanced levels, so students set their own pace, avoiding peer pressure. Older students serve as mentors and role models for the younger students, much like the dynamics in a family.
Founded with 22 students and two teachers, presently there are 56 students and six teachers, including Somers, who teaches K-8 math. Science for K-8, including health and nutrition, is taught by Ms. Sara Peña. Teaching history to all grades is Ms. Melanie Zajicek, who also teaches preschool. Reading and grammar for K-6 is taught by Ms. Sarah Poland, while the seventh and eighth grades are taught by Ms. Joselynne Lowans, who also provides enrichment classes in Yoga and pop art for all grades. Ms. Zoe Powers rounds out the faculty, with classes in Spanish for K-8. Additionally, Ms. Lori Robertson, Operations Manager, is preparing gardens.
While the arts are being eliminated in many public schools, Somers believes they are essential for children’s development. Morgan Academy has a lively arts program, with art classes twice a week for all, and hour-long classes for the older children. Enrichment classes include art history and techniques for all students with Mr. John McManus, and music for preschool–second grade with Ms. Andrea Diggs, who also teaches orchestra and choir for K-8. At the end of every school year, there’s a popular annual play.
“It’s a big production,” said Somers, “and every kid can have a starring role before they graduate.”
Somers sees the importance of children getting outdoors and having playtime, and is enthusiastic about the availability of room for play, gardening, nature trails, and outdoor learning. There is a half-hour recess and snack time in the morning, as well as an hour lunch break with 30 minutes for eating and 30 minutes for play. Somers looks forward to adding a physical education teacher, with classes to be held five times a week.
“Children need to work hard and play hard,” she maintained. “Kids need to be outside. It’s important for their brains to re-set. Let children be children. Provide a nurturing environment where they feel safe, and their brains will be at top potential.”
Responsibility is an important part of the curriculum at Morgan Academy, as well. All of the students do chores and clean up the school at the end of each day. They sweep, clean tables, water plants, wash dishes, and tidy the classrooms.
Somers reports that the main objective at Morgan Academy is to teach the children to be good human beings, to be kind to each other, and to give back to the community. “How you are as an individual and how you treat others is the number one priority. Our goal is to help mold good individuals that leave us and continue to do good things.”
Morgan Academy students have consistently done well in regional science and social studies fairs, and so far, 100 percent of the graduates have gone on to college. Eighth-grader Susha Lowry-Newfeld, who has attended Morgan academy since 2nd grade, said, “I like how the teachers give you one-on-one time and are always nice to you. And the kids are all fair to each other.”
Science teacher Peña praises Morgan Academy’s small classes, teamwork, and the opportunity to be creative. “I love hands-on work and the whole-child approach to learning,” she said. “This is where the magic happens!”
Later this month, Somers will host an open house at Morgan Academy. The public is invited to attend (and kids too) on Saturday, October 22, from 11am–1pm.