Parent Judi Back discusses why Oliverian’s emphasis on creative freedom helps our students develop a strong sense of self-worth.
When Judi Back, the mother of a former Oliverian student, was searching for a school for her son, she was looking for a place that would allow him to engage in self-exploration without sacrificing academic rigor. “There is no such thing as a normal student,” she says, “and I wanted him to get the individual attention he needed.”
When she first stepped foot on Oliverian’s campus, her initial impression was one of warmth, acceptance, and intimacy. “There’s no sense of haughtiness. Nobody knew me here and yet everybody embraced me and my son with a special quality that I don’t think I can possibly describe,” she says.
It was that unique sense of coming home that sold her on Oliverian.
Oliverian actively promotes a culture in which students are given the freedom to explore, to fail, and to learn from their mistakes. Many Oliverian students arrive at school burdened with memories of negative classroom experiences — be that bullying, academic underperformance, academic boredom, or simply an inability to find joy in highly standardized traditional academics. Our faculty and staff work from the philosophy that with the right combination of autonomy, connection, and competence building (Google “self determination theory”) each or our students can become a joyful, successful, and unique learner.
“Oliverian allowed my son to focus on the positive aspects of education, and provided a setting for him to share his thoughts and ideas without feeling foolish or at risk of being bullied,” says Judi. Oli teachers help students develop skills that are easily transferable to the “real world” by enabling them to discover how they learn best, how to connect well with teachers and other students, and what aspects of education they love and can master.
“Oliverian really gave my son a sense of self-worth,” says Judi. By creating highly individualized lesson plans for each and every student, Oliverian empowers students to develop their strengths, identify and address areas where they have room to improve, and — perhaps most importantly — discover what excites and intrigues them. We operate on the belief that there is no such thing as a bad student; but that different students require different approaches in order to optimize their learning. This approach opens students up — often for the first time in their lives — to the possibility of finding fulfillment in school.
The realization that school can not only be fulfilling, but fun, allows students to form deep connections with teachers, feel comfortable asking questions, and improve the overall learning experience. And because Oliverian teachers live on campus, there’s a sense of camaraderie between students and faculty — rather than the top-down, one-size-fits-all dynamic that often defines traditional classrooms.
In fact, many of our students maintain friendships with Oli teachers long after leaving the school. We are invited to college graduations, championship games, weddings, and christenings. “It’s a world that is so special to all of us,” says Judi, who has remained in touch with many of the teachers and counselors at Oliverian long after her son’s graduation. “Oliverian afforded us the opportunity to remain engaged with our son, while also knowing that he was in a place (away from home) where people cared above and beyond.”
At the core of Oliverian’s mission is the desire to help students discover who they are, what they love, and how they fit into the world around them. That’s what Judi and her son found, and they continue to remember Oliverian fondly as a place where they were met with acceptance and care. “Oliverian changed his life,” says Judi. “It changed both of our lives.”