About Us

President's Corner

Great teachers matter

April 10, 2019

Great teachers matter. Great teachers create environments for learning that bring out the best in students. Great teachers accelerate learning and maximize the potential for students. Great teachers have the power to boost confidence, to shape character, and to unlock the future. And based on your collective responses to our most recent GAC Parent Survey, great teachers are the top quality you are looking for when selecting your child’s school.  We could not agree more. While programs, facilities, and experiences are all important, it is the high quality and dedication of our teachers that matters most.
 
In our more than fifty years, we have never had a more qualified and dedicated teaching staff than today. And our commitment to continuing that excellence in teaching is why we’ve devoted resources to attract the very best teachers, and have developed meaningful, ongoing training and professional development for our faculty so that they continue to grow and improve.  The GAC faculty culture is one of excellence and care for students.
 
So, how do you measure the quality or dedication of a teacher? While university degrees, specializations, experience, and outcomes matter, from a student’s perspective, the most important markers center on being known, cared for, and for their capacity for greatness to be recognized.  Decades of research confirm that the relationship students have with their teachers is the groundwork for student motivational resilience, engagement, and high academic achievement, the results of which impact the rest of the student’s life.
 
We challenge ourselves at GAC with the questions like: how are students better because they are at GAC? What difference does it make that they are in our classrooms rather than in a classroom anywhere else? We asked both current and former students about the teachers who have made the most impact on their lives, and their answers were so moving that we had to share them with you.
 
At all grade levels, our teachers are making connections with your child, and we know the impact will last long after they leave our campus. Teachers like Latin teacher Dr. Paul Cable who believes that loving students well and building trust with them works in concert with preparing them academically for college and life ahead. Or Math teacher Michael Washington who tells his students that they are more important than anything he could ever teach them. Or Chemistry teacher Mary Lynn Huett, who recognizes the potential in each student and as a result her students reach the high standard she sets. We could go on, but one thing becomes clear. GAC teachers are more than just qualified; they are deeply invested in our students.
 
I hope you not only enjoy reading these snippets from the interviews our team conducted but that your children are also having a similar experience. May you be as blessed by these stories as we were.

Kyleigh Creighton, 8th grade
This is an extremely hard question for me to answer because almost all of my teachers at GAC have had a positive impact on my life (including Ms. Lauren Hollier). That’s what I love about this school most is its teachers. But, if I had to choose one teacher, I would choose my teacher Ms. Darcy Huber (in 5th grade). Although it was a long time ago, in her class was the first time I really felt like I was beginning to know God. She taught me so much about the Bible and for that, I’m extremely grateful. She showed so much love to me and to all her students. Don’t get me wrong, my teachers from the most recent years are AMAZING, but the things Ms. Huber would say still sticks with me four years later.

Parker Jennings, Class of 2018 (Boston Conservatory)
It’s incredibly difficult to choose one teacher! Of course, I have so much love and respect for both Mr. Jones and Mrs. Winkes, as I am now pursuing my BFA in Musical Theatre, and they certainly helped me achieve this goal! But, I also gained so much from my academics at GAC.

In saying all this however, I have to talk about Mr. Tom Meeker. I had Coach Meeker for AP Environmental Science my junior year, but his kindness and intellect extended far past that class. I have never been a science/math person, but in his class I felt pushed academically and that I was just as smart in the subject as anyone else. That class ended up being one of my favorites because I knew he would always know his subject inside and out and be able to communicate it well to the class. I felt like I was learning through real world applications, which made the class so much more beneficial than learning from a textbook.

Chandler Dula, 12th Grade
Coach Tim Ball is not just a man of words but a man of action. Since my middle school football days, he has always told me to “act like the man you (I) want to be 30 years from now” and his words did not fall short on my ears. More importantly, I imitate the way he carries out those words by striving to replicate his kind, caring, and Christ-centered manner. I’ve never had the pleasure to be Coach Ball’s student in a formal setting, but watching him walk out his faith as a true man of God has given me all the tools I need to set myself up for success. I’ve been able to go to Coach with my school stress, spiritual roadblock, and everything in between because I know he will lend a listening ear and sound advice. It was an honor to be baptized by Coach Ball this past spiritual retreat, and I pray that I radiate a humble spirit like his to anyone I encounter.

Megan Eberhart, Class of 2014 (Vanderbilt University)
I am so grateful for my 13 years at GAC! The rigorous academics really prepared me for my time at Vanderbilt. I still owe so much to Mrs. Jenny Runkel and AP Lit for strengthening my writing skills—skills I still put to use today in writing the many papers my master's program requires me to write. My teachers throughout my time at GAC were always so supportive of me, not only as an academic but as an individual as well. Their support and encouragement is something I have carried with me throughout my academic career, and something I hope to give to my students as a school counselor. GAC’s rigorous academics and supportive teachers built a solid foundation for my academic achievements. Though my program at Vanderbilt is academically demanding, I know I can have confidence in overcoming each challenge thanks to the foundation built at GAC.

Caroline Bower, Class of 2018 (Duke University)
Mr. Derek Wilson was the teacher that most prepared me for my academic work at Duke University. In his Scholar Capstone class, he encouraged me to think analytically about current religious and ethical issues and then engage with that analysis through writing. Even though the writings were difficult, he provided extensive feedback on each of my weekly responses and final 16-page paper so that I could continue to dive deeper into the questions presented through my research. When faced with a difficult writing class in college, I knew the first steps to engage with the source material and begin a structured analysis through writing. I can’t thank Mr. Wilson enough for all of his hard work and engagement with students at GAC.

Tyler Bragg, 8th grade
One teacher that has a big impact on me is probably Dr. Paul Cable. He encourages me to be myself and helps me learn at my own speed, teaching me techniques to help me thrive. He encourages me by being patient with me and has a unique style of teaching that helps me to cement my knowledge in all subjects.

Lacey Shaffer, Class of 2018 (Georgia Tech)
Across all disciplines, GAC has such an amazing faculty that it's incredibly difficult to pick a single teacher that has had the most impact on me. However, one teacher, in particular, stands out because he somehow managed to turn my least favorite subject into a class that I looked forward to every day. I had the privilege of learning from Mr. Terry Beasley for two years in his Honors Precalculus and AP Calculus AB classes. Mr. Beasley's fun-loving attitude, engaging lessons, and hilarious jokes always made me excited for class. I slowly began to realize that the only thing in the way of my success was my own pride, and I forced myself to become a 'regular' in Mr. Beasley's daily help sessions. He was incredibly patient, answering all of my questions even though I can be exhausting to teach at times, and clearly took an active interest in my success, both inside the classroom and as a whole person. I know that without the confidence in math that I gained in his class, I would never have had the courage to choose Georgia Tech because of its rigorous, and at times, daunting math curriculum. Mr. Beasley was such a godly example for me in the way he cared about his students and constantly encouraged us to do our best, while still ensuring that we all thoroughly enjoyed learning.  Not only did I dominate the AB Calculus exam because of Mr. Beasley, but I also learned so many valuable lessons: ask questions, push my limits, never stop smiling, and believe in myself.

Jessica Stanhouse, 7th Grade
I remember the first time I met Miss Jordan Adam at Spartan2gether last year. She is my current Student Ministries teacher and was my 6th grade Earth Science teacher. She was so open and welcoming to me. She understood that I was nervous as a new student to GAC and she was a great comfort to me. She has made such a big impact on my life because she’s shown me what it’s like to be a Christian student and what the mission statement was all about. Her actions and words make her a role model for the kids that she teaches.

Hava Restea, 7th Grade
Mr. Aaron Jongko was my fifth grade teacher. He brings out the best, in basically everything. I remember that he had a joke or meme for everyone in the class. Every day I laughed. I learned a lot in his class and he made the learning experience enjoyable. When I was in his class, his teaching assistant at the time, Mrs. Ansley Keiser, made everyone feel special. She always had a [Bible] verse to add to anything. They were my favorite teachers, ever.

Neuroscience and what it means for us

November 13, 2018

For some students, school is a breeze. Students like this receive affirmation regularly for their achievements from a very early age. Their high test scores and good grades can be envied by those who struggle. At some point, however, we are all faced with the realization of something that we aren’t naturally “good” at. For some of us, it’s academics, for others it’s athletics or musical ability or staying organized. 
 
The good news is that God gifted us with neuroplasticity, which is the scientific term to describe the brain’s ability to change throughout our lifetime. In fact, a great misconception is that we are “stuck” with the brain we were born with. In her book, Mindset, Stanford professor and author Carol Dweck refers to this as adopting a “fixed mindset”. The truth is, you can “grow” your brain and re-train it to work for you in new ways. Research shows that with careful strategy, the right environment, and intentional, good practices, the brain itself can be modified.
 
In her book, The Brain-Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools, Dr. Mariale Hardiman of Johns Hopkins University School of Education provides insight on the emerging science of neuro-education, which studies how students learn rather than what they learn. By learning how the brain acquires and retains information, we can better design instructional methods, environments, and feedback so that we maximize each student’s potential.
 
We are pleased to host Dr. Hardiman in May at GAC for a 2-day professional development conference. Dr. Hardiman’s 30 years of experience as an educator, along with her neuroscience and cognitive science research findings, will provide the backbone for the educational philosophies and strategies she will share with GAC faculty. Dr. Hardiman writes, “Successful schools of the 21st century must reflect the growing evidence from the learning sciences about how students think and learn…Just as muscles are strengthened with repeated exercise, brain networks are strengthened with repeated use.”
 
As we start these last few weeks of the semester, help your child cultivate a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. We can do this by emphasizing strategy rather than just effort. Ask them, “Did that strategy work?” Dr. Hardiman coaches us to help students find “the why” about the accuracy or inaccuracy of their efforts. Without “the why”, we can’t effect change. Encourage your students to take risks and to embrace learning opportunities. At GAC, we believe that developing these dispositions in our students will better prepare them for their current and future endeavors.   
 
I believe this has implications beyond academic learning. We are reminded in the book of Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” God recognizes that we are works in progress, people worthy of forgiveness. He shows us grace but expects us to make daily choices to abide in His word.


What does safety look like?

September 12, 2018

I think back to that first day when we brought home our oldest son Garner from the hospital. I remember not being able to sleep, sitting beside his crib listening to make sure he was still breathing. We were new parents, a little anxious, and there was nothing we would not have done to keep him safe. The desire to protect him hasn’t changed, even now almost 17 years later. He needs us less than he used to but we still want to provide him with the safest environment we possibly can. It probably didn’t come as a surprise to you to hear that GAC has been thinking about student safety and making improvements over the last year. Due to your contributions to the Annual Fund, we were able to add an officer in February and new fencing and a gate over the summer to ensure that your children are watched over in a fully enclosed campus throughout the day. But safety is more than fences. When looking back over the last year, we realized that there was more we could do for our students. I am talking about emotional safety and mental well-being.
 
GAC is committed to educating the whole child, and part of that is an emphasis on social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning includes the capacity to recognize and manage emotions, solve problems effectively, and establish positive relationships with others. The research on social and emotional learning confirms it is key to healthy adolescent development and academic achievement. Moreover, this is in line with our mission to grow students in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. Our skilled team of counselors across all school levels work with students so they can better know and manage themselves, understand the perspectives of others and relate effectively with them, and make sound choices about personal and social decisions. Teachers are also very involved, modeling skills and creating opportunities for students to apply them in various situations.
 
One of the challenges to providing for the emotional safety and mental well-being of students is that often adolescents are reluctant to ask for help due to stigma and embarrassment and the belief that they should solve problems for themselves. This is why we introduced TxtAboutIt this year for our Middle and High School students. This program allows students to text anonymously with counselors and administrators about any concerns they have, for themselves or for others. We believe it’s important to provide an avenue for students to reach out for help they might otherwise not ask for in person. Other schools have implemented this service, including colleges and universities, and what they have found is that by reducing some of the stigma of communicating with trusted adults, students open up and are more willing to receive help for different issues they are facing, including anxiety, depression, and suicide. 
 
Beyond TxtAboutIt, each of our school levels are also working on age-appropriate efforts with regards to emotional safety and mental well-being. While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the ways our counselors, administrators, and teachers are working together for the good of our students:  
 
At the Lower School, students are growing in their emotional regulation skills, both through learning how to cope with “big” feelings and how to calm their minds through exercises such as deep breathing and movement. Even simple things such as learning a “feelings” vocabulary have helped empower students so they are better able to express their emotions and regulate themselves. Students are also learning conflict resolution skills, which will help them prepare for the challenges of the middle and high school years.
 
The Middle School puts a great deal of effort and thought into its social and emotional curriculum. The middle school age is a crucial time for social and emotional development as children are forming an identity that is separate from their parents and more likely to be influenced by peers and society. In order to guide students through these years of transition, our Middle School leadership team contracts with Pathways counseling group to provide classroom lessons on subjects such as healthy decision making, goal setting, relationships, communication, and refusal skills. Our counseling program complements these lessons with additional lessons as well as individual guidance for students who need more assistance.
 
For both the Middle School and High School, we believe that social and emotional learning also happens through service, for it is when we reach outside of ourselves in service to others that we are better able to grow and develop as emotionally-healthy individuals. Students are given multiple opportunities throughout the year to participate in mission trips, both local and international. In fact, there are 21 trips taking place from this fall until the end of next summer. These opportunities are often life-changing experiences that usually benefits the students even more than the people they serve. We are also intentional about invited Chapel and guest speakers, seeking those who will help grow student awareness of local and global issues so they can think beyond themselves to the world around them.
 
In High School, our counselors and administrators deliver lessons during advisement which place social emotional growth and well-being at the forefront of the High School culture building. These include discussion groups that have resulted from even stronger connection points developed between faculty and students from our Spiritual Retreat. Our High School counselors are strong advocates for all students, providing support as they navigate this critical period of their life. Like Middle School, High School also has a partnership for education with Pathways.
 
Our hope at GAC is that beyond what your child will learn in every classroom, they will gain a sense that they are loved and cared for. We are committed to providing a positive school environment and to developing persons of sound character and health, caring as much about the social emotional and character development of your child as their academic achievements. As you drive onto campus each day, let the gates, fences, and officers serve as a reminder that at GAC, your student won’t just be safe, but that they will also feel safe because they are surrounded by people who are intentionally investing in their growth and development. That’s something to celebrate.