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GAC is a great school.

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Foster Academic Preparedness.

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GAC consistently satisfies the highest standards of teaching and learning excellence.

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Academics

We prepare students at every age level for success during their time at GAC, in college, and beyond.

GAC designs and engages rigorous, intentional academic experiences that keep in mind the distinct purpose of each student. Research and care inform every decision, from classroom layout to daily schedules and technology resources.

In the GAC Lower School, our youngest Spartans gain a firm grounding in the academics, faith, and community that will carry them through their educational career. They discover their interests, talents, and the joy of learning through experiences inside the classroom, STEAM labs, and across the campus.

Once in the Middle School, our Spartans are challenged and nurtured in an academic community designed to prepare them for the excitement and rigor of high school. A time marked by rich intellectual, extracurricular, peer, and spiritual immersion, this is a phase of tremendous growth.

Each GAC High School student is set firmly on a path forward. Their busy days are filled with opportunities to develop intellect, faith, culture, generosity, and confidence. Our Spartans go into the world prepared for what it has to offer.

The GAC Approach to Academic Excellence

An Education that is Aligned from Young Learners to High School

We have thoughtfully designed a curriculum to enhance your child’s education for an even greater experience throughout their years at GAC, college, and beyond. We meet students’ academic needs and further ensure student success with our state-of-the-art curriculum planning software and Professional Learning Communities where teachers work to create an aligned educational plan for each student.

Flexible Learning with Ethos, Blended Classes, and Zero Hour Classes

Ethos School is an innovative online platform that gives your child flexibility and choice in the modalities they use to learn. Ethos is integrated into our college preparatory academic environment, so students have more space to pursue their passions while working towards the next step in their education. GAC also offers Blended and Zero Hour classes, making it possible for students to open up their schedules for classes that will allow them to specialize in an area of interest.

Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication Skills Infused in Each Course

At GAC we go well beyond learning how to answers questions correctly on a test. Your child will learn to present an argument to the class and defend a hypothesis through a well-researched paper. Students collaborate and learn to reach consensus among their peers.

Global Education Creates Global Citizens

A GAC education extends far beyond the classroom, instilling the value and responsibility of being a global citizen. Students participate in learning excursions, mission trips, and study abroad opportunities. Last year, more than 400 students participated in authentic service, locally and abroad. GAC also has global partnerships bringing our faith infused curriculum to students outside of the US with our online learning Ethos School.

A Broad Variety of Educational Opportunities

Your child can grow and nurture their interests by participating in one of the many programs at GAC. Elite tennis players can take advantage of our Tennis Academy. Skilled dancers flourish in our School of Ballet. Musicians are cultivated in our School of Music. Scholars thrive in our 29 AP and 32 honors courses. Students who need additional support benefit from our Academic Support program. At GAC, there is something for every student.

Spaces Our Students Thrive

High School Complex
Both Long Hall and Tidwell Hall are original structures to GAC when it opened to students in 1968. The 34,000 square foot High School Complex was redesigned and fully renovated in 2016 based on extensive research of best practices of innovative education and needs of the 21st century student. Interactive, engaging learning is facilitated by glass walls that allow for natural light, flexible furniture, and portable technology that is easily adapted to hands-on, experiential, project-based learning. The collaborative, alcove settings provide a place for students to gather in small groups to work on projects.
Middle School Complex
Completely redesigned and renovated in 2016, the 35,000 square foot Middle School incorporates research-based best practices for student-centered teaching and learning spaces. The active learning classrooms are flexible and adaptable with writable surfaces for interactive discussions, movable desks and chairs, and portable technology. Glass walls extend the classroom to the hallway that provides gathering areas for small group discussions and project work.
Nasmyth Environmental Center

Equipped with a sizable chicken coop, turtle pond, 2,300 sq ft greenhouse, food forest, vermiculture, and aquaponics, the Nasmyth Environmental Center provides hands-on learning space for students to witness and engage in sustainable practices. The Nasmyth Environment Center is named after long-time board member and GAC friend Fernando Nasmyth and his wife.

Learn More

Fields Science Hall

Originally built in the late 1990s as a single hall of classrooms, Fields Science Hall was completely redesigned and expanded to advance STEM learning in 2017.  Now 13,000 square feet, the facility hosts a new state-of-the-art chemistry lab, a green roof, solar energy panels, and classroom space for anatomy, engineering, marine biology, and astronomy.

Academic News

GAC Hosts College Admissions Event

GAC hosted 2,000 students and parents on Sunday from independent schools across metro Atlanta, as well as admissions representatives from 85 colleges and universities nationwide, for the 2020 Atlanta Invitational Case Studies Program (AICS). This was a unique opportunity to meet with college admissions officers to learn first-hand how they make decisions.

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Ethos School: GAC's vibrant learning community continues to gain rapid success

Imagine your child in an AP Human Human Geography course with students from China, Rwanda, and California. Imagine them having access to a wider variety of course options and the flexibility to pursue time-intensive passions, while remaining connected to a greater community of teachers and classmates. This type of global education is now a reality for many students through GAC’s online educational platform: Ethos School.

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Parent Speaker Series: Raising Generation Z with Dr. Tim Elmore

We welcomed education expert Dr. Tim Elmore to campus this week for our Parent Speaker Series event. Sponsored by our GAC Parent Association, this series is one of the ways that GAC helps parents raise their children well. And it’s safe to say that parents walked out of Dr. Elmore’s session feeling a little more confident than when they entered, especially when it comes to their Generation Z children.

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Gabriel Uribe and Lizzie Joiner are named “20 Under 20” by Atlanta INtown and Reporter Newspapers

As we enter into the new year, we are thrilled to announce that GAC Seniors, Gabriel Uribe and Lizzie Joiner, have been named "20 Under 20" in Atlanta INtown and Reporter Newspapers, respectively. Both publications annually recognize youth in the area who make a difference in the community through volunteerism and philanthropy.

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Kaitlyn Williams, Trey Dixon, and Camille Hollier are Peachtree Corners "20 Under 20"

GAC is thrilled to announce that Kaitlyn Williams, Trey Dixon, and Camille Hollier have been selected and featured as “20 Under 20” in Peachtree Corners Magazine’s December 2019/January 2020 edition. This honor celebrates Peachtree Corners students ages 19 and younger who have impacted the community in a significant way through leadership, and/or personal achievements.

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National Merit Semifinalist and Commended Scholars Recognized
GAC is pleased to announce that senior Nicolas Veltmaat was named as a National Merit Semifinalist in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Competition. Mr. Veltmaat has been named among approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
 
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Everyday STEAM, Extraordinary Results

Do you remember the wonder you felt as a child? When a cardboard box held endless possibilities and each star in the sky fired your imagination? We often associate wonder with childhood because it is a feeling of looking at something for the first time. Humans were created for wonder, and our teachers in our Village and Elementary School want students to experience it every day, particularly with their STEAM curriculum. 

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For National Literacy Month, Meet GAC's Resident Bibliophile

September is National Literacy Month, and GAC has a great role model in its 18-year-veteran Media Specialist Ms. Bonnie Baker. A voracious reader, she read 42 books over the past summer alone and has read 5,000 of the 14,479 titles in the Liles Media Center to date. (She keeps a spreadsheet to track her progress). Ms. Baker has one piece of advice for students who want to know her secret: “Don’t have screens nearby!”

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For Mathematical Rigor and Fun, Meet Us in the Middle

Middle school math classrooms here on the GAC campus look and feel differently than most classrooms around metro Atlanta. Instead of “sit and get” instruction, worksheets, and silent practice at their desks, GAC students are fortunate to have a completely different experience.

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By The Numbers

216

Faculty members

76% 

Faculty hold advanced degrees

86.5%

AP Pass rate in 29 courses

60+

STEM courses in middle and
high school

40+

Performing and visual
art electives

20+

Trips for experiential learning outside the classroom

Faculty Spotlights

Meet Megan Wilson: High School Math Teacher

Looking back everyone remembers the teacher whose passion for their subject matter is tangible, who makes even the most challenging problems comprehensible and makes space for mentorship and meaningful conversations with their students. No one does that better than high school math teacher Megan Wilson.

"Megan’s energy and passion for students is contagious. Not only does she hone her craft as a professional, she also has an incredible heart for our students and speaks life into them. She is one of the many reasons our High School team is special." - Shane Woodward, High School Principal

Looking back everyone remembers the teacher whose passion for their subject matter is tangible, who makes even the most challenging problems comprehensible and makes space for mentorship and meaningful conversations with their students. No one does that better than high school math teacher Megan Wilson.

She pours her whole heart and mind into her teaching process and student's success. Whether mentoring a student at lunch, serving on the mission field, or teaching in the classroom, Ms. Wilson's commitment to intentionally knowing her students and helping them become better students and individuals is what makes her such a memorable and exceptional educator.

As early as 5 years old, Ms. Wilson felt her calling towards education, and her passion never wavered throughout her life. After being inspired by her 8th grade math teacher, she went on to pursue both her undergrad and advanced degrees in mathematics. She's been a part of the GAC community for 7 years, teaching a variety of subjects within the math department, and she is known for her energetic, joyful spirit and gifted ability to make even the most complicated of problems understandable for students.

Now a wife to another GAC teacher, Derek Wilson, and mom to triplets, Ms. Wilson serves as a part-time teacher, but still has a full-time impact on the GAC community as a top tier educator.

To learn more about Ms. Wilson, read through the Q&A below:

Tell us a little more about your upbringing and family life. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
I’m originally from Nashville and was in the public school system until 7th grade when I transferred to Lipscomb Academy.
 
I started private school in 7th grade at Lipscomb Academy and then went on to pursue my undergrad at Lipscomb University. I then went on to get my masters at the University of Georgia.

As a child, what did you dream of becoming?
When I was a child, I always played teacher. I can look back as far as Kindergarten and when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded, “Teacher!” It’s something I’ve always been confident in. And I never changed my mind.

Where did you go to undergrad? Why did you choose that university? 
Lipscomb University. I loved the idea of a Christian university. I loved that I got to be near my family during college, and also loved all of the opportunities to grow and excel in a smaller university. There I was able to be Vice President of the student body, be in a social club, do intramurals, go on mission trips, obtain a great education degree, and know my professors outside of just class time. 

Why choose math?
Math clicks with me. It makes sense to me. I can rely on it. In college, I was a math major from day one and never changed. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I’m very happy about it. At one point I thought I would want to teach college so I pursued my masters in pure math classes and just really enjoyed the math. But, I really love high school. I love this age and working with students who are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be. I love helping them find confidence in who they are as a student and as a young person.
 
What drew you to GAC?
I was planning on coming back to Nashville as I had a job lined up. I had a friend who taught here who said, “You should apply” so I came for an interview. I thought of it as just a practice interview and a great experience. 

But when I stepped onto campus, I knew there was something different. I didn’t know why at the time, but I immediately thought that God was doing something special on the campus, and I wanted to be a part of it. 

What do you do to connect with students?
Teaching for me is enjoyable because I love ministry. I love the bond and forming that relationship with students and getting to speak truth into their lives. I have formed many small groups with students outside of class to talk about deep issues and just to connect beyond the classroom walls. I loved coaching soccer before I had my babies. And I still love going on mission trips with students. 

You are married to another GAC teacher (who you met here) and have kids here. Tell us about that.
When I first moved to Atlanta, my mom prayed for someone special to be across the hall since I did not know many people in Atlanta. Neither Derek nor I are from Atlanta. We were both the last people on the hallway in the afternoons doing small groups with students, building those relationships, and through that, we became great friends.
 
Now, we’ve been married almost 8 years with three beautiful triplets: Shepherd, Lucy, and Oliver.
 
What’s your enneagram?
I’m a 2, ESFJ. I tend to have high anxiety, and I have to be careful with knowing when to say yes or no to things. I want to say yes to everything, and I want to help everyone and be “all the things to all people.” And I can’t do that. Especially not with kids. Perfection is not the goal. It’s about the journey, not perfection. 

What classes do you teach at GAC?
I have taught many math classes at GAC including Honors Geometry, Algebra 2, and AP Statistics, but am currently teaching College Prep Geometry and loving it!

What do you feel like sets GAC apart from other schools?
I love that we are encouraged to talk about Jesus and to have spiritual relationships, but we have a lot of non-Christian students. It’s unique. It’s a mission field.
 
So many of my students know of Jesus, but many don’t know him personally, or understand what it means to be in a relationship with him. It is such an honor to get to walk alongside them as they start to see who He is and how He has changed my life. It’s a unique environment where I’m encouraged to talk about it, but I’m not in such a bubble that everyone already knows. And, I love the diversity here. 

I think also the way GAC does mission trips is unique and sets us apart. These students get to experience the whole world. I’ve gone all over the world with GAC students. Very few high schools have such a  wide variety of mission trips, and so many high schoolers take advantage of them and go on them. It’s such a cool thing. It’s incredible to go on them, be a part and see how they change the students. Not only is the school diverse, but these students get to experience the whole world. It’s such a great thing to be a part of as a teacher. 

When I started here, I went to Namibia. I went to Guatemala. Derek and I led the trip to China for a while. He’s gone for 10 years and I’ve gone for 5 years. And then, I’ve gone to Honduras for the past couple of years.

What does the community at GAC look like?
I’ve gotten close with the math community. It’s a really fun, special group. I love the people I work with. That’s unique, too. Not only are they good at what they do, but they love Jesus.

It’s a fun environment to be in to know that my teacher friends know “who” I am. They know me. And going on mission trips with your colleagues and students allows you to  go deeper and connect on a stronger level.

How professional development does GAC provide for teachers?
When I was teaching AP classes, I loved that I was encouraged to go to AP conferences as they were very helpful. Currently I am enjoying the Professional Development Program that runs throughout the year. We have been focusing on topics such as having academic, cultural, spiritual, and social responsiveness as a teacher. I like getting to hear what my other colleagues have done and love learning from them. 

What would you tell a younger student who is preparing to be in your class one day? 
Ask lots of questions, be yourself, make mistakes, and enjoy the learning process. If you work hard, I will work just as hard alongside you to help you find success in my class. Math is all about teaching your brain how to solve problems. It trains your brain to see a problem—any problem—break it down step by step and confidently solve it. It is not just about graphing a line and finding the centroid of a triangle. Math is about becoming a good problem solver. I love training students to become deep thinkers. 

Where would someone find you outside of the classroom?
I am usually chasing my three wild and wonderful three year-olds. We love to go on adventures as a family. I love to hike and enjoy yoga and spin class. I love to do ministry with Derek and our kids. We love to have people over for dinner and we share life with the best community.

What is a book you’ve read recently?
I love all things Brene Brown, particularly the  “Gifts of Imperfections.” I have read several enneagram books. I am currently reading John Mark Comer’s “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” and trying to learn how to create space in my life for more grace for myself and for others. 

What are you listening to right now?
Simple Worship by Tracey Nitschke if I am alone and the Frozen/Frozen 2 soundtrack if the kids are in the car.

What’s one thing that’s still on your bucket list?
I can't wait to take the kids on adventures around the world. Derek and I love to travel together and have been to so many amazing places; we are so excited to take them along with us.

I would love to write a book one day about all of the unique things that Derek and I have been through and how we have seen and processed God along the way.
 

Read More about Meet Megan Wilson: High School Math Teacher
Meet Kayla Hughes: First Grade Teacher

In every aspect of her life, Mrs. Hughes strives for brilliance. Originally from Illinois, it was her gymnastic skills that landed her on a spot in one of the nation's top collegiate programs, ultimately winning multiple titles, including the Honda Award, which is essentially the Heisman of gymnastics. Educationally, she holds an advanced degree in early childhood education and a bachelor's in early childhood development. 

“Kayla exudes confidence and energy while bringing out the best in each of her students. Her commitment to instill a desire to learn and achieve in her students is an inspiration!” - Rhonda Helms, Lower School Principal

Grab some tea, sit down, and have a conversation with any of our teachers, and you're certain to hear remarkable stories of a deep commitment to excellence, service, and faith. First grade teacher Kayla Hughes is no exception.

In every aspect of her life, Mrs. Hughes strives for brilliance. Originally from New Jersey, it was her gymnastic skills that landed her on a spot in one of the nation's top collegiate programs, ultimately winning multiple titles, including the Honda Award, which is essentially the Heisman of gymnastics. Educationally, she holds an advanced degree in early childhood education and a bachelor's in early childhood development. 

A wife, mother, athlete, and educator, Mrs. Hughes is a remarkable individual who has learned a thing or two about what it takes to succeed. Her story is amazing, and we are thankful it led her to GAC.

To learn more about Mrs. Hughes, read through the Q&A below:

Tell us a little more about your upbringing and family life. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
I am from New Jersey. I grew up there with my mom, dad, and younger sister. I was very close with my sister and had an unusual childhood as I was homeschooled in order to be a competitive gymnast. Now I Iive in the Atlanta area with my husband (who is a GAC alum (2006)) and my son Sawyer (3) who attends GAC. I currently have son number 2 on the way who will attend GAC’s Young Learners in August. 

As a child, what did you dream of becoming? 
I feel like I was always changing my mind. My opinions changed from author to teacher to journalist. 

Where did you go to undergrad? Why did you choose that university? 
I attended the University of Alabama on a full athletic scholarship for gymnastics. Alabama had a consistently top ranked program and they recruited me to go there.

What is your degree in? 
When I arrived as a freshman, I told our academic advisor that I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. She promptly explained that as a gymnast I would not be able to declare that major because the school of education held most of their classes during our gymnastics practice time. I found the closest thing I could to education and studied early childhood development.

While I was there, I also fell in love with a slightly different field of study while taking these classes. I ended up with a double concentration in Child Life Studies as well. Child Life is a field of study that focuses on the psychosocial support of children in the hospital setting.

For example, one might help calm and distract a two year old during a scary procedure, educate a 9 year old in a child-friendly way about what surgery they need to have, or provide game time, learning activities, or a support system for a child who is hospitalized long-term. I completed two internships in undergrad—one in a preschool on Alabama’s campus and one at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, MD for child life. 

Additionally, I won 2 SEC championships and a national championship competing in gymnastics. My senior year I was awarded the Honda Award, which is basically the Heisman of gymnastics. Juggling athletics and academics prepared me to always strive to be excellent at everything I do. 

Do you have an advanced degree? 
I have my master’s in Early Childhood Education from Towson University. After interning and working in both the hospital and classroom setting, I knew the classroom was the place for me. I completed my masters while teaching Pre-K and took time off to complete student teaching. 

What motivated you to go into education?
I think the relationships and opportunities for impact make me feel absolutely on top of the world. There is nothing better than feeling like you made a difference in a child’s journey through life.

Did you ever imagine you would find yourself in teaching?
I had originally wanted to be an elementary school teacher entering college, but when that door was shut, I opened myself up to other possibilities. It makes me chuckle a bit at the very round-about way I found myself in education, despite seeming like it was not possible.

I’m very thankful for my diverse educational background. I feel like I definitely bring different perspectives to the classroom having studied both how a child develops holistically, and the specific pedagogical strategies of teaching. I also think working with children in the hospital who were typically dealing with multiple stressors in physical, emotional, and social well-being gives me a heart for teaching to the whole child.

What do you enjoy most about education?
I think imparting knowledge and empowering students is the most magical way to spend the day. I live for the “aha” moments. I love when former students say, “I remember when you taught us that.”

What do you do to connect with students?
I am very big on greeting the students each day. They get to choose between a high five, hug, or wave. They then “check in” on a board that is for my eyes only to let me know how they are doing that day. If a student put their tag on sad, I always go check on them and find out why if they feel comfortable sharing. Usually it’s something like they wish it wasn’t raining outside or that they could have ice cream for breakfast, but I’ve learned that those things truly make a first grader sad. I choose to have lunch in the cafeteria with my students each day. I move around and sit with new people daily. I also host book clubs and give out reward coupons of eating lunch with me and a friend out in the elementary gallery area.

I cherish these times to get to know each student deeper and what their lives are like outside the classroom. I also get to share with them about my life and connect with them aside from the academic day. They love seeing how I am a real person with funny stories about my family life and that I have unique interests just like them.

What do you love most about 1st grade?
I love helping students bridge the gap between foundational knowledge and becoming a real analytical learner. It’s their first year in the elementary building so I get to see them grow up through the fifth grade which is really special.

What classes do you teach at GAC?
First Grade (Bible, Math, English Language Arts, Science, Social Studies)

What drew you to GAC?
Being from New Jersey, I only knew about GAC through my husband going to high school here. 
Once I started my Master’s degree, I knew we were planning to move and settle down in Atlanta. I also knew, given the opportunity, I wanted to teach at a Christian school. I treasure the gift that it is to teach my students Bible daily and infuse Christianity throughout the entire school day.

When I came to GAC’s campus for the first time, I just knew I had to be here. Something in the air, something about the students, this place is so special. GAC is a Christian educator’s eutopia.

How does GAC provide professional development for teachers? 
Our leaders provide opportunities to research STEM trends through school tours, take full training courses specific to our grade level needs, and provide continual in-house development that ensures that we are all constantly striving to be better educators and stay challenged and fresh in all of our roles.

What would you tell a parent or friend considering sending their child to the Lower School?
All our Lower School teachers are nothing short of excellent at what they do. We put value in key areas that often are lacking in other schools (physical fitness, Christianity, and specialty areas like music and art.) I don’t know many other schools that provide learning opportunities in an on-site greenhouse and a floating classroom at the lake.

We manage to maintain a very high standard for academics while supporting all of these other daily activities we offer. There is definitely a clear “GAC difference” compared to students who come to first grade from another school. It’s really a testament to how the Lower School prepares and challenges students academically. Christian faith is not just sprinkled in the classroom, it’s completely infused in everything we do. If families want a true Christian experience, I feel like we deliver better than anyone.

How would you describe the culture at GAC?
The culture at GAC is so uplifting and family-oriented.

How have you participated in the GAC community? (Mission trips, co curricular, etc.)
Unfortunately, with a young family (toddler and baby on the way) and a husband who travels, I have put my family first and have not taken on co-curricular responsibilities or Mission trips yet. I have volunteered to speak at both elementary chapel and high school chapel. I competed as a contestant on GAC’s Got Talent last year where I walked on my hands through an obstacle course. I love GAC and the community we have. I hope to take on more when I enter into a slightly different life stage.

Where would someone find you outside of the classroom? What are your hobbies? 
I love spending time with my family and friends. We love exploring local parks and the awesome Atlanta food scene. I love snuggling my cat. My favorite place is the beach.

What is a book you’ve read recently? 
"The Whole Brain Child," by Daniel J. Siegel, ‎Tina Payne Bryson

What are you listening to right now? 
I’m usually listening to worship music or children’s music in the car. I listen to podcasts with the theme of parenting or spiritual growth.

What’s one thing that’s still on your bucket list?
I look forward to a life stage where I can travel more. I want to see the incredible world that God created. Italy and Japan are on the top of my travel list. 

Read More about Meet Kayla Hughes: First Grade Teacher
Meet Chase Parks: Middle School Science Teacher

Whether coaching young athletes on the track, building homes in Guatemala on mission trips, or dissecting in the classroom, you’re bound to find seventh grade science teacher Chase Parks pursuing the highest degree of excellence and service. While his classroom is known for its rigor and high standards, it’s also known for Mr. Parks’ commitment to his student’s success.

Whether coaching young athletes on the track, building homes in Guatemala on mission trips, or dissecting in the classroom, you’re bound to find seventh grade science teacher Chase Parks pursuing the highest degree of excellence and service. While his classroom is known for its rigor and high standards, it’s also known for Mr. Parks’ commitment to his student’s success.

Ask anyone around school and they’ll say that Mr. Parks is a remarkable educator. As a teacher, coach, and mentor, he has spent the last seven years devoting himself to the learning process, making it relatable and enjoyable for each and every student. 

“Chase Parks is the consummate professional! He’s well-loved and highly respected, not only by his students and parents, but by his colleagues as well. He’s highly intelligent, a collaborator, and an innovator. He truly loves teaching his subject matter, and therefore, his students love learning science! He’s a leader in the GAC science community and is always thinking about ways to do things better. Not only does he serve well in the classroom, but he’s serves well outside of the class too – leading mission trips and coaching track and cross-country. GAC is better because of Mr. Parks!” said Middle School Academic Dean Lauren Hollier.

To learn more about Mr. Parks, read through the Q&A below:

Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
I’m from Dacula in Gwinnett County. I went to Dacula High School and then pursued my undergrad at the University of Georgia.

What did you study in college?
Fisheries and Wildlife Biology

What motivated you to go into education?
I took an upper level wildlife biology course in college where, as part of a culminating project, we had to do a public outreach and go into public schools and teach. This was my first real opportunity to get up and teach, and I immediately thought it was the greatest thing ever.

After doing it one time, I thought it was awesome. I loved it. I got to combine something I was passionate about and share it with other people. It was a really nice fit personally and professionally. 

This class served as motivation to pursue an advanced degree in education after undergrad.

Did you ever imagine you would find yourself in teaching?
I’ve always loved learning and was inspired by great teachers I had growing up. But for a while in college my goal was to be a wildlife researcher or work for the national parks service. 

What do you love about education?
I’ve always valued learning from a young age. I’m a curious person, and I enjoy researching topics that I find fascinating but know nothing about. And with that, I love presenting things to other people to help them understand. Also, I find that I can apply science is so applicable to everyday life, which makes it all the more fascinating to me. 

The lightbulb moment with students is something that is truly tremendous. When you see someone comprehend something for the first time, it’s amazing.

How do you connect with students?
Besides intangible qualities, I believe that knowing how to understand and relate information to students is incredibly important. What are they interested in? What they might be interested in? 

How do I relate that to what we’re talking about so that know there’s something that they’re intrinsically interested in to get them to understand the content.

It’s all about setting high standards, but letting students know that you’re on their team, you’re for them, and are present to help motivate, encourage and help them to succeed. When students know that their teachers feel that way it does a lot in terms of their own motivation.

What do you love most about 7th grade?
Middle school is an awesome time. It’s a unique transition in life and in terms of what they’re covering academically. They’ve got a lot of energy. They’re enthusiastic about learning and ask a lot of great questions. 

What do you love most about coaching cross country and track? 
I’ve been a runner for 17 years, and my high school coach had a major impact on me as a person and athlete. It was a motivating factor for me to go into coaching. He was relatable, present, and passionate about us reaching our goals. There was a standard and he expected a lot from us, but he was always there to encourage us along the way.

These are all qualities I hope to emulate and pass on to the athletes that I coach. I love getting to take something I’m so passionate about and help facilitate growth and cultivate a love of running in younger generations. It’s amazing to see the impact.

It’s been a really cool opportunity to be able to take lessons I learned from my high school coach, and pass them on to younger generations.

What drew you to GAC? 
Initially, I had a mutual friend connect me with one of the teachers, Joe Edlhuber. When we got together, he shared his experience, and I was immediately interested. He invited me to reach out to the principal, which led to an in-person interview. 

From the moment I stepped onto the campus, I knew there was something special at GAC. From the people who greet you, to the facilities, to the administration. It was unique.

There is a goal to excel in all things, and a true mission of providing a great experience for every single student on campus. GAC pursues excellence in everything they do, which I felt aligned well with my personal philosophy for life and teaching. 

Also, there is a focus on Christ and character that was extremely evident when I first arrived here. I loved it.

How does GAC provide professional development for teachers?
GAC has a lot of job embedded professional development opportunities that the staff and faculty go through here. I’m back at school again at UGA getting my specialist, which GAC helps me with.

I’ll graduate this May with the Specialist in Science Education. It’s a really cool opportunity to develop within my career, go to graduate school and develop professionally that way.

What would you tell a younger student who is preparing to be in 7th grade or your class one day? 
Enthusiasm. Motivation. Creativity. All of those kinds of things. Just being excited to learn and willing to pour yourself into the learning process.

How would you describe the culture at GAC?
There’s no place like it. It’s very unique. It’s extremely community-oriented. I’ll speak for myself, although I feel the other teachers would agree, I feel like I’m a part of multiple communities here. There’s a family feel when you come here. Even from my first moment on campus, I felt the difference.

Where would someone find you outside of the classroom?
If I’m not in the classroom, I’m somewhere outside or around the world. I move around a lot and do a lot of physical activities. I’m most likely around a track somewhere running. I also enjoy mountain biking, climbing, camping, and backpacking. 

If I’m not doing that, I’m typically reading.

What is a book you’ve read recently? 
Prayer by Tim Keller

What are you listening to right now? 
“Not in a Hurry,” by United Pursuit

What’s one thing that’s still on your bucket list?
Two things immediately come to mind. One is that I think rocking chairs are pretty great. And, I really want to build one someday.

Second, I want to drive across the country on a motorcycle.

Read More about Meet Chase Parks: Middle School Science Teacher
Meet Aaron Jongko: Fifth Grade Teacher

Aaron Jongko has always challenged himself as a teacher: “how do I make learning happen and keep students fully engaged while they’re having fun?” Over the 10 years he’s been teaching, he thinks he’s found the secret sauce. “I’ve tried to always keep kids at ease because it makes learning happen more naturally.” Aaron has found this to be especially important given the project-based learning approach he uses for social studies.

Aaron Jongko has always challenged himself as a teacher: “how do I make learning happen and keep students fully engaged while they’re having fun?” Over the 10 years he’s been teaching, he thinks he’s found the secret sauce. “I’ve tried to always keep kids at ease because it makes learning happen more naturally.” Aaron has found this to be especially important given the project-based learning approach he uses for social studies. “I know that when students start this class they have a lot of anxiety on their faces because they know there are going to be a lot of projects. That alone is something that intimidates them. As they go through the school year, I see them start to do things more fluidly and confidently when I’m looking over their shoulders. I can see them reading a lot of text and summarizing without copying; when they are doing that independently then I know that they are learning.”

Mr. Jongko believes the most important thing his students can take away from his classroom is empathy for the human experience. “In American and European history we look at a lot of very difficult topics—slavery, the trail of tears, the Holocaust. I hope they come to see that different people have different experiences and that you need to learn from them. If they can learn that as a child, they are more likely to make decisions that will help a lot of people as they get older. These students have an opportunity to be really influential in the future.”

Also important are the critical research skills students develop which help them address questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer: “Was the Civil War worth the cost?” he asks them. Mr. Jongko is excited to watch as his students research, summarize information, and form their own conclusions. “I always see a huge amount of growth between the first research project and the last one in terms of their comfort, confidence, and how proud they are of their work.”

Mr. Jongko has a passion for social studies but it’s one that students don’t always share. “If you ask students what their favorite subject is, it’s rarely social studies,” he says. But he wanted to put this to the test. As part of a research project developed for Apple Education and one he presented at the annual conference for Apple Distinguished Schools (which GAC has been since 2010), Mr. Jongko worked for a year to address what affects motivation in an elementary social studies class. He conducted a pre-survey and then tailored the class to meet the students’ preferences. What he got was a more interesting and exciting experience for both him and his students. “The blended learning style has worked really well for this class as it gives students the chance to be independent. And this means greater learning outcomes for them.” In the three years that he’s taught fifth grade, Mr. Jongko has refined his curriculum, bringing together the best of online and traditional instruction. For example, students are able to take advantage of the video tutorials that Mr. Jongko creates as resources for them.  

Having spent time working in both public and private schools, Mr. Jongko finds that he can be more innovative in his classroom at a private school. “As a teacher, I get to be really responsive to students’ learning needs. If I am looking at a learning standard and think we need to add something to the curriculum, I can make it happen if I make a case for it and present a solution. There is no bureaucracy and red tape to go through. Teachers have the ability to be change-makers and ultimately the students benefit.”

Mr. Jongko has significant experience with curriculum development and has played an influential role at GAC as Lower School Social Studies Chair and PK-12 Instructional Lead Teacher. He was a finalist for the GAC Lower School Educator of the Year, and was the Athens Chamber of Commerce Educator of Excellence, Clarke County School District Teacher of the Year, Whitehead Road Elementary Teacher of the Year, and has been awarded the Foundation for Excellence Mae Whatley and Peach State Crystal Apple Awards. Among his secret talents is that he is a licensed pyrotechnician and a skilled carpenter. When he’s not perfecting his pyrotechnics or building something, you’ll find him thinking up yet another way to create even more meaningful experiences for the students in his classroom.

Read More about Meet Aaron Jongko: Fifth Grade Teacher
Meet Dr. Laura Markert: Middle School Math Teacher

She molds her instruction so that her students “own” the knowledge. They learn their own way of solving problems, and it’s not just the teacher passing down the step-by-step instructions. “I love math because it’s like a puzzle. There is more than one way to solve the problem. I want the kids to know that I want to hear about their way of tackling a problem. It’s not just about how I do it.”

No matter how old you are, everyone remembers a student like Laura Markert. The student who sits in the front row of class, eager to soak up every bit of knowledge she can. The student who loves math. The student who enthusiastically puts forth 100% every day.

Still at the front of the classroom, now Laura Markert is a teacher, and her students call her Dr. Markert. She finished a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Mercer University and says, “I love learning. I’ve always wanted to get my doctorate.” As both a teacher and student, she is conscientious, hard-working, and determined. While Dr. Markert could have been successful in a myriad of careers, GAC is fortunate she chose education. A 6th grade math teacher, Dr. Markert has been teaching at GAC for five years.

As you watch Dr. Markert teach, you begin to wonder how you might bottle her energy and sell it. She is highly engaged, focused, lively, communicative. She doesn’t miss a beat. She studies her students carefully, scanning the room for signs of understanding and critical thinking. This is her 11th year of teaching, and she is fueled by the work and the pace. A classic extrovert who gets her energy from people and building relationships, she is kind of stumped when asked what she does for downtime.

As a high school student at Parkview High School, Dr. Markert got a cup of coffee from the teacher’s lounge for her algebra teacher every morning. She has fond memories of this ritual, remembering that it made her feel special. “When teachers are nice to me, it makes me feel special. I try to make my students feel that way,” she says. It is well-known that students are more engaged in the classroom when they have a meaningful relationship with their teachers. “As an undergraduate, I had a professor who would take me and others out with his family to dinner and dessert. We would discuss education and life. We built a strong relationship, and because of that relationship I became even more engaged in research and college,” she said.

Indeed, she has empathy and determination to serve all students. She tailors her instruction to reach even the most mathematically anxious students. Her classroom is dynamic, one where movement is encouraged and writing on the desks and windows is permitted. Her dissertation was “Writing to Learn in Math”, and her passion for creativity within the math classroom can be seen all over her walls.

She molds her instruction so that her students “own” the knowledge. They learn their own way of solving problems, and it’s not just the teacher passing down the step-by-step instructions. “I love math because it’s like a puzzle. There is more than one way to solve the problem. I want the kids to know that I want to hear about their way of tackling a problem. It’s not just about how I do it.”

Dr. Markert was raised in Lilburn, Georgia, and attended Berry College in Rome. She married her husband Dave, a GAC alum, in 2012. Hard work runs in the family, and Dr. Markert said her father in particular has always served as an example of life-long learning. Dr. Markert’s older sister is a Language Arts teacher, and Dr. Markert grew up helping her set up her classrooms and bulletin boards. So Dr. Markert’s career choice feels like home.

Middle School Academic Dean Lauren Hollier especially appreciates Dr. Markert: “Laura epitomizes the term dedication.  She works tirelessly before, during, and after school with her kids. She encourages, motivates, instills confidence, and loves her students. If one way doesn’t work, she tries another, and another. She is one of the most patient teachers I’ve ever met.”

While she has taught in several other school environments, Dr. Markert says, “I love the spiritual aspect of GAC. I love that we have the chance to pray. I like the way the kids love each other. The light really shines through here at GAC.”

Read More about Meet Dr. Laura Markert: Middle School Math Teacher

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We are a Community

Dr. Betty Morris

“GAC is greater because of the attention to detail that our faculty and staff take to ensure each student has individualized academic preparedness based on their unique needs. We are very proud of our impressive and successful graduates. But we know that the same academic opportunities that worked for them may not work for your kids. We are always changing, always innovating, and always applying new methods based on the students we have in the classroom.”

Director of Academics and Teacher Growth