During my 36 years in education, I have taught in schools with different grade configurations, including K–12 and preschool–8. Since joining the Trinity community three years ago, I am frequently asked: “Why an elementary school?” I chose Trinity School specifically because of its steadfast dedication to providing an elementary-only education to children ages three through Sixth Grade.
I strongly believe in separating the three traditional divisions of school—elementary, middle, and high. I’ve taught in all three and know firsthand that students of different ages have particular needs—in terms of learning spaces, daily schedules, teachers, and more—that require unique attention in order to optimize growth and success. When schools contain more than one of these divisions, it’s inevitable that one of them, usually the one with older students, receives more emphasis and resources. I distinctly remember from my time at another school how disappointed my Eighth Grade boys basketball team was when our scheduled middle school practice was canceled for the varsity team that needed “additional practice before a big game.” Trinity’s focus on one division means that every student, in every grade level, is given equal value and support.
From a research perspective, early development of healthy habits and skills is essential to subsequent success and happiness in school and life. A recent study found that three key practices and skills support future school success. One is the importance of a strong academic foundation. This includes proficiency in literacy and numeracy and exposure to experiences and content knowledge in other disciplines, such as science and art. Over the past 20 years, there has been much research into how children learn and how to make content knowledge “stick,” meaning it is well stored and easily retrieved from long-term memory. While today’s digital age provides easy access to factual knowledge, “new learning” is built upon prior knowledge and understanding.
Another important skill is the ability to focus and attend to a particular task. Experienced teachers know that self-control in students is as important as cognitive ability for academic success. The final key practice encompasses the development of positive peer relationships and the ability to work with others collaboratively and cooperatively. Additionally, other studies show how important elementary school years are in developing students’ intrinsic motivation, another important factor in determining future success and happiness. Extrinsic strategies like rewards and incentives may work in the moment but do not motivate children—or adults—in the long run.
Research confirms what Trinity has always believed: a learning environment designed around the unique needs and interests of young learners gives students the best opportunity for future success and happiness. As an elementary school, we focus on preparing our students for the future while also savoring the wonder, magic, and innocence of childhood. We design and provide learning experiences that build upon children’s natural curiosity and allow for exploration, including play-based discovery for our youngest students. We maintain a culture that has the ideal balance of challenge, nurture, structure, and choice. One that fosters belonging, acceptance, and community; emphasizes achievement and progress through hard work and effort; and stimulates, inspires, and engages young minds and attitudes.
When I taught middle and high school students, I learned the importance of their formative years in elementary school. Since Trinity’s founding in 1951, we have been committed to an education that builds strong academic and character foundations in our students and encourages continued excitement and engagement in learning. Through Trinity’s guidance and influence, our graduates flourish not only during their secondary school years, but also throughout their lifetime!