Oli teachers take a holistic and individualized approach to every student. That means facilitating a support network on and off campus.
Here at the Oliverian School, we pride ourselves on overcoming obstacles. And given that most of our students find themselves here after years of struggling in more traditional educational settings, those obstacles are often many.
From delayed learning to feelings of social isolation, it’s our priority to rewrite the classroom experience for our students and break down any barriers to learning and success that they may have developed. And while learning certainly doesn’t end in the classroom at Oliverian, we’ve worked hard to create an ecosystem where faculty and staff work together in a supportive capacity to guide each student toward intellectual and personal growth and self-exploration — and that certainly begins in the classroom.
Perhaps most prominently, what distinguishes the Oliverian classroom from those of other institutions is our embrace of extremely personalized instruction. We keep our classrooms very small and our faculty-to-student ratio low to ensure a highly individualized experience for each student. This means no issues go unaddressed and no student falls through the cracks.
With classrooms typically containing around 7 students, our faculty is able to tailor coursework and objectives for each student. Whatever an individual student’s needs or challenges are, our teachers have the time and attention to address them directly. This ensures that every student is able to benefit from the classroom experience and develop a healthy and positive relationship with their learning environment.
Kevin Watkins, a math and science teacher at Oliverian, believes the freedom and autonomy granted to teachers offer a huge advantage to the students. “Oliverian allows teachers to try new methods of instruction without having to spend a lot of time convincing administration that it’s worth the investment of time or money,” he says. “That level of trust given to teachers allows them to explore many different options.”
Watkins recalls one particular situation involving a student with a sleep disorder. The student struggled to get to early morning classes and subsequently fell behind in classes later in the day because she was unable to get the sleep she needed to focus. Oliverian developed a plan that allowed her to start her day later, reduced her workload, and extended her timelines to complete projects in order to get back on track. By simultaneously addressing the root of the issue and creating a manageable path for her to catch up where she’d fallen behind, Oliverian helped the student bypass what might have been an enormous barrier elsewhere, and also taught a lesson in resilience. The student learned that when a problem arises, it need not be exacerbated by an experience of falling behind or failing — solutions exist and should be sought out.
Another key component of the Oliverian pedagogy is the integration of counseling into the classroom experience. Teachers work alongside counselors to ensure that students feel supported and seen holistically, which also better enables our teachers to address learning roadblocks proactively and creatively.
“Working with the counselors allows us to tailor our responses to specific individuals,” Watkins says. “As teachers, we’re limited in our knowledge of what’s going on with students,” and the access to counselors means there are “no cookie cutter solutions” for kids as unique as Oliverian students. “It allows teachers to gain insight into students who would normally be difficult for us to reach,” but in a small, tight-knit community like the Oliverian campus, Watkins believes “it’s very easy to have those conversations about how to help each individual student.”
Oliverian faculty also works closely alongside parents, so that students experience a sense of community that encompasses both their personal and academic lives. Our belief is that with a network of adults rooting for their success, students will feel confident charting their own pathways to success and addressing any academic roadblocks holistically and preemptively.
Watkins notes the positive impact of parents’ openness to trying new and novel approaches, but most importantly, believes it’s the students’ willingness to put in the work to address the difficulties they have faced in the past. So long as students are interested in making changes and comfortable opening up to faculty, they’ll gain advocates available to help them address any challenges that may arise.
While we at Oliverian are always focused on providing a supportive and nurturing environment, there is no single “Oliverian Experience.” The Oliverian path is as unique as its students because our students play a central role in defining what their own success looks like. And that’s the Oliverian way: we ensure that each student receives the support and accommodation they need to confidently tackle problems inside and outside of the classroom so that they can confidently tackle problems in the real world too.