Promoting critical thinking and creativity
Listening, speaking, writing, analytical thinking, teamwork and problem solving skills. These are the tools that St. Andrew's–Sewanee seeks to cultivate. Our approach is to engage and challenge, to teach not only facts but critical and creative processes. St. Andrew's-Sewanee School is committed to providing students with the fundamentals necessary for lifelong success. Students are taught to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and to meet academic challenges via multidisciplinary and hands-on teaching styles.
Minimum requirements for graduation include four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of history, two years of a single foreign language at the high school level, physical science, chemistry, biology, one year of the arts, Introduction to Religion, and Health and Fitness. Traditionally, students go well beyond fulfilling minimum requirements and partake in electives, including Environmental History, Political Action, Environmental Studies, Field Geology, a variety of visual and performing arts courses, advanced science courses, and a multitude of independent advanced-study opportunities.
Science at SAS is lab and field based allowing students to experience science rather than merely study its theories. In the arts, students have opportunities to take advanced courses in all disciplines. Art, music, and theater may be taken for academic credit.
Learning through doing
The first thing new students notice at St. Andrew's-Sewanee is that you don't get credit for just showing up. Faculty members expect students to know how to use their knowledge. Whether it's reading Shakespeare or finding the volume of a sphere, students are taught to come to the material from multiple angles. Teachers expect arguments and want to be challenged. Students begin to see the world in new ways and, most importantly, find that learning isn't confined to a classroom or to the school day.
SAS is dedicated to multiple diversities, including intellectual diversity. In addition to the demanding courses on our campus, students requiring a greater challenge are encouraged to take classes (at no additional cost and for college credit!) at the nearby University of the South. Students requiring extra help have access to our Learning Resources Center. Students may also receive course-specific help from the peer tutoring program or hired tutors. Faculty members encourage students' unique interests; whether it's helping a group of students design a Winterim film course or start an Ethics Bowl team.
Outstanding juniors and seniors are encouraged to take college courses for credit (and for free) at the University of the South, one of the country's top liberal arts colleges. SAS students learn to hold their own and excel in a college setting with college-aged classmates. Students learn to balance a college course workload and to communicate with college professors before getting to college. Approximately twenty percent of the senior class will graduate with college credit.
Students and parents should have access to multiple assessments based on performance of authentic tasks.
As many schools begin to rely on increasing numbers of standardized tests (and the ever-present temptation to begin teaching to those tests), St. Andrew's-Sewanee believes in more meaningful assessments. Students receive frequent opportunities to “strut their stuff" whether it is on traditional tests and papers, on group projects, exhibitions or presentations. After all, when was the last time your work required you to “bubble in" your responses? Teachers provide students and parents with meaningful feedback through a combination of grades, qualitative comments, and opportunities to see presentations and final projects.
The academic year is divided into semesters, and grade reports or comments are sent to parents eight times a year. The grading scale is 0-100.
The SAS Upper School uses a combined 45-minute/90-minute schedule format which is designed to facilitate a hands-on learning environment. Upper School classes meet three times weekly (two 90-minute periods and one 45-minute period). Science classes are built around laboratory and field experiences that are easily integrated with instruction in the longer class periods.
Students whose grades require it must attend required work period in the Learning Resources Center during the day. Residential students have required evening study hours and may be required to attend Supervised Study Hall. Students often meet with teachers by appointment or at the teacher's request during work periods during the day, or during evenings or weekends.
I never felt I could make anything of beauty until I started my SAS English courses. I am quite blessed that my teachers disagreed. They forced me to write. They showed me that I could produce something of worth. They gave me an ability to create and love my creations.
Spencer Fugate '14, Macalester College '18
Students thrive in small schools and classrooms, where teachers and students know each other well and work in an atmosphere of trust and high expectations.
St. Andrew's-Sewanee is very intentionally a small school, eschewing the trend towards “super-sized" private schools. With fewer than 300 students on campus, individual students never fade into the background. Everyone contributes, whether it's in the classroom, on the stage or on the playing field. Teachers know the names of all students, not just the ones in their classes, making it possible to engage and challenge students in the classroom and out. To best meet the challenges faced by an individual student, groups of faculty, residential staff, advisors, and coaches work together as a team to create an academic plan.
Does it work?
When SAS students co-enroll in courses at the University of the South, the faculty members there tell us that our students are the stars in their classrooms. Our students publish and present original research. They are named National Merit Scholars and receive national recognition for their writing, art work, and foreign language abilities. The majority of our students get into their first choice college. Perhaps, most importantly, we pride ourselves on producing thoughtful and well-rounded graduates for whom learning is an on-going adventure, not just the means to a grade or a diploma.
Kids love learning at SAS...Perhaps it is the experiential learning, the constant communication with teachers at meals, walking about campus where you mingle with the teachers, or simply sitting by a bonfire talking to faculty on a Friday night... [My] child was excited about Macbeth, wanted to please her Algebra teacher because he loved math and made it fun, went to Greece with her history teacher and has now been reading mythology all summer, lived on an island for six days studying marine life with the dean of students, and had a Chinese teacher who not only had the kids speak it in class for the entire period but also every time they saw him around."
Stephanie Wright, current parent