After 175 years, Sewickley Academy still focused on future
By Kristina Serafini
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:30 p.m.
When Kolia O'Connor first stepped on the Sewickley Academy campus a decade ago, he looked around and thought to himself, “This is pretty good … but it could be better.”
O'Connor said it has been that attitude — one that runs deep throughout the Edgeworth independent school's faculty and staff—that has helped shape it into what it's become today.
“We cannot become complacent,” he said. “Just because we've been successful in the past, doesn't mean we'll always be.”
Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools Executive Director Linda Phelps said she thinks Sewickley Academy has thrived for its 175 years for many of the same reasons why enrollment in other independent schools throughout the state has remained stable in recent years.
“Parents see the value in independent education,” she said. “Accredited schools provide high quality education. Children are well-prepared for colleges.”
She added that independent schools place value in the arts and athletics — both of which are robust at Sewickley Academy, O'Connor said.
“The public sector is driven by tests. We don't teach to test. We teach kids,” O'Connor said.
In the 10 years since he's been at the academy, O'Connor has witnessed many changes. One of the most significant is the shift from teaching to learning.
“Kids are much more in the driver's seat” when it comes to their education, he said.
Instead of straight lectures, teachers develop their lessons and frame their classrooms around problem solving, analysis and group work.
“Kids are increasingly at the center of their own learning,” he said.
They've also become a model school of sorts when it comes to global studies.
The academy currently offers five foreign language options—French, German, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin—as well as a Global Studies Certificate program for senior school students. The school also offers exchanges and international trips throughout the school year.
“We've really become a global school. It has dramatically changed our school for the better,” O'Connor said.
As important as students' education, Sewickley Academy also is committed to professional development.
O'Connor said faculty members are given the opportunity to attend educational conferences like Learning & the Brain, which connects educators to neuroscientists and researchers “to explore new research on the brain and learning and its implications for education,” according to its website.
Recently, a Grants for Innovative Frameworks in Teaching, or GIFT, program was established by the Home and School Association which allows teachers to apply for funding to help support projects outside the realm of daily classroom activities.
While O'Connor said the academy's focus has always been on what goes on in the classroom rather than the classroom itself, he spoke enthusiastically about recently completed projects on campus, including a new bus turnaround and turf field, and talked about future renovations to science classrooms that are starting to show signs of age.
Still, he said they are fortunate to have been able to keep pace through the years.
“I was very privileged to inherit a beautiful school,” he said. “There's more work to be done, but it's been fun doing it.”
Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Bylsma’s moves — yes, moves — pay off
- 4 dead in ‘horrific’ Armstrong County crash
- Police see no sign Franklin Regional stabbing suspect was bullied
- Penguins rally to escape with a victory in Game 1 against Columbus
- Man to serve 75 to 100 years in prison for Shadyside rape
- Physical Columbus team is a hit in playoff opener against Penguins
- Former Pitt captain Cavanaugh blazes trail as entrepreneur
- Good Friday: Some offices will be open, some closed
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- 5 Operation Pork Chop defendants sentenced to 5 years probation
- Fayette County attorney pleads guilty to possessing illegal drugs delivered to client