Success already as family begins year in Sewickley Academy

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Simon Stanton lay in his parents' king-size bed face down with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michelangelo action figure at his side.

It's a little past 6:30 a.m. and Simon, 4, still is out cold, unaffected by noise or the lights in the bedroom.

His mother, Claire, said it's rare that Simon is the one sleeping in. The mornings usually are dedicated to trying to drag 6-year-old Eli out of bed instead.

But not today — this morning, Eli already is dressed — albeit with a mild case of bed head — fixing a bowl of Fruit Loops cereal at the dining room table under the watchful eye of his father, David.

Eli said he couldn't sleep in because he was too excited about his first day of school at Sewickley Academy.

The Stanton family moved to Edgeworth from Squirrel Hill, primarily so the children could attend Sewickley Academy, Claire's alma mater.

Though she admitted to being nervous about sending her children to a new school, she knew they'd be fine at the academy. Eli was going into first grade, and Simon already had classroom experience at Shady Lane School in Point Breeze before starting this school year as a prekindergartner.

“We made the mistake with Eli when we didn't send him anywhere first. (Simon) is used to a classroom setting, making friends, instruction from teachers,” Claire said.

She wanted her children to attend Sewickley Academy, she said, because the school focuses on building character above academics. With a strong character, Claire said, the rest comes naturally.

“The most important thing to me is that they love education — that they love learning,” she said.

“I'm trying hard to let them be them. I'm a firm believer that anyone can excel at anything they love.”

Upstairs, as the clock inches closer to 7 a.m., Claire snuggles with a sleepy Simon for a few minutes longer before he declares he is ready to get some breakfast. Over a cup of yogurt, he sneaks in a few minutes of playtime with his Ninja Turtles before getting dressed and ready for school.

To help Claire, who has a broken foot, longtime sitter Greg Kollmar of Arnold arrives about 7:30 a.m. to finish preparing the boys. Then the crew begins its short walk to the school — first dropping Eli off at Kelly Gary's first-grade classroom before taking Simon to the prekindergarten building for his first day — a half day — in Jeanne Otto's room, where he quickly makes friends with other classmates who are building a spaceship out of wooden blocks.

By noon dismissal, Simon is sitting in his cubby and waiting for Greg to pick him up.

Reflecting on his day, with a dimpled smile, he says his favorite part was “playing at the playground.”

Day one is a success.

Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or

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