Opening Remarks with Dr. Sgro
The single proudest day of my academic career was the day that I graduated from Asheville School in 1984. My time at the school as a student was not marked by particularly high academic achievement. Frankly, I struggled mightily in many areas of academic life. I entered Asheville School after having attended a public school in a very underserved area of Appalachia. My experience at Asheville School was truly amazing. It was the first time that I have ever felt completely supported and had teachers who verbally expressed their belief in my abilities and were committed to my success in all aspects of my life. On the first day of classes at Asheville School, I did not think that I had the capacity to complete the program to graduation. On Commencement Day, I believed that I could conquer anything if I put my mind to it. I gained a confidence in my abilities that has been with me my entire adult life. I also knew that my newfound academic confidence was the result of a great deal of emotional and teaching support from highly committed teachers, coaches, and residential faculty. It was also a gift to be in classes with students who cared about their own achievement and mine too.
I remember very clearly my fourth form English class that was taught by Donna Lewis. She had incredible patience with the four students she was tasked to teach in that section. Very early in the school year, the students in the class realized that we were a group who needed significant additional support in reading and writing. We were also a handful of gregarious teenagers. She was able to make the class fun and yet instill an understanding of reading, writing, and grammar. It was an incredibly challenging class, but she was right there with us the whole time. To this day, I credit my love of reading to Mrs. Lewis. I had similar experiences in classes with Ron Bromley, Robert Blair, and Doc Embler.
Asheville School has always had a strong academic program. We are known nationally and internationally as a place where students are challenged and asked to reach as far as they can academically. Very gifted students from around the world come to our campus for the academic program that meets their needs. They take seminars and AP classes that challenge their views of themselves and the world around them. We teach students not what to think but how to think critically. This has been the case since the very founding of the school in 1900.
The faculty of the school work hard to curate a curriculum that is foundational and yet innovative. We offer classes that allow students to have the knowledge they need to advance and instill in them the skills they will need to achieve success in college and graduate school. Curriculum design and development is something that is constantly front of mind for our faculty.
Helen Plaehn, Asheville School’s Director of Experiential Learning, sums up the academic experience at Asheville School with two words: rigor and relationships. Try to remember what it is like to be poised on the threshold of your adult life, and what it is like to be both challenged and supported in these classrooms. We hope you enjoy this snapshot of the academic experience at Asheville School as it exists today. Plenty has changed in 122 years, but what matters most remains the same: Our faculty demand the best while caring deeply about our students. When our students recognize the depth of that care, they rise to the occasion time and time again.
Anthony H. Sgro, Ed.D. ’84