“Now there is fruit on our tree. We’re not speaking theoretically when we say we are growing,” stated Mayflower Christian Academy director Javier Mattos. Mattos was standing in front of the hand-painted learning tree mural that dominates the lobby of the academy; and using the tree as a metaphor to show the progress of the K – 8 school, which just completed its “beta year” as a classical Christian academy.
Addressing a group of interested and invested individuals who were present for the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the academy, Mattos explained, “Mayflower is all about equipping children for the future with what has been successful in the past. We focus on time-honored tools of learning; helping the students to learn and think for themselves and develop important critical thinking skills.”
Two important people who help the students learn through classical education are K-2 instructor Jodi Farmer and grade 3 – 8 instructor, Ginny Kirk.
Some of the highlights of the first year were surprising even to the teachers as the students improved their critical thinking skills, initiative and creativity and then applied these skills to learning.
“The students did a lot of hands on learning. In one module of learning about commerce, they created a pet shop, wrote out what they were selling and the cost; then the students used real money to pay for the item and make change. Another student created a bakery with the same outcome,” exclaimed Ginny Hagee, who is a licensed teacher and mentor – and who oversees the Mayflower instructors.
“What we do at Mayflower creates a love of learning. All the kids seem to love learning here. There is no push-back when doing reading or assignments. They do it for the love of learning and not for the grade or the test,” Hagee stated.
Students have lots of opportunity to learn through positive experience like field trips, which occur one day a week. Some of the field trips were taking a tour of the Pulaski County Courthouse, Wytheville Recreation Center, STEM classes at the Pulaski Library, AEP plant where the students toured inside the dam, a visit to the Volvo Customer Service Center and “Coffee with the Chief” at the Coffee Grinder in Pulaski. They also had individuals with special skills or talents visit the school such as a person who builds guitars, a naturalist with insect collections, artists and poets, etc.
One of the pleasant surprises gleaned from the first year was explained by board member Jane Lookabill.
“The kids treat each other like family. The older ones help the younger ones; and the younger ones admire and look up to the older kids. It doesn’t feel so much like a school … more like a family. It is a God-thing. We didn’t pray or know enough to anticipate it.”
Kirk agreed that “it was an amazing year of teaching students from diverse backgrounds. We encourage thinking and cultivate discussions in our classrooms. The students were excited, and a synergy developed between the kids. The older ones paired with younger ones to help them learn. It built up their confidence and helped the younger ones learn to express themselves. It created a family atmosphere.”
The students seem to agree and like the classical method of learning where they are taught to think on their own. In classical teaching the instructor asks questions and the students are encouraged to ask questions while seeking the answer. “In most schools, the kids are used to being asked a question and then anticipating what the ‘right’ answer is that the teacher wants to hear. At Mayflower, we encourage the students to think it through,” explains Jane Lookabill.
Several students were willing to comment on what they liked about Mayflower.
Lalani Mattos likes the fact that “we all have our own pace of learning. It is very positive. We have lots of friends and are disappointed if we can’t go to school” (because of inclement weather, etc.).”
Esther Whitner says she is “Thankful for Mayflower school.” She likes the Christian school and the fun games they play. Her favorite field trip was visiting the Circuit Court (where they got to sit in the jury box) and say, ‘You’re guilty!’
Alex Mattos loves the school because it is Christ-centered and teaches about Jesus. He also enjoys the games and doing crafts.
Ethan Mattos likes that he can learn and have fun while learning. His favorite field trip was bike riding on the New River Trail and wall climbing.
The Mayflower Board believes that school should not be merely about passing a test or getting a diploma. The path of learning should be about mentoring students to love and seek God, ask good questions, think critically, and become leaders. They have a heart to see children’s’ lives enriched and changed, which in turn helps change the community in a positive way – and believe one way to do that is through a classical Christian education.
Understanding that the cost of tuition can be a challenge, Mayflower Academy offers partial scholarships to people who cannot afford to send their child to Mayflower. Tuition can be paid on an academic calendar year or twelve-month calendar year.
Anyone interested in information about Mayflower Christian Academy, sharing the passion of what they know in life and wanting to inspire kids, volunteering or making a donation can contact: info@MayflowerSWVA.org
By DANIELLE REID, The Patriot
Mayflower Christian Academy director, board members, students and friends bow in prayer led by Memorial Baptist Church Pastor Mike Jones, before the ribbon cutting ceremony held July 9. Every need the board makes for the academy is first submitted and prayed over before making a decision.