Karine Veldhoen isn’t your typical school principal, but that’s not unexpected, because Willowstone Academy, the school she leads, isn’t your typical school. Most mornings you will find Mrs. V greeting students by name with a warm welcome at one of the school’s entrance doors as they arrive. As Willowstone’s chief learning officer, and a mom of three, she and her team of high-performance, multi-disciplinary educators champion the extraordinary potential that lives within every child.
She firmly believed a new educational model was needed—a community for being, becoming and believing. The Learn Forward philosophy was born, and Willowstone Academy is Learn Forward’s model school.
Learn Forward’s philosophy focuses on the five important journeys of a child: faith, worthiness, selfhood, belonging and change-making. “Because we hold those journeys as what matters most for children, it helps us educate the whole child,” Veldhoen says. “We ensure not only their academic and cognitive needs are met, but also their social and emotional needs, so they feel safe and excited to be at school.”
At Willowstone, parents, teachers and students are invited to the Table of Learning. The learning remains central, in the middle of the table. Every voice is welcome and on equal ground. A communal growth mindset represents progress and forward motion. The school’s high-performance, multi-disciplinary team encourages open-hearted collaboration, innovative pedagogy, sustainability and high hopes for every child.
Willowstone’s Manifesto defines its roots, offering keywords and memorable phrases that permeate the school. The manifesto is displayed in every classroom, with a six-foot version adorning the main school staircase.
A private, faith-based school, Willowstone offers programs from kindergarten to Grade 9 as well as early childhood education, including infant/toddler programs, pre-school and pre-K classes. With a focus on personalized learning, students receive affordable, world-class education in a boutique-sized learning community. Every educator is ultimately championing the extraordinary potential that lives within every child.
The youngest learner’s little hands reach up to meet their teacher’s with curiosity and trust as they take their first steps on their learning journey.
Learning comes alive for Willowstone’s elementary grade students as they take ownership of their learning, develop confidence and find their unique voice in a safe and nurturing environment.
Willowstone’s middle years program is formative as students develop their individuality, community and global citizenship by nurturing their interests. Built on the three pillars of identity formation, powerful learning and authentic connections, the middle years program has its own building, Middle Years Lane, where powerful learning is fostered through academic rigour focused on the process of learning and personal accountability.
“Those three pillars really define what’s happening developmentally for students in that middle years age and stage, which is very tender and somewhat tumultuous,” Veldhoen says. “We’re excited about how our project-based and personalized program prepares students to be all they’re meant to be, beginning in their graduation program (Grades 10-12) and ultimately in the 21st century work environment.”
The excellent teacher-to-student ratio allows for closer connections between educators and children, which is augmented through the school’s unique extra-curricular programs. Whether it is new athletic programming, First Lego League, a leadership development program or the school’s entrepreneurial marketplace, Willowstone students always have opportunities to Learn Forward and become change-makers. In fact, last year’s Lego League squad placed first provincially for its robotics presentation and quadrupled its score from the previous competition.
Public registration for the 2021-22 Willowstone Academy school year opens on Tuesday, Feb. 9. To book a tour, visit the school’s admissions page.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Okanagan Edge.
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