Each day, the faculty at York Country Day School forms authentic and powerful connections with their students as they stoke curiosity, encourage exploration, and advocate for students.
WRITTEN BY: TIM STONESIFER
If wonder is the mother of all science, then a good teacher is one who’s prepared to guide the curious deep into the forest of imagination.
It means being interested in a shared journey to enlightened understanding and in young people’s personal growth – in teaching not subjects but students.
A good teacher kindles that first spark of interest, then safeguards the flame of knowledge as it grows.
This is York Country Day School, an independent college preparatory school in Spring Garden Township, where teaching isn’t just about testing, and where education is above all else human-centered.
“We believe that having a great teacher can inspire students to become their best selves, both personally and academically,” says Head of School Christine Heine. “What our faculty does here is create meaning in present day life in order to help students prepare for their future.”
The age of ‘what if?’
Open to the first page of a book in Christina Ausherman’s Lower School classroom, and you’ll find a long list of names — just some of the many students she’s read to during story time over the past 26 years at Country Day.
Each year brings her a fresh group of young faces, yet what abides is an approach that’s tailored to the interests of the individual child. Small class size means more personal attention, and that attention means a curriculum designed for specific children’s interests.
“I get to know all my kids, and that way we can follow what they like to do,” Ausherman says. “At the end of the day, each one knows they’re valued and that they matter.”
That feeling of safety, of being able to explore with confidence, becomes the first step on a lifelong journey for knowledge.
“This is the age of ‘what if,’ or ‘what can be,’” she says. “It’s amazing to see that spark and see where it goes.”
‘My heart story’
Picture a group of Middle School students on an exchange trip to Montreal, when their bus pulls into McGill University. It’s not a scheduled stop, but their teacher realizes the school might be right for one of her students. So, she takes the time to show him.
“That particular student, that’s my heart story,” says YCDS French teacher Kristina Spies.
At York Country Day School, language arts start early, with Spanish beginning in pre-school through fifth grade, and French available with Spies from sixth grade through graduation. From salsa dancing on Spanish culture night to Winter Carnival in Montreal, students are taught more than content from textbook. They learn about the larger world.
“It’s great that I’m able to build the curriculum how I think the students will understand best,” Spies says. “We’re immersing them in languages and cultures, which is a real rarity these days.”
YCDS students live what they’re learning, and they gain a richer understanding along the way.
‘A joy and a privlege’
More than 20 years ago, David Tuten came to Country Day as a math teacher. Since then, he’s taught biology and physical education, and helped with anything else when he’s been asked by a student.
The common thread is curiosity.
“The relationships that develop between faculty and students are really special here,” Tuten says. “I’ve always loved to learn new things, and I love to share that spirit with my students.”
The hope is to instill an enduring thirst for new knowledge, something YCDS graduates consistently display after they leave high school. It’s something their teachers get to see when former students come back to visit and say thank you.
“It’s just lovely when I see the amazing adults they grow into,” Tuten says. “It’s a joy and a privilege.”
It’s the greatest gift a teacher can receive.
The shared journey
Today at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., a librarian goes quietly about her work. Once upon a time, she carefully wrote her name inside of a storybook, one that her Lower School teacher at YCDS still treasures.
Today at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, you’ll find record of a linguistics student, once painfully shy, who eventually returned to a college campus first showed to him by his French teacher at York Country Day. He’ll always have part of her heart.
“We’re about connections that are authentic and powerful,” says Head of School Heine. “We’re about a shared journey in education.”
So today at York Country Day School, a family of faculty will look to once again educate and inspire young individuals. They’ll stoke curiosity, encourage exploration, and applaud new knowledge. They’ll be there as always for their students, every step of the way.