By Sandra Zunino
Preparing students for college is just one goal for Gunston Day School, preparing them for life is even more important. “We believe in the approach of the whole learner,” says Interim Head of School Christie Grabis. “The day, the curriculum, the calendar, the program – everything is structured to that end.”
Located in Centreville on 32 waterfront acres, Gunston has a rich history dating back to its founding by Sam and Mary Middleton in 1911. What started as a coeducational day school for the Middleton’s three children in their Victorian home along the Corsica River later became a successful girl’s boarding school in the 1940s.
Gunston transitioned back into a coeducational day school in 1996, providing education to grades 9-12 and is committed to high standards of academic achievement, ethical behavior and physical fitness.
An independent college preparatory school, Gunston’s small student body allows a high degree of individualized attention for students. “Because of our small size, teachers are able to focus on subject matter in great depth,” says Christie, “and are able to thoroughly involve every student in every class.”
Gunston is able to encourage students to take advantage of opportunities to immerse themselves in everything from academics, leadership opportunities, athletic clubs and social organizations. “Students are able to try things they might not try otherwise at a larger school,” says Christie.
Gunston’s proximity to the river allows students to participate in sailing and crew, not typical even by independent school standards. Athletic participation is not only encouraged, it is required for two seasons out of every school year at Gunston.
Because many students are avid riders, Gunston formed an equestrian team. “If a student has an interest or ability and wants to pursue that, we are flexible enough to open avenues so that can happen,” says Christie.
It’s not uncommon for the school to flex the curriculum to build in an independent study or an advanced class for a few students because a teacher perceives an interest in them. This is just one way Gunston tries to promote well-rounded students and provide tools to capitalize on special talents.
“If we discover students with advanced voice or musical talent for instance, they will be connected to the music director and we will work together as a team to create a schedule,” says Christie.
“If there were many more students, we might not have that luxury,” she adds.
A strong rapport between teachers and students helps uncover special interests and talents. “We have a very important advisory program,” Christie explains. “Each teacher mentors a group of six to eight students fostering an adult-teenager connection, which gives the teenagers a place to go for conversation and a safe haven when needed.”
Gunston works closely with parents as well. “We perceive ourselves as a team to help lead the students to their independence,” says Christie.
“I think its important for us as educators to remind students that high school is not just about preparing for college, it’s about preparing for life and about becoming educated, well rounded and informed,” she says.
Students from Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Caroline and Anne Arundel counties as well as Delaware attend Gunston. Additionally, Gunston hosts international students from Asia and Europe.
For more information about Gunston Day School, visit www.gunstondayschool.org or call 410-758-0620.