When the 2019-20 school year came to an end, students, teachers and parents breathed a collective sigh of relief and looked forward to a summer without Zoom classes and virtual assignments. For the leadership team at Archmere Academy, however, there was no time for relaxation, as its members immediately dug in their heels and got to work on preparation for the fall.
A college preparatory school for boys and girls in grades nine through 12, one of Archmere’s biggest draws throughout its 88-year history has always been its tight-knit community. Two months into the current academic year, it is safe to say all of the hard work in the summer has paid off and allowed the school to preserve the very identity that so many families have come to appreciate over the years.
Aside from a handful of students who have opted for full remote learning, Archmere has been able to bring everyone in for in-person education for five full days per week.
“In the spring we were certainly challenged in moving to our virtual environment,” Principal Katie Eissler-Thiel says. “This year we knew we had to not only improve on that virtual model, but also prioritize in-person learning and extracurriculars for as long as possible. I think we’ve been able to strike a balance between safety, maintaining academic rigor and having face-to-face time with students. Not only is it a convenience factor for working parents, but some students are encountering increased emotional difficulties and high anxiety, so it’s important to have that personal connection.”
“We’re very vigilant,” says Dr. Michael Marinelli, now in his 11th year as headmaster. “For example, we’re going to have a virtual week of classes the week we return from the holiday break. If anything pronounces itself after people have family gatherings or travel for Thanksgiving, it will happen in a virtual environment and not here on campus.”
These measures are important because aspects of Archmere that are often taken for granted—such as socialization with peers, close bonds with teachers and an overall feeling of home—were clearly missing during the spring but are now back in full swing. The family-like atmosphere stems from a dedicated group of faculty members who love to arrive for work every morning, are always accessible to their students and make a difference well beyond the classroom in roles such as academic advisors, athletic coaches and club coordinators.
“Part of our mission is to develop empathetic leaders and that starts with our faculty,” Eissler-Thiel says. “We have faculty members who are very passionate about their disciplines. They’re curious and they’re problem-solvers, and they’re very interested in getting to the heart of the best way to convey a lesson. Our students stretch themselves every day to be the best versions of themselves, and they have good models to follow in their teachers.”
The academic philosophy at Archmere is built on the foundation of educating the whole person and challenging students to think critically and seek out information without being prompted. They are encouraged to get the most of their talents and to build strong habits that will carry over to college and their careers.
“One of the other things that makes our student experience unique is we match students’ abilities with their academic program in all the different disciplines,” Dr. Marinelli says. “For example, if a student is amazingly advanced in mathematics, as a freshman that student can take a junior-level pre-calculus course. At the same time, the same freshman might not be as advanced in English, so he or she would take a traditional college-level prep course. It’s not a one-size-fits-all class schedule by grade level. It depends on the ability and interest of each student.” The idea of a student’s individuality extends to extracurricular activities as well, where the captain of the football team might also have a role in the school musical.
Diversity is embraced both within the student body and the staff, and although Archmere is a Catholic school rooted in the church, people of all faiths are welcome and encouraged to attend. In fact, a world religions course is very popular and allows students to ask questions and compare their various faith traditions, often finding similarities and better understanding differences.
Archmere’s Delaware campus is easily accessible to South Jersey residents from the Commodore Barry and Delaware Memorial bridges, and van transportation is provided. Many local families have turned to the school to challenge their children and give them a well-rounded education that will help lead to success at the collegiate level.
“The safety nets here are a lot thicker and there are more of them than when they go into college and have to manage a significant amount of open time and make moral and ethical decisions away from home,” Dr. Marinelli says. “We see this as the place where they can fall, but they’ll fall gently and we’ll pick them up and give them the support they need to keep on going.”
3600 Philadelphia Pike | Claymont, Del. | (302) 798-6632 | ArchmereAcademy.com
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (October 2020).
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