I Heard the Sweet Sound of Student Learning
Laura Hoffman, mother of Annicka (’21), a musician, home educator and principal of Boulevard Adventist Academy in Charleston, W.Va., shares her perspective on how Potomac Conference's Shenandoah Valley Academy (SVA) is positively impacting students:
As a homeschooling parent who is deeply involved in my children’s education, boarding academy wasn’t really on my radar. However, growing pains during the early teenage years, compounded by a small church with few youth and having to make increasingly more accommodations to avoid extracurricular activities on Sabbath, led my husband and I to realize that perhaps we needed more support for high school. That is when SVA came into the picture in a way marked by God’s providence and care. It was specifically an article written by Orchestra Director Kelly Wiedemann in the April 2017 Visitor about SVA’s music program that first caught my attention.
Prayerfully, my husband and I submitted to this new education path for our oldest and settled her into dorm life. We make an effort to stay connected to her from 256 miles away in West Virginia. Principal Donald Short’s Weekly Update email, social media and the SVA Parent Association help us stay informed and involved. Regular visits to campus and homeleave breaks each month are important—and wonderful!
Recently I was blessed to experience SVA student life by shadowing my daughter in her classes. My takeaway from a day spent with enthusiastic, industrious teenagers, is a clear idea of the value of the education my daughter’s grade reports represent. I am encouraged and confident about the quality of academics, spiritual support and care that students receive at SVA. The teachers are impressively specialized in the subjects they teach and the teen that walk through the classroom doors are met by a staff who are prepared, organized and adept at navigating the challenges and potentials of youthful minds.
During my few hours there, religion teacher Buz Menhardt presented a beautiful lesson on Sabbath rest in class; English teacher Debbie White gave a no-nonsense rundown of a “stretch” grammar skills packet and expectations through year-end; Physics teacher Tom McNeilus led an interrogative lecture on the physics of sound. “At what decibel will sound damage the human ear? Or bring down Jericho’s walls?” he asked. Gathering the class around, he placed a tiny music box under a glass bell and created a vacuum by removing the air (pictured). “Can you hear it?” he asked, as the teens fell silent, leaning in to listen. I heard the sweetest sound, and it wasn’t the music box—it was the sound of students learning!
Thank you SVA for providing an education nested inside the context of faith, in a community of faith! Thank you teachers and staff for doing what we could never have done locally for our daughter. What an immense blessing it is to have this option for our family and to see our daughter well cared for and thriving!