Sterling Classical School
Source: Community Impact
By: Macy Hurwitz
February 23, 2012
Private school emphasizes family involvement
Every time Terry McKinney opens a door to a classroom at the school she co-founded, Sterling Classical School in Leander, the students rise and say, “Good morning, Mrs. McKinney!” The response is an illustration of the way the school emphasizes “key virtues.”
“Key values, like being respectful, being thankful, being forgiving,” McKinney said. “We also teach our students manners.”
Aside from aiming to help the children it educates be polite, McKinney and her co-founder, Sonya Dixon, say that what sets Sterling apart from other learning institutions is the merger of challenging, targeted academics with the emphasis on family, Christian values, home-schooling part-time and community service. Sterling meets either two or three times a week—pre-school through fifth grade meet twice and the higher grades meet three times per week—and the other two days the students’ parents are given access to lesson plans to teach at home.
“We wanted to provide something that was of exceptional quality academically—so it was college preparatory—plus it did not take away any of the family component. So the home-school families could still enjoy that bond with their children and be a part of their education, but they did not have to sacrifice quality for that,” Dixon said.
The school offers instruction up to 10th grade, but it is adding a grade each year. The school is seeking accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Students at Sterling School are in classrooms with a maximum of 15 students, minus preschool classes, which have 10. The school aims to nourish different learning styles by allowing students to respond to test and project prompts based on their individual talents. For instance, students read “The Taming of the Shrew,” and student work displayed on the school’s walls showcased variations of visual and written responses. McKinney and Dixon said there are also students who choose to respond musically and theatrically as well.
“We want kids to have a love of learning, to engage in it. We feel like you have to touch it, smell it and create it in order for it to be solidified,” McKinney said. “That can still be done in a very academic, challenging manner.”
McKinney and Dixon met as home-school moms. McKinney had decided to homeschool her oldest son after she said public schools were not adequately engaging her son and catering to his learning style.
Dixon is a former K–3 teacher. When her oldest was born, she did not want to send her child into a classroom like the ones she had taught in.
“It was really crowd control,” Dixon said. “The last year I taught, we had a state waiver to have 28 kids in the class. There were no aids; it was just me.”
They started a home-school enrichment program called CEA, and that eventually morphed into Sterling.