Mr. Heiskell & Our Campus History

Did you know that ACA once housed The Heiskell School, a beloved Atlanta institution? Prior to becoming Atlanta Classical Academy, the Heiskell School served many of Atlanta’s students from pre-K through 8th grade from the early 1950s to 2014. Mr. Heiskell, who currently teaches 4th grade at ACA, discusses the history of the Heiskell school, his own path to ACA as well as what he loves about classical education. Please enjoy this in-depth interview with Mr. Heiskell, including photos of the early days of our campus and the original founders, Miriam and James Heiskell. 

A Historic Season for ACA Basketball

The varsity boys broke the school record for most games won in a season, with an 11-8 record! Ranked 5th in the region, the boys recently competed in the state tournament, marking the end of a historic season for ACA basketball.

In recognition of his leadership this past season, Coach Franklin (back row, right) was named Coach of the Year for the GHSA Class A Public Divison!

Black History Month Speaker Series

This year during Black History Month, we invited speakers from around Atlanta to come to school on Friday afternoons and speak with upper school students about their own stories and how they shed light on and contribute to history as it has been made in our city and country.
Melvin Everson, Vice President of Economic Development at Gwinett Technical College (bottom left) began our series and delivered a message about perseverance as he recounted his path into state politics. Donna Lowry, award-winning journalist from Georgia Public Broadcasting (top), an award-winning journalist, discussed her upbringing in North Dakota and told our students about the importance of forming strong relationships and learning to tell one’s own story in an engaging fashion. Finally, Dr. Andra Gillespie, Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory University (bottom right) shared elements of her academic research in political science and demonstrated how she has used her professional work to help answer her most pressing questions about justice and equity in America.
We are thankful for how these three talks, taken together, illustrate the way in which the stories of individual people intersect with the wider telling and study of Black History. This is the first year we have dedicated time during the school day to hosting external speakers on this topic, and we hope to learn from and build on this experience as we ornament our curriculum with special contributions on such particular occasions in the future. We are eager to take these and other opportunities to foreground examples of our virtues in practice in the world.

Introducing: The ACA House System!

This month, we officially launched the ACA House System in the middle school! We named each of our four houses for ancient cities with rich histories: Alexandria, Carthage, Constantinople, and Damascus.

8th graders and middle school teachers were sorted into predetermined houses in the first of the sorting ceremonies. 6th and 7th grade students were sorted later in the week by drawing one of 4 house colors out of a hat. At this second sorting ceremony, the houses also competed in their first competition, and the first-ever house points were awarded. The first point was given to 7th grader Ginger Respess from House Damascus for her display of virtue in the past week (pictured second row, left). The second was given to the House with the best cheer: Alexandria (pictured second row, right)!

“We are very excited to be launching the House System this year in our middle grades,” said Mr. Schepps, Upper School Assistant Principal. “We hope it will provide an important cultural layer in our Middle School. As it grows, the House System will instill a sense of citizenship and ownership that can be unique to ACA as it gives students new opportunities to lead, serve, and compete. Special thanks to Mr. Holt (5th grade) for serving as our founding Dean of Houses, to Mr. McClatchey for creating our logos, and to Mr. Rosenzweig, the Founder of the Feast, for bringing this idea and structure to us!”

Impressive Scores from Talented Seniors

Congratulations to two of our seniors, Mary Catherine Adams and Charlie Wessinger, who earned the highest scores out of the Class of 2022 on the SAT. Charlie and Mary Catherine scored in the top 1% of all test takers, scoring high enough to qualify as National Merit Semifinalists.

To celebrate their achievement, we asked some of Mary Catherine and Charlie’s teachers to share insight into their experience with these exceptional students in their classrooms:

Mary Catherine Adams

  • “She constantly works to help her classmates understand when they are struggling. In this way, she embodies both the moral and intellectual virtue ACA seeks in its students.”
  • “She has excelled in math for two important reasons: she has a patient determination that compels her to wrestle with any problem until she finds an answer, and she has a curious imagination that allows her to make connections and predictions about new problems.”
  • “Over the five years I have known her, she has continued to amaze me with her dry wit, wide range of extra-curricular skills, and superb work ethic. Adding yet another feather to her cap, she received an honorable mention in the Georgia Laws of Life Essay Contest last year.”
  • “Not only has she been a splendid Latin student, but, as a leader among her classmates, she has consistently wielded a strong positive influence towards the culture of both her grade and ACA as a whole.”

Charlie Wessinger

  • “I don’t even want to think about what I am going to do to replace him next year.”
  • “So central is the role that Charlie plays in the senior class and in the high school as a whole that everyone seems to assume that he is a member of the student government, even though he is not.”
  • “I have come to know Charlie better than any other student that I have never actually taught. I first became acquainted with Charlie as the champion of ACA’s first-ever National Geographic Bee in 2018, where he made it all the way to the state competition. I have also come to know him through his membership in the Quiz Bowl team, including participation in national championship qualifying competitions. Charlie has also revealed his sense of humor and acting skills through participation in several Coffeehouse comedy skits.”
  • “Charlie’s greatest strength is not academic, but personal. Sure, he gets good grades, he scores well on tests, and the like. But I respect him much more for his unassuming attitude towards his achievements than for the achievements themselves. It is his humility and his humanity which I admire, things that can never be captured in a test score.”

ACA’s Got Talent: Faculty Fine Arts Showcase

Last Thursday, a number of our talented faculty and staff took the stage for our annual Faculty Showcase. Performances included piano, strings, guitar, skits, poetry, and more! Last year, we were unable to host this event due to safety issues related to COVID-19, but this made for an especially energetic evening of performances this year.

“I am always so impressed by the talent and the varied interest of our faculty and staff,” said Mr. Bryan Franklin, ACA Fine Arts Director. “This event is important because, at its core, it demonstrates something we are hoping our students grab hold of: a willingness and openness to be well rounded and to experience all that life has to offer. This idea is fully embraced by our faculty and was clearly ‘showcased’ Thursday evening.”

Read All About It: Orton-Gillingham Literacy Training

This summer, ten of our Lower School teachers attended training on the Orton-Gillingham Approach, the model our lower school teachers use to teach literacy.

Teachers began by learning different ways to divide words into syllables. They then practiced creating nonsense words and dividing those into syllables. This helped to model how students experience unfamiliar words as they learn to read.

“Because reading is the foundation of all learning, phonics, and comprehension skills are heavily emphasized here at ACA,” said Mrs. Leah Adams, ACA Literacy Coordinator. “The Orton-Gillingham method of instruction consists of an explicit, multi-sensory, and sequential approach to reading and spelling. This approach gives all students the knowledge needed to become proficient readers. This reading foundation will then enable our students to comprehend and appreciate the more complicated literature selections they read in upper grades.”

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! | 2021 Graduation

Another class of seniors have completed their time at Atlanta Classical Academy and are moving on to pursue exciting opportunities. This year’s seniors worked diligently in their college searches and ultimately earned $3.8M in merit-based aid. Below is a list of each college or university to which students in the Class of 2021 have been accepted.


Albany State University

Arizona State University-Tempe

Auburn University

Belmont University

Boston College

Boston University

Christopher Newport University

Clark Atlanta University

Clayton State University

Clemson University

College of Charleston

College of Coastal Georgia

College of the Holy Cross

College of Wooster

Columbia University in the City of New York

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Florida State University

Fordham University

Fort Valley State University

Furman University

Gardner-Webb University

George Washington University

Georgia College & State University

Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus

Georgia Southern University

Georgia State University

Hobart William Smith Colleges

Jacksonville University

Kennesaw State University

Kenyon College

Louisiana State University

Miami University-Oxford

Middle Tennessee State University

Mississippi State University

The New School

North Carolina Central University

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rollins College

Savannah State University

Shorter University

Southern Methodist University

St. Thomas University (FL)

Temple University

Texas Christian University

Tulane University of Louisiana

Tuskegee University

Union College (NY)

University of Alabama

University of Arizona

University of California-Davis

University of Georgia

University of Kentucky

University of Louisville

University of Mississippi

University of North Georgia

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

University of South Carolina-Columbia

University of West Georgia

University of Wyoming

Valdosta State University

Western Carolina University

Xavier University of Louisiana

Young Harris College

Varsity Girls Soccer Wins State Championship!

After an exciting post-season run, the Girls Varsity Soccer team brought home Atlanta Classical Academy’s first State Championship title! They defeated Armuchee High School in the State Finals last Friday in a 4-0 shutout.

Head Coach Mr. Garrett Holt was named Region 6 Soccer Coach of the Year by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA).

Coach Holt reflected on the team’s incredible season:

“Even after best efforts and many creative innovations by our athletic department and coaches, our school athletic facilities consist of a frequently flooded soccer field, a gym that rivals Duke’s Cameron in proximity of fans to the court but is only large enough on which to play middle school games, a patch of turf used for elementary recess, and a weight room set-up that was modeled off of “The Longest Yard.” Despite all of this, despite having a third of our practices in the gym, despite frequent COVID-related problems, and despite having, on average, a student body that is half the size of its opponents, our little school brought home a state championship. 

The amount which the team grew and matured throughout the year was astounding. Each game they displayed improved technical skills as well as a more sound grasp of the tactical elements of the game. By the end of the season, watching them play was a joy with the way they moved the ball and dominated possession. They showed up every day confident, yet humble. After each loss they looked at themselves to see what they could improve instead of blaming teammates; I am fairly confident no one on the teams knows how many goals they scored. They were quick to applaud and praise the accolades of their teammates and deferential when praised themselves. Indeed, it is the way the team sacrificed for the mission which made them so effective.

Dubbed by our coaches as the “little team that could,” our girls persevered throughout the season, never complained, always improved, and continued to challenge themselves and their teammates. In the midst of a wild year, especially since we began while still virtual, having in-person practice with students was such a joy for myself and the other coaches. You would be hard-pressed to find a better, more joyful, caring, and respectful group of young women anywhere. They fully deserve this state title, and I am so proud of how they handled themselves throughout the season.” 

New SGA President Casts A Vision

ACA junior Kiki Bone was recently elected SGA president for the 2021-2022 school year. In her campaign speech, Kiki reflected on the strong community at Atlanta Classical, the camaraderie among her classmates, and how people and places form our character. Read her full speech below.

“What do you love about ACA?”

This was the question I asked myself and several of my classmates, and it is the question I would like you to consider as you listen.

I will now read you an excerpt from The Little Prince. Many of you will probably recognize it, as Mr. Clausen read it earlier this year. In this passage, the Prince meets a fox.

“It was then that the fox appeared. “Good morning,” said the fox. “Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing. “I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.” “Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.” “I am a fox,” the fox said. “Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.” “I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.” “Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince. But, after some thought, he added: “What does that mean– ‘tame’?”

“It means to establish ties.” “‘To establish ties’?” (said the little prince). “Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me…But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world… If you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”

I feel that this school, this place, has tamed me. I have inhabited this school for seven years, and this coming year will be my eighth. I have established ties with this landscape: the grass on the high school field, the stairs and path that bisect it, the concrete blocks in this cafeteria, the window that looks out to the gym in the middle school. These are the places I have been close to for years. Evidence of me is here: my name is in yearbooks, my picture too, posters I have made remain on the bulletin boards, and colored pencils in the art room are shorter because of me. My face and words are in the memories of my friends and teachers. Even when I graduate, when I leave this place, I will be tied to it. The very fiber of my being makes this true. The way I think, the way I talk, and the way I feel have been formed by my experience here. I have been educated by everything inside this campus, by teachers, by friends, by the walk to the high school building in the morning.

This is what it means to be a student at ACA. It means to be known. There is a certain closeness that is produced by our small number and the difficult material we learn. It makes us capable of acknowledging each other, of knowing that with each of my classmates, I can find good conversation and comfort. Each person is special and important, even if we are distant. This characteristic of familiarity is what makes the community worth cultivating.

I know this place, and it knows me. We are friends. I hope, when you come to the end of your time here, you can say the same. This is what I offer you as president. I want to mend the flaws and accentuate the good parts with you all. I want to help you think how wonderful it has been, now that you have been tamed.

Thank you, and that is all.