Congrats, Class of 2023!

On the morning of Saturday, May 20, our beloved seniors, spruce in smart gowns and adorned with gold-trim caps, marched up to greet Mr. Andrew and receive their diplomas. On Mr. Schepps’ command, golden tassels moved from right to left, and thirty-two graduates left the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Many of these new graduates have lived and breathed ACA since arriving in fourth grade. All of these new graduates have been integral parts of ACA’s community. 

One highlight of the event was a beautiful performance by the choir, led by Mr. Franklin. Our very own graduating senior, Lucy Kirby, crafted the music and lyrics as a homage to her school and fellow graduates.

Our main speaker this year was Ian Rowe, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, author of Agency, and former CEO of Public Prep. Mr. Rowe spoke eloquently about the importance of community, family, and virtue. Mr. Clausen gave a rousing and heartwarming charge, which included a final life-long homework assignment. Speeches from ‘The Elizabeths’—Stinespring and Richter, our salutatorian and valedictorian respectively—expressed the bitter-sweet nature of the day and awakened our tear ducts. Friends, family, teachers, and students lingered outside the church to celebrate (and wave goodbye to) our newest Atlanta Classical alumni.

2023 Track Team Wins State Titles

The Cavalier High School Track team completed a successful season after making it all the way to State! ACA girls placed 7th overall as a team out of 36 teams. ACA boys placed 23rd overall (with only 2 runners) out of 40 teams. Every Cavalier athlete achieved a PR (personal record) time in their races.

Not only were our athletes successful this season, but the camaraderie built this year was also evident.

“We had a great time going to State and staying overnight so we could watch ALL of our teammates compete,” said Clegg Cousar. 

Kindergarten + 6th Grade Buddy Program

Attending a K-12 school can offer a number of exciting opportunities for students of all ages to connect with one another. In an effort to continue fostering these opportunities, Lower School Principal Dr. Han implemented the Kindergarten/6th Grade Buddy Program. The program pairs a kindergartner with a sixth grader (sometimes two), who serves as a friend, playmate, and mentor to his or her buddy throughout the year. Read below to learn more about Dr. Han’s vision for this program. 

Tell us a little bit about the Buddy Program. How did you come up with the idea?

In thinking about the beauty of being in a K-12 school, we wanted to establish the sixth-grade’s identity as the leaders of the lower school. I get the question all the time – are they a part of the lower or middle school? Even though the sixth grade can enjoy some perks of being in middle school (e.g., lockers, dances, and the House System), I want them to know that lower school students look up to them, and they have a great opportunity to be role models to the younger students. 

What types of things have the kids done together this year? 

Students play together during recess and attended the Lower School Science Fair and Zoo Atlanta together (pictured above). Sixth-grade students read to their kindergarten buddies, and at the end of the year, the kindergarten students will read to their sixth-grade buddies to show how much they have learned!

What feedback have you heard from kindergartners and sixth-graders? 

They absolutely love this! I see sixth-grade students getting hugged by their kindergarten buddies all the time.

What do you think the advantages of the program are? How do you think it helps each age group?

We hope that our current sixth-grade students will continue to connect with their buddies throughout their educational journey at ACA, so that when our sixth graders become seniors, our kindergartners will be in sixth grade and have a new kindergarten buddy of their own! Through this program, our kindergartners have a student role model, and our sixth graders are empowered with a new sense of confidence as they enter middle school.

How does the program tie into our school virtues? 

We highlight Service for our sixth-grade students as we emphasize the joy of serving our younger ACA students. We will begin next year with a sixth-grade leadership retreat to reiterate their identities as lower school servant-leaders. We have planned out some fun and meaningful activities throughout the school year as well. We’re excited for what’s to come.

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.”