The Ellis Academy: A Mastery Learning School

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In August of 2012, I was taking an enjoyable stroll through Ardmore’s Crape Myrtle Festival, when two polite and confident young ladies in school uniforms approached me with pamphlets advertising The Ellis Academy. I took one look at the brochure and gladly allowed myself to be led by these “shepherdesses” to the information tent where I met Dr. Diane Ellis Miles, the founder and president of the academy.

5-17-2013 1-59-35 PMWe “talked shop” for a good while, and I found myself wishing I had children in my home so they could have the chance to experience what I readily concluded is a remarkable place of learning. Dr. Miles and her son, Dr. Daniel Miles, are inarguably phenomenal educators. They, along with their faculty, are highly experienced, having lived, studied and taught in the States and abroad. They have a vision for the children of the Tennessee Valley to receive a level of education that these days is normally experienced only by the “gifted,” and whose graduates will no doubt be world changers. They do so in an environment that is unapologetically Christian, classical, cozy, and if I may say, classy.

Does it stretch you to think of a kindergartner starting to learn core academic subjects right alongside computer programming and Greek? What about hospitality and etiquette? Would you like to see your children reinforce their geometry skills through the fabric arts, or learn public speaking and elocution? Then I joyfully invite you to be “stretched!”

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I could literally devote this entire article to the gastronomic delights of which I have partaken at The Ellis Academy functions on more than once occasion, but suffice it to say, that each “Fabulous Friday,” all the students learn to prepare meals under the supervision of Freida Houck, and sit down at tables they have learned to set properly. Lest you think these kids are stuffy, at my table the kindergartner had pizza sauce all over her face, later jumped into a mud puddle, and the children of one family are interested in being a S.W.A.T team leader and forensic pathologist, respectively. One of the older ones, if she were an architect, would redesign the White House using pink plastic for building materials, and make it look like Barbie could live there.

One student came to The Ellis Academy functionally illiterate, and had been convinced she could not read. Dr. Diane Miles assured her she would work with her, telling her “we will find the right doors and unlock them, and we will do it together.” She is now one of their glowing success stories, and is reading fluently.

Recently the children went to Washington D.C. and had the chance to meet with Congressman Mo Brooks, and the staff of Senator Jeff Sessions. This year they also planted a vegetable and flower garden, and we tasted of the fruits of their labors at the Fabulous Friday luncheon. Posters are on the wall in the K-2 section which unashamedly discuss using onomatopoeia (words like crackle and snap to illustrate verbally when writing,) and in the dining area, the necessities and benefits of having good manners. The boy who wants to lead the S.W.A.T. team designed and made a sturdy fabric book bag that had pockets for everything from polliwogs to protractors, and his sister was in the next room taking a test for her Greek class.

5-17-2013 2-00-06 PMThe day in the cottage begins at 8 am, and there is always Scripture reading, the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. The subjects and activities are divided into three main categories: Core Academic Disciplines, Project-Based Learning, and Arts. They include everything from English, Math, Humanities, and Science, to Building and Construction and Performing Arts. The Ellis Academy is a place where everyone can flourish, whether they have been labeled an average student or gifted. In my opinion this is because of the caliber of the teachers as well as the multi-grade educational approach. Talents mixed with hard work result in remarkable accomplishments, and they are celebrated and enjoyed by all.

The story of how the beautiful campus came to be the home of The Ellis Academy is an example of undeniably providential provision, and the future looks bright for growth and expansion. Numbers of projects are in the works for this summer, beginning on June 7th with a “Mama’s T.G.I.F,” (a 9am-3pm day off for Moms held on Fridays,) as well as Day Camps which will last for three days at a time. The Day Camps will teach such things as how to prepare ancient foods and making miniature solar powered racecars. The Ellis Academy is taking applications for all the summer activities as well for school in the fall, and they have my heartiest endorsement in every regard.

For more information, contact The Ellis Academy at:
Facebook: The Ellis Academy
347 Jade Road Toney, AL 35773
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner